DALLAS — To the surprise of many people in NBA circles, the Toronto Raptors have burst out of the gates with a 5-0 start to their 2015-16 campaign. The start is the best in franchise history, and it’s helped wash away the bad taste of last season’s playoff failure.
For All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who’s been a part of a couple of the worst seasons in franchise history, the great start to the year validates all the hard work the team has been putting in over the last few seasons to get to this level.
DeRozan gave some insight into how things are different for the Raptors compared to when he first came into the league in an interview with Today’s Fastbreak.
“It’s been a roller coaster, man; a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices – that’s what the game of basketball is all about, man. Just sticking with it, trying to get better every single year, make this team get better every single year and just dedicate ourselves.”
With DeRozan and star point guard Kyle Lowry leading the way, Toronto has already beaten three playoff teams (Boston, Dallas and Oklahoma City) from a year ago on the road, while scoring 106 points per game.
Despite putting up gaudy stats on the offensive end of the court – when asked what’s the key behind the early-season success, several Raptors told Today’s Fastbreak one word: Defense.
With the big addition of DeMarre Carroll through free agency this offseason, the Raptors front office envisioned the former Atlanta Hawk bringing a tough defensive mindset to the table, which they hoped would rub off on others. Not in their wildest dreams did they think it would take such a short period of time for Carroll to make such an impact, as fourth-quarter defense has spearheaded three of Toronto’s wins.
For the Raptors’ newly-appointed defensive leader, winning games by getting stops as opposed to outscoring opponents down the stretch is just another day at the office.
“It is great that we are coming out and playing every night, playing every possession hard, and defensively we are doing whatever it takes and that’s the key for every win,” Carroll said. “I got to lead by my actions. A lot of guys like to talk it, but I like to walk it so I can just keep going out there and show things by my actions.”
After losing in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons – Toronto doesn’t have to look far as to why making this consistent defensive mindset is a must.
A scary fact about the Raptors’ hot start is that with each win they register, they gain that much confidence and are only going to get better as their chemistry improves.
“It’s still early in the season, and we are still trying to figure things out,” Lowry said. “We got a good team makeup and good camaraderie and continuity going, but it is a long season.”