Raps have some homework to do

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

There are many areas that must be addressed as the Raptors get set for the off-season.

According to interim head coach Jay Triano, whose future may be soon be determined, one concerns the team's inability to defend its home turf.

Following last night's 100-98 loss to the Washington Wizards, the Raptors close out the home portion of their season with tomorrow's tip against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Home cooking, in the eyes of Triano, must be more appealing if the Raptors are to be taken seriously.

"Home court in the future is something we have to care of,'' Triano said. "We did not do a very good job this year of defending our home court."

The Raptors have a home record of 17-23, which simply does not cut it the cut-throat world that is the NBA.

The Raptors, who wrap up their season with road games in Washington on Monday and Chicago on Wednesday, are 13-26 in away contests.

Good teams in the NBA play .500 basketball on the road and close to .600 at home.

The Raptors have been neither good on the road nor at home, but it's the team's penchant for not dominating at home that perplexes Triano.

"I honestly don't know,'' Triano said when asked why Toronto hasn't flexed its muscle at home. "I can come up with 100 excuses, but whether any are valid or not I don't know."

The Raptors have had a pretty inconsistent schedule, involving some odd start times.

Last night's 8 p.m. tip was mandated to appease ESPN2.

When the U.S.-based suits discovered that both the Wizards and Raptors were lottery-bound, the plug was pulled from the TV menu, sparing unsuspecting viewers, but the start time remained.

"We have to use home court to our advantage and not have it as a disadvantage,'' Triano said.

During a recent five-game homestand, the Raptors won four en route to winning a season-high six in succession.

The competition included the L.A. Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls.

Only one team, the Bulls, will be playing in the post-season.

Good teams dictate a style of play at home, usually with a defensive mindset.

"There should be a toughness,'' Triano said of playing at home. "There should be this mentality of 'stay off my property' and you start to defend that way.

"That's one of the things we've been guilty of this year."

Despite their mediocre record, fans haven't stayed away from the Air Canada Centre. Last night's crowd was 18,107 and the team has sold out the 19,800-seat building 13 times, averaging 18,810, which ranks 10th overall in the 30-team league.

"We've got great fans and they give us plenty of support,'' Triano said. "Usually we play better in front of them.

"It wasn't the case this year."

Triano would like to return to remedy the many ails that plague the Raptors and not just the issue of home court.

He continues to coach to win, while at the same time provide minutes to players who need minutes to showcase their games.

Against the Wizards, Andrea Bargnani (heel) was back in the starting rotation, moving Patrick O'Bryant, who made his first-career start in Indiana on Wednesday, back to the bench.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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