O'Neal lost in transition

Jermaine O'Neal finished with just eight points against the Pistons last night. (Sun Media/Alex...

Jermaine O'Neal finished with just eight points against the Pistons last night. (Sun Media/Alex Urosevic)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

When the Big Three on the Raptors is reduced to the Big Two, the one guarantee is an end to any winning streak.

A bid for a franchise-best fourth consecutive victory to open the season clanked when Jermaine O'Neal could not match the second-half pace set by Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon. And, for the first time, no other starter or bench player picked up the flag, as Toronto fell 100-93 to the Allen Iverson-less Detroit Pistons in a clash of undefeateds last night at the Air Canada Centre.

O'Neal's 11 points pe game and strong defence had kept him in the relative company of the other two, but he sputtered at 3-for-10 from the field last night. Afterwards, he admitted the transition to the Raptors system, where he is counted on for quality shots, not quantity, has taken longer than he expected.

'A HARD TIME'

"Outside of my first game in spurts, I'm still having a hard time getting comfortable," said O'Neal, who finished with just eight points. "The team needed me tonight. I wasn't able to deliver and I'm a little upset about it."

But coach Sam Mitchell was supportive.

"It's his fourth game and you don't come back from (two injury-filled years) and it's right there," Mitchell said. "Nothing can replicate a game for him.

"No one (in the two and three spots) stepped in tonight. All three games, we've had a third person score in double figures."

With Iverson not yet cleared to play following his trade from the Denver Nuggets, Detroit coach Michael Curry stated that his game plan was to limit the damage to just Bosh (who had 26 points, 13 rebounds) and Calderon (24 points, eight assists).

Though Toronto chomped into a 16-point Detroit lead to get to within one with a few minutes to play, they never had the clutch shot from O'Neal or anyone else, though Andrea Bargnani looked good in O'Neal's spot, as did Will Solomon who spelled off Calderon.

Mitchell had done his best to play down the significance of two teams at 3-0 meeting this early in the NBA season, but it was hard for his team not to get pumped at home after showing such cohesion since training camp five weeks ago.

"It's early," a more reserved Bosh said of losing the showdown. "We don't really know who the top teams are, yet."

Incumbent Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey was giving Calderon fits early while the Raptors were in sloppy mode. It continued when the bench arrived on the scene in the second quarter. Jason Kapono struggled at both ends of the court, the Pistons were given some unhindered shooting and passing lanes, while a completely unchecked Joey Graham let a defensive rebound slip out of his fingers and out of bounds.

Tayshaun Prince had a game-high 27 points while Rip Hamilton added 22.

"Rip and Tayshaun, they just kicked our butts," Mitchell said.


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