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Raptors hope to stay hot at home against Kings

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross is congratulated by teammates DeMar DeRozan (L), Alan Anderson (C) and Amir Johnson (R) after he sank a three pointer on the buzzer at the end of the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Toronto January 2, 2013.


As bad as things were going for the Toronto Raptors at the start of the National Basketball Association season, the opposite has been true that past couple of weeks.

Heading into Friday night's game against the Sacramento Kings at the Air Canada Centre, the once woeful outfit has recorded wins in eight of their last 10 games, lifting the Raptors (12-20) to within striking distance of a playoff berth.

And the team has been finding a variety of ways to emerge victorious.

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Take Wednesday's decisive 102-79 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers for example.

The Raptors still managed to come out on top despite having starters Mickael Pietrus, Aaron Gray and Jose Calderon all failing to record a single point.

That's pretty tough to do.

According to the league head office, it was just the second time since 1970-71, when the NBA first started to track such a statistic, that a team has managed to record a victory when three of its starters has failed to register a point.

And when you throw in the fact that neither Calderon or Kyle Lowry, who subbed in at point guard off the bench, managed to get on the scoreboard, no wonder Toronto coach Dwane Casey is describing the situation as a bit of an odd phenomenon.

"I still want those guys [Calderon and Lowry] to be aggressive but I thought they took what the game gave them," Casey said Friday morning after the Raptors shootaround. "The game gave them opportunities."

With Portland paying close attention to both Calderon and Lowry when they were on the floor, often throwing double coverage at them, both players were adept at moving the ball to the open man. Together the tandem accounted for 22 of Toronto's 34 assists in the contest.

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"They were smart not trying to force feed their shots," Casey said. "And they were patient with the game, found the open man. The beneficiary of that was Ed Davis. Ed Davis was flashing in the middle, knocking down shots, and made them pay for double-teaming them."

Davis would finish with 19 points in the game while rookie Terrence Ross also helped fill in some of the offensive holes, coming off the bench to pour in a career high 26.

Toronto's top pick from the 2012 draft, Ross's improved play the last couple of weeks has been a big factor in Toronto's turn-around.

Over the last five games Ross ranks third among NBA rookies averaging 14 points, and first with 14 three-pointers made.

But that's not what has made Casey sit up and notice.

"I think everybody sees his shot going in but I see his defence on the wings, his play in the passing lanes, his cracking down -- the different things he does on defence has impressed me," Casey said. "I've always known he can shoot it.

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"He's gotten used to the rhythm of the game, the speed of the defence. But the most impressive thing is his growth defensively."

The Raptors are confident that they will present a much tougher opponent for the Kings Friday night than the outfit that absorbed a 107-100 loss against Sacramento a month ago on the west coast.

"I think we're starting to believe, we're starting to buy in," Gray said "Our confidence is really high right now. We feel like this is a game we should win where as before I think we were just kind of hoping and wishing -- you know, can we get this one, should we get this one.

"Now it's we need to get this one."

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