Last night was an important game for the Raptors as we mentioned in the preview yesterday. In the first half the Raptors seemed to be heading towards an effort that was not going to produce a positive result. They did take a lead into the half but gave a struggling Sixers team every reason to believe they had a chance at victory.
Throughout the night Dwane Casey went with a very tight rotation of eight players and it proved to ultimately be successful. Terrence Ross missed this game with an ankle injury. The Raptors also made some more changes to their starting line-up giving Landry Fields the nod at the small forward position replacing Pietrus. This follows the change of adding Amir Johnson to the starting line-up in favour of Aaron Gray.
The result ended up being a Raptors starting five that all produced in double digits which has been a rare event. Fields, Johnson and Calderon all recorded double-doubles. The Raptors came out in the third quarter and established control of the game. The one constant throughout the night was defense as the Raptors held the Sixers to a season low for them 72 points and their lowest point total since 2009.
In the end it was enough to give the Raptors a 90-72 victory over the Sixers. Why that is potentially important is it gives the Raptors still hope of splitting the season series with the Sixers who they will play again later in the month. It was also the Raptors first win in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors were the last team in the NBA to get a win within their own division. This is important because the Raptors still have 10 games remaining within their division. If they are to put any kind of a playoff run together that MUST include some success against divisional opponents. The main team the Raptors are chasing for the eighth spot is the Boston Celtics. They are a full five games behind Boston in that quest.
The Raptors are playing some good basketball and winning against teams that you would expect them to beat. The constant talk of trade rumours and disruption to this current group might not be as necessary as it was in early December.
That said no one really expects Andrea Bargnani to change and most feel his time with the Raptors needs to be up. The Raptors also have Jose Calderon with his expiring contract. While he has played well it has been a mixed bag from Kyle Lowry as his back-up. The moves the Raptors could make with Bryan Colangelo still in control could have a significant impact on the current team being able to succeed.
People might be upset by this, but the ultimate result of this season should not be the issue. While making the post-season as the 8th seed would have it’s positives, it would not do a lot in terms of the long term questions for this team.
It also might not be all that realistic to expect. Boston is without a doubt going to be active and trying and shake up their roster to give them a chance to get in the post-season and see what happens. There are also the Bucks just ahead of them and realistically that is likely the Raptors are chasing.
There was a lot of talk of Bryan Colangelo’s future ironically enough at Toronto Maple Leafs press conference to announce the firing of Brian Burke. I personal took away from the comments that Bryan has till the end of the season to justify an extension or picking up of the option on his contract.
The Raptors are not unlike the Leafs in that they have an experienced person in place that could take over for Bryan Colangelo if he were to go the way of Burke. Ed Stefanski would be that guy and if the Raptors were going to pull that trigger would they not have done that already. It would be the logical thinking.
Than again with MLSE does logic ever enter the equation at times? That would take to long to answer right now so will call it a day and watch and wait to see where this Raptors roller coaster is heading next.