Raptors commit to 'D'

STEVE BUFFERY

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

The Raptors, almost to a man, were wearing Cheshire Cat grins following a 80-77 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Not so much because the victory, which was key to start a four-game west coast road trip, but because of the way they won. The Raptors exhibited a commitment to defence that was almost unworldly for this team, which has, in previous seasons, stressed offence under head coach Sam Mitchell.

"I think (that game) was the first step in being a very, very good team in the league," said forward Chris Bosh, who led all scorers with 24 points against L.A., while adding nine rebounds. "That's the difference between the okay teams and teams that are playing in June (NBA final). We want to get to that level one day, but it starts with defence."

The Raptors allowed Los Angeles to shoot 51% in the first half but played lock-down defence in the second half to hold the Clippers to 26% shooting from the field. In one five-minute stretch in the fourth, the Raps did not give up a point. The strong play on defence helped offset the fact the Raptors shot only 38% against the Clippers.

"The satisfying thing is, we can win a basketball game when we didn't play well (on offence)," said Mitchell, admitting his team probably would have lost such a game last season.

Veteran guard Darrick Martin said two seasons of emphasizing defence is starting to pay off.

"It's a maturation process for our team," he said. "Last year we tried to play defence, but we had a hard time getting our rotations down. This year, with a year's experience, we know our rotations, we know where everybody's going to be on the floor at a given time. That's how your defence improves."


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