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article imageNBA: Raptors lose game and more against Kings Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Jan 12, 2012 in Sports
Toronto - The Toronto Raptors started the season stressing the importance of playing a defensive style of basketball. Head Coach Dwane Casey can pat himself and the rest of his staff on the back and consider that mission accomplished.
But in the process the team has other glaring deficiencies that now need to be worked on going forward. One of which was never a problem before – offence. The other area that needs considerable improvement is turnovers.
Those issues have been on display in its recent stretch of games that included five games in six nights. On Wednesday night the Raptors lost 98-91 to the Sacramento Kings on its home court to wrap up its first and only back-to-back-back set of games this season.
“We have to put some stretches together offensively,” said Casey. “We’re doing a decent job defensively but we have to put some runs together, execute offensively.”
After winning at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, the Raptors travelled to Washington and, to put it mildly, put up a stinker against the previously winless Wizard losing 93-78. Toronto made a season-high 23 turnovers in the loss and weren’t as close as the final score suggests.
Compared to Tuesday, the Raptors (4-7) played better against the Kings (4-7) but not well enough to pick up the win. Both teams committed 18 turnovers, but the Kings gave up 21 points compared to 18 for the Raptors. So on this night the turnovers cancelled each other out, but it is still too many to be giving up.
“Everybody is guilty of it, at least one,” said Casey looking at the game score sheet. “Passing turnovers, travelling, illegal screens, you name it. Again, the guys, I can’t fault their effort.
“The guys are really fighting, scratching and clawing. There’s no quit in our guys and that’s what I like too. Defensively, we have gotten better, but now somehow, someway we’ve got to get some execution offensively.”
To be fair, its leading scorer Andrea Bargnani exited the game in the third quarter with a strained left calf. He suffered the same injury last season and will be re-evaluated on Thursday.
When Bargnani left the Raptors were up by a single point and the score was tied at 63 heading into the final 12 minutes. Sacramento took advantage and outscored Toronto 35-28 in the fourth quarter to pick up the win.
“It’s unfortunate but that just means again somebody else just has to step up,” said Casey.
Raptors guard Jose Calderon added, “He is our best player. It’s tough to see him go out and after they let us know that he wasn’t coming out again, it was tough.”
The Kings had a triple threat as three players scored 20 points or more. The attack was led by Tyreke Evans as he poured in a game-high 29 points while DeMarcus Cousins had a big double-double to finish with 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. Rookie Isaiah Thomas came off the bench to record career highs in points (20) and assists (6).
For the Raptors, Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score a team-high 24 points and DeMar DeRozan and Calderon each finished with 13 points. Calderon also dished out a game-high 10 assists for his fourth double-double of the season. Bargnani also contributed a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
Statistically, both teams were about equal in most categories but Kings were able to get to the free throw line 13 more times than the Raptors. Evans was a perfect 14-for-14 and Cousins was 9-for-11. The closest Raptor was Bargnani who went 6-for-6.
In order to create more offence the Raptors should be driving to the basket more and drawing fouls. Settling for jump shots has been a bad habit for Toronto in past years and should be the next focal point for Casey.
Last season DeRozan was often flying through the air and driving to the basket on a regular basis, but this year it seems as though he has all abandoned that style of play. It’s great that he developed his three-point shot but he still needs to be a force inside.
Kleiza Makes His Return
If there was any good news from the game it was the return of Linas Kleiza after missing 41 games since last February. He underwent season-ending surgery to address both a meniscal tear and a chondral defect of his right knee.
“I feel good. It’s fun to be back,” said Kleiza. “Of course the game didn’t end the way anybody wanted, but for me, personally, after a year off it feels good to be back. I’ve got a lot of people to thank and this is just the beginning, but it’s a good first step.”
Kleiza ran hard up and down the floor and did not show any signs of being hesitant or apprehensive. He played some valuable minutes to help ease the fatigue the other players are feeling through this current stretch of seven games in nine nights. He finished with 10 points, three rebounds and one assist in 14 minutes off the bench.
“No, there was no concern at all. We took it pretty slow. In the last month or so since I’ve been back we’ve been going pretty hard so the game is like an easy practice for me comparing to what I’ve been doing off the court.”
With Bargnani having to leave the game, Kleiza stepped in and played important minutes down the stretch. Although he is not quite in game-shape just yet, his return is well-timed, especially if “Il Mago” is out for an extended stretch.
“You can never be in game shape when you start playing, but I don’t think it is going to be too long. I still can play heavy minutes and I think I came back at the right time.”
Calderon who has had his own injury issues in the past said it was good to see his teammate back in the lineup again.
“Every time you see a player, a teammate in this case, come back from all those months it’s always happy to see him smile again, play again. And even more because of the way he played tonight. He was great.”
“I am really happy to have him back and he is going to help us a lot for sure.”
The Raptors will play at home on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers before leaving for a three-game road trip starting Saturday in Chicago with stops in Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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