So, what gives?
"It's the attitude, man," guard Jarrett Jack said. "I think now we are enjoying being able to stop people. It's something that is not easy, but when you see other people doing it, it becomes contagious. I think that's what has happened with this team."
Jack, though, like his head coach Jay Triano and best friend and teammate Chris Bosh, doesn't want to celebrate a breakthrough just yet. He knows the team's defensive fortunes turned on a dime this week and is aware it could turn back if anyone becomes complacent.
"We can't be satisfied with these two games," Jack said. "We have to have some carryover. At least, we are going home now and we've banked some momentum with our fans."
The 48 points the Raptor backups scored Saturday – albeit attributable to the fact they played extensive minutes in a blowout – was the fourth highest off-the-bench production of the season's 22 games.
The most was 56 in an extended run in Wednesday's massacre in Atlanta, but on any night, getting good production from backups exponentially increases the chance of a win.
"More guys are playing and they're more involved," Triano said. "Because of that, they're buying in and they have great energy when they're out there. We knew we were going to go to the bench quite a bit (Saturday) because of a back-to-back and we've got some good basketball players coming off the bench."
Depth was thought to be one of the Raptors' strengths this season, but it has taken a while for players to learn and accept their roles.
The Raptors' two wins on the weekend have quieted the alarmists for now, but there is still reason to think it could be an ugly year in Toronto. The Raptors are allowing a league-worst 113.5 points per 100 possessions. And with every losing streak, the Chris Bosh-will-bolt talk will intensify.
Having recaptured a measure of their mojo with back-to-back wins against the Washington Wizards – barely – and the Chicago Bulls – by a landslide – the Toronto Raptors get a chance to stretch their streak to a season-high three consecutive victories with a home game against Minnesota tomorrow. With the 3-17 Timberwolves sporting the NBA's second-worst record, you'd have to fancy the Raptors' chances, but the only guarantee with Jay Triano's team these days – other than lackadaisical defence – is unpredictability.
One of the most controversial figures in the offseason, Hedo Turkoglu managed to trudge through a little bit of drama to land with the Toronto Raptors—a team that really believes his offense can help push them to the next level. But it's been a slow start for Turkoglu, who spent much of the summer playing the European Championships and therefore missed a lot of the preseason. Slowly but surely, however, he's find his niche as a Raptor, as he explains in this interview with HOOPSWORLD's Joel Brigham.
The problem was with Triano’s sense of reality and how he tried to communicate problems away instead of attacking them head on. It took a passionate speech from Alvin Williams, apparently, to allow reality to have a bearing again. And if they lose more than three again, I wouldn’t argue against him being made the interim head coach. I think Triano might be okay from here on in though, and if he can capitalize on the accelerated learning curve of Derozan, and the balanced approach to his rotations, by demanding that mere reality be constantly imposed upon the team’s sensibilities, then they’ll make some jump in the standings in a hurry. Golly, I still want to believe.
Positives: Hedo Turkoglu is finally hitting some big shots. Triano is starting to realize the importance of defense, and is keeping the Raptors in games. Bosh is still playing on a high level, and Jose Calderon is finding his groove.
Negatives: The defense got spanked in Atlanta. The ability to play consistently on the road remains to be seen. There has been no word on the return of Reggie Evans, who is needed by the team ASAP.
How is it possible for Derrick Rose to be on a team that scores 14 points in a quarter? Ok. Stuff happens. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go down. But that 14-point quarter came just twelve minutes after a 16-point quarter. Against the Raptors. The Toronto Raptors. The historically bad-defense-having Toronto Raptors. Of Canada. Alright, Vinny, it’s over between me and you. You’re nothing to me now. You’re not a player I used to like, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the United Center. I don’t want you near my house. When you play the Pacers, I want to know a day in advance, so I won’t be there. You understand? (Also, nice game once again, Chris Bosh. 25 points and 12 boards on just 12 shots.)
