While other teams limp to the all-star break salivating at the five or six days of rest, the Raptors are looking at the next 31/2 weeks as an opportunity to climb the Eastern Conference standings and solidify a good playoff position.
Unlike some conference rivals, the Raptors schedule sets up nicely for such a run with games evenly spaced and the competition level not quite as daunting as it was in December.
"Right now, in our position, we are pretty good," forward Chris Bosh said, assessing the team's play at the halfway point in the season. "We have a chance to make a move. Definitely in the Eastern Conference, seeds three through eight, anyone can be in there. We just have to make sure we tread water and put ourselves in a position to make a big run. Once we do that, if we can maintain it after the all-star break, we'll be where we want to be."
Bosh says this team is a better team than the one that went 28-13 in it's final 41 games a year ago. He considers the 2007-08 Raptors a "more complete team" than last year's squad based on the improved defence.
"I think we're better built for winning," he said.
What Bosh doesn't mention though, is that this still is a team playing without two of last year's starters. No one knows for sure when to expect point guard T.J. Ford back while Jorge Garbajosa, who never got the credit he deserved from outside the Raptors locker room, remains on crutches.
Jose Calderon, who has basically added Ford's minutes to the playing time he normally gets, says even without those two players he has seen a subtle change the past few weeks, during which the Raps have won five of their past seven.
"The last two or three weeks, we've played really good basketball and we've played every day the same way," Calderon said. "We know what we want. We know our guys and where they want the ball and how they can score and our defence is getting better. We just have to keep working on that."
The key in that statement is the Raptors are showing signs of being able to duplicate performances one game to the next, which is a huge step in becoming a team that can churn out wins in succession.
Mitchell says the Raptors are not at the point of the San Antonio Spurs or the Dallas Mavericks where you know how they go about winning games but, like Calderon, he's seeing some consistency, which bodes well for the rest of the season.
"We've been playing pretty good the last four or five games," he said. "If we can keep that going and win some games and go into the break on the positive note ...."
Mitchell didn't finish that thought but the implication is clear.
The Raps have a real opportunity over this next three weeks and while it starts tomorrow with a visit to the home court of the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics, which will be their biggest challenge between now and the break, these Raptors are coming across like a team that's starting to believe in itself.