Looking to get back on track after a four-day hiatus from the NBA‘s regular season schedule, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was focused on the basics as his squad hit the floor of the practice court at the Air Canada Center on Wednesday.
Chief among Casey’s concerns were Toronto’s recent struggles on the glass, the team’s ability to play consistently tough defense and an apparent dislike of the social interactions between his Raptors and their many friends throughout the league.
Citing Toronto’s early-February loss in Sacramento as an example, Casey expanded on his feelings in an interview with the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith on Wednesday.
”Sacramento took us to the woodshed out at their place last time. Took our guys out and fed them, and then beat them the next night. We owe them something coming in here.”
Due to the early-December deal that sent Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to northern California in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, Friday’s visit from the lowly Kings has the potential to be another friendly affair. And with the playoffs right around the corner, it’s clearly a point that Casey feels is worth making again.
At the end of Wednesday’s action, Toronto held a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division on the second-place Brookyn Nets who’ve won four straight and seven of their past ten overall. But while the Raptors have managed to maintain their edge over the resilient Nets during their short break, Toronto’s position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture can still change before the end of the season.
Ranked third and trailing the mighty Miami Heat by 10.5 games for second, the Raptors have had to helplessly watch as the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats and even the Nets have all improved upon their respective playoff positions during the past couple of weeks.
In fact, with the exception of the Atlanta Hawks who’ve tumbled to a 1-9 record over their last ten games after ending the season’s first-half with promise, including Toronto, each of the Eastern Conference’s top-seven seeds have won a minimum of six of their past ten outings. For a conference that had as few as three teams over the.500 mark not all that long ago, the final few weeks of the regular season are shaping up to be an intriguing set of affairs.
After Friday’s home-tilt with the Kings, the Raptors are scheduled to travel for a date with Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday before heading into Brooklyn for a showdown with the Nets next Wednesday.