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Cybulski: In case you haven't noticed, Raps are tearing it up

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James Cybulski
2/5/2010 6:48:35 PM
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Have you taken a moment to watch one of the NBA's hottest teams lately? I can understand if you've missed it. One of the Raptors' finest stretches in team history has gone overshadowed by some bad timing.

Case 1) Toronto's biggest win of the season over the defending champion Lakers just happened to come at the same time the now-instant classic NFC Championship Game was being played between the Vikings and Saints.

Case 2) The Raptors make it six straight wins over Indiana the same day Brian Burke overhauls Leafs nation with two blockbuster trades. 

Sure, things happen in sports every week that have us talking more about one thing over another, but two great opportunities for the Raptors to make fans take notice beyond their own fan base are missed because of timing.

Well here's a crash course to catch up on Canada's NBA team:

After a 12-17 start, the Raptors seemed to wake up right before the holiday season. Suddenly, the club began making key shots at critical times rather than fading away like NBC's Heroes (or any NBC show for that matter).

And they've started playing a little defence too. Okay, I'm not going to get carried away here - only four times in the new year have the Raps held a team under 100 points, but there are signs of improvement at the defensive end. Over the last 20 games, Toronto has gone 15-5 to climb into fifth in the East.

Depth was seen as a strength on Toronto's squad prior to the start of the season, and that is finally shining through brilliantly these days. While Hedo Turkoglu searches for his shot and lectures people in the city where to take pictures, the Raptors' bench has stepped up to essentially provide another front line unit.

Jarrett Jack has been so good, he's bumped Jose Calderon to the bench. Numero Ocho simply doesn't turn the ball over. Marco Bellinelli has thrown up crazier shots than you'd see at a pickup game and he's made a bunch. Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems have all contributed, while 'The Meal Ticket' (for now anyways) Chris Bosh continues to play like an All-Star, and Andrea Bargnani is playing like a top overall pick. At 24, he finally seems comfortable enough in this league to push back and make shots when called upon.

Suddenly this team is playing to expectations, with fans whispering about home court advantage come playoff time. What up with that?!

Reggie Evans is expected to step into the Raptors' lineup in the coming days, and for the first two months of the season, hoops fans have hoped that the scrappy forward would walk on water upon his Toronto debut. It wouldn't hurt, but a little toughness and solid "D" might be all that's asked of for the stretch run now.

SPECIAL THANKS: Thanks to everyone who attended Toronto Plays For Haiti on Tuesday at Sound Academy. Together, we raised $40,000, and with the federal government matching our contribution, $80,000 dollars was raised towards Unicef's relief effort in Haiti! Thanks for helping make a difference one and all.

Chris Bosh (Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)
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