Raptors want revenge

In Jose Calderon's absence, Jarrett Jack has played well at both ends of the court. (QMI...

In Jose Calderon's absence, Jarrett Jack has played well at both ends of the court. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

The Raptors have a bitter taste in their mouths, and not because of some rancid cranberry sauce.

Tonight, the suddenly-respectable Torontonians play host to the Jekyll and Hyde Charlotte Bobcats, a team that plays with a snarl at home and like putty tats when they are on the road.

Charlotte is 11-4 at the Time Warner Cable Arena but a dreadful 1-13 away from North Carolina.

All that adds up to a hill of beans for the Raptors. But what does have them especially worked up for tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre is the fact that they suffered arguably their worse loss of the season against the Bobcats, a pathetic 116-81 shellacking on Nov. 25, which begun a season-long five-game losing streak.

Now, the 15-17 Raptors have won a season-high four in a row and are attempting to solidify a decent playoff position, though it still is obviously early in the season. And it's the Bobcats who occupy the spot one place below Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings.

"The one thing that coach (Jay Triano) keeps harping on is that regardless of this four game winning streak going right now, this team really embarrassed us the last time we played," point guard Jarrett Jack said. "We really owe them one."

For his part, Triano said that "absolutely" he is using last month's drubbing as a means of motivating his club against the Bobcats.

"We got embarrassed down there and they turned us over, they had 41 points in transition and 60-something (74) points in the paint and it's definitely motivation," said Triano, adding that one thing he hasn't been harping about is his team's win streak. The last thing Triano covets is his players to start feeling too good about themselves. After all, despite the streak and the fact that Toronto sits sixth overall in the East, they're still a sub-.500 team.

"I don't want to look at a number because (if you do), you limit yourself as far as you're goal setting," Triano said. "(I'm not going to say): 'We can relax because we have four, five or six wins, or whatever.' I don't want to get to that point. I want to be focussed and prepared to play every game, and that's what makes you mentally tough and that's what makes you professional."

Jack added that, despite winning four straight, there were a couple of games, including Sunday's 102-95 victory over the struggling Detroit Pistons, when the Raptors jumped to a healthy lead early, only to let up and allow the opposition back in the game -- a habit that defines losing teams.

Triano said yesterday that he is hopeful that point guard Jose Calderon, who has missed seven straight games because of a sore left hip, will be ready to return for the Jan. 6 game in Orlando, which means he'll like miss the next three.

In Calderon's absence, Jack has played well at both ends of the court, prompting speculation that Triano could very well chose to start Jack over Calderon when the Spaniard returns.

Jack has now started 10 straight and is averaging 13.0 points (15.3 in his past three) and 5.9 assists during that time, while shooting .528%. Though the competition and schedule has eased up recently, the Raptors are 6-4 with Jack starting, and 9-13 with Calderon taking the ball at the opening buzzer.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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