Raptors bug out

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- The three-pointers rained down on the Raptors last night like beads thrown from a Mardi Gras parade float.

But this 101-92 loss to the Hornets was a tough one to wear for the visitors, who saw their losing streak reach five games and another chance at a morale-building game go up in smoke. They can survive on superlatives from coach Jay Triano for only so long before needing some results to go with the rah-rah.

The Raptors, minus the injured Chris Bosh, started slowly, overcame a 14-point deficit and then spent the final minutes gawking as the Hornets sank eight threes en route to a franchise-record 15.

"A lot of those were contested, but they got into a rhythm," Jamario Moon said.

"Our guys got stuck inside and tried to challenge, but got there a little late every time," Triano added.

"They got some dribble penetration and got it rolling from the outside. It wasn't just one guy (game high scorer Peja Stojakovic had seven threes, but only one in the rally). They were in desperation mode. They rolled the dice and hit it."

Control of the game changed in the final 51/2 minutes as a six-point lead disappeared. A poorly executed alley-oop changed the momentum for good.

Coming off of a near upset of the Lakers at home on Wednesday, the Raptors last night went to a zone defence after a shockingly flat start. But a second take-charge game by Jermaine O'Neal and a 13-point spurt from Jose Calderon had Toronto up by 11 at one stage.

"Overall offensively, I can't complain about how we did," Triano said of O'Neal's 24 points. "It would be nice to have Chris, but everyone has to step up."

After three games against a Murderers Row of all-stars -- LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, who averaged 32.6 points in wins over Toronto -- the Raps faced neither Hornets' MVP Chris Paul nor 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. But that meant only that Stojakovic, David West and James Posey would have a bigger say. Meanwhile, Andrea Bargnani (19 points) and Joey Graham (three) ebbed and flowed like the Mississippi River all night for the visitors.

Bosh was a reluctant spectator in street clothes, for the first time in 51 games this season. As the Raptors called a second-quarter timeout, down 14 and shooting 8-for-20, he paced the sidelines trying to keep up morale.

Toronto rallied from that juncture, with Calderon pushing the ball and the team hitting 12 of its final 16 to the half. Three consecutive rebounds by Jake Voskuhl off of the bench, Anthony Parker's three-pointer and a couple of monster slams by Moon brought Toronto a 48-42 lead.

Much to the Raptors' relief, Calderon was back at point guard after a one-game absence, a forced holiday by Triano to rest his sore hamstring and hopefully allow him to play the four remaining games before the all-star break, including two back-to-backs.

But Bosh won't feel any better sitting out as many as four games leading into the break.

"It's not anything I'm going to force," Bosh said. "It's just wear and tear. I tried to do all the right exercises and everything. Rest and letting your body heal is important.."

Calderon refused to give up hope as the team departed for Memphis tonight.

"We still have a chance, so it's important how we finish this last part before the break and go back to it afterwards with everyone 100% -- me, Chris, everybody," he said.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Trailing 83-75 with 6:52 to go, the Hornets came out of a timeout with a Devin Brown layup and five consecutive threes for a 17-0 run.

CHRIS-CROSSED

Before the game, Raptors coach Jay Triano was pumping everyone for the definitive word on whether injured New Orleans point guard Chris Paul would play last night, the difference being a huge shift in defensive philosophy for his staff during the walk-through.

"When Paul plays, they are 90% pick and roll. When he doesn't play they're 10% pick and roll and 90% corner action, triangle game," Triano said.

"Obviously, this offence is geared towards Chris making plays," Hornets' Antonio Daniels said. "You can't change everything in a day."

GIVE IT AWAY

Andrea Bargnani and Jermaine O'Neal combined for 10 turnovers last night.


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