Go big, and go home

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

CLEVELAND -- Their offence is stagnant, their psyche is fragile and their defence is porous.

In other words, the Raptors are a mess.

And it could get worse in the coming days.

The Raptors were not given much of a chance against the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers, who have been invincible at home, but the visitors didn't put up much resistance for the second game in a row.

Toronto's season of disappointment, that threatens to disintegrate into an unmitigated disaster, was encapsulated in an opening quarter of non-existent offence and defence.

THREE BIGS STARTED

Interim head coach Jay Triano went big by starting Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal and Andrea Bargnani in a desperate bid to dig the team out of its rather big hole.

The only problem was the ball hardly got moved on offence as players stood still.

Defensively, the Raptors went with a zone that basically dared the Cavs to shoot from the perimeter.

Cleveland seldom missed, spearheaded by an efficient and effective LeBron James, who hardly broke a sweat.

Triano has tried just about everything, tried just about every conceivable lineup, and still the results aren't good.

With their 101-83 loss, the Raptors have dropped 10 of their past 13 and three in succession with games against the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets up next.

That is why the NBA is anxiously awaiting what moves Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo is willing to make prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

There are more than a few league observers who question the team's chemistry and the Raptors' body language certainly speaks volumes.

During Cleveland's opening-quarter blitz, the home side led by as many as 23 points.

The Raptors couldn't have played any worse and they did pick up their intensity after trailing 59-40 at the break, getting to within single digits late in the third quarter.

O'Neal's left-handed put-back attempt rimmed out as the third-quarter buzzer sounded with the Cavs ahead 74-66.

O'Neal isn't bashful when he has the ball in his hands, but at least he's scoring. He and Chris Bosh kept the Raptors close, while Joey Graham provided the only spark off the bench.

Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker, who were providing much of the team's backbone from the backcourt as early as last week, have all but disappeared, at least in terms of making shots.

In fairness, the game plan was to go inside to Bosh and O'Neal.

Against an elite team such as Cleveland, the Raptors need more from every player who is on the floor.

Bosh and O'Neal were the only players who left everything out on the court, combining for 49 points.

"We have to start out games with intensity and sustain that intensity throughout the whole game,'' Bosh said as the losing and frustration begins to mount.

"We just have to let it all hang out. You have more fun when you're doing it."

The Raptors aren't having much fun and it's blatantly clear when a player drops his shoulder.

"There's only so much you can say,'' Bosh said. "You could be demanding. Jay can be demanding. I can be demanding. We're all grown men

"We all have to take it upon ourselves individually to get ourselves going and find other ways to contribute."

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REPLAY

KING & HIS COURT

LeBron James torched the Raptors in a first-quarter performance that was second to none. In 12 minutes, James scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. His total eclipsed the entire Raptors team, which managed 15 first-quarter points.

MAKING A POINT

One of James' 33 points was the 12,000th of his NBA career. At 24 years, 35 days, he's the youngest player in NBA history to reach that plateau. Kobe Bryant was 25 years, 220 days, when he did it.

AIR ANDREA

Something is definitely amiss with Andrea Bargnani's jump shot. He started off on Sunday in Orlando's rout of the Raptors by heaving an air ball and followed it up with another air ball on his initial heave last night. When he was posting 20-point games on a consistent night, Bargnani was aggressive in putting the ball on the deck. He is now settling for his jumper.


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