MIAMI -- Having pulled off one miracle finish in Washington three nights earlier, the Raptors were not as fortunate the second time around.
Despite an uncharacteristically miserable shooting night, the Raptors somehow found their way back into a game last night with Miami.
Twice in the final 26 seconds, once trailing by one point, the second time trailing by three, the Raptors had a chance to tie or go ahead, and came up empty both times, eventually losing 92-89.
Their hold on third place in the Eastern Conference, and a definite home-court advantage in the first round, is down to a full game on the Heat, and perhaps just as importantly, the Heat now holds the tiebreaker in the event of a tie.
Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell left himself open to questioning when he called on T.J. Ford, mired in a 2-for-11 shooting night at that point, to take both those shots. Both came out of timeouts, but Mitchell adamantly defended the decisions after the game.
"All you have to do is make one play," Mitchell said. "He got to where he wanted to get.He took the shot that he was comfortable with, and that I was comfortable with. We've run that play, or versions of it, numerous times, where we just put the ball in his hands and say: 'Make a play.' "
"If he's 4-for-5 this year, I'll take the 4-for-5 because we wouldn't be where we are right now without any of our guys, and especially T.J. because he's won games for us," Mitchell said.
Ford acknowledged the rough evening, but said there was no shortage of confidence on his attempts.
"It means a lot to me that the coaching staff and my teammates had that belief in me, even when I was having an off night," Ford said. "To still trust me, to put the ball in my hands, and go make the shot ... that's why I applaud all the guys on this team. We've stuck together through the good and the bad. It was just one of those nights when we didn't shoot the percentage we normally shoot, and we still had a chance to win."
Chris Bosh, who led the Raptors with 24 points and 11 rebounds, certainly had no problem with the ball in Ford's hands, rough night or not.
"That is what T.J.'s job is," Bosh said. "In the last seconds, he's our best (player) off the dribble. We ask him to make plays, and he had two great shots at it. He just missed. The first thing I told him was you can't worry about it. If it happens again, you're going to have to do it again, so get your head up."
For the night, the Raptors shot just 37.9% and only 33% after the first quarter.
On the positive side of the ledger was the play of Luke Jackson, whose 10-day contract expired last night at midnight.
The Raptors will make a decision today on whether to sign him to another 10-day contract or return him to the D-League. Jackson helped his cause with a 10-point, two-assist night.
C + Offence: Not a great shooting night for a normally on-target Raptors squad, which hit on just 38% of its shots. T.J. Ford was 2-for-13 on the night.
B - Defence: The Raptors dug themselves into an early hole, but that had as much to do with the Heat's prowess in the first quarter as anything else. Eight steals were a huge edge for the Raptors, but they were outrebounded 48-39.