Raptors See Progress, But Missed Opportunities At Halfway Mark

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Take away the start.

But that they could.

As the 15-26 Toronto Raptors contemplate the second half of their season, a little perspective is in order.

Since opening the season 4-19, the Toronto Raptors have gone 11-7 and it, should be even better than that.

The Raptors blew leads of 19 an 20 points in losses to Philadelphia and Milwaukee, respectively, last week. They have lost 10 games in which they led by 10 or more points.

Quincy Acy has emerged as a contributor for the Raptors as they hit the halfway point of the season (Ron Turenne/NBAE)

None of this is lost on the Raptors.

“We weren’t closing off games the way we started off,” said forward Alan Anderson. “We’re still playing hard. We’re got to finish the way we start off.”

That’s what is perplexing about the Raptors. They are getting great individual performances but because of the hideous start and the team’s inability to close out close games, the record is damning.

Losers of four straight until Sunday’s close-out of the Lakers, the Raptors need to go 26-15 to reach .500 and a likely playoff orbit. They begin the second half of the season Wednesday in Miami.

“We’re still fighting, still playing,” said DeMar DeRozan. “Every opportunity is a desperate situation. Must win. That’s our whole attitude.”

The hangover from the bad start remains despite all efforts to purge it.

“It’s still tough to put it all the way behind us because if we had won the games we were supposed to it would be a totally different situation,” said DeRozan.

Consider the positives.

Despite some recent struggles, DeRozan is enjoying his finest season with 17.3 points a game and 4.5 boards a game.

Amir Johnson and Ed Davis are playing their best basketball. Johnson has added a mid-range jumper and Davis’ has matriculated into a player who has hit double figures in points in 11 of his last 12 games.

“Amir Johnson and Ed Davis are playing as good a basketball as any two guys in the league right now,” said coach Dwane Casey and if he’s wrong, it isn’t by much.

Jose Calderon has been terrific. Terrence Ross relentlessly runs the floor and owns the most pure jump shot on the team. Quincy Acy is making giant strides and Landry Fields has delivered a smattering of scoring along with excellent defence an rebounding at the three.

These are not the traditional elements of a losing team.

So the Raptors are wrestling with twin millstones, the inability to close out teams compounded by the team’s terrible start. It has been getting better, even with the recent spate of losses.

“When we lost those three or four games in a row, I thought we were playing good basketball,” Casey said. “Having a team out there on the floor that can close teams out is something we were searching for and I thought we had it, Sunday,” he said.

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