It used to be that gut-wrenching outcomes like the one here Saturday night would only cost the Raptors a game.
This one probably cost them their dream.
A 122-114 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks dropped the Raptors further out of any realistic chance to even challenge for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and once again underscored the small but significant steps that the team still has to take to be seen as serious post-season participants.
A series of rebounding gaffes — allowing the Bucks to wrack up eight second-chance points late in the fourth quarter and another six in overtime — were crucial factors as the Raptors lost their fourth game in a row.
With just Amir Johnson as a true big man on the court, the Raptors were beaten on the glass repeatedly, off-setting what good the small lineup was doing offensively.
“Amir has been a warrior but it’s a five-man job when we’re small,” said coach Dwane Casey. “I thought ‘small’ generated some offence for us but we paid the price on the offensive boards.”
And in the standings. The Raptors are now 7 ½ games in arrears of the eighth-place Bucks with only 22 games to go.
“Everybody’s still pulling the rope in the right direction,” said Casey. “We’re building something good, we stubbed our toe tonight in a big game for us but there’s a lot of positives in that locker room right now.
“Everyone’s hurt that we lost, we all are, but we also know that if we compete like that for 48 minutes . . . we’re going to be a special team.”
Without their designated closer in Rudy Gay, who sat out the game with back spasms, the Raptors got by with some improvisation in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
Down two with about seven seconds left, they first called a play for DeMar DeRozan — to the surprise of no one — and the Bucks committed an intentional foul to keep him from making a game-tying shot.