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Jeff Blair

Raptors provide no shelter Add to ...

Sometimes, it would be nice just to win, you know?

With all the talk in Toronto about coaches being fired and general managers in two sports getting the plot all wrong and the talk about the guy who is the lightning rod for fan dissatisfaction maybe or maybe not departing, there are times when it would be nice to just enjoy a win.

There are times when you're faced with a Richard Peddie kind of day, when your team is in turmoil and it's all getting a little tiresome and you'd like at the end to say: Hey, somebody has fewer wins than us.

But then you find the basketball in Andrea Bargnani's hands with three seconds left and a three-point deficit staring you in the face. You've just come out of a timeout and he's behind the arc and he looks up and then down and then - there, all of a sudden - Stephen Jackson's flicked out his hand and stolen the ball. And it's all gone: the Charlotte Bobcats have a 101-96 win and now the Toronto Raptors are 1-7.

"I caught him off-guard," Jackson would say later.

There's lots of that gone on this NBA season.

It would be a stretch to imagine the Air Canada Centre more sombre than it was Wednesday night.

There would not have been any deep meaning to this game even if the Raptors had won because it was two 1-6 teams playing each other. And regardless of the outcome, the only player on either team you'd take on your starting five is Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace. That hasn't changed. The Raptors are a collection of rotational guys just as they were Wednesday morning.

But it would have been nice to get a win, no?

The Raptors are a chronically undertalented group. Wednesday, you could add short-handed to the description, too, with Leandro Barbosa inactive due to a strained left shoulder. David Andersen, who averages about 13 1/2 minutes per game, was also out with the flu, while Jarrett Jack played despite a hyperextended right knee. Linas Kleiza, who has an Achilles tendon injury, was not cleared to play until game time. Reggie Evans gave his usual 30 minutes of hack and slash before he, too, was sidelined with a bruised hip.

Toronto head coach Jay Triano said the extent of Barbosa's injury was not known ahead of a four-game road trip that begins Friday in Orlando against the Magic and includes a Saturday meeting with the Miami Heat and former Raptors star Chris Bosh. Barbosa was already playing with a right wrist injury that might require off-season surgery.

Meanwhile, the Raptors' dalliance with free-agent centre Erick Dampier continues. Dampier spurned the Raptors originally in order to sign with the Houston Rockets, but that deal has fallen apart and Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo said in an e-mail "they called us back after Houston fell through … we are considering it now."

Yet with Wallace, a physical beast who plays with his mouthguard pushed out all the time and who would finish with 19 points and 14 rebounds, labouring with some kind of leg injury and on the bench late in the third quarter, the Raptors put together a nice little run to grab a four-point lead at 68-64.

Wallace came back, but it was now up to eight points and there was an energy and purpose to Triano's crazy-quilt group.

Blessedly (you'd think) for the Raptors and their challenged backcourt, this was a night where they were facing a point guard - D.J. Augustin - who is still a work in progress. No Derrick Rose or Deron Williams or Brandon Roy or guys of that ilk.

But on a day when so much of the talk was about MLSE chief executive officer Peddie, they lost. They are 1-7 and it's going to get much, much worse.

There is no shelter anywhere for a Toronto sports fan.

 

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