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Tip-In: Dirty Dozen

If this recap is somewhat blah and complacent, you'll forgive me.

Part of our goal here at RaptorsHQ has always been to give fans a good idea of the team's mood and play on a daily basis. So therefore it's only right that this recap, much like the game witnessed last night by Raptors' fans, takes on that same level of emotion...none.

The Raptors came out flat last night and with the exception of a brief run in the third quarter, stayed horizontal in a sleepy 104-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

That run, which brought the Raptors as close as five points, was quickly extinguished by two Chris Duhon three point shots putting the deficit back to 11. And as poorly as Toronto defended Kobe Bryant in his 81 point affair on Sunday, the Raptors made the former Blue Devil Duhon look like Mike Bibby as he hit for a career-high 26.

Chris Bosh lead the Raptors with 20 points but looked exausted from the recent road trip. In fact with the exception of Pape Sow and Mike James, the rest of the Raptors looked pretty weary. James got in early foul trouble and was forced to sit most of the first half. As a result the Bulls penetrated at will finding open shots within their offensive sets time and time again.

Perhaps the most emotion displayed by the club occured on the sidelines. During a break in play at one point, Morris Peterson and Jose Calderon exchanged pleasantries to the point where Peterson had to be restrained from going after Jose. However this appeared to be an exchange born out of frustration more then anything else as the two could be seen joking later on.

After watching this game though many fans will undoubtedly be asking in the words of The Roots, "are things falling apart?"

I have to admit, it looks a bit like that.

When a player just recently recalled from the NBDL is giving the most consistent effort of anyone on your team and looking more invaluable with each game, you have to worry.

There's also cause for concern when Toronto's usually high-scoring offense is nowhere to be found. Last night the team shot a repugnant 37.2 per cent from the field, were outscored 28-16 at the end of the first quarter and scored only 88 points in total. This in spite of getting to the free throw line 32 times to Chicago's 17.

And defensively...well...

My primary concern though currently is not with the team's effort, the rookies hitting the rookie wall or the lack of defense (which has been almost non-existent all season.) No, I'm worried about the lineup.

When the Raptors were playing their best ball of the season earlier this month it seemed that Mitchell had established his rotation. Start Hoffa and Graham, bring CV and Rose off the bench for some offensive punch, and throw in a little Matt Bonner and Jose Calderon for some different looks and a change of pace. Foul trouble? Well sure, I guess we could play Eric or Aaron Williams since we DID trade for them!

The point here is that the team just felt a lot more stable and complete and that was reflected on the basketball court. Players seemed to know their roles and were comfortable in them. Now, things just seem in disarray. I mean, how can you explain starting Eric Williams against Denver and then not playing him a single minute against the Bulls? And Joey Graham does the exact opposite; a DNP against Denver he logs 19 minutes against the Bulls and his twin brother.

However the best example of this whole lineup mess is of course with Pape Sow. Coach Mitchell was repeatedly quoted in the press as saying he simply did not have any minutes for Spider-man so there was no point in him getting called back up to the parent Raptor club. And now, a little over a week later Sow finds himself in the starting lineup! Yes Hoffa is hurt but the whole situation is just a bit bizarre. Is this a Mitchell decision or is Rob Babcock calling the shots on this one? (Conspiracy theorists start your engines.)

And then maybe there's nothing unusual about Pape starting. With the way he's played defensively and given his effort maybe just maybe Mitchell is simply starting the players who DESERVE to be starting. And this then is a sad testament to the rest of the team's effort as of late.

Ironically in the midst of all of this the Raptors have brought back Jerome Williams to be their "community representative." While a member of past Raptor teams, Williams, or as he's more affectionally known, JYD, was a great energy player, tough defender and tenacious rebounder. Based on the team's listless play of late, and the seemingly random lineup changes Mitchell has made, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise if in the near future during starting lineup announcements, a familiar "barking sound" is heard...

FRANCHISE