Changes pay off quickly

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Mired in a potential season-tarnishing funk, the Raptors needed a change. And it was only fitting that a pair of team-first guys on a squad rich with that type of player, helped provide it.

Jose Calderon got plenty of well-deserved credit after he offered up the starting point guard position he had wrested from T.J. Ford when the latter was on the disabled list.

But lost in the Ford-Calderon saga which, sadly, always seems to wind up pitting one against the other in the fans' minds, was the return to starting prominence of the ever-dependable Rasho Nesterovic.

The double switch -- Ford starting in place of Calderon and Nesterovic in for Andrea Bargnani -- was an immediate success Wednesday night as the Raps won their first game over a plus-.500 team in almost five weeks, defeating the Detroit Pistons 89-82 at the Air Canada Centre.

Such radical changes, this late in the season, aren't always the cure-all they set out to be. And while it was just one game, the combination of the opponent they took down and the way they went about it had everyone on the Raptors feeling as good as they have in more than a month.

CONFIDENCE

"We needed a win like that on our floor to get our confidence back," head coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday.

"We've been close, but a win like this lets you know that you are still a good basketball team. Hopefully, we can build on this. I went back and I watched that game last night and I watched it this morning. We did a lot of good things. Even when we blew coverages, we made up for it with our energy and intensity. We played about as well as we can defensively. We haven't played that well defensively in a long time."

And perhaps the best part about the win and the changes that helped bring it about is the positive impact it had on just about every Raptor in uniform.

"T.J. was much better," Mitchell said. "Jose was Jose with that group coming off the bench. Carlos (Delfino) gave us some good minutes. He had not played well for a couple of weeks. Rasho was just, again, unbelievable with 15 points and nine rebounds."

Chris Bosh, in his fourth game since returning from injury, noticed that the changes affected every facet of the Raptors game.

"We beat a good team and we played well," Bosh said. "It's not like we made a bunch of shots and gave up a lot of points, either. We weren't making the same mistakes we were making before. We played good defence. We rebounded pretty well and we got out on the break. We were executing our offence pretty well. We had a lot of good things going for us last night."

When the Raptors determined it was in their best long-term interests to live and die with Andrea Bargnani's sophomore swings, Nesterovic accepted the role in the same professional manner he always conducts himself and did so without complaint. He was a starter again for 10 games in Bosh's absence and then back to the bench.

"I think it changes the defensive approach of the whole team," Bosh said of having Nesterovic on the floor more often. "We know he's going to talk on defence. He's going to have a lot of fire when he's playing and he's going to let you know if things aren't going well."


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