Raps stung by threes

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Shooting threes in a freeze, while New Orleans was Cajun-spicy hot, was a bad omen for the Raptors.

The first-half imbalance cost Toronto a third straight win yesterday at the Air Canada Centre, the start of a three-game homestand. The Raptors had no adequate answer to stop point guard Chris Paul distributing the ball to the likes of James Posey, Rasual Butler and David West. Trailing from late in the second quarter onward, the Raps lost 99-91.

"These are the days you tip your hat," Raptors coach Jay Triano said.

"They made their threes. It wasn't the way they shot threes, we didn't do a good job of executing defensively.

"We were much better in the second half. It's not like we're going to keep five guys in and let them shoot. There are rotations and ways to close out that and we didn't do a very good job."

The Hornets were 8-for-18 beyond the arc in the first half and shot 15-of-23 overall after trailing in the first quarter. Paul, an Olympic teammate of Raptors' leading scorer Chris Bosh, had 12 assists.

"He's quick like a little mouse," Raptors' Jamario Moon said of Paul. "He got in there, created things and they had some wide-open threes."

The Raptors have last year's NBA leader in that department in shooting guard Jason Kapono, but this was the first time in his redefined role as starter under Triano that he came up flat. He was 1-for-7 in threes and 3-for-14 from the floor, part of a sloppy 40.3% team shooting average.

Bosh had a team-high 25 points, but more than half of that came from the line. That he and Jermaine O'Neal were the only Raptors visiting the line until late in the game (other than one technical Jose Calderon took) showed their over-reliance on a perimeter game. While that came up short and the bench offered little improvement, Butler sank a late three from an awkward spot with only a tick on the clock. West led New Orleans with 29 points.

JOSE'S OK

Calderon, who salvaged team pride with 8-for-8 shooting, five perfect threes and 1-for-1 from the line, refused to get discouraged as the team slipped to 10-13.

"We are getting closer, we are playing much better on defence and offence, too," Calderon said of Triano's influence in six games (2-4). "We are going to be OK."

But not if they can't win more at home, especially these Sunday matinees.

After two more games at the ACC, the Raptors have a difficult run of six on the road before and after Christmas.

"We have to take care of home court or it makes for a pretty tough season," Triano said. "Afternoon games are something we have more of than anyone else (because the Raptors can't have the ACC on Saturday nights and midday Sundays are more family friendly). We have to get used to them.

"We have to come out with an energy right off of the bat that maybe some teams might not have. Some of it is the competition (Boston, Portland and New Orleans are all strong teams who've won here).

"We've played well in some games and not in others, but the games are 48 minutes long and it doesn't matter when you play them. It's still in the paper the next day."

Added Bosh: "It has been tough because we haven't been home much this month. But we just have to put something together, get a little confidence at home. If we play games like today just a little bit better, a little bit more concentration, we'll be a tough team to play against."

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REPLAY

ALL DRESSED UP ...

Shooting guard Anthony Parker dressed, but did not start for Toronto for the first time since he joined the team in 2006. That's a streak of 175 games, including all 82 last season and the first 20 of this year.

RECORD THEFT

Hornets' Chris Paul extended his streak of consecutive games with a steal to 104. That's one shy of the 22-year-old NBA mark held by Alvin Robertson, who played in Toronto and had the Raptors' first bucket in team history.

JAMES AT 20

James Posey, who helped put the Celtics over the top last season as the key bench reserve, did likewise yesterday by recording a season-high 20 points for New Orleans. He picked up his championship ring Friday when the Hornets were in Boston.

NEXT UP

Tonight, 7 p.m., Raptors vs. New Jersey Nets, TSN2, Fan 590.


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