Turkoglu, however, says the slow adjustment has been at the expense of trying to learn new teammates.
"I haven't been aggressive enough with my game," he said, adding, "I have to score, but I also have to figure out how to get other guys the ball where they like it… Once I know what they like to do, then I can be aggressive, too."
Raptors center Andrea Bargnani agreed, explaining, "In Orlando he was there for a long time, so he knew exactly how to play with Dwight (Howard) and (Rashard) Lewis. He knew where they wanted the ball and what they were going to do during the game. Here, he doesn't know that because he's with new guys and we didn't have much time to practice together because he missed the preseason for the European Championships. He just needs time."
After winning two in a row, and starting to get momentum back on your side after a dismal stretch, the Raps can’t afford to let up – not by a long shot. Now is the time to make a push to get back on the brighter side of .500. With upcoming games against Minnesota and Milwaukee, two teams who are struggling currently, Toronto needs to stretch this into a four game winning streak. After those two games, the Raps get a second chance against the Atlanta Hawks – a team that totally demoralized them in the last matchup. However if I was trying to be a “glass is half full” kinda guy, I’d like to thank Atlanta for opening our eyes and giving us a reason to respect ourselves and our game.
In the middle of the live game action in their game this weekend, Raptors Guard Jarrett Jack received a pass on the perimeter. He then notices his shoelace is untied. So while he’s holding the ball he bends down and slowly/calmly ties up his shoe. If that wasn’t odd enough, it got weird when Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls just stood there and watched without trying to steal the ball from him. Is there some sort of honor system i’m not aware of? Is the NBA just a more organized version of your local recreation center pick up game? Anyhow, have a laugh, you may not see this again for a while:
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is up to the Toronto Raptors for clearing the air and finally playing some defence. They gave up 146 points to Atlanta and after some soul-searching and criticism of coach Jay Triano, they got their act together. They gave some effort on the other side of the ball and it paid off in a win in Washington in overtime and last night, a resounding win on the road against the Chicago Bulls. Communication is the key but defence is very important for a team that still looks a little bit soft.
The truth is, though, that as exciting as this weekend has been for Raptors fans they know that two games don't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. If this inspired play simply tapers off in a fit of traditional Raptors indifference, then they will be even worse off for it because the 'team meeting' routine can only really happen effectively once before it loses its ability to inspire a struggling club. It sounds as though Saturday's meeting helped the healing of some underlying wounds (it also helps that it occurred on the road where everyone is forced to exist together all the time, regardless of any simmering tensions that may exist), but that's their one chance to do so and so one had better hope that whatever was dealt with sticks.
Will Chris Bosh look at the Bulls as a valid candidate after the embarrassment that was last night? Maybe in a few months time, but right now he's laughing his behind off. The Bulls were beaten 78-110. A whopping 32-point loss on their home court. That's just not right, any way you slice it or dice it.
We wish their was more room for us to develop DeRozan, but at least this way DeRozan is challenged early on in his career and will have to rise to the occasion so he can show just how extraordinary of a player he really is.
As witnessed in the 1st quarter the Bosh-DeRozan combo has the chance to be something special if Bosh decides to stick around, especially with Turk, Calderon, Bargnani and Jack locked up long-term as support players. Only time will tell what Bosh’s decision is, but for now, the future is looking a little brighter.
If there was any doubt before, there is almost none now: This will be Chris Bosh's last season with the Toronto Raptors.
And if you were him, why would you stay with the Raptors? What would motivate you to remain with a team that, again, isn't anywhere close to being a contender?
The Raptors had to build around Bosh. That was the promise. They had to find a way not to squander Bosh's talents. They had to turn loser into winner, or at least begin developing something with promise, something to believe in.
General manager Bryan Colangelo has not done that. Coach Jay Triano has not done that. The other Raptors players have not done that.
Bosh is not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant. He doesn't win games on his own. He needs help around him, especially in the fourth quarter. He is a very good NBA player, not a LeBron-Kobe player for the ages.
