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News » Woeful Raptors Thunder-struck

Woeful Raptors Thunder-struck

Woeful Raptors Thunder-struck
If it wasn't rock bottom, the coming depths will be a scary place.

In the lowest moment of a lowly early season, the Raptors lost their fourth straight game last night, this one to the league's worst team. The Oklahoma Thunder set off joyous celebrations in the raucous Ford Center in the throes of last night's 91-83 result, as they snapped an eight-game losing streak with their first win in December. For the Raptors, it was an embarrassingly inept performance that featured 36 per cent shooting, the usual suspect rebounding and defence and, most troubling of all, an astounding lack of energy.

Though many Toronto loyalists had pointed to the club's tough early schedule as an underlying reason for their troubles, last night's game was supposed to offer some relief. The Thunder had won just twice all season before last night, and the Raptors were 61/2-point favourites in Las Vegas.

But Toronto's lacklustre play of late - their ninth loss in 11 games - has largely been a function of star Chris Bosh's struggles. After a torrid November in which he averaged 26.4 points and 10.2 rebounds on 54 per cent field-goal shooting, he came into last night's game with December averages of 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds on 41 per cent shooting. Last night he had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but he needed 18 shots from the field to get his number. And his legs, the right one sheathed in a hefty knee brace, looked positively lifeless.

Though he was guarded by Jeff Green and Nick Collison, nobody's all-stars, Toronto's best player struggled to find easy scores.

At times he openly voiced his displeasure at the shortcomings of his teammates.

"Give me the (flipping) ball," hollered Bosh to point guard Roko Ukic, as Bosh jostled for position. (Ukic, apparently not seeing the passing lane, did not give him the ball). And when Jamario Moon fouled Jeff Green on a corner 20-footer late in the game - exactly the kind of shot the Raptors would have been happy to simply guard closely - Bosh chewed out the mistake.

Bosh's wasn't the only lamentable night. Andrea Bargnani's 16 points off the bench came on 6-for-16 clanking. Jermaine O'Neal played 16 first-half minutes before he left with a sore left shoulder. And the Raptors, taking the floor seemingly without purpose, scored just 36 first-half points - one more than the season-low 35 they put up on Denver on the inglorious night before Sam Mitchell was jettisoned.

For all their woes, the Thunder, in the franchise's first season here since leaving Seattle, came into last night's game averaging 18,457 at the Ford Center, some 96 per cent capacity. At least part of the reason for that is Kevin Durant's enticing potential. When the second-year Thunder swingman, who scored a team-high 24 points, elevated for a rousing dunk to end the first quarter, blowing by Anthony Parker and skying above Jermaine O'Neal, he gave the Thunder a 26-17 lead.

The Raptors, on that play and in yet another listless game, were left searching for answers to the same-old questions.

"We may think we can turn it on and turn it off. I'm not sure," said O'Neal, speaking before the game. "But I sure hope on this road trip we're able to show some sense of urgency and get it going. If you get five or 10 games under .500 then you've got an uphill battle, especially when you've played almost 30 per cent of your games. I don't know if we, collectively as a group, are looking at that.

"You don't want to get in a situation at the end of the year when you've got to fight to win 15 of your last 18 games to get into the playoffs. You're going to have zero (energy) left if you do get into the playoffs."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 20, 2008


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