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TORONTO — Dwane Casey remembers when he first got here like it was yesterday. When basketball was just basketball in this city. Unable to truly slither through the crack the mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs left them, there wasn’t a huge sense of unification in the name of basketball.

The Toronto Raptors were coming off a 22-win season in which they were the worst defensive team, and followed it up with 23 a year later, one where the entire NBA suffered at the hands of a lockout. The star power and flair of a Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady was gone, but what Casey wanted was a program that could thrive in spite of it.

Pound the rock became the team’s mantra, and so chipping away

“Now it’s fun, it’s cool,” Casey said before the game. “Kids at my daughter’s school, they wear Raptors gear, hats — some of it I’ve given them — but again, now they’re playing basketball in sub-zero weather. You see hoops in the driveway instead of hockey nets. That’s never going to change, it’s hockey country and I understand that, but, it’s cool to play basketball now.”

“Growth. Individual improvement. I think our style of play is fun to play in. Our guys have worked on their game to play this style of game, whether it’s ball handling, passing, shooting, spacing the floor, running, playing at a higher pace that I think is entertaining. I think that’s one reason things have really taken off.”

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