For the Raps, the truth hurts

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

It would be easy to suggest the Raptors aren't that far off based on yesterday's six-point loss to the reigning NBA champs.

It would be easy to speculate what would have been had the Raptors begun the afternoon with the energy level they showed at game's end.

One might even argue the game could have come down to one possession had Jamario Moon swung the ball baseline to a wide open Jason Kapono.

The truth remains that the Raptors aren't that good, perhaps good enough to only beat bad teams, which really isn't saying much.

What they showed in beating a very good team such as Orlando last Sunday was that they are capable of playing at a high level.

It's just that they can't sustain it.

Whether it's acquiring a perimeter player who can attack defences and defend or the acquisition of a post defender, something must change.

The need for a backup point guard to Jose Calderon is so obvious that any exercise in revisiting this issue is pointless.

Yesterday's matinee at the ACC and tonight's return in Boston were being viewed as statement games for the Raptors, opportunities to disprove any critic that the club is moving in the right direction based on the team's recent play and results.

A 94-88 loss to the Celtics might be viewed as a positive sign for the Raptors.

Had Ray Allen not scored a season-high 36 points, perhaps the Raptors would have won.

Take away Allen's 11-of-14 shooting and the rest of the Celtics combined to make 21 of 64 shots.

This being the NBA, there is always an occasion to redeem oneself and the Raptors will try to do it tonight.

The one consolation to emerge yesterday was the play of Joey Graham, who refused to back down from Brian Scalabrine and earned the respect of Toronto's impatient faithful when chants of "Joey, Joey'' resonated throughout the building.

Outside of Graham's aggression, there wasn't much to leave any rabid follower of the Raptors feeling good about the team.

As good as the big man combo of Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani has played, each needed to step up against the Celtics, but neither did.

Bargnani has excelled in recent games because he was making shots.

When he's making jumpers, Bargnani forces his man away from the basket, thus allowing Bosh more space to beat his defender off the dribble.

Save for one late-game foray to the basket, Bosh was too tentative against Boston, which used the game's basic fundamental -- defence -- in winning last year's championship.

The Memphis Grizzlies, Washington Wizards and to a lesser extent the Houston Rockets never will be confused for the Celtics.

In those meetings, three Toronto wins, Bosh and Bargnani were able to dominate.

Against the Celtics yesterday, they combined to go 10 of 30 from the field.

When Toronto made its run in the fourth quarter, Bosh was on the bench.

The only time when Bosh came to life arrived with 4:04 left when he took Kevin Garnett off the dribble and finished the sequence with an emphatic dunk.

A Bargnani three-pointer did bring the Raptors to within five, but there never was the sense that Toronto's big two would impose its will as it did against inferior defences in recent games.

Expectations were raised in the wake of a modest three-game home winning streak.

But reality hit home yesterday afternoon.

The Raptors were close against Boston, yet are so far away.

The Celtics know they need to address their bench and are likely to add a scorer, the most popular name being bandied about is the mercurial Stephon Marbury, and a veteran frontcourt player.

The Raptors will have everyone believing that they have the talent, when in fact they don't.

The team is likely to get yet another reminder tonight.


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