A team brushing off even more dirt is the Toronto Raptors, who have won six of seven and now sit at 17-18. How have the Raptors — whose most recent triumph came at the expense of the San Antonio Spurs — done it? Well, even though they still rank last in defense efficiency, they have given up an average of only 89 points in those last seven games, 16 fewer than their season average. The pace has remained the same, so the recent success means the Raptors really are stopping dribble penetration, pumping cutters, closing out and contesting shots.
The main reason for this whopping defensive-efficiency upgrade is the absence of injured point guard Jose Calderon. Without Jose, who couldn't guard a bear in a phone booth, most of the minutes are going to defensive-minded Jarrett Jack. Another factor is the rise in minutes for small forward Sonny Weems, who takes time away from matador Antoine Wright.