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Knocked Out Early Again - Raps Drop to 0-7 To Start Season

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In another game that got away too early, the Philadelphia 76ers put up 39 first quarter points en route to a 104-92 win. The 76ers were powered by Allen Iverson who scored 34 points and dished out 12 assists and Chris Webber who posted 28 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and doled out 5 assists. Charlie Villanueva followed up Sunday's breakout game with an even better outing scoring 27 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking 1 shot. He was 3 for 3 from beyond the three point arc as well. Chris Bosh also had a strong outing based on box score scoring 19 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.

Statistically the Raptors shot 41.9% from the field compared to Philly's 46% going 4 for 14 from beyond the arc. Philly attempted only 5 three-point shots hitting one of them but went to the free throw line 29 times hitting 23 of them as opposed to Toronto's 16 for 23 night from the charity stripe. The Raptors turned the ball over 18 times leading to too many easy Philly buckets and the 76ers in contrast only had 10 turnovers.

After the loss Raptors GM Rob Babcock preached patience and reminded fans that it's still only November. Coach Sam Mitchell simply stated that the Raptors need to show more heart, especially early in games.

FRANCHISE’S CRITICAL BEATDOWN:

Baby steps folks, baby steps. Yes the Raptors notched another L last night to extend their losing streak to 7 games...however this was the best the team has played yet. Take away the first quarter and the Raptors would have actually won this contest. The Raptors played much better defensively then in ANY of their previous contests and outrebounded their opponent for the second straight game. However once again, it was the abysmal play of the Raptors' starters that dug too deep of a hole to climb out of. As I've noted in previous game summaries, the Raptors entire team is basically one deep bench and as a result the Raptors only climb back into games when the opposing teams' starters have to sit. This was part of the case last night...the other part...simply terrible play from the starters. Aaron Williams only played 5 minutes the entire game so doesn't really count in this analysis...however Morris Peterson was 2 for 8, Mike James 3 for 10 and Jalen Rose 6 for 13. Not exactly Larry Bird percentages. Most frustrating however was not the missed shots...but simply the COMPLETE lack of defensive intensity and energy from the starting 5. In fact the 76ers scored ON EVERY POSSESSION UP UNTIL 2 MINUTES LEFT IN THE FIRST QUARTER. No one was guarding anyone, the shot selection was terrible and the Raptors were down by 19 before they knew it. The Raptors get a chance to even the score tonight as Philly heads to play the Raptors here in Toronto and Sam Mitchell may want to make some lineup adjustments...or at least have last night's starters on a short leash.

HIGHS:

-Charlie Villanueva - Villanueva was the best player by far for Toronto last night. He was late on a few defensive rotations but he was simply dominant on all other ends of the court in every other aspect. He hustled for loose balls, hit three pointers, played within the offense, challenged and blocked shots, and most importantly, was a huge factor in the rebounding department with 5 of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. Consistent production such as this (and most of it with Bosh in the game as well) may mean that CV Smooth finds himself in the starting lineup or at minimum in the sixth man role, very soon.

-Jose Calderon - Calderon had his worst game in terms of turnovers but he did have the unenviable task of matching up against Allen Iverson all night. Iverson is an expert at drawing contact and getting to the foul line (he shot 13 foul shots last night) but Calderon did play very well defensively against Iverson in the second half. He challenged shots without bodying up "the Answer" and did a great job pushing the tempo going the other way. To put it simply - the Raptors' ball movement on offence is simply much better with Calderon leading the team.

LOWS:

-The Starters - Watching the first quarter was akin to listening to fingernails scraping on a chalkboard for 12 minutes straight. Time after time Philadelphia ran their offense and the Raptors gave them the exact basket they were hoping to achieve out of it. Morris Peterson was invisible after an aggressive first drive to the basket. Aaron Williams was a non-factor. Mike James thought he was still playing against Seattle and hoisting up desperation attempts. And let's not even get into Jalen Rose...who while only playing 31 minutes took 13 shots...4 less then Chris Bosh who played for 42! Speaking of Bosh he did have a nice game statistically but his defence was so bad on Chris Webber that he was one of the main reasons the Raptors went down by such a huge margin early. On back to back plays Bosh was caught in the air by Webber's fakes allowing him easy access to the basket. Webber is hardly the athletic specimen that Bosh is and therefore it was excruciating to watch Webber time and time again drive past Bosh with ease. However Bosh did play much better in the second half and his rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, was key in getting the Raptors as close as 6 points on the scoreboard.

Bosh needs help. He got it from CV Smooth last night and Calderon and Joey Graham played well...but that was about the extent of it. Rob Babcock's going to soon have to make a decision. Jalen Rose simply isn't bringing it and neither is Mo Pete as of late and Babcock may have to try and deal one or both. Here at Raptorshq we've been kicking around various Jalen trade proposals that would work under the salary cap...all are pretty ugly including one in which we'd have to take on Tim Thomas...Babcock's hands may indeed be tied for the time being. The bottom line is that one of these swingmen has to step up to give the Raptors some scoring balance...otherwise Mike James is going to feel like he has to make like LEBRON James firing up shots each game. Jalen did have some decent moments on offense but both he and Mike James effectively killed the Raptors' second half rallies again and again with ill advised shots taken way too early in the shot clock.

Tonight therefore is a huge game for Toronto. Sure, not only because they don't want to drop to 0-8 to start the season...but more importantly fans will get to see if this team is actually learning from their losses. If the 76ers come out tonight and torch the Raptors in the first quarter and are allowed to score at will...fans better strap themselves in as things might get worse before they get better.

FRANCHISE