The key to the Raptors’ surprising season? Confidence on the road | Toronto Star

They have beaten the Mavericks in Dallas, the Thunder in Oklahoma City and the Grizzlies in Memphis; they have won on long, tough road trips and short one-gamers; they are one of just three Eastern Conference teams with winning road records and it’s set them apart. And it’s come totally out of the blue. “Even with a veteran team we had in Dallas and Seattle (as an assistant coach), it was tough to win on the road,” coach Dwane Casey said after the Raptors assured themselves of a winning road record in 2013-14 by beating the Bucks 102-98 in Milwaukee on Saturday night. “Our focus has been good on the road for whatever reason. We keep the same routine, we try to make sure our travel is efficient, which is sometimes hard to do, so guys can get rest.”

Raptors must improve their starts to game | Toronto Sun

“We’ve got to learn,’’ said Casey of the need for better starts and better focus. “A lot of guys have not been in this position where you are being hunted and it’s a different feeling and approach. “It starts with our starters. They’ve got to come out and set the tone and everybody else will follow.” Getting Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson healthy and back into the starting unit can’t hurt, but even with a healthy Lowry and Johnson the starters have lacked that necessary edge and mental toughness required to start games. The good news is this group has a knack for making plays down the stretch, led by DeMar DeRozan, who got to the line at will against the Bucks, making clutch free throws and being aggressive. Home court in the opening round is very much a possibility as the Raptors have five games remaining.

Raptors point guard Nando De Colo making impact with new team | Toronto Sun

For a guy who doesn’t really have a defined position and whose role will probably have to be redefined once Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is cleared to play, De Colo is making the most of every opportunity. “Just being aggressive and playing my game,” said De Colo. “When a shot is open, you have to take it. Whether I’m playing the one (point guard) or two (shooting guard), staying focused on my job and nothing more.”

Dwane Casey & Raptors roster – how to manage the final 5 games | Raptors Rapture

The importance of finishing with the #3 seed can’t be overstated, and must be Job One. If the Raps run the table in their last 5 games, they cannot be caught by either Brooklyn or Chicago. I won’t spend a lot of time on playoff speculation other than to say the Raps need home court, despite their excellent results as a road team. Indiana, the likely #2 seed, looks vulnerable to a first-round upset. Assuming the Raps take care of the Wiz(?), we could retain home court for the second round, and avoid a confrontation with Miami, until the Eastern finals.

The One Team Every Projected 2014 NBA Playoff Team Wants to Avoid: No. 3 East: Toronto Raptors | Bleacher Report

The Bulls, who are tied with San Antonio for the league’s stingiest defense since the All-Star break, would be well-equipped to limit the damage of the Toronto trio. Jimmy Butler, in particular, would be a nightmare for either Ross or DeRozan, as he’s limiting opposing shooting guards to a PER of 11.4 and opposing small forwards to a PER of 11.2, according to 82games.com. While Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson have made strides this season, Toronto also lacks a defensive-minded center capable of shutting down the Bulls’ prolific frontcourt players. The trio of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson would likely power their way through the Raptors’ front line with reckless abandon.

  • acfaubs

    I know you guys posted the full Ujiri interview with Strombo last week; the Leiweke interview is almost as good a watch (“almost” in the sense that I wanted him to simply talk Raptors the whole time). Some great stories in here, my favourite being Lowry running away from team trainers/doctors to re-insert himself in the Thunder double-OT game.

    http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/04/04/tim-leiweke-on-george-stroumboulopoulos-tonight/

    • morgan c

      Totally agree. I watched the Leiweke interview right after. I was super impressed. As a fan of all the Toronto franchises, I really feel so relieved that this guy is in charge of getting things right. It may take some time (with the Leafs, for example), but it’s clear this guy “gets it.” Pertaining to the Raptors, it really seems like he and Masai are a great team. Though different in personality style, it really impressed me how similar they are in their philosophy.
      Also, he seemed surprisingly candid, more so than Masai. When he was like “the Leafs are broken and I will fix them” I was like fuck ya dude. Anyway, back to Raps, sorry… just so happy these guys are in charge. I honestly can’t see a way we don’t contend for the next 5 years with our core and these guys in charge. Fuck ya, finally great to be a Raps fan! Let’s go!

  • Moe

    That one article saying bulls would demoilsh raptors is a joke. We beaten the bulls before, they have a great Defense but a pathetic offense lead by augustin. I think we could win in 6, if we are fully healthy

    • Gary Gill

      The bulls would crush us. They have an amazing defense. Btw, Charlotte might make it to the 6th seed. Could be trouble for the raps.

  • redrapper

    a version of this would be a GREAT Raptors mascot.

    https://twitter.com/bruceely/status/452993759286816768/photo/1/large