Very good for the rest of this, his seventh season in Toronto. Not good enough to stay for another season going nowhere.
If Chris Bosh meant to audition for the Chicago Bulls brass on Saturday night, he certainly did a heck of a job. The free-agent-to-be destroyed the Bulls for 25 points and 12 rebounds—his 18th double-double of the season—in just 22 minutes of floor time. Not only that, but his Raptors absolutely embarrassed Chicago from the first few minutes of the game.
It was almost like he was saying, "Do you like what you see?" And the answer for Bulls fans was, "Yes. Yes we do."
But when Bosh talks about his future as a free agent, especially in a city where he could potentially play next season, he makes sure to keep things vague and professional, the way any savvy superstar would.
"I leave 2010 in the future," Bosh said. "It's out of my mind. My focus is to win basketball games and to help this team be the best team it can be, and I want to be the best player I can be."
Getting blownout on the road is one thing, getting beat in nearly every facet of the game on your home floor is a slap to the faces of the paying customers.
The Bulls just weren't prepared tonight and the Raptors, who were playing their fourth game in five nights, actually didn't have to play defense.
You can hear how incredulous the Toronto announcers are, because this was, quite honestly, completely ridiculous. Yes, it was a 27-point game as the third quarter clock was winding down, and sure, there's something to be said for good sportsmanship. But if you're the Bulls, you simply can't allow this to happen.
Just as we questioned whether or not Jay Triano would remain employed as the head coach of the Raptors a few days ago, you can't help but wonder the same thing about Vinnie Del Negro when you see plays like this.
It was only a few days ago that the Raptors were on pace to become the worst defensive team in the history of the NBA.
The numbers still aren't great but they're getting quite a bit better in quite a hurry.
"We didn't realize in the past the mistakes we made," Chris Bosh said. "Now we recognize them and have admitted to those and are working to eliminate them. It has only been two games now and we still have a lot of work to do, however, it is nice to have two wins in a row."
The Raptors' intensity on defence held up through four quarters.
Granted, the energy provided by the opposition had something to do with it. Joakim Noah managed to get himself tossed out of this one with a second technical five minutes into the third quarter. He couldn't have looked less interested at that point.
The highlight reel began with a lob from Jose Calderon that Miller appeared to anticipate. But just before it went into Miller's hands, DeRozan floated into the picture and snatched the ball and threw it down in one motion.
DeRozan credited some rudimentary Spanish lessons from Calderon for the perfectly executed alley-oop.
"I think it's because he taught me how to speak Spanish," DeRozan said. "He knows when I say 'amigo' that means we're going for the lob. The chemistry is getting better and better every time out there."
With the exception of Chris Bosh, the most consistent Raptor this season has been Amir Johnson. He brings the same energy and hustle every night. Unfortunately, he also brings a penchant for multiple fouls. Last night was no exception as Johnson was in the game for only a minute in the first quarter before he had to sit down with two fouls.
DeRozan’s been a revelation in the last three games, far more aggressive going to the rim.
A moment from last night, early:
He catches the ball right in front of where we’re sitting and the defence sags so he shoots an 18-footer that misses badly.
The very next possession, he catches a pass in almost exactly the same spot and you can almost see him thinking about taking another jumper. Then you can almost see him think, ‘hey, what have the coaches been harping about for weeks?’ and he drives, gets fouled and makes two free throws.
“With payers out there like Jose, Chris, Turk, a lot of stuff comes easy, like wide open shots. I was settling for shots too much.”
Bosh had 25 points and 12 rebounds over 22 minutes and the Toronto Raptors made quick work of the Chicago Bulls in a 110-78 victory on Saturday night.
"It feels like I might be able to have a choice in doing something tomorrow, other than just recover," he said. "Maybe, I'll go to the mall or something."
Bosh accomplished plenty in his limited time. And so did the Raptors.
- Raptors Dehorn the Bulls
- Podcast: Weekly Review/Preview