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Tip-In: Rust Never Sleeps

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If you've been reading our recaps lately you may want to skip this one.

In fact I even thought about substituting a haiku for our usual "Tip-In" piece as unfortunately last night's game featured the reocurring theme of inexperience, reliance on outside shooting and injury woes.

Had I done this, my haiku probably would have read as follows:

Talented youth
Orlando chasing playoffs
Raptors not

The fact of the matter is that in their umpteenth game this season Toronto kept this one close (and even lead for a good chunk of the game) however Orlando's superior talent won out in the end 103-96 as they continued to fight for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Orlando has now won 10 of its last 11 games while the Raptors slide continues making it 10 straight in the L column.

The one encouraging thing from last night's affair was that Raptors' coach Sam Mitchell seemed to have read my colleague Howland's recent ranting about giving the youngsters (Hoffa in particular) more playing time. Last night Darrick Martin saw only one minute of action and Rafael Araujo got the start along with Pape Sow, each of them playing about 25 minutes. While neither had stellar numbers, Araujo, with six points and five rebounds, almost hit our magic six/six/six plateau and looks more comfortable than he ever has in a Raptors' uniform. Perhaps he and Pape will never be starters in this league but if you could bring Pape's defense and hustle and Hoffa's mid-range game and passing off the bench in seventh or eigth man roles for Toronto next year, I think it would be an ideal situation for the Raptors.

Toronto was lead by Mike James and Morris Peterson but they got little offensive help from anyone but CV Smooth. Apparently Villanueva is still getting his energy back from his recent bout of the flu however he did look much sharper tonight before being forced to sit due to foul trouble.

On Orlando's side of things, this is definitely a team on the rise. Lead by Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, this team can score from inside and out. They showed this last night as all five of their starters scored in double figures and by going to the free throw line 10 more times than Toronto, it allowed them to hang around in the second quarter after Toronto went on its run to take the lead.

The Detroit Pistons roll into Toronto tomorrow night and this game may have disaster written all over it. With injuries to Chris Bosh and Eric Williams already, Matt Bonner is now done for the season as well giving Toronto very little up front which will be a huge problem against this large Piston's club. Unless the Raptors hit a huge number of their outside shots, this game may be done before half, something Cleveland fans witnessed last night as their Cavs settled for the outside J and found themselves down to Detroit 56-29 at the half.

After the Pistons on Friday, Toronto closes out with a home-game against Indiana and a visit to Chicago for the Raptors final game of the season against the Bulls. Both would be possible wins for Toronto if the Raptors had a full roster but based on the fact that both of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives, we could very well see the season conclude with a haiku such as this

0-9 start
0-13 finish
see you next season

FRANCHISE