Raptors defence steps up

Raptors' Chris Bosh (centre) and Jarrett Jack (left) defend hard against Lakers' Pau Gasol on...

Raptors' Chris Bosh (centre) and Jarrett Jack (left) defend hard against Lakers' Pau Gasol on Sunday. (QMI Agency/Craig Robertson)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

The words rabid and tenacious haven’t exactly been synonymous with the Raptors.

When it comes to Toronto’s ability to defend, adjectives such as porous and inept come quickly to mind.

Whether it was an attempt at gamesmanship or an honest appraisal of an opponent that just prevailed, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was very effusive in his assessment of Toronto’s defence on Sunday.

“Is it a compliment? Yes," began Raptors head coach Jay Triano following Monday’s practice when apprised of the Zen Master’s choice of words to describe Toronto’s second-half defence.

“Is he baiting us for the next game? Who knows. Knowing him, it was Zen 102.

“I appreciate hearing stuff like that and it’s a great reward for our players. I thought we bared down.”

En route to beating the reigning champions, the Raptors held the Lakers to 21 fourth-quarter points on 8-for-20 shooting. Toronto forced three turnovers in the final period and parlayed L.A.’s miscues into eight points in a thrilling 106-105 win.

Marco Belinelli was getting his hands in passing lanes. Amir Johnson was throwing his body around.

Players stepped up and stops were being made, but perhaps the game’s defining moment — outside of Hedo Turkoglu’s game-winning free throws with 1.2 ticks left — was a hard foul committed by Chris Bosh on Kobe Bryant with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.

At long last, a Raptor not named Sam Mitchell or Triano actually showed toughness.

“Chris fouled (Bryant) and put him on his butt,’’ Triano said. “We haven’t had that consistently the last couple of years.”

One of Toronto’s weaknesses has been its toughness, both mental and physical.

The sight of having Reggie Evans take part in five-on-five drills at Monday’s practice is a promising sign, but the rugged power forward still is about three weeks away from playing.

The more revealing moment arrived on Sunday.

“It’s starting to happen," Triano said of his team beginning to take on more of a physical edge. “Does it happen all the time? No.

“But it’s a start for us. We’re not going to be tough overnight.”

As for Evans, the affable veteran was understandably happy to be back in a five-on-five format.

He hasn’t played in the regular season after hurting his left foot during exhibition play.

“It was just nice to get up and down the floor," Evans, who insists he hasn’t added any weight during his period of inactivity, said. “I’m making strides. Being able to go five-on-five was a good step. Now, I’ll just wait to see if there’s any soreness or pain.”

Assuming there are no setbacks, Evans hopes to return following next month's all-star break.

"Reggie was rusty, but he was moving fine," Triano said. "He's not 100%, but it's a good start."

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos