Raps' defence rapped

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

CHARLOTTE -- Until the Raptors find a way to clone Chris Bosh, he can't be in two places at once.

But too many teammates seem to believe that Bosh -- and to a lesser extent Jermaine O'Neal -- will get back down-court from his offensive forays in time to help on defence.

"We have to keep people out of the paint," coach Sam Mitchell said. "Defence starts with yourself."

Being overly dependent on two or three people -- what the club hierarchy feared might happen this year -- has taken place in a couple of games, such as Friday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the start of a three-game road trip.

The Hawks found too many easy avenues to the basket during a 110-92 win in which they never trailed.

While not as succinct as Mitchell in assessing team defence, Bosh acknowledged a problem.

"I'm glad we're seeing what we have to work on early in the season," he said. "Coming in, we said no matter what happens on offence (with he, O'Neal and point guard Jose Calderon expected to light it up), we have to make it tough for the other team to score.

"All (defence) takes is effort. When a guy like (Hawks') Joe Johnson plays well you expect it. When the others start shooting 50%, that's trouble."

Mitchell was concerned that on Friday the Raptors' perimeter defence was too spaced, not getting in anyone's face and too reliant on Bosh and O'Neal to battle under the basket.

Calderon said it wasn't being soft as much as it was teammates trying too hard to help out each other and then getting out of position themselves.

"I'm certainly not worried about the offence, but (Atlanta) was a game where everyone had an off night," Calderon said.

To be fair, Toronto sprung leaks elsewhere on the court, with Mitchell taking the extraordinary step of calling a timeout two possessions into the game, after a missed shot and a turnover led to two quick Atlanta scores. Even though they studied video that tipped them off to Johnson switching his coverage on Calderon, the Raptors looked ill-prepared to contend with hot-shooting point guard Mike Bibby.

"I saw that (timeout) coming," Bosh said. "It was lack of focus on our part."

Bosh was among the first players to warn against overconfidence after the 3-0 start prompted some talk of a franchise-best November.

'LONG SEASON'

Now the Raptors are trying to avoid a third consecutive loss this afternoon against the Charlotte Bobcats.

"We can still have a great start to our season," Bosh said. "For me, it's not getting too excited about being 3-0, or too upset about losing a couple. It's a long enough season not to worry about losing two."


Videos

Photos