TORONTO - It ended on a winning note, but it was of little consolation for a team of which much more was expected.
The Raptors wonít sleep any better having beaten the New York Knicks 131-113 in their regular-season finale. They might have, had the Charlotte Bobcats come through for them, but thatís the price a team pays when it allows its fate to be determined by others.
Instead the Bobcats fell victim to the Bulls making last nightís result inconsequential. The opportunity to avoid leaving it in someone elseís hands came last Sunday when the Bulls paid a visit to the ACC. The Bulls proved that evening they wanted it more than the Raptors.
Wednesday night the Bulls playing a back-to-back on the road against a rested Charlotte team found a way to close it out leading from the opening tip until an 98-89 finish.
The Bulls had a first quarter-lead of seven, bumped it to 14 by the half and were back down to 11 by the end of the third although, at that point, Larry Brown who as promised played his starters, had done the smart thing and gone to his reserves for most of the final quarter.
The Bobcats, after all, had already earned their playoff spot.
The Raptor finale was fitting of the type of season they had.
It was a one-way game with both teams playing to score and neither side seemingly giving a second thought to stopping the other.
Street-ball games have seen more defence than Wednesdayís tilt.
The fact that the Raptors had provided their deserving fans free pizza with a
100-point game before the third quarter was even over was proof of that.
The Knicks, despite some encouragement from Raptor fans throughout the day as they enjoyed the a fine April afternoon in the city, did not roll over for the Raptors.
Former Celtic Bill Walker took the opportunity the Raptors lacklustre defence offered to match his career high by the three quarter mark with 23 points.
He would go on to finish with a game-high 28.
They Knicks, though, eventually ran out of gas ó or interest ó it was tough to tell, as they stayed with the Raptors for about 21/2 quarters only falling off in the latter stages of the third quarter.
The Raptors were particularly ineffective closing out on the Knicks three-point shooters last night although thatís not exactly novel for this team.
The Knicks were 14-for-27 from three-point range. The high for any Raptors opponent from long range is 17 which was done by Orlando.
Every starter save Hedo Turkoglu easily made it into double digits in this one. Andrea Bargnani finished up on a strong note with 24 points to go with his 33 Monday against Detroit.
Turkogluís early foul trouble opened up some minutes for DeMar DeRozan who finished up with 24 to tie BArgnani for the team lead, Amir Johnson, another guy who had a strong finish to the season got 21 Wednesday to go with his career high 26 Monday in Detroit.
The Raptors will clear out their lockers Thursday and perhaps explain what exactly went wrong from that all-star break when everything seemed to fall apart for this team.
At some point Chris Bosh will address the media, although anyone expecting an answer to his future at this stage in the game will likely be left wanting for a little while yet.
As will the rest of the Raptors fan base waiting for a trip back to the playoffs.