The Toronto Raptors are on a nice little run - they are winners of five in a row and 19 of their past 28 over the past two months.
But before anyone starts organizing a tickertape parade, better check with Chris Bosh, the Raptors star and undisputed team leader, to put things in its proper perspective.
While the push has moved the Raptors (26-22) within 41/2 games of the suddenly faltering Boston Celtics (29-16) for fourth place in the NBA's Eastern Conference, Bosh says the Raptors still have plenty to prove. Toronto's all-star power forward admits that while the Raptors are firing on all cylinders of late, all four teams above them in the standing - the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Atlantic Hawks and the Celtics - are stronger clubs.
"I think hands down they're better than us," Bosh said Monday following practice in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. "But that gives us something to work for. We need to work, plain and simple."
Toronto's record against these four teams is 2-9.
One of the wins came against the Cavaliers in the first game of the season for Toronto, while the other came against the Magic, the defending conference champion.
The Raptors have been swept so far in all three games against the Celtics and have been thumped in both outings against the Hawks.
Bosh said the Raptors still struggle against clubs that play a physical brand of basketball and that's something the team will have to overcome if they want to make any headway once the playoffs roll around.
"Guys like Boston and Atlanta," Bosh said, "sometimes they take us out of our set and we need to find out how to do better counters to plays. In playoffs, good teams are going to sit on your plays and you're going to have to do other things to make plays."
Of the top five teams in the East, the Raptors are the only squad with a sub-.500 record (13-18) against teams with winning records.
The Raptors have countered by feasting on teams with losing records, posting a 13-4 record. That should hold them in good stead heading into this month - or "friendly February" as point guard Jarrett Jack aptly referred to it - as six of Toronto's 10 games are against teams with losing records.
One of those games will come Tuesday night in Indianapolis against the Indiana Pacers, whose record fell to 16-32 when the Raptors beat them 117-102 in Toronto on Sunday.
The last time the Raptors were in Indianapolis to play the Pacers, they let a 23-point lead slip through their fingers as Indiana fought back to earn a 105-101 decision on Jan. 11.
"We know we kind of let one slip through our hands last time we were in there," Jack said. "We've got to go in there and correct that."
Bosh said it is far too early to be paying much heed to the standings.
"I start looking at the standings like every other day after all-star break because it's kind of like watching grass grow [right now]" he said. "I'll wait a few games, maybe another two weeks and then that's when it's time to really see where we are and see what happens and see how we can separate ourselves from the bottom and try to catch the top."
Jack said he sees no reason why the Raptors cannot continue to playing winning basketball.
"I think the one thing that's sustainable, and the reason why we were able to get to 19-9 [in the past two months] is the effort," Jack said. "I think that's one thing you can bring every single night, regardless if you're making shots, regardless if they're making shots or however the game's going."
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