Raps improving

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

When the Raptors hired Bryan Colangelo as their general manager last month, the players stood behind Sam Mitchell when speaking about the coach's future.

Actions speak louder than words, however, and in that department, the Raptors are making an even louder statement these days.

Instead of dying a slow death en route to a fourth consecutive non-playoff finish, the Raptors are developing a reputation as spoilers. The Raptors have won three of their past four games, with all of the victories coming against playoff teams trying to climb up the standings.

One of the real eye-opening wins of the season came Friday night when the Raptors ended a game on a 19-2 run for a come-from-behind 97-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

It would be easy to throw in the towel at this point of the season, but the Raptors seem to be taking the opposite approach. The campaign all but ended the game before the all-star break when the awful New York Knicks beat the Raptors 98-96.

Since then, the Raptors have had legitimate chances to win 11 of 12 games. Their only double-digit post-all-star loss was a 108-97 defeat to the Denver Nuggets. The Raptors' 4-8 record in those games is far from great, but at least the Raps are competing and trying to go punch-for-punch against what has been strong competition.

"We come out and play hard night in and night out," veteran guard Darrick Martin said. "That's definitely a credit to Sam. That's how you can measure if a coach still has a team."

There has been no apparent infighting in the Raptors dressing room, a drastic change from last season when controversy was the norm in Mitchell's rookie year.

"At some point, especially since we're having a rough season, you tend to have cliques that develop and people pointing fingers," Martin said. "We don't have that on this team and that's very rare. Even when you're winning, you still tend to have that. I would say it's unique. To be able to keep on that same page is pretty impressive ... I guess it's kind of a credit to Sam."

Mitchell gave the players a rare day off yesterday as the team has a longer than usual break between games.

The Raptors will return to the practice floor today in advance of road games against the Knicks on Tuesday and the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.


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