Short-term goals set

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Under new coach Jay Triano, the Raptors have broken down the rest of the first half of the season into five-game increments, with the goal of winning three of five from each until the February all-star break.

"Do that and we'd be 29-26 at the break," Triano said yesterday.

"I'm big on goals, long and short-term. The goals can be as little as (improving) over a game, a quarter, even one posession."

Asked if he thought another .500 finish would get the Raptors in the playoffs in the improved Eastern Conference (they were 41-41 last year), Triano said: "Let's just get to the break."

RAUTINS HANGS ON

Canada Basketball has given Raptors broadcaster Leo Rautins some wiggle room as head coach of the Canadian men's team, extending his contract for one year, with an option for a second if the team does well at qualifying for the world championships.

In July, Rautins' team did not qualify for the Beijing Olympics. Guard Steve Nash was not part of the mix, and there was a feud between Rautins and Phildelphia 76ers forward Samuel Dalembert about commitment.

"We have to get past Steve Nash, we have to go much further," Rautins said yesterday at a news conference. "I never felt I wouldn't be rehired, but the waiting game is uncomfortable."

BEWARE THE MAVS

With his team unable to beat clubs who have shot poorly, Triano didn't need to hear that tonight's visitors, the Dallas Mavericks made 34.9% of their shots during a 98-88 loss to Denver on Monday. "We couldn't hit a bull's butt with a bass fiddle," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Not guarding (the Nuggets), then not making shots, you're going to stink."


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