Raptors made it 4 in a row yesterday. It looked like they were on the way to another blowout win over Detroit. They would fade in the 3rd quarter but would not fold. The Piston did have a number of guys back for this 2nd game in Toronto. That along with being beat by 30, you had to expect the Pistons would have a better effort and they did. How far has Sonny Weems come by the way? Getting minutes in the late going of that game with the outcome still very much in doubt. If anyone said the best off-season move that Bryan Colangelo made was Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems for Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino they likely would have been laughed at. But both Weems and Johnson have been key members of the Raptors bench. Johnson on more nights than not has been the energy guy off the bench battling hard on the glass and doing a solid job replacing Reggie Evans who still has yet to play a game.
Jarrett Jack meantime continues to build his case for not just being the starting point guard now but perhaps for good. He has been solid in replacing the injured Jose Calderon and looks like he has found his comfort level with this group. No one is quite sure when Calderon is expected to return but Jack has made it far less of a concern. Even Marcus Banks has been putting in solid minutes behind Jack. He still makes at least one or two dumb plays on offense a game. That being said his defense along with Jack has been a major upgrade from what we have seen from Jose Calderon in the past.
In fact as a team the defense overall is better. The Raptors magic number looks to be 100 and it has nothing to do with fans getting pizza. When the Raps hold teams under 100 they are a perfect 12-0 which is tops in the NBA. Since camp in Ottawa the focus and message from the Raptors has been all about defense. Despite some of the most horrible defensive efforts in team history this season. They do seem to have turned a corner so to speak. Granted they do have a softer schedule they are taking advantage of at present. However it is building some much needed confidence for this team on that end of the floor. Confidence in the system itself and in each other to be where they are suppose to be.
When you look at the standings when you consider all of the doom and gloom talk that has surrounded this team you have to be shocked that the Raptors sit 6th at 15-17. Part of that is just the lack of depth in the east in terms of talent. There is a clear divide from the top 4 in the East and everyone else. The Raptors have not done well against those top 4 with just a lone opening night win over Cleveland to show for there efforts vs these top 4. If you base things on this moment and time the Raptors would have little to no chance to advance in the Playoffs once they get there. However it is the end of December not the start of April so there is still lots of time and things do change.
The other thing of note is Hedo Turkoglu is starting to look better and his assist totals have been on the rise. He made a great feed to Sonny Weems for a slam dunk. Just one of the latest dimes he has been dropping. He is starting to score a little bit as well and is making key 3 pointers when the Raptors need them. Perhaps Hedo has finally turned the corner and is back to playing at level somewhere closer to what Bryan Colangelo had in mind when he signed him to his massive contract.
While I admit for me Hedo has been a massive disappointment things are getting better with him. I also admit that this team for all the grumbling and complaining is really about where I expected them to be when the schedule was released. I said the Raptors would be challenged to be at .500 by the end of the year. Well they will end up 3 games below or 1 game below depending on the result with the Bobcats. I will be heading down to Toronto for that one to cover it. Should be fun considering the Bobcats earlier in the year but the boots to the Raptors. Will see if Raps can return the favour. It is good to be back despite not feeling the greatest today. But overall I enjoyed taking a bit of a mini break. I really needed one. Still was working for Score in the time off though and what a mess that Indy game was yesterday. Whatever happened to YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. Oh well Raptors are playing to win games and they have been successful the last 4 times.