Ford shifts gears

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

As the Raptors head down the stretch, no individual's game has taken a bigger jump over the past two games than point guard T.J. Ford's.

On Sunday in a win over Seattle, Ford had 25 points and 13 assists in 37 minutes.

On Monday in Milwaukee in another win, Ford pitched in with 19 points and nine assists in just under 30 minutes.

Head coach Sam Mitchell has been noticing a difference.

"I really thought T.J. set the tone with how aggressive he was at the beginning," Mitchell said of Monday's 108-93 win over Milwaukee. "He's just playing with more confidence."

Mitchell said it was worth remembering that Ford is 23 years old. Having missed the entire 2004/05 season following neck surgery he only has two full seasons under his belt and there are aspects of the NBA game he is still learning on the go.

"We like what he brings to the table and as long as he's trying as best as he can, we can live with those mistakes," Mitchell said. "I can remember when nobody wanted Steve (Nash) his first two or three years in the league. They couldn't give him away and now people would do anything to have him. T.J. is a young player who still has a lot of growth to come. He works hard and he's conscientious of what he needs to do and he's getting better."

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Finally, Mitchell admits the media is good for something. It's been a running joke with Mitchell and the group of media that covers his team on a daily basis that every game on the schedule is "the biggest game of the year."

Mitchell said yesterday he believes that attitude has helped prepare his club for the stretch run.

"Because of you guys we've all felt we had to win," he said yesterday. "... I would just like to thank you guys for all that added pressure that you tried to put on this team. It's probably made us better.

"You guys keep writing it's the biggest game of the year and we'll keep trying to rise to the occasion."


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