Winds of change blowing

While Hedo Turkoglu did find his shooting rhythm on Sunday, he didn't make a single trip to the...

While Hedo Turkoglu did find his shooting rhythm on Sunday, he didn't make a single trip to the line. (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

DENVER -- A defensive stop here and a made shot there, and suddenly the Raptors could be 7-3.

Teams aren't awarded wins on what could have been, but the Raptors are moving in the right direction, even at a time when the short-term prospects for success aren't good.

As they winged their way to the Mile High City from Phoenix, the Raptors brought with them a 5-5 record and the bitter aftertaste of losing a heartbreaking one-point game to the Suns when Hedo Turkoglu's potential buzzer-beater wouldn't drop.

The Nuggets haven't played since last Friday, when they pasted the reigning champion Lakers, and have had the luxury of resting and practising at home.

The challenge for the Raptors is to somehow match Denver's physical nature, keep point guard Chauncey Billups out of the paint and contain Carmelo Anthony.

Tomorrow night, the Raptors end their four-game trip with a game in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz.

The Raptors have been woeful in the back end back-to-backs, but they've become more mentally tough in erasing a 22-point lead to the Clippers and refusing to get rattled in Phoenix.

"There are just some little things that are keeping us from making that step to become a better team," Turkoglu said. "We could have a better record, but we're 5-5."

The glass, though, is half full.

Reggie Evans remains inactive (foot); Antoine Wright couldn't play on Sunday because of a sore left ankle and Turkoglu gutted it out, despite playing with a sore left hip.

While Turkoglu did find his shooting rhythm, he didn't make a single trip to the line.

Turkoglu needs rest, but if he's able to dress, his mentality won't change.

"Once I'm on the court, my mind-set is to do my best and help my team," he said.

It's probable the Raptors will return to Toronto with a losing record given the strength of opposition that awaits tonight and tomorrow night. But there's a lot to be optimistic about, once all the pieces are healthy and once Jarrett Jack rediscovers his game. Jack has been a disappointment and he has taken a step back during this trip.

Toronto's key reserves have been Amir Johnson and Marco Belinelli. Johnson's offence needs improvement but he gets out in the open floor and defends. Belinelli is on such a groove from the perimeter that any shot he heaves has a chance of finding net.

Chris Bosh sees the signs.

"We haven't lost our composure," he said. "There were some things that used to get us rattled on the road. In the past, those situations, disturbed us and got us off our game. I don't see that (now)."

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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