The Toronto Raptors went into the All-Star break looking like a fractured team. They’ve apparently emerged with a renewed focus.
The Raptors went into last weekend’s break muddled in controversy. Point guard Rafer Alston and first-year coach Sam Mitchell got into a well-publicized argument, forward Eric Williams asked for a trade and a report surfaced just before All-Star weekend that Mitchell had gotten into a physical altercation with former Raptor Vince Carter.
To their credit, the Raptors have shaken off the ill feelings by winning three of their last four and two in a row since the break, including Friday’s 106-102 victory at Milwaukee.
Jalen Rose, who has also been at odds with Mitchell throughout the season, scored 30 points in the Raptors’ first game after the break, a 100-82 rout of New Jersey on Tuesday. He hit two clinching free throws with 11 seconds to play Friday, helping Toronto climb within 5 1/2 games of Orlando for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Chris Bosh scored 27 points against the Bucks, and sees a steely resolve in his teammates.
“Our confidence is what has changed,” Bosh said. “We’re patting each other on the back and putting our mistakes behind us. Tonight we proved that despite tough times, we can get difficult wins.”
The Raptors are trying to win three straight for the first time since Jan. 16-19.
The Lakers had won a season-high three in a row before Friday’s 111-90 loss to Detroit. Bryant had 20 points and 11 assists for Los Angeles, but didn’t get much help from his teammates on either end against the defending NBA champions.
“We were very poor defensively the whole game. Pick-and-roll, they were walking in and getting layups,” Lakers interim coach Frank Hamblen said. “We changed at halftime and it wasn’t any better.
“Offensively, our guys were confused.”