Raptors just good enough to lose

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Jose Calderon is struggling a bit with the language and a lot with the Raptors.

Take their loss last night, another in a season full of excruciating defeats, this one inflicted by the Dallas Mavericks by a score of 93-91.

"I try to play hard today," he said. "My 12 teammates play hard today. And always, in the last moment, we lose the game."

Well spoken Jose. Consider yourself baptized in the Raptors way.

The only franchise in big-time professional sports named after an extinct mammal, the Raptors are charting new ground, even for them.

They are now 1-14. There is no doubt that they are better, perhaps much better than their record. Masterfully constructed, they are built to an exacting standard: Just, just, good enough to lose.

"I don't know what it means or what happens," Calderon said. "We need to work. It's one month. We have to forget November."

Good call.

The Raptors took a necessary first step in righting things, or, at least, making things a bit palatable, by shifting unproductive swingman Jalen Rose out of the rotation.

Rose, who led the team in scoring 33 times last season, has done so exactly twice and he came into the contest shooting .303 from the field in his past seven games. He is making $16 million and he's not getting it done.

But this is the NBA, with the substantial issue of ego. Rose wore black last season when he was relegated to the bench and then rebounded with his best play to wedge his way back into the lineup.

"We're 1-13," coach Sam Mitchell said before the game. "We've got to try something."

Rose took it okay, publicly.

"I'll do what I have to do," Rose said. "I was told by Sam it was better if I came off the bench. I said: 'Okay.'

"Everybody goes through a slump during the season," Rose said. "I'm no different. I guess when you're 1-13, now 1-14," your rope is a little bit shorter.

Well, when you're the club's only veteran of substance, when an undermanned team needs your minutes and when you make the entire gross national product of Kazakhstan, yes, the rope is shorter.

Rose played 20 minutes and finished with seven points. He didn't look happy. In the words of Vince Carter ... whatever.

The Raptors led the game 89-83 with 2:03 left. But there are some things that happen with a numbing consistency in the Raptors' universe. At the end of the day, they always are unmasked.

Mitchell pegged the loss on the inability of the Raptors to corral a wayward Dallas shot in the game's second-last minute.

"We lost the game with a minute and 21 seconds (left). They miss a shot, the ball falls on the floor. We don't get the rebound, again, and they hit a three.

"We get the rebound, different game. We're up six with the ball with a minute and 21 seconds to go and that's the game."

After frittering away the lead, Matt Bonner hit a shot from the corner with a couple of seconds left. If he has size 10s like a normal person, his toes are nicely clear of the arc. Instead, the official rightly signals a two-point shot.

It just fell to Jason Terry to hit a short runner in the key over Chris Bosh at the buzzer to spoil the night.

The Raptors gave Dallas all they wanted but had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki, who wiped away a five-point first half with a 24-point second half effort.

Bosh, meanwhile, was terrific and garnered his 26 points by hitting 12 of 15 free throws.

"Bottom line is this right there," said Mike James, a spark all night with 22 points. "At end of the game, you've got to make plays.

"It doesn't matter what you do for 45 minutes, it's what you do the last three minutes."

True enough.

So when are they going to start making them because if things keep going like this, Jose Calderon is going to start running out of months.


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