Jilted in New Jersey

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Both Vince Carter and Jason Kidd stared down death last night.

Well, sort of.

Kidd played in his first game of the season for the New Jersey Nets after undergoing knee surgery in the summer. Carter came back to start for the Raptors after missing a game because of an upset tummy.

But in the end, it was the Raptors who felt ill as they lost their fourth game in a row, 88-86, to the Nets before a sparse crowd of 11,227 at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

"I'm not angry, I'm not frustrated ... I'm just numb," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said after his club gift-wrapped another winnable game to drop to 7-13.

A strong drive by Carter just before the final buzzer resulted in a layup attempt that saw the ball hang agonizingly on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rimming out.

"I thought for sure it was in," said Carter, who led the Raptors with 22 points but did not snare a single rebound. "As I turned around after going toward our bench, I saw Richard Jefferson holding the ball -- but it wasn't under the basket."

One might look at the stats sheet, see that the Raptors were out-rebounded 61-36 overall, and that the New Jersey starters out-rebounded the Toronto starters 41-15, and conclude that's where the game was won and lost. But Carter wasn't on board with that theory.

"We lost the game by two points," Carter said. "Regardless of the rebounding advantage, we were right in it at the end."

Mitchell was less forgiving.

"You have the stats sheet in your hand -- what am I going to say?" Mitchell said. "We're just not big enough to rebound with some of these teams. We knew they were going to pound us on the glass. We just didn't respond. It's not enjoyable.

"You keep throwing the rebounding thing at me and I agree with you. We have to go to practice (today), put a lid on the basket and find some guys who want to rebound."

With all the trade rumours swirling around the Raptors, involving Carter and Jalen Rose in particular, Mitchell was asked if his club, as currently constituted, can do anything about its deficiencies on the glass.

"It's not my job to change the roster," Mitchell said. "My job is to coach the players we have."

A factor in the rebounding problem was the health of Raptors centre Loren Woods, who started and played 17 minutes but was largely ineffective because of the dislocated ring finger on his left hand, which he injured Saturday.

The Raptors led for virtually the entire game, but the Nets chipped away and took a two-point lead with 52.5 seconds to play. Carter tied it again with two free-throws, but New Jersey's Richard Jefferson restored the two-point bulge with a nifty drive and fadeaway jumper with 7.1 seconds to go.

The Raps' six-game trip concludes tomorrow in Detroit.


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