Lineup shuffle works

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

The Raptors weren't so much interested in making a point as they were in getting pointed in the right direction.

With the team in a funk and their post-season hopes suddenly in question, the Raptors shuffled the deck last night in an attempt to right their lifeless ship.

For one night, at least, the decision to start T.J. Ford at the point position over Jose Calderon worked as the Raptors earned a long-overdue win against a quality opponent with their 89-82 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

With Ford playing with a quicker jump in his step, with Rasho Nesterovic playing like the consistent starter he should have been long before last night's tip, the entire team played with more confidence.

Even when the game got tight in the final two minutes, the Raptors made plays at both ends of the floor.

In the wake of Richard Hamilton's injury absence, the Pistons played with essentially two point guards, which allowed Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell to play both Ford and Calderon together.

Combined, Ford and Calderon scored 26 points, recorded 13 assists and turned the ball over but twice.

CHANGE WAS NEEDED

Calderon, who never has complained about his role, his minutes, or his shots, approached head coach Sam Mitchell and president Bryan Colangelo on Tuesday about the change at point guard.

Calderon saw how Ford wasn't adapting to his post-injury role as backup and initiated the move.

"A change was needed because what we were doing wasn't working,'' Calderon said. "We needed something. We won and now we have to play at the same level for the next (season-ending) 11 games."

The Raptors simply had no choice but to reinsert Ford as a starter because it gives the team its best chance of trying to turn around its sagging fortunes.

At least with Ford starting, the Raptors have someone other than Chris Bosh who can create his own shot and draw fouls.

Regardless of who starts at the point, both Ford and Calderon are limited defensively.

Calderon doesn't have the quickness to defend the perimeter, while Ford is vulnerable in post-up situations.

They did, however, step up late to force a rare turnover in crunch time by Chauncey Billups.

"It shows great character,'' Ford said of Calderon's initiative to play second fiddle. "He's a team player.

"I think it worked well (last night) and hopefully we can build on this momentum."

The decision to start Nesterovic over Andrea Bargnani was a no-brainer, a move that should have been done weeks ago.

Bargnani has been too inconsistent and too passive at times.

Oddly, Nesterovic ended the night by playing more minutes than Bosh, but the Slovenian big man deserved every touch and the accolades.

"It was a great win for us,'' Mitchell said. "Defensively, for 48 minutes, it was as good as it could be."

No matter who starts at which position and no matter who comes off the bench, the Raptors need to play with more urgency for consistent stretches.

As good as the Pistons are, they seemed disinterested, unwilling to bring the same intensity Detroit showed in its riveting overtime win over the red-hot Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Rasheed Wallace, for example, is a beast on the blocks, but he spent the night content to hang around the three-point arc.

Even when the game seemed in control, the Raptors, who led by as many as 17 points, yielded open looks and were careless with the basketball during a stretch in the fourth quarter.

The Raptors were able to restore a double-digit advantage when Ford and Calderon nailed back-to-back three-point shots.

Ford and Calderon were both on the floor in crunch time, giving the Raptors two ball-handlers and two guys who can make free throws.


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