Raps take it on the chin

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

PHOENIX -- It was hard to tell which hurt most for Hedo Turkoglu -- his hip or his heart.

This much we know for certain: Both will be stinging in the days to come.

The late-game theatre was precisely the stage Turkoglu relishes and exactly why the Raptors paid a king's ransom to lure the small forward to Toronto.

With the ball in his hands and the game on the line, Turkoglu had a chance to define his early beginning as a Raptor.

But it wasn't to be as Turkoglu's shot, just before the buzzer sounded, missed and the Raptors were sent to a crushing 101-100 loss to the Suns in a game Toronto could have easily won.

The Raptors ran a pick and forced the Suns to switch, leaving Turkoglu matched up with Amar'e Stoudemire.

There was a little hesitation when Turkoglu made a cross-over move, the slightest of errors that affected his shot.

Still, it was a good look that simply didn't go in.

"This hurts,'' Turkoglu, who played through a very sore left hip, an injury that nearly caused him to miss the game, said. "That's a shot I'll always take."

It just didn't drop.

Turkoglu caught fire in the final, frenetic moments, making virtually everything.

One miss was three-quarters of the way down the basket.

"He had two good looks at the end," Chris Bosh said. "One went in and the other just missed.

"We had a shot at it on the road and just came up a little short."

The Raptors drew up a perfect play in that late-game situation.

In hindsight, Turkoglu could have deferred to Bosh in the paint because the switch forced Grant Hill to defend Bosh.

"The last shot is what we wanted," head coach Jay Triano said. "We got the switch we wanted. It just didn't go in. We can't really complain about it."

Had Steve Nash not played like Steve Nash, the Raptors would have won going away.

The pace was in Toronto's favour and Phoenix missed many shots that gave the Raptors a shot of winning in Phoenix for the first time since 2004.

Nash would ultimately make the game-winning sequence by converting from the foul line after making a basket.

He ended with 23 points, but made only one of six three-point attempts.

Stoudemire led all scorers with 30 points, while Bosh led the Raptors with 25.

Turkoglu scored a season-high 20 points, but he didn't make a single trip to the foul line.

Toronto led by as many as 10 points in the opening half and led throughout until Andrea Bargnani picked up a very careless foul in the second minute of the final period.

When he left, the Raptors were leading 84-79.

When he re-appeared five minutes later, the Raptors were trailing 91-87.

Adding to Toronto's inefficiency was its inability to protect the basketball, especially in the open court.

Jarrett Jack struggled again and had more turnovers (three) than points (two).

But the Raptors regained their composure and had they denied Nash penetration, they would have won.

In the NBA, there are no moral victories, but Turkoglu sees better days.

"It's coming," he said. "We're still learning."

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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