Raps are on the clock

Raps head coach Jay Triano knows that his team will be able to put up points in bunches. (Sun...

Raps head coach Jay Triano knows that his team will be able to put up points in bunches. (Sun Media/Sue Reeve)

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

The Raptors remain a work in progress, a team in transition whose biggest enemy is time.

With time running out on the inconsequential pre-season, the Raptors are far from ready for the big lights that await in the regular season.

The way they defended last night against the visiting Houston Rockets, the Raptors may need the entire season to establish any semblance of a defensive identity.

But the wide-open looks and slow rotations must all be taken in context.

When the regular season tips off on Oct. 28, last night's 124-112 setback will only be remembered for posterity purposes.

Under no circumstance will head coach Jay Triano have both Patrick O'Bryant and Rasho Nesterovic on the floor together. Under no circumstance will Triano ask inexperienced athletes to produce a meaningful stop.

The process of mixing and matching, familiarizing and finding that comfort level took a hit with the news that Reggie Evans, in all likelihood, will miss the balance of the pre-season because of a foot ailment.

In the next few days, the Raptors are expected to get a better handle on Evans' availability for the curtain-raiser against Cleveland.

The sight of Evans hobbling in crutches sporting a walking boot can't be encouraging and neither was the sight of defenders being slow in closing out on Houston's shooters or unable to run the Rockets off the three-point line.

Triano has given his players the day off today.

By his calculation, Triano's team has been going at it at a hard and fast clip for the past three days, including the Raptors' back-to-back set against Boston and Houston.

"We've got two pre-season games left to get ready for the regular season and we'll have just enough practice days to work on things," Triano said.

It's pretty obvious watching the Raptors that the team will score.

Once the rotation is firmed up and tightened, the Raptors will be able to field some very versatile and creative pieces.

PROBLEM AREA

The problem area is on defence, where the Raptors want to protect the paint.

Antoine Wright brings a defensive edge, but a bum knee has prevented the swingman from suiting up. Evans' strength is in defending the paint. What has to be cleaned up is Toronto's perimeter defence.

"We just got to get better at closing out," Triano said.

The Raptors, as expected, haven't shown much in the way of strategy at either end.

They were able to score against Houston by moving the ball and sharing the basketball, which will be the hallmarks of the Raptors' offence.

Hedo Turkoglu played in his second game.

He and Chris Bosh also played in their first back-to-back set.

Turkoglu is trying to find his legs and rhythm on the fly.

He appeared winded early last night and had to virtually implore a screener to come to his side on the left wing.

Undaunted, Turkoglu put the ball on the floor and attacked Houston's paint with impunity, finishing the sequence with an uncontested layup.

"We're starting to mesh together," Turkoglu said. "There's still time before the season starts."

Fans at the Air Canada Centre got their first glimpse of Turkoglu, who has great court vision and a feel for the game, in a Raptors jersey.

Fans also got to see Sonny Weems miss an uncontested dunk and watch Jarrett Jack step up to play arguably his finest game in the pre-season.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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