Close doesn't cut it

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh drives to the net against Dallas Mavericks' Josh Howard on Sunday in...

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh drives to the net against Dallas Mavericks' Josh Howard on Sunday in Toronto. (Toronto Sun/Dave Thomas)

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

There are no moral victories in Raptorland.

Those days are gone. Nobody in the Toronto locker room was overly impressed that these were the Dallas Mavericks, NBA finalists and winners of 30 of their past 34 games. The overwhelming sense was that losing, especially when the win is in your hands, stinks.

The NBA-leading Mavericks, who trailed for all but a handful of seconds in this game, snatched away a 97-96 win in a wild finish that left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Raps.

"I want to win every game and, when we don't win, I'm not a happy camper, no matter who it is," said Chris Bosh, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds. "It's not really one play, but a collection of them all. When you want to be a good team, you can't have that many mistakes."

As the Raptors continue to improve and mature -- and as expectations, within and without the locker room, continue to rise -- there will be plenty more difficult losses to digest. But right now, this one is No. 1 on Bosh's list.

"I thought about winning the game all day Saturday," he said. "Stayed positive the whole day, really excited to play. It's the toughest (loss) this year. I think we're confident we can win these kind of games. Coming close is not in our mindset any more. We have the confidence to come out and win these games. We just have to do it."

The Raptors came out firing from the opening tip. They led by 10 at the quarter, 11 at the half and by six after 36 minutes. They shot a remarkable 63% in the first half and had the sellout crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre in a frenzy right until the final painful moments.

With 15 seconds remaining and Toronto leading by one point, 96-95, T.J. Ford missed an ill-advised 21-foot jumper that would have all but sealed the deal for the Raptors. Players from both teams dove for the floor trying to secure the rebound, resulting in a crucial jump ball between Toronto's Mo Peterson and Dallas guard Devin Harris. When that jump-off was frozen, Bosh and the Mavs' Greg Buckner did it all over again and Dallas took possession, immediately calling a timeout with 6.5 seconds left.

On the inbound play, the Raptors were expecting the ball to end up in Dirk Nowitzki's hands. After all, he had already scored 38 points and is a constant threat from anywhere on the floor.

Bosh was assigned to guard Nowitzki, but when he seemed to break free for a second, Peterson came over to help, leaving Josh Howard alone at the baseline.

Somehow, Jason Terry found Howard with the long pass and he easily laid it in -- with less than a second still on the clock -- for the winning points.

"I'm gonna put the blame on me," Peterson said. "It was my fault. In the timeout, I was told not to switch. I saw Dirk come free and I didn't want him to beat us on an open look, but then Chris got there."

The Raptors have lost some heartbreakers this year. The virtuoso performance by Steve Nash a couple of weeks ago in a come-from-behind 100-98 Phoenix win comes quickly to mind, but even that game had a different feel.

"I'm not saying the loss to Phoenix wasn't tough, but I thought we played a good game and Steve Nash made some unbelievable plays down the stretch to beat us," said Anthony Parker, who scored 14 points for Toronto. "We felt like we should have won, but at least we know we can play with anybody. This game, I think, is more of a feeling that we let one slip away. It hurts. Especially with the chance to win a game against a team like Dallas and prove that we're a good team."

That proof will have to wait. Today, they have the Philadelphia 76ers to deal with and the Raptors will have to consign the Dallas game to the amnesia file.

"That's the thing about the NBA," coach Sam Mitchell said. "There is always another game."


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