It’s six and counting for the Raptors, six games left and six additional opportunities for players to at least show that they care.
With so much unknown as the franchise moves forward and as the NBA and its players’ union attempt to carve out a new business model, there remains but six chances to make an impression.
Say what you want about his ability to distribute the ball in the half court, but Jerryd Bayless has shown a knack for getting into the lane and attacking defences when he has the ball in his hands in the open floor.
In consecutive nights against two playoff-bound opponents, Bayless stepped in for an injured Jose Calderon, played a combined 73 minutes and turned the ball over only twice.
For the past three years, the Raptors have, it seemed, tried to find that right mix at the point position, a defined rotation that doesn’t leave someone bent out of shape.
Even if Calderon is able to return from his strained left hamstring, it’ll be hard not to give Bayless minutes in the wake of his back-to-back performances against the Bulls and Magic.
Bayless plays at one speed, an uptempo style that sometimes gets him in trouble, a pace that sometimes leads to quick shots and a hell-bent attitude to attack the basket that won’t allow him to dish off to an open teammate.
But at least he’s playing hard and when he’s making shots, which he has been doing the past two games, the Raptors can get out and run and play to one of their rare strengths.
At the start of games and during most stretches, head coach Jay Triano has Bayless and DeMar DeRozan playing the backcourt.
And then Triano will turn to veteran Leandro Barbosa, who was the only Toronto reserve to score in Saturday night’s 113-106 loss to the Bulls.
Matchup-wise, it’s tough for an opponent to contain both Bayless and Barbosa, not exactly the most traditional point guards, but they each can handle the ball and are more than willing to take their defender off the dribble.
“It’s tough, especially when they’re on the floor together, to decide who is going to guard them,” Triano said of the Bayless-Barbosa backcourt tandem.
“They’re both point guards and if you put a two (shooting guard) on them, you’re getting a guy who isn’t used to participating in a screen-and-roll action the same way or all the time.”
Against the undermanned Magic on Sunday, Barbosa was able to abuse Orlando when it went with a big lineup as incumbent point guard Jameer Nelson took a breather.
When a team has a quickness advantage, you spread the floor and you allow a player such as Barbosa to attack.
With the Raptors getting Monday off, fatigue will not be a factor for their Tuesday tip in Gotham.
No spotlight is bigger in the NBA than in New York, which means the Raptors have a chance to make yet another impression following back-to-back solid efforts against Chicago and Orlando.