Raptors ignore stop signs

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

A reluctance to shoot and an unwillingness to get dirty on the part of the Raptors produced what became inevitable early last night.

The Raptors were handled easily by the visiting Philadelphia 76ers from the opening tip, and though Toronto got to within a point near the end of the first half, eventually fell 106-96 before a disgruntled crowd of 18,093.

"Man, it's really hard to explain," Jermaine O'Neal said. "That has been our Achilles heel. We win when we get (defensive) stops and, when we lose, we can't stop anybody.

"We need to do a better job of playing better defence and take it more personally. (Offensively), I would not say they shot us down. We got the shots we wanted but we did not make them."

Toronto has lost four of its past five games after starting 3-0. The 76ers, whose biggest lead of the night was 17 points, got their first road win in four games. Chris Bosh, as usual, was the best Raptor on the court, with game-highs in points (30) and rebounds (12).

The Raptors were without forward Kris Humphries, who is nursing a sprained big toe on his right foot. They also played big chunks without point guard Jose Calderon, who eventually left the game for good at 4:42 of the third quarter with tightness in his right hamstring.

Calderon said after the game he was feeling better but will have more tests this morning. Whether he plays in the Raptors' next game, Sunday at home against the Miami Heat, is unclear. Roko Ukic and Will Solomon are too green to make an impact, and, at one point in the fourth quarter, coach Sam Mitchell went with shooting guard Anthony Parker as his point guard.

But a healthy Calderon might not have made a huge difference. The Raptors, who shot 42.5% over the course of the game, recorded just 13 points in the opening 12 minutes, a season low for any quarter.

Parker began a personal trend for the evening, missing all five of his attempts, and wound up hitting on just four of 16 shots. None of his six three-point attempts found the net.

"I get four three-point (looks) early, and if I hit half of those, the situation is a little different," Parker said. "It continued throughout the game for everybody. But we like to think it does not affect the defence."

Well, there was some translation in the poor play to the other end of the court and the Raptors' concerns lay more in their flimsy defence.

The 76ers are an athletic club that can score off transition, but the Raptors might have had trouble with a team that didn't have those attributes. Philadelphia was given too much time to set up and decide how it was going to attack the basket.

Willie Green was successful on three of four tries from three-point range, and Elton Brand was strong down low.

Jamario Moon might have worked his way back into Mitchell's doghouse with poor shot selection and an indifferent effort on defence.

Certainly, the crowd was unhappy with what it witnessed in the Raptors' first home game after three on the road. When Mitchell called a timeout with his team down 95-82 in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, a fan yelled clearly: "It's not going to matter, Sam."

"We're disappointed," Mitchell said. "We had a lot of breakdowns. Their quickness hurt us. They got into lanes. We blocked some shots and made them miss, and we had some bad bounces. What do you say?"

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REPLAY

LAST NIGHT AT THE ACC

PATENTED BRAND

Philadelphia's Elton Brand poured in a season-high 25 points, eclipsing his previous high of 24, done on Halloween against the New York Knicks. Teammate Andre Iguodala came within a rebound of a triple-double -- nine rebounds, 10 assists and 16 points.

DIDN'T CATCH ON

As another sign the Raptors' concentration was off, a couple of passes that were easily playable became grenades. Joey Graham had a pass bounce off his hand and out of bounds in the first quarter. In the fourth, a dumbfounded Jason Kapono watched as a pass from Andrea Bargnani sailed beyond him and out of bounds, drawing boos.

NOT THIS TIME

The Raptors beat Philadelphia twice at home last year and had won eight of their previous 10 against Philadelphia before last night.


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