Raps wrap his­toric road trip

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - MIKE GANTER mgan­ter@post­media.com

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. — The road trip wasn’t just good. It was his­toric.

The Rap­tors didn’t col­lec­tively spit on the ac­com­plish­ment, but it’s very clear this isn’t any­where near as good as they be­lieve they can be.

“It’s just four wins,” Kyle Lowry said of the first road trip sweep of four games or more in team his­tory. He punc­tu­ated that with a shoul­der shrug. So no big deal then, right? “Con­tinue to get bet­ter,” Lowry said. “Noth­ing spe­cial.” Then af­ter a pause and a know­ing look, “Big­ger pic­ture,” he said.

That in a nut­shell was the re­sponse from most ev­ery­one on this team af­ter ac­com­plish­ing some­thing no other Rap­tors team ever has.

But far from dis­re­spect­ing the ac­com­plish­ment, this speaks to the team’s in­ter­nal ex­pec­ta­tions. Within the locker room, they ac­tu­ally aren’t that thrilled with the way they played on this trip with wins over Phoenix, the Lak­ers, Utah, and the Kings Thurs­day night.

“Just find­ing a way,” Fred VanVleet said giv­ing the whole trip an ap­pro­pri­ate theme. “None of these (wins) were par­tic­u­larly pretty ex­cept for the Lak­ers game and even in that sec­ond half we gave them a run. But that’s just the game. It’s find­ing a way to win. I think each of the four games were dif­fer­ent in their own right. It speaks to the ver­sa­til­ity and the cal­i­bre of team we have.” But sat­is­fied? Not this group. “I think we were lucky to come out with this one,” shoot­ing guard Danny Green of­fered. “You look up and down the line. I think the only thing we beat them in was re­bound­ing. But that’s a good sign for us. It shows how good this team can be. Even though it was an ugly night for us we were able to grind it out and come out with a win.”

Again some­thing they did in Phoenix. And they had a rather grue­some first quar­ter in Utah be­fore right­ing the ship.

In Green’s opin­ion, and con­sider him one of the bet­ter an­a­lysts in the club­house, the 11-1 record to date is just a sign of what the Rap­tors can be. The last thing he wants any­one within the Rap­tors locker room is to take this start to the sea­son as some sort of af­fir­ma­tion that the Rap­tors are bet­ter than ev­ery­one else.

“Ev­ery other team is still try­ing to fig­ure it out, too,” Green said. “Not many teams have their foun­da­tion back, but for a few. Ev­ery­body is try­ing to fig­ure it out. I think we have a good group of peo­ple back from last year with a cou­ple of ad­di­tions which makes it eas­ier, but I’m anx­ious to see how we are when we are 100% healthy.”

And health has been rather fleet­ing for this team so far this sea­son.

They’ve al­ready had five ro­ta­tion play­ers — Delon Wright, VanVleet, Kawhi Leonard, Norm Pow­ell and C.J.. Miles — miss time due to in­jury and a sixth in OG Anunoby who has missed two games due to per­sonal is­sues.

“Two steps for­ward, one step back, right?” said VanVleet. “You just want to keep nudg­ing and keep tran­si­tion­ing up­wards. I think I had a good game in Utah, OG has looked good the past cou­ple of games, and ob­vi­ously Kawhi is go­ing to take some time. I mean when he (misses games) it’s like start­ing over each time. But 25 (points) and 10 (ac­tu­ally 11 re­bounds) he can prob­a­bly do that in his sleep.

“It’s like we said in pre-sea­son, this is go­ing to take time, but 10 and 11 games in you are start­ing to see flashes and the next 10 you try to build on what you did the pre­vi­ous 10,” VanVleet said.

Head coach Nick Nurse is ac­tu­ally giddy with the re­sults he’s get­ting con­sid­er­ing how much he still needs to do with this team. He knows this team is nowhere near its peak.

“I’d say 35 per cent of our de­fen­sive schemes aren’t in yet and our of­fense is about the same,” Nurse said Wed­nes­day. “There’s a lot of things to get out there and a lot of things we still want to try and see if they can be ef­fec­tive for later on.”

New­comer Kawhi Leonard then sums up the Rap­tors sit­u­a­tion per­fectly.

“It’s still early,” he said. “We still have a lot of po­ten­tial. We can be con­fi­dent of where we are, but we still have to have a sort of fear of us know­ing that guys can beat us. Just have the mind­set of want­ing to get bet­ter be­cause this is not where we want to (top out). We want to be the best team.”

All that af­ter only the best road trip in fran­chise his­tory. Buckle up Rap­tors fans. The ride is just get­ting started.

RICH PEDRONCELLI/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry goes to the bas­ket as Sacra­mento’s Kosta Koufos looks on dur­ing the Rap­tors’ 114-105 win over the Kings Wed­nes­day night in Sacra­mento.

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