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Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors is guarded by Quinn Cook and Shaun Livingston of the Golden State Warriors during a game on Dec. 12, 2018.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Fred VanVleet doesn’t believe in New Years resolutions.

If he did, playing with a greater sense of urgency in 2019 would be one.

The Toronto Raptors have been playing the long game this season, patiently assimilating a new coaching staff and new star player with an eye toward a long postseason run.

“But that’s a dangerous game to play,” VanVleet said Monday. “We’re halfway through already, we’ve got to have a little bit more urgency coming up. Maybe that can be our New Years resolution.”

VanVleet spoke the morning after an ugly win over the lowly Chicago Bulls that came on the heels of a 116-87 thumping by the Magic in Orlando.

Nearing the halfway point in the season, the Raptors (27-11) are 6-4 over their past 10 games, and without all-star guard Kyle Lowry, who’s been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the visiting Utah Jazz, the team’s offence has ground to a near standstill. Over the past two games, the Raptors have shot just 33 per cent from the field, and 31 per cent from three-point range.

“We’re going to figure it out, but it’d be a lot better if we figure it out tomorrow, you know what I mean?” VanVleet said. “Obviously injuries play a part in that. But at some point we’re going to have to start building our championship habits, and I think that we have been, but I think we can do a much better job of going out there and being boring in the way we attack our details and be annoying with just being sticklers about every little thing that we know is going to pay off in the playoffs.”

Lowry has been dealing with back and hip ailments that have kept him out of seven of Toronto’s past eight games. He didn’t practise on Monday. The Raptors are 4-3 without him over that span.

The Raptors have also been without forward Jonas Valanciunas since he had surgery to repair his dislocated thumb on Dec. 13. He’s expected to be sidelined another couple of weeks at least.

Coach Nick Nurse is optimistic Lowry will be back soon.

“I think things are progressing really well,” Nurse said. “Shouldn’t be too long.”

Danny Green, part of the off-season trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, agreed with VanVleet. It’s time for the Raptors to step on the gas, regardless of injuries.

“For sure,” Green said. “And that comes with being able to execute and play with whoever it is we have on the floor. Obviously, we think we’re going to be a stronger deeper team when everybody gets back healthy, but this is the time where those young guys can get some good reps, good minutes, miles on the road and get comfortable behind the wheel. All of us. And be able to play with some adversity.

“You never know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. We hope that we’re 100-per-cent full health, but you never know. You have to be able to win games and play to a very high level without certain people.”

Nurse, however, is still preaching a patient approach.

Time to turn it up?

“Not yet. Not yet. Not yet. I think we’re still in our learning phase and process and we’re still trying to keep moving forward. Again, I think I’m pleased with some of the things we’re doing, I think we’re making some huge strides in some areas,” Nurse said, and mentioned particular defensive schemes that have been added.

“Still lots to do and look at. To polish. Again, we want as big a menu as we can have going into the playoffs defensively.”

The Raptors face a tough stretch that includes a trip to San Antonio on Thursday to face former Raptor DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs. Then they head to Milwaukee to battle the Bucks, who at 25-10 have passed the Raptors to steal the league’s best record. The Raptors return home to play host to the Indiana Pacers, who are third in the East and two games behind Toronto, on Jan. 8.

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