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Raptors meet their match

Raptors meet their match
It was 11 years and nine days ago that one of the darkest moments in Raptors franchise history unfolded in the dreary, smelly Los Angeles Sports Arena, the kind of blight on pro Basketball that could be in danger of being repeated today.

It was a horrid end-of-the-season game between two squads playing out the string, a game of individuality rather than teamwork, a meeting, as it was called, of a movable object and a resistible force.

It was a 152-120 Los Angeles victory, 48 minutes of drudgery on a Friday night, a victory for the-then 13-49 Clippers over the equally inept 13-49 Raptors and the only true winners were those fans who didn't bother to watch.

It still marks the most points a Toronto team has ever given up in a game, no mean feat for a team that's had the defensive deficiencies the Raptors have had for many of their 14 seasons.

Today at the Air Canada Centre, another end-of-the-season game between two going-nowhere squads will also unfold and it is incumbent upon the players and coaches to treat the game with the respect it deserves, to play with pride and purpose.

After all, someone is going to be watching.

"The message we try to keep sending is the people who are making decisions on free agents aren't looking at stats," Toronto coach Jay Triano said yesterday. "They're watching tapes of games and seeing who plays within the team concepts.

"We reminded that to the players earlier this week; do the right thing and win games. That's when people notice you."

About the only thing anyone's noticing about the Raptors and Clippers these days is how bad they've been doing.

Toronto has lost nine of its last 10, the only victory an easy triumph over a listless Indiana Pacers team a week ago, and they drag a 23-45 record into this afternoon's affair.

The Clippers? They're 2-8 in their last 10 and just 17-52 on the season, the third-worst record among the NBA's 30 teams.

Neither team has lived up to anything close to pre-season expectations. The Raptors' failings have been well-documented, the Clippers couldn't find a good mix between the highly coveted free agent Baron Davis and coach/GM Mike Dunleavy and their seasons went off the rails early.

And as each team plays out the string, games like this afternoon's affair can be telling. Players who want to impress - either out of some sense of personal pride or because they are playing for their next contract - will be easily distinguishable from those just going through the motions.

"The natural reaction is guys right now think, 'I have to do it myself because I want to finish strong personally,'" Triano said. "The other thing is guys will say, 'I can do this, I can bring us back.' And they take it upon themselves because they want to see the team get better.

"This is the ultimate team game. There's no goalie who can stand back there and keep you in games, there's no pitcher who can pitch a no-hitter. This is the ultimate team game and you need five guys working in unison if you're going to be successful.

"When you figure that five players working as a team is going to be a lot stronger, that's when everybody's going to look better."

And when they don't? Everyone looks bad, as has happened this season to the teams that will play today for little more than pride.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 23, 2009


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