Toronto Raptors Showing Signs Of Steady Improvement Ahead Of Playoffs

By Ty O'Keefe
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Just 24 hours after learning a hard lesson in Cleveland, the Toronto Raptors looked like a much different team on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics, and were rewarded with an efficient 99-90 win that saw all five starters score in double figures. With the Charlotte Bobcats‘ overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets, and the Raptors will now head back to Toronto with a 2.5-game lead atop the Atlantic Division.

More than just earning the franchise’s 40th win of the year (and the first in Boston since the 2008 campaign), however, Wednesday’s venture into Beantown saw the Raptors play much better team basketball, and the results can be seen littered throughout the box score.

After a horrible shooting performance on Tuesday night that included the team hitting just 61.5 percent of it’s free throws, Toronto made sure that there were no missed opportunities versus the Celtics, and was good on 88.9  percent of its attempts from the charity stripe. The improvements didn’t end there for the Raptors, who also won the battle of the boards 48-36 only a game removed from being out-rebounded 49-38, and the play of center Jonas Valanciunas was a crucial part of the quick turnaround.

Against formidable rebounders Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger, Valanciunas resembled the player that Toronto envisioned he’d one day become when they drafted him, and went home with 15 points and 14 boards for his efforts.

Yet, despite all of the obvious positives that the Raptors can take from this victory, the fact that they committed a total of 16 turnovers against the Celtics is sure to keep head coach Dwane Casey awake every night this week.

Coincidentally, if Rudy Gay and the Sacramento Kings could have managed a victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Toronto would’ve secured its first ticket to the NBA‘s second season since 2008. Instead, the Raptors will now have the opportunity to clinch their playoff berth at home in front of a very deserving fanbase on Friday against the visiting Celtics.

Ty is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldty

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