LOS ANGELES — Maybe it was the fact they were in a more favourable climate. Or maybe it was, as DeMar DeRozan said, a case of just being happy to be back on West Coast time where he doesn’t have to stay up til 2 a.m. to catch all the late games.
For whatever reason, the Raptors didn’t come across as a team that had just let a pivotal game slip away, and uncharacteristic 114-101 home drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. Nor were they behaving like a team headed into the hornet’s nest that the Staples Centre is likely to be with the Lakers having lost three in a row.
No, as the Raptors wrapped up practice on the pristine UCLA campus, it was all sunshine and puppy dogs for this group.
Turns out a few things got said before practice that needed to be said and the ensuing hour-and-a-half workout reflected a team that is at least closer to righting the ship than it was 24 hours earlier in Toronto.
“It’s not a surprise that we haven’t been playing our best basketball of late because we haven’t really been holding each other accountable anymore,” Antoine Wright said after practice.
“It kind of dropped off. Coach spoke to that a little bit before practice today, how we have to get back to tightening the screws a little bit and not being that loose.
“We have to come in trying to beat some of these teams. Not just come in and play at their pace.”
Wright, who was one of those vocal Raptors back in early December that spoke out about a lack of communication during a team meeting that turned things around, said things are nowhere near that bad, but admitted a reminder was necessary.
“I think we came back from the break a little nonchalant,” he said. “Maybe reading some of our clippings and thinking we were already where we needed to be. All we did in that first half of the season was put ourselves in a good position. It’s not over yet. We can easily let that position slip away by taking a week off.”
Wright said what he saw Monday was encouraging.
“Where we are right now is, we had a good practice and we know we have to go out Tuesday and have a good showing,” Wright said. “That means guys being on the same page, helping each other, playing hard, talking on defence. That’s what got us on a roll (the first time).”
Now no one, least of all Wright, is talking about running the table on this trip.
There’s still the matter of getting Chris Bosh back into the flow after a seven-game absence and much the same for Hedo Turkoglu. All Wright wants to see is some progress and whether that means three wins, two wins or no wins on this trip, the important thing is getting rid of the malaise that has been hovering over this team for the last few weeks.
“We have to get tight, play on the same page and play some good basketball,” Wright said. “Not saying we have to go out here and win these next four games. But we have to at least be on track and be able to say when we walk away from a game that we feel all right about that one. That’s where we’re at right now.”
And that’s a much better place than they were in Sunday when they flew out here.