Road trip paying dividends

The Toronto Raptors really haven't accomplished anything yet, but for the first time in years, a...

The Toronto Raptors really haven't accomplished anything yet, but for the first time in years, a playoff spot is a real possibility. (Sun Media File/Michael Peake)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Nobody on the Raptors was feeling particularly good after losing five straight road games in November.

But it was that brutal West Coast trip that helped set the table for the team's current success.

Despite losing five straight at that time, including a 101-96 defeat in Utah after leading by 16 in the third quarter in the final game of the trip, the players and coaches resisted the temptation to turn on each other or fall into a funk as they did at times the season before.

The Raptors returned home and won five of their next seven, and have rolled on from there, currently sitting at 25-23 overall, first in the mediocre Atlantic Division.

All-star forward Chris Bosh said yesterday that keeping a positive attitude after that mind-numbing initial West Coast trip was crucial to turning the season around.

"The minute you get down, that's the minute that things go down," said Bosh, following a team practice at the Air Canada Centre. "But we stayed together, we kept believing in each other and we knew things would turn around. We had to stay together and I think everybody knew that."

The Raptors really haven't accomplished anything yet, but for the first time in years, a playoff spot is a real possibility, as is home-court advantage for the post-season.

ASSESSMENT

Head coach Sam Mitchell agreed with Bosh's assessment that his club's ability to bounce back from that tough trip in November built character.

"I go back to last year, especially with Chris and Mo (Peterson) and Jose (Calderon), the guys who were here. When you start off 1-15, you find out about people in tough times. We learned about each other. If we're 15-1, what do we learn? Everybody can accept winning? Everybody can accept people patting you on the back? You have to go through tough times with people, and we went through some tough times. And Chris Bosh never let me down, and Morris Peterson never let me down."

The Raptors are on a roll, having won 12 of their past 16, and Mitchell fully expects his charges to continue to play well, even if he believes the Raps still haven't earned much respect around the league.

"If you look at some teams, you can see the obvious (the star players). But you look at our team, I think people just don't quite see it. They don't see what we see. They don't quite get it," he said, adding that he believes the Raptors are winning because of their balance. "You look at the names (on our team) and the names don't scare you. I wouldn't say we have great individual talent, I would say we have good team talent. We have guys who can do different things and we try put them in a spot where they can be successful."

Mitchell said another key to success recently has been Bosh spreading the ball around when double-teammed, which gives his teammates open shots. Along with 20-plus points in his past two games, Bosh has picked up four and five assists, respectively.

"I used to tell him, you give it up, you're going to get it back," Mitchell said. "His teammates are going to find him."


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