Another letdown for Raps

Raptors' Chris Bosh had little to be ashamed of in another tough head-to-head match with the...

Raptors' Chris Bosh had little to be ashamed of in another tough head-to-head match with the Celtics' Kevin Garnett. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

What goes up must come down -- like the Raptors' early-season success and the ball that eventually landed after an angry Chris Bosh slammed it to the floor amid the booing during a timeout at the Air Canada Centre.

No one said beating the Boston Celtics would be easy, but the Raptors' meek defensive play, coupled with Friday's letdown against New Jersey and a slip below .500 (6-7), put a lot of people in a sour mood yesterday afternoon.

Boston shot almost 62%, the most ever by a visiting opponent, in a 118-103 win.

Coach Sam Mitchell, who heard smatterings of personal criticism from the sellout crowd of 19,800 as the clock wound down, agreed his team has lost its edge without the ball the past two games. But he was quick to try and re-assure Bosh and some long faces on the bench.

"It's not like 35 games into the season," Mitchell said. "Everyone is frustrated, especially coming off a tough loss (Friday's overtime fold) and having a bad performance today.

"Chris and I have talked about it and he is frustrated, but he and I have been through tougher times than this."

Team captain Bosh really had little to be ashamed of in another tough head-to-head match with the Celtics' Kevin Garnett, leading the team with 24 points, including nine of 10 from the foul line. But Bosh was 7-for-14 from the floor, part of a 44.3% team-shooting performance. Meanwhile, seven Celtics cruised to double figures.

"It's over, baby," Bosh said when asked about his little temper tantrum. "We tried, they kicked our butts. Now, we look forward to Wednesday (here against the Charlotte Bobcats).

"There's no Xs and Os to one-on-one defence. You just have to square your guy up and make an effort, tell him: 'You're not going to score.' "

The Celtics seemed to pick up right from their Nov. 10 meeting with the Raps, when they blew them away in the fourth in Boston, devoured the last of a 16-point Toronto lead and left Mitchell's team in awe.

The Celtics jumped out to a 10-point lead yesterday, helped by two of 15 home turnovers and never trailed.

The surprise return of centre Jermaine O'Neal less than 48 hours after suffering a strain on his surgically repaired left knee only briefly stemmed the green tide of the 13-2 Celtics.

O'Neal landed hard attempting a shot in the second quarter just as Kris Humphries was helping lead Toronto's only sustained rally, one that almost made it a two-point game.

O'Neal spent the rest of the day getting treatment and Toronto faded from there, trailing by as many as 24 points.

ROAD SHOW

Boston's powerful starting lineup had plenty of time to get its road show together, topped by Ray Allen's 21 points.

"We set the tone early in the first quarter, (point guard Rajon) Rondo created a great tempo for us and got some easy looks," Allen said. "They were trying to guess where it was coming from all the half."

By the end of the game, Mitchell was groping for something to work, giving backup point guard Roko Ukic court time with starter Jose Calderon and rewarding Humphries for an 11-point, five-rebound night.

"We are just making a lot of mental errors," Mitchell said of his team's defence. "Up to (the past two games) our defence has been good. We have to break down the tape, go about things and tighten it up. You have to give (Boston) credit, we looked up and we were down 10. They are the world champions for a reason."

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REPLAY

CHRIS CRINGING

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett couldn't help but notice that Chris Bosh looked fed up a couple of times during Boston's rout yesterday.

"I don't know the situation here or what he's going through but tonight he looked pretty frustrated," Garnett said. "When you're a good player and trying to be better ... you want the help around you.

"He has to make a decision on whether he wants to be here (in 2010)."

Bosh could be a free agent in two years.

CELTIC SENDOFF

Thankfully, the Raptors have just one game remaining against the defending champion Celtics, on Jan. 12.

A big collapse a couple of weeks ago in Boston and yesterday's spanking left the Toronto locker room in soul-searching mode.

"The game plan was to run them off of their (three-point shooting)," said Garnett. "My personal job was to slow Chris Bosh down. But this team's philosophy is defence, defence, defence. Offensively, we are going to find ways to score."


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