'We're getting better'

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

For a team that wants to run and is learning on the fly, the Raptors flew to New Jersey yesterday with an extra bounce in their step.

As good as they felt after a 101-88 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, a triumph that put to rest a five-game losing streak, it was hard not to overlook the deficiencies that continue to plague Toronto's pro hoopsters.

Once again, the Raptors were outrebounded. The Raptors added to their NBA-low ranking in fast-break points by producing only four.

Once again, the Raptors were outscored in the paint.

Still, a win is a win and starting point guard Jose Calderon took plenty of consolation in the strides his team has made under interim head coach Jay Triano.

"Right now, we're not the best team in the world, but we're getting better and we're better today than we were yesterday,'' Calderon said.

"We have to continue to take little steps. We still need time to get used to what Jay wants us to do and how he wants us to play.

"In time, we'll be a much better team, but we need to be patient and stay together."

Under Triano, who replaced Sam Mitchell last week, the Raptors are trying to adjust to new systems and philosophies at both ends of the court.

Ball movement that allows for more touches and running the floor to prevent opponents from setting up on defence are the cornerstones of the Raptors' new offensive approach.

Defensively, the team wants to funnel ball handlers to the baseline, a strategy aimed at keeping teams out of the paint.

"Our confidence was wavering a little bit,'' centre Jermaine O'Neal said. "That's what happens when you lose five in a row. Everyone is trying to adjust to Jay and winning shows everyone what Jay is attempting to accomplish.

"We were trying, but it just wasn't happening. Now we can build off a win. It's different building off a win than it is building off a loss."

When they lost to the Cavs in Cleveland on Tuesday, Triano noticed how the starting unit lacked energy and a player to track down loose basketballs, especially after missed shots.

To his credit, he reacted by replacing Andrea Bargnani at small forward for Jamario Moon, who responded by netting 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and recording two steals against the Pacers.

Moon also disrupted Danny Granger's rhythm.

An ankle injury to starting shooting guard Anthony Parker forced Triano to start Jason Kapono, who took advantage of the assignment by pouring in a game-high 25 points.

"We're slowly getting there,'' Triano said of the team's adjustment to his system.

People shouldn't get too caught up in one win against a Pacers team that isn't exactly among the game's elite.

Plenty of work awaits and general manager Bryan Colangelo continues to work the phones in his daily due diligence of trying to upgrade the roster.

Starting next Monday, players signed in the off-season can be traded.

Colangelo's history of revamping or overhauling a team shows he is not afraid to do what is necessary.

"Winning cures a lot of ills,'' Colangelo said. "Getting that feeling of winning a basketball game was important."

Now comes the hard part of sustaining it.

That won't be easy given Toronto's lack of depth and the quality of opposition on the horizon, beginning tonight against the Nets, whose high-scoring offence will test the Raptors' suspect defence.


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