Loss spoils big afternoon

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Charlie Villanueva should have been flashing one of those blinding smiles -- the kind of knowing smile that says "I belong."

Mike James, who rarely doesn't have a smile on his face, should have been doing cartwheels.

But there is no celebration in Raptorland, nor should there be, as long as that 0 remains in the win column.

The Raps came closer than they have all season to getting that first win yesterday, losing 126-121 in overtime to a 1-5 Seattle SuperSonics club.

The tease of victory only made the Raptors situation harder to swallow.

"It hurts," Villanueva, the rookie coming off a career high 26 points and 12 rebound afternoon, said. "It's a bad loss. But it was so close. We had that taste of winning in our mouths. The ball just didn't bounce our way. It is frustrating."

Things were no rosier from veteran James. All James did was pour in a career-high 36 points only to see it overpowered by another discouraging defeat.

"To fight as hard as we fought and then to come up as short as we came up, it hurts that much more," James said.

The career-high for points came in game No. 254 of James' career, but he couldn't and wouldn't enjoy it.

"It's all for naught," he said. "At the end of the day it doesn't matter how many points you score, all that matters are W's and L's and we just chalked up another one."

But while neither the rookie nor the veteran would take any solace in their personal accomplishments, both pointed to the Raptors' perseverance as one positive they could take out of the game. The Raptors trailed by 18 points at one point in the fourth quarter before rallying to force overtime

James cautioned that can mean something going forward if the Raptors stay away from the other distractions that often accompany a long losing streak.

"Don't start pointing fingers now," James said. "Don't start getting discouraged now. Just continue to fight as a group. It's still early. All it takes is a three-game or four-game winning streak and we're back in the thick of things. We just have to believe that is still possible."

Things aren't going to get any easier for the Raptors. The Seattle game was the one on their schedule this month that was looking like a good bet for that first win.

"We just have to win a game and to understand what it feels like to win and maybe then we make that a habit," James said.


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