NEW YORK - This time the little mental miscues and the poor-shot selection in crunch time were held to a minimum.
This time when the opposition made the big run, the panic that has seemed to grip the entire Raptors roster at exactly the wrong time didn't cripple them.
There was no fourth-quarter collapse and because of that, the Raptors ended what had the makings of a very tough, early season three-game trip on a satisfying note with a 90-85 win over the New York Knicks.
The Raptors come home 2-3 on a trip that saw them in position to win all three games.
On at least four occasions Monday night, at a rather quiet Madison Square Garden, it looked like the Raptors were going to revert to their losing ways.
But this time the 17-point lead at the half and the nine-point lead after three quarters didn't go away entirely.
Oh, big chunks of it did, no question, but the Raptors finally showed the rest of the league that yes, they do know how to win a game.
More than that, they finally got some payback for all those long practices, not to mention long shootarounds that Dwane Casey and his staff have demanded of this young team. The moral victories, close losses in Dallas and Orlando to teams that have superior rosters to their own, are nice for the morning sound bytes on the radio or in the newspaper but at some point you need something tangible and no one knows that more than Casey.
"It was important to be rewarded with the win," Casey said. "I think it was huge. The guys have worked hard, shootarounds and practices and they've given it to us. We have been doing double duty and that needs to be rewarded. We held a good team to 35% but that 35% is not worth a crap if you don't get the W. It's a good win, but I'm not too excited. It's a process and we still have a ways to go."
Not a one-man scoring binge named Carmelo Anthony could deny them but he did his damndest scoring a game-high 35 points although it took 31 shots, more than double any one Raptor had in the game, to do it.
But getting the win reinforces what Casey and his staff have been teaching this group and will make it that much easier to continue asking a little bit more.
The difference in this game as opposed to the first two of the trip was the Raptors remained patient on offence and stayed with their defensive principals, even when the Knicks had whittled a double-digit lead down to three.
"We didn't let their run get to us," guard DeMar DeRozan said. "The last couple of games when teams made a run, we let it get to us. We kind of broke down a little bit on the defensive end. Tonight we didn't let that happen."
DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani shared the team lead in points with 21 each but contributions came from every corner of the Raptors roster.
Rasual Butler, who had not played more than 19 minutes in a game this season almost doubled that with 37 last night and gave the Raptors 13 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the year.
"Double-Double Rasual Butler, that's what we're going to start calling him," Casey said.
But Butler's biggest impact on the game -- outside of a trio of three-pointers in the game, was the defensive job he and James Johnson did on Anthony.
At crunch time the Raptors got the ball in Bargnani's hands and the big Italian delivered first with a 17-foot jumper on a feed from Jose Calderon that got the Raptors lead back to three after the Knicks had whittled it down to one with a minute remaining.
The Knicks answered that basket with one of their own, so the Raps came right back down and this time were rewarded with two successful free throws from Bargnani after he was fouled by Landry Fields.
"He has to maintain that stamina to do it on both ends and that's what he's doing," Casey said of Bargnani. "I thought he disappeared a little bit offensively, but when we needed him, he stepped up."
Casey came into the game hoping to see how his young squad would respond to its first of 19 back-to-backs this season.
Not only did they play with energy, they played with enough energy to finish one off for a change in the win column.