It's almost at the stage where you can see it coming...Raptors, up 89-83 with less then two minutes left...playing so well...playing team ball but getting star Chris Bosh enough touches when it counted...if they could just hold on to this one...but Dirk Nowitzki was having none of it.
Jason Terry's teardrop floater dropped through the basket as time expired to give the Dallas Mavericks a 93-91 win over the Raptors. However it was Dirk Diggler's 6 clutch points, including 2 3's in the final 1:42 that was the difference in this contest. His individual exploits in crunch time (he had 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter points) gave the Raptors' switching defense fits and he willed his Mavericks squad to victory. In fact it could be argued that the Raptors' overplay of the dangerous German sniper gave Jason Terry time to get loose and get a good enough look at the basket to win the game.
Throughout the past few games, we here at the HQ have been critical of some of Sam Mitchell's substitution patterns and the inability of the Raptors to get Chris Bosh the ball enough. Unfortunately neither can be used as an excuse for last night's loss. Bosh did take 3 less shots then Mike James (14 to 17) however went to the free throw line 15 times so therefore did have the bulk of the offense running through him all night. And Mitchell actually benched Jalen Rose going with a starting lineup of James, Jose Calderon (making his first NBA start), Mo Pete, Bosh and Rafael Araujo and did a great job moving players in and out of the lineup all night. In fact last night's game was a great TEAM effort by the Raptors and although Bosh and Mike James (22 points) were the high men, the whole team contributed from Bosh to Bonner. The Raptors outrebounded the Mavericks, shot a similar field goal percentage and went to the free throw line a lot more...usually categories indicative of which team comes out with the victory.
And therein lies the reason for last night's loss...while the Raptors were the better TEAM...the Mavericks had the BEST PLAYER. The NBA is a game of individual talents and unfortunately the Raptors don't have a Dirk, an Allen Iverson or even a Sam Cassell...all veteran players who have the ability to make clutch plays. Chris Bosh is just not there yet, and as evidenced by his touches last night, against Phoenix and against Sacramento in crunch time, might never be that option. This may spark some debate amongst fans but I truly believe that while Bosh is a great double double player...he's not that creating, slashing scoring option that you need when the game is on the line. And until Joey Graham and CV Smooth develop more of a "go to the rim" game with regularity, or until a Rudy Gay or Ronnie Brewer shows up in Toronto in 210 days, Mike James might just be the best slashing option we have. In fact if you look at the Raptors last bunch of close losses dating back to the overtime loss to Seattle, each game has a similar ending. Without a go to player, the offense gets crammed up, ball movement stops and players start taking shots out of sync. While last night wasn't quite such an extreme case of this, it's evident that the Raptors miss the crunch presence that Jalen brought last year...and with him sitting on the bench shooting nothing but a frown, we may not see that presence again...or at least in a Raptors' uniform.