Something to build on

Raptors' Chris Bosh shows off a bump on his head during second half action against the Trail...

Raptors' Chris Bosh shows off a bump on his head during second half action against the Trail Blazers. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The Raptors' fourth consecutive loss was nothing like the past three and, for that at least, supporters of the NBA franchise can be happy.

If you can get past the fact that the Raptors lost a winnable game -- and based on the looks of at least some faces in the Raptors locker room not everyone involved was in that boat -- there was plenty to like despite losing 98-97 to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Air Canada Centre.

But first, what wasn't remotely likeable was the Raptors' rebounding. Forget the fact the Blazers won the battle on the glass, 48-31. Or even the fact that on the offensive boards Portland held an 18-4 advantage.

There is no need to look any further than the final minute and a half with the Raps holding a three-point lead and Greg Oden heading to the foul line. Oden made the first but missed the second and so began a series of ineffective rebounding by the Raptors that led to the loss.

First, LaMarcus Aldridge corralled the Oden miss and fed Oden, whose seven-foot shot missed the mark, but Steve Blake was there to pull down the board and give Portland another chance.

Blake then missed a 19-footer but Rudy Fernandez's rebound gave Portland a third consecutive possession. Portland head coach Nate McMillan decided his boys needed to take advantage of all these breaks and called a timeout.

After the timeout, Brandon Roy hit an 18-foot runner to end the horror.

The final Portland possession almost was as bad with Roy's missed layup being gobbled up by Oden, who would miss his own layup. Fernandez hauled down that rebound, before Blake hit a three-pointer that turned out to be the winner.

Yes, it was that bad and that was before a botched final Raptors possession, resulting in Chris Bosh missing a low percentage fade-away running hook.

The optimism afterward came from Jay Triano, who is 0-2 since taking over as head coach on Wednesday, to Jose Calderon, who had 15 points and 13 assists, and Anthony Parker, who helped hold Roy to a pedestrian 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting.

The trio's optimism is the result of the huge strides the team has made since the Utah Jazz played a tune on their collective heads Friday night.

"I saw a big difference today," Calderon said. "I think we are a completely different team. We played with more passion, we played with pride, we tried to help each other on offence and defence. It's true we lost and it's a tough one, but we lost to the second-best team in the West. I think if we keep playing this way, we will win a lot of games."

Triano saw it much the same way.

"Overall, I feel bad for our guys that we do not get a chance to reward them with a victory because we cleaned up an awful lot of what we had been doing," he said. Perhaps the biggest single stat that gives all this optimism credence is the points in the paint. Friday against Utah, the Raps gave up 66. Yesterday, facing a team no one will accuse of lacking size or physicality, the damage in the paint was held to just 24 points.

"We just have to keep believing in the things we do with Jay and we have to keep believing in ourselves," Calderon said. "Maybe this win will help a little bit and make things easier (down the road)."

---

REPLAY

GOOD START

The 31 first-quarter points by the Raptors were their second most this season. They had 33 in the overtime loss to New Jersey on Nov. 21. The 20 points by the Blazers were the fewest the team has given up since Nov. 10 in a loss to Boston. It was only the second time this year the Raps have had a double-digit lead after a quarter.

OVER TO YOU J.O.

Raps are making a concerted effort to get the ball in Jermaine O'Neal's hands. He led all Raptors with 18 shot attempts yesterday, resulting in a season high 24 points.

AN ODEN ELBOW

With just fewer three minutes left in the half, Chris Bosh had to leave the game when a Greg Oden elbow caught him flush on the forehead and opened a cut that would not close. Bosh had to go to the locker room for two stitches, but returned for the second half.


Videos

Photos