Though done primarily to create salary cap flexibility rather than upgrade the roster, the Toronto Raptors have enjoyed a dramatic turnaround since trading Rudy Gay.
The surging Raptors can now move above .500 after 30 games for the first time in four years when they visit the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Toronto (15-15) has won eight of 10 since Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson made their debuts following the deal that sent Gay and his $17.8 million contract this season, and $19.3 million player option for the 2014-15 season, to Sacramento.
The Raptors have earned road victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Chicago (twice) in this stretch before a 95-82 home win over Eastern Conference-leading Indiana on Wednesday.
DeMar DeRozan led the effort with 26 points, while Terrence Ross had 18 and Kyle Lowry added 13 with a season-high 14 assists as Toronto extended its season-best winning streak to four.
The franchise hasn't had a winning record after 30 games since moving to 19-18 on Jan. 8, 2010.
'This is a team that's getting better,' Indiana's Paul George said of the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors. 'They have a lot of confidence and they're playing like it.'
Ross has taken advantage of his opportunity by scoring 14.0 points per game since replacing Gay in the starting lineup, and Lowry is averaging 19.7 points and 10.0 assists in his last six contests.
DeRozan has shot 36.4 percent over his last seven games, but he's made better than 50.0 percent in four of his last five against the Wizards (14-15).
The Raptors overcame a season-high 37-point effort from Washington's John Wall on Nov. 22 with balanced scoring, placing six players in double figures in a 96-88 home victory.
Averaging 43.1 percent from the field this season, Wall has made 50.0 percent of his shots over his last eight contests. However, he tied a season high with seven turnovers in an 87-78 loss to visiting Dallas on Wednesday.
The Wizards missed a chance to get above .500 after 29 games for the first time since finishing the 2007-08 season 43-39.
"It's a great opportunity in front of us, and we continue to get there and we just lay an egg in the next game,' said guard Bradley Beal, who has scored 12.2 per game - more than six below his average - in his last five while battling a leg injury.
Beal, though, has averaged 21.5 points in four career games against the Raptors. He had 24 points and six 3s while Wall added 18 points and 10 assists in a 109-92 win March 31, the last meeting in Washington.
Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 10 boards in that contest and is averaging 17.7 and 11.0 in his last three in this series.
While the Wizards have averaged 105.0 points and hit 46.5 percent from 3-point range during a 4-1 road stretch, they've scored 92.0 per contest and made 27.8 from beyond the arc while dropping four of five at home.
They could have a tough time ending their struggles at the Verizon Center as they'll face a Toronto team that's held three of its last four opponents to 83 or fewer points.
The Raptors, however, have dropped five of six meetings in Washington.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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