Home stand critical

Jay Triano wants to reward the home fans with a few wins during their homestand. (Sun Media/Craig...

Jay Triano wants to reward the home fans with a few wins during their homestand. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

The Raptors finally have arrived in the Promised Land, the five squares on their schedule representing five straight home games between tonight and March 29.

But the long and arduous journey here has left them very little to build with. Should they hit the jackpot and take all five, they still would need the NBA equivalent of a train wreck of five teams in front of them to make any headway in the playoff race.

"We could go on a great run and still not make it," coach Jay Triano conceded reluctantly. "We would love to get on a little bit of a roll here. We have no excuses (now). We're playing in front of our home fans, we need to reward them."

Triano can make that job easier simply looking down the bench and calling on Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a.k.a. the British Bulldog, to check in. He's made himself an instant fan sensastion, along the lines of Matt Bonner, Jerome (Junk Yard Dog) Williams or Morris Peterson, whom Triano recalled were "guys willing to dive into the stands and do the dirty work."

"Pops is quick off of his feet, which makes him a good rebounder. He's not afraid to hit guys and make good screens."

Triano noted that like-minded opponents such as James Singleton of the Dallas Mavericks and Carl Landry of the Houston Rockets have sapped the Raps this season.

"It has been those physical, energy guys causing problems for us. Pops is that guy and hopefully he neutralizes that.'"

The London, England-raised Mensah-Bonsu would like nothing more than to make his Canadian address permanent.

"(Canadians) appreciate hard work in how they go about their lives," Mensah-Bonsu said. "It shows that they appreciate everybody; the guy over there (pointing at Raptor forward Shawn Marion) and the guys who work hard, who might not be the 30-point, 40-point scorers.

"We can cement that relationship and win some games (during the home stand). If we brought some of the energy we showed against Indiana (a 23-point victory Sunday), who knows, we could put a few together and show some more signs of life."

The Raps start this evening against the Charlotte Bobcats who decisively whipped them on the road on Monday, a result which Triano says should obviously motivate his team.

"We've been focusing on them and (with lots of practice days at home) we've actually had a chance to go over some of the things we've seen on tape and change them," Triano said. Some cat calls of his name have rolled down from the stands as Triano weathered the past three and half months, but he has tried to keep upbeat at the ACC.

"I'd say the effort was high in three if not four of our last home games. We want to make that a staple in our last 14 games."

There was no need to remind captain Chris Bosh about the importance of the coming five games. "It's really simple, no science to it, nothing I can say or anyone else can say," Bosh sighed. "Practices have always been good, we just have trouble transferring them to the game. We stop doing the things we do.

"There's no pressure in practice, you just let it hang out there and play and that's why I think some guys get confused (about the two). We want them to play the same, be aggressive."


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