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Playing hard brings big dividends to the Raptors

The penultimate home game is done, we’ve got Fanapalooza on Sunday and that’s gonna be loud if nothing else.

And before one last quick look back at Friday, here’s another suggestion that if you want to get involved with the weekly mailbag, this is your last chance to do it.

I hope to get to most of it done this afternoon and evening because not getting up early tomorrow sounds wonderful so if there’s stuff on your mind, drop by askdoug@thestar.ca to unburden yourself or at least say hello.


We all know what happened in the bigger picture.

First overall in the East, most wins in a season ever, most home wins in a season ever, another Atlantic Division title which means another banner, which is good because I still miss the Bon Jovi one and the arena seems unbalanced or something.

But the smaller picture is bigger because of the way they handled their business.

They played hard, probably as hard start to finish since the Houston game here, and that’s what Dwane was looking for most.

Hard play leads to stops on defence, transition offence that this team thrives on and it was lacking a bit over the last two weeks. It was present in the Boston game here but even then something seemed just a wee bit off.

Last night? Not so much.

“It’s good to get back to the basics, get back to our fundamentals of what we do,” Fred VanVleet said. ”And it’s something that we’re going to have to continue to (have) moving forward.”

There’s a bit more to be written on the historical context of the win (Hey! Off-day story for this afternoon) but the immediate context is that it’s good that they seem to emerging from the malaise that struck them for about two weeks.

The three games left will be important to maintain that kind of intensity, especially Sunday against Orlando and Monday in Detroit because those two teams are basically shut down; it’s hard to maintain that sharpness when you’re playing against teams that are going through motions but I suspect knowing how blah they can look will motivate them to keep the foot on the gas.


A solid, quiet night

It wasn’t a big scoring night for Jonas Valanciunas with only eight points and seven shots in 22 minutes or so but that’s okay.

He did have 12 rebounds, the most he’s had in his last 10 games, and made one of those eye-popping defensive plays we hadn’t seen in a little while.

JV blocked an attempted dunk by Victor Oladipo about three minutes into the game that was perfectly timed, represented great rim protection and while it didn’t turn the tide of the game, getting one like that early does put some trepidation in the minds of driving guards.

A little Yak magic

Hard to imagine a much better half than the one Jakob Poeltl had in the first last night.

He made all five shots he took, ran the floor, got a couple of rebounds in traffic and made one play that confirmed the opinion that he might have the best hands of any big man on the team.

Finishing off a pick and roll, Delon Wright threw some kind of no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Yak right and the rim. He caught it and finished all in one motion, as fluid a play as you’ll see.

Yak’s ability to catch and finish fast, no matter how many guys are in the paint is one of his best attributes.

Another tough night

Gotta feel for C.J. Miles, who’s in one of those spells that come up now and then, can’t get an open look to go in, might be forcing stuff a little bit and had that unfortunate dunk bounce back to about the three-point line the other night.

He was 1-for-6 and missed all three three-pointers he tried last nigh and a minus-11 in his 18 minutes. I have no doubt he’ll eventually come out of the funk, he’s been too good for too long, works hard at his craft and this strikes me as just one of those things.

But equally troubling are his turnovers, two last night and eight over his last four games. His first touch, he bounced the ball off his ankle and out of bounds and then he tried to dribble behind his back in traffic only to have the ball swiped away.

Those are correctable and need to be, the shooting is just one of those things.


How about those 905ers? Go on the road again, beat Erie to win the G League Eastern Conference title and now get the Austin Spurs in the best-of-three championship series. Game 1 goes in Texas tomorrow, Game 2 is back here Tuesday with Game 3, in necessary, in Austin on Friday.