With four games to right a listing ship Raptor, the locals can at least now say they have both oars in the water and are rowing in the right direction.
Yes, it was only the Milwaukee Bucks, who likely are headed for a sub-30 win season, but on a night when the Raptors went looking for a sign, any sign that things were improving, the opponent was irrelevant.
Whatever positive signs against any opponent -- the way things have been going for the Raptors lately -- are the goal and despite a red-hot Charlie Villaneuva in the first half, the Raptors got just that with a 111-93 win.
"It wasn't like we squeaked it out or anything," a satisfied Chris Bosh said. "In the second half, we pretty much dominated them. We played good defence, we ran out and we moved the ball well. We just gave them fits on offence and we have to continue to do that and play team basketball at both ends."
Villaneuva put an early scare into the Raptors with 25 points in the first 15 minutes at which point he started blowing on his fingers as he ran back up the court just to make sure everyone in the building he knew was red-hot. There were also some pointed stares toward the Raptors bench by the former Raptor.
Villaneuva had just 13 points in the final 33 minutes.
"After he started making shots -- and mainly he was getting open because I was trying to help off the ball and everything -- but after I didn't leave him he scored what, like six points?" Bosh asked.
Bosh was no slouch in the scoring department himself, hitting for a team-high 32 along with a team-high 11 rebounds.
Bosh said the game was about setting the tone for the playoffs and on that point, he was sending a message to the Raptors fans that they have to do their part as well.
At one point midway through the second quarter after the Raptors had taken the lead and the Bucks took a timeout, Bosh angrily gestured at the fans to get off their hands and show a little support.
"I was just saying it was quiet," Bosh said. "I'm just saying: 'I'm excited'. I don't know if anyone else is excited but I'm excited. I'm not waiting for next week. I'm trying to do it right now and that's the mentality we have to take as an organization."
And as for the fans.
"If the crowd just reacts, it's a tough place to play," Bosh said. "We go to places like Dallas and Utah, Cleveland and Detroit and it's loud. It really makes a difference and really gives them an advantage."
Perhaps the biggest improvement for the Raptors last night was defensively where they held the Bucks to 42% shooting but more importantly played the type of team defence with the kind of energy they need to have to be effective.
"Everyone was on the same page," Nesterovic said of the defensive effort. "These past two days we had two really good practices and we got back on the same page."
The Raptors, however, were unable to gain any ground on the Philadelphia 76ers or Washington Wizards who both won last night.
The two teams traded baskets for the first five minutes of the third quarter before the Raptors went on an 11-0 run to open up a double-digit lead that they never relinquished. Chis Bosh capped the run off with a rare three.
Back-to-back Raptors possessions in the fourth quarter showed some of the hope that is Andrea Bargnani. The Raps first overall pick almost two seasons ago now corralled a rebound and went hard to the hoop for a thunderous dunk. Next trip down he drove baseline and finished with a reverse layup.
THERE THEY ARE
With the game well in hand, seldom-seen Raptors of late Primoz Brezec, Kris Humphries and Joey Graham all came into the game together in the final few minutes.