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Terrence Ross Continues to Grow as a Defender

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COMMENTARY | Scoring 51 points may have grabbed all of the headlines, but watching Terrence Ross grow as a defender this month has been equally captivating.

Earlier this month, Ross held MVP candidate Paul George to 5-14 shooting from the field and 12 points.

Ross followed up his personal scoring binge on the weekend by holding potential All-Star Arron Afflalo well below his 20.2 scoring average to 10 points on 4-11 shooting from the field.

Heady stuff, but not enough for Dwane Casey to call Ross a lock-down defender just yet.

"He has improved, but I wouldn't say he shut down (those guys)," Casey told me while smirking. "That's a strong word in this league. You just mentioned Afflalo and Paul George and they get tweets, too."

While giving Ross the label lock-down defender may be a bit premature, Casey was quick to admit Ross has made huge strides on the defensive end.

"He has done a heck of a job growing as a defender," Casey added. "He takes pride in it. One thing you don't realize is how long he is and he challenges shots. He's athletic and he uses it in a great way when he's defending. I wouldn't say he's a shut-down guy for us yet, but he's doing a heck of a job for us."

After the game, the mob of media members that swarmed Ross after he scored 51 points was narrowed just to me, and I was able to pick his brain about growing as a defender this year.

"It feels good," Ross admitted to me. "It gives me incentive to keep working at it because there are always guys I have trouble guarding. At the same time, it's a good feeling to know you can change the way an offensive player thinks and scores."

If chicks love the long ball, they also love the 50-point scorers but not necessarily the gritty defenders. Just like the media realizes writing about a gritty defender won't necessarily result in page views.

Ross is quick to take pride in his growth as a defender, and he realizes probably the main reason for his additional playing time is due to his impact on the defensive end of the court.

Besides, it's not like Ross is clamoring for additional attention from the media or the ladies.

Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has been covering the Toronto Raptors with media passes since the 2007-08 season. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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