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Tip-In: Heartbreaker

This was a statement game.

After almost beating the Phoenix Suns, the Toronto Raptors blew through the Dallas Mavericks yesterday afternoon using a terrific first half to propel themselves to the win.


...that’s how the headline should have read isn’t it.

Instead, Josh Howard scored on an uncontested layup with 0.9 seconds left as the Dallas Mavericks came back to break a sold-out ACC’s collective heart with a 97-96 win.

I’m guessing that many readers felt the same way I did as the game’s final minutes unfolded. You just had a feeling that Dallas was going to steal it in the game’s final seconds.

And sure enough that’s what happened.

-A Chris Bosh mis-read trying to get a post entry-pass into Andrea Bargnani.

-An Anthony Parker missed technical free-throw.

-A too quick three-point attempt from Andrea Bargnani, retaliation after being dunked on by Dirk Nowitzki.

-A forced jumper by TJ Ford

-And finally a strange string of jump balls which Toronto was unable to control resulting in the Howard basket.

So what exactly happened on the game’s final play?

Both Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson ran at Dirk Nowitzki leaving Peterson’s man Howard, wide-open under the basket for the lay-up to win the game. Apparently Peterson had been instructed not to double on the play but did so anyways.

And you know something, I can’t really blame him.

If you watch the replays you’ll notice that Chris Bosh got slightly hung-up on a screen to free-up Dirk and seeing this, Peterson simply looked to be attempting to cover the open man, who in addition was Dallas’ biggest threat in such a situation.

It was simply a miscommunication and if there was fault to be found, Andrea Bargnani was actually the player who should have rotated over onto the open Howard after he saw his two team-mates double Nowitzki.

But this is what happens when you’re playing a rookie through the game’s final minutes and playing perhaps the top team in the league, in which the margin for error is extremely small.

In fact, what struck me, about an hour after the sting of the loss subsided, was that the Mavericks yesterday had a subtle advantage over the Raptors before they’d even stepped onto the court - history.

The past few times these teams have played, Dallas has made many a remarkable shot to steal a win. We all remember Dirk fading away on Matt Bonner last season. Or how about Jason Terry’s improbably floater dropping through in another contest last season to give Dallas the W? Therefore it seems only instinctual for Peterson to leave his man and cover Dirk seeing that Bosh may not reach him in time to defend an open shot. Dirk’s mere presence and the danger he represented (especially after carrying his club through most of the game as he finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds) was enough to cause Toronto’s defence to run amuck in the game’s final possession.

I’m therefore hoping that the press doesn’t pin this loss on Peterson, who became the first player yesterday to play 500 games in a Raptors uniform, and who made many a key play down the stretch on both ends of the court to keep Toronto in a position to win. I’m also hoping that the loss doesn’t negate what I really saw yesterday - a Toronto team that gave the Mavs all they could handle, especially on the defensive end where they held Avery Johnson’s club to 40 per cent shooting from the field.

The Raptors got great play from both their starters and bench and even in losing a game that should have been a win, it’s exciting to see just what this team is capable of.

Should Sam have played Garbajosa instead of Bargnani on the final possession?

Could Toronto have better utilized Chris Bosh in the game’s final quarter?

Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say and while fans will probably be second guessing the end result of yesterday’s match, you can’t second guess the effort this team gave and the progress they’re showing as the season goes on.

Next time Dallas is in town, we may very well see a different result.