Sense in motion

The early return of T.J. Ford had everyone in the locker room feeling better about themselves. (SUN...

The early return of T.J. Ford had everyone in the locker room feeling better about themselves. (SUN MEDIA/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

MIAMI -- Getting healthy is one thing the Raptors can be thankful for as they head into the home stretch before the all-star break.

But it's far from the only thing.

The early return to the hardwood for T.J. Ford in Monday's blowout win over the Miami Heat had everyone in the Raptors locker room feeling better about themselves, but even before Ford decided his body was again ready to take on the rigours of the NBA, the consistency that had been lacking in the Raptors' overall game this season was starting to show itself.

The Raptors are first and foremost a team that relies on their shooting abilities. In order to take full advantage of this, the Raptors need to create space for their shooters. Too often this season that space just wasn't there, but go back over the last dozen and the open looks the Raptors have been getting is staggering.

The reasons for this are Chris Bosh's return to complete health and his ever-improving ability to pass out of the double team when he gets the ball inside. There's the return of that missing confidence that Andrea Bargnani has back with his shot. With Bargnani zeroed in, teams no longer can ignore the centre. He is back to being one of those shooters teams have to pay extra attention to, which further opens up space for others.

Now none of this matters if the Raptors aren't swinging the ball and finding the open man but lately they have been doing that as well as they ever have.

Consider that in three of the past five games they have surpassed the 130-point mark, something they now have done a franchise record five times. The 31 assists the Raptors had Monday night was a perfect indication of how much the ball was moving.

In the past half dozen games, the Raptors have gone over the century mark and are averaging 110.7 points over that stretch.

They still are 13th overall in scoring in the league with a per game average of 98.95 points, but that number has been climbing since the middle of January.

Jose Calderon has been in the driver's seat for much of this rejuvenation and he's excited to see how far the Raps can take this before they level off.

"Our execution of the plays (Monday night) was really good," Calderon said after the 114-82 romp in Miami. We made shots but we were open too. No one forced anything."

Outside of Ford himself, no one on the Raptors' staff knows T.J. better than coach Sam Mitchell and while his early return and performance Monday were beyond most expectations, Mitchell believes there still is plenty more to come.

"Obviously he's rusty and it's going to take a little while," Mitchell said, "but that's the first step. He looked all right but I know T.J., I've been around him a long time. He is still a ways away. I would just tell you, look how long it took him last time. Go pull out that Atlanta game, I think that was the game he really felt comfortable and it's unfortunate he got hurt that night but he's still in the process of coming back."


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