Raptors lack heart, lose again

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Raptors have hit the halfway point of the NBA's season with the proverbial glass half empty.

The other half contains more concerns than cures for what ails this team.

And with the league's Feb. 19 trade deadline approaching, rumours will continue to hover over a team that dropped its record to 16-25 following last night's 111-104 loss to the host Pacers.

Jermaine O'Neal returned to the lineup, but showed the expected rust associated with a veteran who hadn't played since Dec. 29.

For what it's worth, word is the Raptors are merely showcasing O'Neal, whose time in Toronto appears to be running out. His numbers from last night -- two points, two turnovers, three fouls and seven rebounds -- tells a story of a guy who has been inactive.

Deep down, O'Neal knows he'll soon be traded and in all likelihood so do his teammates.

No matter what happens between now and Feb. 19 and regardless of what rumours get floated, the Raptors simply have to find a heart.

They had none for most of last night until it was too late.

Lifeless, hopeless, defenceless and careless, the Raptors had the look of a team that knows something dramatic is about to happen to its roster.

For those keeping count, the Raptors now have lost four in a row.

Against a Pacers team that isn't exactly among the beasts of the East, the Raptors stood around on the perimeter and had little offensive flow.

Defensively, they were getting beat off the dribble and were slow in rotations.

There was little in the way of communication on the floor and save for Jake Voskuhl's exhortations, Toronto's bench was lifeless.

The Raptors tried to go big by playing O'Neal, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani and they even had the ball in Anthony Parker's hands when he operated from the point position, but nothing was working until a valiant fourth-quarter comeback fell short.

Perhaps a major trade may inject some much-needed life into a Raptors team that is reeling.

In a classic case of too little too late, the Raptors went on an 11-0 run to begin the fourth quarter with Parker at the point.

What was a 24-point Indiana lead was reduced to an 89-76 advantage three minutes into the final period.

Finally, Toronto discovered its heart and the night had a pulse.

Besides Parker, the Raptors went with a group that included Bosh, Bargnani, Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon.

Better ball movement led to better looks and made baskets.

Indiana missed a lot of shots and the result was a one-point game in the game's final minute, an incredible turnaround given how poorly Toronto had played.

It makes one wonder why it took the Raptors so long to show any kind of fight and form.

Bosh led all Raptors with 25 points and 16 rebounds.

"We weren't very good in the first three quarters, for sure,'' interim head coach Jay Triano said. "There were some good things that happened at the end, but we didn't win the game.

"That's disappointing. We closed the gap, but then we made mistakes."

As a team, Toronto turned over the ball 20 times, miscues the Pacers parlayed into 29 points.

Parker committed two turnovers, but Triano doesn't want to take him out of his normal spot at shooting guard.

Last night, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Too bad Toronto didn't begin the night with that same sense of urgency.

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REPLAY

BOOS HOUNDS

Jermaine O'Neal's return to the home of hoops was greeted by more boos than cheers when the one-time Pacers forward/centre entered the game with 3:30 left in the opening period. It didn't take O'Neal long to heave his first attempt, an awkward baseline jumper that barely hit iron.

FOUL MOOD

Joey Graham was the victim of some highly dubious officiating. In three minutes, he picked up three fouls. Normally, players are awarded for being aggressive, but not in Graham's case.

MOON SHINES

In one of those rare moments, Jamario Moon actually put the ball on the floor and used a dribble drive to draw a foul after a made basket. He converted from the line for a traditional three-point play.

Moon, a spot-up shooter who settles too much for perimeter jumpers. any benefit of the doubt.


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