Turning point for Raps?

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

CLEVELAND -- Sam Mitchell usually hates being asked about anything that occurred in the past.

But the Raptors' head coach was more than happy to discus his club's 95-89 victory over the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday -- a win he describes as the most important of the season and a win he believes may turn out to be a major turning point for his squad this year.

The Raptors are 6-6, but had lost two straight heading into Memphis, including a 105-99 loss in Dallas the night before. Right after that defeat, the Raptors flew to Memphis, arrived about 2 a.m. and were up first thing for the morning shootaround.

The players were tired and not particularly confident heading into the Grizzlies game. But in the end they prevailed, which is why Mitchell sees the victory as something special -- and something they can build on with back-to-back games this afternoon against the Cleveland Cavaliers and tomorrow afternoon at the Air Canada Centre against the Chicago Bulls.

"I was probably more proud of them after that win than any other (this season), because they could have felt sorry for themselves and succumbed to (the fatigue and disappointment)," Mitchell said. "But they didn't do it."

Mitchell was also gratified that his club managed to grind out a victory, despite the fact that it wasn't one of those games where their shots were falling. The Raptors shot a less than impressive 39% against Memphis.

"It seemed like we were never going to make a shot," he said. "But we shot right when we just had to. And we got stops and we rebounded. Our guys showed a lot of toughness and grit. Now you hope that they understand that we can win a game like that on the road when we're not playing well -- we can just hang in there and find a way."

Mitchell is also hoping that Andrea Bargnani's first double-double of the season in Memphis (13 points and 11 rebounds) will represent a turning point for him as well. The second-year forward/centre has been inconsistent this season, but his double-double has Mitchell hopeful that he is grasping the concept that he can do other things to help Toronto win, besides scoring.

"He did a lot of good things to help us win," Mitchell said.

A win this afternoon against the 6-6 Cavaliers will not be a walk in the park, especially with LeBron James leading the NBA with 29.6 points per game.

The assignment to guard James will fall on small forward Jamario Moon, who has had to guard the likes of Andrei Kirilenko, Luol Deng and Dwight Howard this season. But Mitchell has confidence that he will do the job.

Moon, meanwhile, said he can hardly wait.

"I love the opportunity to be on the same court with a guy like LeBron James," he said. "I don't tremble in my shoes because it's LeBron James."


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