The sign of a team coming together is when the star has an off night and the rest of the team pick up the slack. The Toronto Raptors are that team and with the their win against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, have won three in a row and are slowly climbing up the standings.
Rudy Gay didn’t have his typical night, but tonight wasn’t about Gay. It was about the Raptors finally understanding their roles and the team figuring out how to win.
DeMar Derozan has been the beneficiary of Gay’s arrival. The focus is off him, and he gets doubled team less often. He is going to the hoop more aggressively and continue to be one of the league leaders in free throws attempted. Most nights, quietly, he will put up a minimum twenty points, and the game against the Nuggets wasn’t anything different.
After trading away Jose Calderon much of the media were pushing for a trade for or pick up a back-up point guard, and no one except myself had any confidence in John Lucas III. He has stepped up large, becoming the igniter in the fourth quarter, and having no issues running the team. It looks like coach Dwane Casey’s trust in Lucas III has grown, as he has cut down on Kyle Lowry’s minutes, giving his back-up more time on the floor.
Lowry himself now understands that he doesn’t have to score. All he has to do is get the ball into the the hands of the finishers. During this winning streak, that is all he has done.
The only disappointment has been the return of Andrea Bargnani. He needs to accept and understand that on the Raptors, he is best suited coming off the bench. The chorus of boos every time he enters the game doesn’t help, but if he doesn’t improve, he might find himself in another uniform.
Three in a row is nice, but the team still sits out of the playoffs. The Boston Celtics just lost Leandro Barbosa, and the Philadelphia 76ers won’t have Andrew Bynum returning any time soon. The opening is there for the Raptors to go out and put a winning streak together to get into the eight or seventh seeds in the Eastern conference.
Casey has the squad playing like a team for the first time in a long while. The team now has no excuses and if they play like they did against the Nuggets, wins will come.
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