**AUDIO**: Casey Looks Back at a First Half of Ups and Downs
The half way mark came for the Toronto Raptors and heading into Sunday's game against the L.A. Lakers, the team's record sat at a dismal 14-26.
After losing the last two games in overtime to the Chicago Bulls and the Philadelphia 76ers, one has to wonder what this team needs in order to stop them from sliding even further into the four foot hole as head coach Dwane Casey has candidly put it.
And when Casey sat down for a one on one interview at Saturday's practice, he pretty much summed up the the first half of the season in three words - "up and down."
Casey has pretty much nailed his description of the roller coaster ride that this team has taken us on. When they're good, they're really good but when they're bad they're pretty bad, and one of the problems that Casey highlights is the team's inability to maintain leads
"We've had some great moments as far as creating big leads, playing good basketball but now as a young team, as our core guys grow, we gotta learn how to play with the lead," says Casey.
In all fairness, some of the Raptors' losses have been a result of injuries to some of their key players like Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields at one point or another. But those injuries have created opportunities for others like Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon, who have all embraced their starting roles and don't seem to want to give it up any time soon, something that Casey calls a "beautiful thing."
"I like the way Ed Davis has stepped up, Amir those two tandems (are) one of the top two inside tandems in the NBA. Jose has played big time ... so everybody has taken advantage of their opportunities as it's presented itself."
Now with Calderon in the driver's seat and Lowry back from injury, many have been wondering whether there will be a change at the point guard position, but Casey has shot down that matter saying things will remain the same for now.
"I don't anticipate a change. I see Jose doing a heck of a job of running the show, there's going to be certain situations of Kyle looking magnificent and certain situations where Jose's going to look magnificent. I think keeping those guys in their roles, they have very important roles, Jose with the first group, he can help those guys get shots and with the second unit it's more of an attack mode with Kyle."
And while that matter has been settled, there's still the looming trade deadline on February 21. Now we've all heard a few names (Bargnani, Calderon and Davis) tossed into the mix, but for now nothing appears to be imminent even though most have argued that a star player should be brought in to give the team that boost it so desperately needs, if they are to make the playoffs.
However, Casey thinks that the team has what it needs to get to the big dance, but thinks there are a few things that need some polishing in order to get there.
"To do that we've got to execute, we've got to make sure we do the little things, attention to detail, setting screens, waiting for screens, doing all the little things it takes. It's not about dunks, it's not the three point shots, it's not the beautiful pass. It's executing the little things in crucial moments."
As for whether the Raptors will make the playoffs, Casey believes so but only from a coach's point of view.
"As a coach I think we're going to make it. I must think that way and I do think that way. To do that I know what has to be done. I know we have to do those little things and execute offensively and defensively down the stretch of games when we build a lead. We have to understand how to play with leads. If we do that we'll make the playoffs, if we don't then we have to continuing our building process of this team."
And it appears that Casey's message of hanging on to the lead didn't fall on deaf ears, after the Raptors manage to pull off the win against the super star studded Lakers.
Now one can only hope that this is a sign of good things to come.