Resilient Raptors shedding reputation as a pushover

Thu Apr 3, 2014 2:03pm EDT
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By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - The unexpected success of the long-suffering Toronto Raptors this season has instilled a rare bout of optimism on a team that is suddenly turning heads.

Long considered a National Basketball Association doormat, the Raptors were not on anyone's radar when the season began five months ago but have already clinched their first playoff berth in six years and look anything but complacent.

With starting guard Kyle Lowry sidelined with a knee injury and forward Amir Johnson forced to leave in the first quarter of Wednesday's game with a sore ankle, Toronto battled to a 107-103 win over a Houston Rockets team that is fourth in the competitive Western Conference.

"This is not a fluke," said Greivis Vasquez, who scored 15 points starting in place of Lowry. "We earn wins, and we earned a win tonight."

Pushovers no more, the Raptors lead the Atlantic Division by 2-1/2 games and currently hold the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a 43-32 record and in position to have homecourt advantage when the playoffs begin.

Wednesday's game showed how the Raptors are able to dig deep even while playing without two of their most important players.

But despite playing with a depleted squad, five Toronto players reach double digits in scoring, led by DeMar DeRozan's game-high 29 points.

"Guys stepped up," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters. "It's a good win.   Continued...

Apr 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is congratulated by guard Greivis Vasquez (21) after scoring a basket against the Houston Rockets at Air Canada Centre. Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports