Timberwolves up next

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

It's not like the Raptors aren't catching a few breaks these days, but you would not know it by the results.

Since Chris Bosh went down with a knee injury, the Raptors' past two opponents have been, by coincidence, lacking their key players as well. The New Orleans Hornets were without Chris Paul (not to mention Tyson Chandler), while Memphis had to go without Rudy Gay, both as important to their own team's success as Bosh is to that of Toronto.

The Hornets, losers of their previous four, found their form against the Raptors. The Grizzlies, one of the few teams in the league that still has a record worse than the Raps, overcame Gay's absence and won.

Weeks before the Bosh injury, the Raptors had one of those must-win games against Milwaukee (it was a must-win because it came right before a stretch against Orlando, Cleveland, L.A. Lakers run). Without Michael Redd, the Raptors' chances, playing at home, were expected to be very good, but that turned out to be the start of the current six-game losing skid.

All of which brings us to Minnesota where, waiting for them tonight, is a Timberwolves lineup that will be minus Al Jefferson who heard his knee "pop" late Sunday night in New Orleans and was diagnosed yesterday with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which in all likelihood ends his season.

All Jefferson has done recently is average 26.9 points and 11.8 rebounds in his past 10 games as he led a basketball resurgence of sorts in Minnesota.

As bad as that is for the Timberwolves, it's yet another opportunity for the Raptors.

The tough part for the Raps has been capitalizing on the golden chances.

"I had a coach overseas who would always say there is no vacuum," guard Anthony Parker said.

"That means that someone is going to be taking (the injured guy's) shots. Somebody is going have his opportunities. Maybe the team plays differently without him. I don't think you can look at that and say this is going to be an easy game as a result of the injury."

The Raptors haven't been in the situation where they can look past any team for a while now, injured or not.

Triano said yesterday that facing all these teams with key injuries has been a learning experience for him too.

He said part of the problem has been every time they anticipate the injured player's replacement, the opponent goes in another direction.

"They switch it up on us and go small because they don't want to throw another big in there because they can't guard Andrea," Triano said. "They can't close out on the three-point line."

In New Orleans on Friday, the Hornets sat down one of their bigs and replaced him with small forward Ryan Bowen for that very reason.

Bosh, who has been an onlooker for two games now and probably won't be back in the lineup until after the all-star break, brushed aside all the questions of what needs to be said or changed to get this team back on track.

"Our effort, that's really it," Bosh said of what needs to change.

"It's not a matter of talent because there are some teams that are not that talented on paper and still get the job done.

"It's all about effort. It's all about challenging ourselves every night even when we don't feel like it. I think that's one thing that has been missing for a little while."


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