NEW YORK -- Accepting that there are no such things as "should-have" wins in Sam Mitchell's book, the Raptors have to be looking back at last night's game and, despite their coach, wondering what should have been.
This was supposed to be the start of a stretch where the Raps could put some serious distance between themselves and the rest of the middle-of-the-pack teams in the East and maybe, just maybe, take a run at the Orlando Magic, who own that coveted third spot in the conference.
The Raptors accomplished what was supposed to be the tough part of this run with a post all-star opening win over the Magic. It set up a stretch of six consecutive games against sub-.500 teams beginning with last night's game against the Knicks.
For 12 minutes, everything appeared to be going true to form with the Raps out to an early nine-point lead while the woeful Knicks were hard pressed to reach double digits in scoring in that first quarter.
Then Jamal Crawford caught fire and all that talk about should-be, would-be wins went out the window.
On the strength of Crawford's season-high 43 points and a huge assist from Zach Randolph, who woke up about the same time Crawford did to pitch in with a solid 26-point night, that was enough for a 103-99 win, just the Knicks' 17th victory of the season.
Crawford's dominance was the biggest reason for the loss, but right there were all the usual follies that seem to coincide with losing nights for the Raps.
There were the 12 offensive rebounds, a stat near and dear to the hearts of Raptors' victorious opponents most nights.
Then there were the 17 second-chance points for the Knicks, another consistent factor on a losing night for the Raps.
And then a relatively new one, the uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. All of it was necessary for the Knicks to escape with a win.
"We're upset because of the loss," Raps point guard Jose Calderon said. "These are the kinds of wins we need to take that next step forward."
They are also the kind of wins that get a team into a rhythm where it can run off more than four wins in a row, something the Raps have been incapable of doing this year.
As for Crawford, it was another case of a Raptors opponent -- particularly a slashing, athletic wingman --catching fire and dominating a game.
He joins a list that includes Manu Ginobili, Cory Maggette, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Leandro Barbosa who have almost beaten the Raptors into submission by themselves.
"We all know that Zach and Jamal can score and when Jamal scores like that it's tough on anyone," Mitchell said. "It's hard to overcome 43 points by one guy."
Even with all that, the Raptors managed to get back in the game in the final four minutes.
They got a Knicks lead that had been as big as 10 down to two points on a handful of occasion over the final four minutes but every time the Raptors came down the court with a chance to tie or go ahead, their normally consistent shooting let them down.
In the final 40 seconds alone the Raps were 0-for-3 from long range. Calderon, Chris Bosh and Carlos Delfino all made attempts and all missed.
It was that kind of night.
WRATH OF SAM
Sam Mitchell exploded midway through the third quarter when Jamario Moon abandoned a drive to the basket to throw a pass to Maceo Baston, who had just come off the bench and was not expecting the pass.
Rasho Nesterovic grew up playing with and against new teammate and fellow Slovenian Primoz Brezec before both made their way to the NBA. Rasho started out in Minnesota while Primoz started in Indiana. Nesterovic explains this is why Brezec's English contains so much more slang than his own.
Four minutes into the third, Chris Bosh took a Zach Randolph finger in the eye and the Knicks went down and scored on a Quentin Richardson dunk to cut the Raptors lead to one. On his way to the bench, Bosh let the referees know exactly what they had missed.