Raps damned if they do

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

The Raptors are learning their lessons just a little bit too well these days.

And while it has cost them in the short term, head coach Jay Triano believes it only can help in the long run.

In back-to-back losses to the Boston Celtics on Sunday and Monday in Boston, the Raptors were intent on following Triano's urging to help each other defensively when the Celtics were in the paint. The help defence unfortunately left Ray Allen alone too often Sunday and then Paul Pierce open again on Monday for uncontested daggers.

Triano noticed it Sunday and brought it to his team's attention, but admitted he was kind of praising them at the same time because it's what he wants them to do.

"I praised them for it a little bit because we over-helped and that's a good thing," Triano said. "It's tough to teach that and that's a good thing for our guys. We over-helped and it hurt us but I would rather have that than guys not helping each other and us not playing as a team."

Chris Bosh pointed out on Monday that the Raps were leaving shooters open to help out on guys that teammates already had contained.

The good news is that all concerned believe fixing this simply is a matter of recognizing when the help actually is required.

The other good news is that the Raptors schedule gets a little more favourable until the end of the month with just one back-to-back set in their next nine and five of their remaining nine games in January are against teams with sub .500 records.

After consecutive tilts with the defending league champs, the Raps get the Bulls tonight at home and then Indiana on the road on Friday.

The two-game skid, while tough to swallow, has provided some promise for the future.

Roko Ukic, who has struggled for much of the year, played probably his best game Monday, scoring 16 points in 23 minutes, including a team-high nine in the overtime.

The mere fact that Triano had Ukic on the floor in the extra period suggests his time playing behind Will Solomon may be coming to an end.

While Triano has been happy with the effort he has been seeing, he wants to get more attack from his Raptors.

"I was real happy with our fight," he said, "but I think we can be more aggressive. I mean that first timeout of the game I had to remind our guys that we had settled for a jump shot on every single play to that point. But by halftime when we had the lead, we had 16 free throws in the bank. It takes a little while but these guys -- it's not their nature to be aggressive so we have to keep reminding them and keep running plays where we will be aggressive. We just have to keep telling guys to take the ball to the basket and that's how we will become a better basketball team."


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