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Raptors trying to put an end to wild swings

The Toronto Raptors have played and laid waste to some of basketball’s biggest giants this season. With wins over Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Atlanta, a near-win against Golden State (the Warriors have us at the point where such things warrant mention) and a victory Wednesday over San Antonio, the Raptors have shown that they can get the best of the NBA’s best on just about any night.

It’s strange then, that the Milwaukee Bucks (9-14) and Philadelphia 76ers (1-21) bring a huge test for the Raptors in their respective visits to Toronto on Friday and Sunday.

After just about all of those big wins this season, the Raptors have come out flat the next night, losing to lesser opponents. So while Wednesday’s win over the Spurs — minus starters DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas — might have been the Raptors’ most impressive of the season, coach Dwane Casey didn’t want to put that game on a pedestal.

“We want to go out and create the same identity no matter who we play. I know that’s humanly impossible because of all the hype and everything,” Casey said Thursday. “But to be a good team we have to have the same focus and energy whoever we’re playing.

“When you walk on the floor against the other 29 teams, you have to have the same focus and same look. That’s what we’re trying to develop, is that type of personality more so than getting all jacked up for Golden State, all jacked up for San Antonio and not so much for the other games.”

“Honestly this is about us,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said, after a season-best 10-for-15 shooting performance in Wednesday’s win.

“Every single night, man, and that’s how we’ve got to look at it, we’re going out there fighting to make us a better team, to understand that in the East . . . every single game we get to play we’ve got to win so we can pull away and try to stay on top of the (conference). We keep that in mind and stay constant with that, we should be all right.”

The Raptors have fallen into the habit of playing to the level of their opponents, offering up a thriller against the Warriors on Saturday, then drifting through a win over a weak L.A. Lakers team on Monday before meeting the Spurs.

“That’s why I said we don’t look at that as our most impressive win,” Casey said of Wednesday’s game. “We look at it as a good win and now it’s next game up.

“We can’t get caught up (in success). We played against a great team, yes, but now we have to come out and generate the same focus and energy no matter who we play.”

Casey has often called it being happy on the farm. The team feels high on itself after these big wins and lets down the next night. Part of it is a team’s journey to becoming something better, DeRozan said, but there’s more to it than that. The Eastern Conference’s top eight teams were separated by two games heading into Thursday’s action. Slips against the Bucks and Sixers, while ranging from embarrassing to disastrous, would create a big swing in a surprisingly tight conference this season.

“(The standings are) so close,” DeRozan said. “Once we understand that, every game we go out there and play, whether it’s the top teams or against a bottom team, we’ve got to play the same way.”


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