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Shorthanded Raptors Continue Playoff Push

Related: Game Rap: Raps Stunned Late By Grizzlies | Raps-Nets Preview | Game Notes | Thursday Practice Video
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February 19, 2010

Jay Satur - raptors.com

After emerging from the deadline unchanged, the Raptors continue their playoff push in New Jersey tonight.

The same overhauled edition of the Raptors that started the season will get the opportunity to finish it together as president and GM Bryan Colangelo made no moves before Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline.

And realistically, why would he? Wednesday's blip against the Grizzlies notwithstanding, the Raptors turnaround has been pretty stunning with contributions coming from up and down the lineup.

Colangelo undoubtedly did his due diligence leading up to the deadline, with one rumoured minor deal making the rounds late in the afternoon. But it was fairly obvious that major changes weren't on the menu for a team that's gone 22-11since that infamous team meeting in Washington.

That brings us to this weekend which, on the surface, appears to be one of the lightest on Toronto's schedule. Friday sees the Raptors visiting the 5-49 Nets before high-tailing it home for a rare Saturday night tilt against a Washington Wizards team now officially under construction.

But these are two games the Raptors can ill-afford to take lightly and the degree of difficulty may have just increased.

The most glaring obstacle is the absence of Chris Bosh, who did not travel to the Garden State due to a mild ankle sprain suffered late against the Grizzlies. He'll likely be a game-time decision on Saturday, but if there's any doubt, it makes plenty of sense to be cautious with Bosh and give him a full week to recuperate before next Wednesday's game against the Blazers.

Friday marks Bosh's first missed game of the season and comes against a Nets team that's looked pretty solid coming out of the All-Star break. New Jersey knocked off the Bobcats with a wire-to-wire win on Tuesday before surrendering a late lead to the Heat the following night.

Saturday's game offers up another team looking toward the offseason in the 18-33 Wizards. After entering the campaign with so much promise, the core of Arenas, Jamison and Butler has now either been suspended or traded away, leaving a roster that's been largely gutted. But as they showed in a win against the Wolves on Wednesday, young players like Andray Blatche (33 points, 13 rebounds) and Javale McGee (14 points, 11 rebounds) may be poised to pick up the slack.

It's important to note that this weekend also presents the Raptors with another back-to-back situation and these haven't exactly been bright spots for the Raptors this season. Toronto boasts losing records in both halves of back-to-back sets this season, with a 5-7 mark in the first games and a 4-8 record in the second.

The Raptors have dropped the first game in five of their last six back-to-backs, although the competition (@MIA, @BOS, vs. BOS, @CLE, vs. MIA) likely explains why. They've been better lately in the backend, with three of those wins coming in their last five tries.

This weekend's significance can't be overlooked. With a wave of games against playoff teams and some travel out West on the horizon, the Raptors need to take care of business now with the Heat, Bobcats, Bulls and Bucks all hot on their trail in the Eastern Conference playoff race.