Chris Bosh sauntered into the dressing room from the showers and turned his back on the reporters clustered around his stall. From there, there was an extended process of drawing one long pant leg over each long leg, pulling a sweater over his head and, ultimately, addressing the other process he is facing on the court with the Toronto Raptors.
The 25-year-old was a shadow of his usual self in his return to action from a seven-game absence, unable to carry the Raptors past a team buried deep in the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Toronto fell 114-101 to the Philadelphia 76ers at home Sunday, its fifth loss in six games.
"I felt good ... felt pretty good," Bosh said. "It's just going to take some time. Just got to get my legs under me, and once I get my legs under me and my strength back, I think I'll be fine."
He was held to only 12 points in 33 minutes of playing time, his lowest offensive output since Dec. 23, and his second-lowest of the season. Thaddeus Young scored a career-high 32 points for the Sixers, who as a team hit a remarkable nine of 12 attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
Bosh had been expected to return to action against the New York Knicks on Friday night, but missed Toronto's morning workout with an upset stomach. His health deteriorated as the day progressed, to the point where he could not even stand, leading to a trip to Mount Sinai Hospital as his teammates scraped through a 102-96 win.
He was released about an hour after the game, and returned to the floor Sunday under the close supervision of his coaches. Bosh had not played a minute since spraining his left ankle in a Feb. 17 overtime loss to Memphis, and Raptors head coach Jay Triano said he would ration his star player's playing time if his energy levels sagged.
"I think he was a little rough, but you've got to play him," Triano said afterward. "You've got to play him through this. We've got to get him back to 100 per cent. His timing's off a little bit, and being away and off the floor for as long as he was, it's going to take a couple of games for him to get back into a good, smooth rhythm."
The coach's entire team seemed out of rhythm. Toronto fell behind by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, allowing Young to roll up 10 points for the Sixers while starting in place of Montreal's Samuel Dalembert, who was reportedly held out of the starting rotation for being late for a team meeting.
Toronto rallied, sparked back to life by an Andrea Bargnani put-back, and tied the score at 24-24 by the end of the quarter. The momentum stalled in the second quarter, with the Raptors unable to build a lead of more than two points.
Health had been an issue all weekend. Amir Johnson, who started in Bosh's place Friday night, was not feeling 100 per cent on Sunday, compounding Triano's roster troubles.
Hedo Turkoglu played in Friday night's win, but was clearly labouring on his ankle and was held out of Sunday's matinee.
"It's sore again today," Triano said. "We've got yesterday, today and tomorrow to hopefully have him get better so that it's something that is not going to linger for the rest of the year."
The Sixers, who entered the game on a five-game losing streak, lost forward Marreese Speights to a sprained right knee in the second quarter. He did not return, but that did not seem to slow the visitors, who expanded their lead to as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
Antoine Wright and Jose Calderon hit back-to-back three-pointers with a little more than six minutes to play in the fourth to reduce the gap back down to seven points. But the damage had been done.
"I'd say our energy wasn't channelled in the right place," Wright said. "I guess we felt we had an easy game, and we were going to catch a team in here early and just beat them. And you can't expect to win games just coming into them like that."
"We've just got to forget this one," Bosh said.
Toronto is on the road for its next four games, a West Coast swing that begins with a test in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
"There's not that much margin for error right now," Wright said. "You lose a game like this, you can go from fifth to seventh or even eighth. And you don't want to be fighting to get back in the hunt, so we've got to figure some things out."
NOTES: Toronto is not scheduled to host another Sunday matinee this season. The team has two Sunday home games remaining, but both have 6 p.m. start times ... Dalembert began his playing career at Lucien-Page High School in Montreal ... The Raptors will not play at home again until March 17, when they host Atlanta.
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