The Raptors are fun to watch again. It has been a long time coming but this team is entertaining and playing basketball the right way. It has been a transformation from a team that started the season playing like individuals and thanks to the removal of one individual it seems like everything has changed.
This was once again on full display in Washington last night as the Raptors took on another surprising team this season in the somewhat improved Wizards. These new look Raptors make you question all the things you just accepted as being typical traits of the Raptors.
In terms of the offensive side of things it is all about the passing and it has made the Raptors a tough team to game plan for the teams they face. While DeMar DeRozan is the first option and the Raptors best talent his supporting cast of characters can be almost anyone on a given night.
Kyle Lowry has done an exceptional job of running the show and knowing when he is needed to score but at the core is the guy running the show distributing the ball. Terrence Ross with more minutes has had just an amazing turnaround. He is a legit scoring threat more nights than he is not. His much talked about struggles on the defensive end have been far less. If trouble happens in that area John Salmons has been a defensive stopper.
The improved ball movement and more use of pick and roll ball has helped the bigs become more engaged in the entire process. Jonas and Amir Johnson have been better on both ends of the floor. Patrick Patterson has also become part of this rotation and has proven to be effective coming off the bench. Last night the Raptors had to go without Tyler Hansbrough and he was barely missed as Patterson led the bench with 18 points. He was one of five players in double figures for the Raptors.
The Raptors got up big in this basketball game in the third quarter by 20 points on the Wizards and unlike teams of the past the Raptors managed that lead well and were able to find their way to the finish line with a win.
One of the things that have been a major issue with this team even dating back to when Chris Bosh was a part of this roster was accountability. It always seemed to be lacking and with that it made the Raptors a team easy to break down. If things went wrong for the Raptors fingers pointed in every direction accept to the person in the mirror.
Now there seems to be a direct accountability and if you fail to perform not just Dwane Casey but the other 4 guys on the floor are going to let you know about it. It is really about the team first and the individuals second. At some point this team will face some adversity and it will be interesting to see if this group responds to that challenge.
The educated guess is they will because of the way they are managing their way through games. In those short term times of adversity this team is responding.
Many times I have heard guys in the Raptors locker room say they are capable of beating any team in this league. You almost had to roll your eyes at that suggestion in the past. Now you can honestly believe that to be true. Not that it matters what we think but as far as what they think it is a realistic statement.
I think when you get to a playoff situation that will not be the case in a drawn out 7 game series. In fact things should get tougher for the Raptors as their streak of great play has caught the attention of the national media in the United States. Teams are starting to learn there is a new Raptors team that is not the same as the one we all knew.
The Wizards learned that lesson having their home fans that bothered to show up boo them off the floor after a time out with Raptors up by 20 points. The element of surprise will be soon gone for the Raptors. Miami might be the best test of this theory, which they play next. In the past Miami would almost play with the Raptors like a cat with a rubber mouse. It might not be the case anymore. The Raptors are earning that all important word in life: Respect.
Which if you noticed is coming from officials of late as well. Maybe there was no bias against a Canadian team after all. Maybe it was just the regular average bias that happens to bad teams in this league regardless of location.
Raptors have won 5 in a row now thanks to a fairly easy 101-88 win over the Wizards. The Raptors are on a roll and even if that roll hit’s a bump in the road with Miami and re-match with Pacers on their home floor it still is likely to continue. The fundamentals of why this is happening have a strong foundation that leads you to believe this can last. This just might be who the Raptors have become. It will take some time to buy in and believe for long suffering fans that have become really jaded. Trust once lost is hard to get back but this team more than any in a long-time might just earn that trust.
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