No excuses for Raptors

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol fight for a rebound with Toronto Raptors' Amir...

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol fight for a rebound with Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:41 PM ET

Jay Triano inadvertently summed up the plight that is and will be for the Raptors, at least for the immediate future until players begin to step up, in the aftermath of a loss in Salt Lake City.

Matched up against arguably the NBA’s premier point guard in Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, when he wasn’t picking up fouls, was getting outplayed by Williams, who helped Utah outgun the visitors in a first-quarter blitz.

When the teams reconvened after the break, Jack was more assertive, more willing to put pressure on Williams and didn’t seem as intimidated.

“He’s one of he best point guards in the NBA,’’ Triano began in his post-game media gathering. “It’s like a baseball hitter trying to be assertive when he’s playing against (Tim) Lincecum.

“What the (blank) are you going to do?”

And that, folks, is where one finds these Raptors.

What the blank can they do when matched up against superior talent, when a roster is dotted with complementary players, when a team’s margin is so thin it makes rookie Solomon Alabi’s body type seem Herculean by comparison.

When the Raptors play with energy, they at least can compete.

When they defend, they at least aren’t as vulnerable in getting run off the floor.

The road wasn’t kind to the Raptors, and following a mini two-game homestand the team gets right back on the road with another four-game trip, but there were glimpses on how the Raptors must play to win games.

What was painfully obvious was the need to sustain a level over the course of an entire game and not just play in spurts.

In the 16 quarters played on the road, the Raptors were able to outscore their opponent in four periods, but in each game Toronto outrebounded its opposition and save for the Lakers no foe was able to get to the free throw line more than the Raptors.

These are small steps in a season that promises to feature its share of growing pains.

The hope is that the painful lessons that are delivered help make the Raptors better.

No area exposed the Raptors better than the amount of turnovers Toronto committed.

In the four games, the Raptors committed a combined 69 turnovers that led to 93 points.

Do the math and it’s not pretty, which is kind of how one can easily sum up the Raptors’ ability to defend.

In Portland on Saturday, the Raptors couldn’t make shots, but their night was compounded by their inability to protect the basketball.

“Turnovers are hurting us,’’ conceded Triano. “But it’s kind of weird. Yes, we’re careless, but we’re getting caught on moving screens, getting called on charges, which are signs that we’re trying to be aggressive and that we’re trying to find ourselves.

“But we got to be wiser in how we’re doing it.”

If there was anything Triano took away from the road was the way his team did play at a high level in spurts.

Now comes the hard part of taking that next level.

“I thought we played very well against some tough teams in tough buildings over periods of time,’’ added Triano. “Our margin for error isn’t very big right now.

“We can’t afford not to play 48 solid minutes. We have to be mistake-free.”

Until they do a better job of limiting turnovers and bring a more consistent effort for an entire night, there will be more nights of misery and of coming up short.

One thing Triano will not tolerate is using the schedule as a crutch, whether it’s a back-to-back set or any other scenario.

“There are no excuses,’’ he said. “Back-to-back, four in six nights, first game back from a West Coast trip, we got to be better.

“And that’s the bottom line.”


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