Toronto (7-11) at Cleveland (10-6)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 78° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Sat Dec 4, 2004
  • TV: FSOH
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Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is standing firm on his decision to bench Rafer Alston and Loren Woods, even if it fractures his struggling team.

The short-handed Raptors will try to avoid their third straight loss when they visit LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Toronto may have suffered more than just a 91-89 defeat in Boston on Friday night.

Mitchell benched Woods and Alston after each was charged with a technical foul, and stated afterward that he is unwilling to start, or perhaps even play, either against the Cavaliers on Saturday.

The bad behavior began when Woods was called for two quick fouls in the final two minutes of the third quarter. Alston objected by throwing the ball downcourt, resulting in the first technical.

Woods chimed in and got a technical of his own. Paul Pierce made just one of the technical foul shots, but Boston continued to close the gap and took the lead early in the fourth quarter, with Alston and Woods out of the game.

“We could have used them both, but I wasn’t going to let either one of them back in the game,” Mitchell said. “These guys cannot conduct themselves like that in front of 19,000 people and get rewarded by playing. You cannot do your coaches and teammates like that.”

Woods was repentant, saying, “I let the emotions get the best of me. I lost it, and I lost the game for us.”

But Alston said he wanted to take some time to think about his career.

“It’s tough right now for me,” he said. “I’m going to talk to Sam and (general manager Rob Babcock). I think it’s time. I’m tired of getting into it with my teammates and my coaches. I don’t know if I’m a good fit for this team and I don’t know if I’m a good fit for this league.

“I’m going to take some time off. I might not even play the rest of the season.”

Mitchell said neither would start Saturday.

“I don’t know when they will be back in,” the coach said. “We are supposed to be professionals. Nobody has the right to do that in a close game. They embarrassed themselves and the Toronto Raptors.”

Things are certainly more positive in Cleveland as James continues to emerge as one of the league’s best all-around players. He had 17 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists in Thursday’s 92-73 win at Denver.

“I loved it tonight,” James said. “To jump on a team like this at their home, I couldn’t ask for anything better for our team.”

Jeff McInnis scored 15 points, Drew Gooden had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Robert Traylor finished with 15 points and nine boards for Cleveland.

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