With their seventh straight home win, the Toronto Raptors jumped to five games above .500. And in the Raps' 115 to 104 win over the Kings, Franchise noted a few key factors behind Toronto's sudden surge in the standings.
In the fourth quarter of yesterday afternoon's win, the Toronto Raptors outscored the Sacramento Kings, 31 to 17.
In fact, the Raps went on a 16 to 7 run in the game's final seven minutes both re-gaining the lead from the Kings, and closing this one out in the process.
It marked the seventh time in their last eight games that Toronto has used runs like this to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, an impressive trait that fans have rarely seen from Raptors' clubs in the past. As a result, the Dinos are suddenly five games back of both Atlanta and Boston for fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, having won seven of their last 10.
Now, they have one final game, against the 19 and 31 Philadelphia 76ers, before the NBA's All-Star break, giving them a good shot to finish this stretch a win shy of 30, and on pace for 44 wins, a giant leap from last season. With matches still to come against the likes of the Nets and Wizards, there's a chance to pad that win total even more before the month's end.
So this morning, instead of simply recapping yesterday's win, I thought I'd look at a few keys as to why Toronto has been suddenly getting the job done on a consistent basis, and it starts with number 4...
1) Chris Bosh. There's not much more you can say about this guy besides MVP. Perhaps not for the league, but certainly for Toronto and he's got to garner some consideration league-wide when the season ends if he continues on this pace. 36-11-5 yesterday with a block thrown in for good measure. Hope you have him on your fantasy team.
2) Andrea Bargani. It would still be great to see Bargs rebound the ball better and show a bit more consistency, but his offensive firepower and emergence as scoring option B to Bosh's A has made all the difference in the world. In past seasons Howland and I frequently asked the question, "who's the second best-player on the team?" and we could never get a clear answer. Now we have it. Andrea is averaging a shade under 18 points to go with 6.2 rebounds and a block on the season, but since the start of the New Year, coincidentally when the Raps really started to turn it on, he's averaging just under 20 and 7.
3) Team Chemistry. You can't emphasize this third point enough. Earlier in the season the team just wasn't on the same page both on and off the court. The supposed bench strength was non-existent, and the defence was as comedic as this Wal-Mart commercial:
Now, while far from being perfect, Toronto does have the ability to get stops, something that's been huge over the last few weeks, and the team atmosphere is a much more closely-knit one.
You can tell just from being in the locker room pre and post game.
Early in the season there was little discussion amongst many of the players and a much more somber atmosphere.
Now? Nothing like hearing Antoine Wright post-game tell Rasho he's coming over later with a big bag of candy to keep Rasho's kids up all night...
The end result has meant better communication on the court, and that's helped both the O and especially the D for this team. The Raptors are still last in the league in terms of defensive efficiency, but at their recent pace, are poised to pass both Phoenix and Golden State in this department and possibly able to climb past other clubs like Sacramento, New Jersey and Washington.
Beyond the improved D however, my favourite thing about the improvement in chemistry is that everyone seems to have set into their roles now. I'm hoping this doesn't get thrown out of wack when Reggie Evans returns (which might be as soon as Wednesday) because whether they play 2 minutes or 20, at present, guys like Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic and Antoine Wright have all been able to come in and get the job done.
Even Marcus Banks, who many believed wouldn't see a minute of action all season, has played some big minutes for the club.
It's these interchangeable bench parts that have kept the ship sailing in the right direction in spite of various injuries and hopefully come April, this will be a huge difference maker in terms of playoff performance.
This leads me to a final thought this morning.
Watching Toronto take over late in the game yesterday afternoon made me ponder just what Bryan Colangelo will do come trade deadline in a little over a week.
Right now I say nothing.
The team is firing on all cylinders, is about to get Reggie Evans back, and even the Ottoman, Mr. Hedo Turkoglu, has looked better the past few games.
Unless BC is blown away by something (like Hedo for a Wendy's Spicy Chicken Combo), I think he'll sit on the sidelines this season.
And I don't think that's a bad thing.
We'll break this down some more pre trade-deadline but in reality, you don't want to "upset the apple cart" right now, especially since this club seems to have found a quiet confidence about themselves, a confidence that's certainly been evident down the stretch in their past number of wins.
The majority of the pieces that the Legomaster has brought in fit, and sometimes that goes a lot further than pure talent in terms of wins and losses when all is said and done...just ask the New Orleans Saints...