Raps hobble into Florida

Leandro Barbosa is not healthy enough to travel with the Raps for weekend games in Florida. (QMI...

Leandro Barbosa is not healthy enough to travel with the Raps for weekend games in Florida. (QMI Agency/Dave Abel)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

TORONTO - As if this trip wasnt going to be tough enough.

With back-to-back dates against the title contending Orlando Magic and Miami Heat set for Friday and Saturday night, Raptors head coach Jay Triano revealed after practice on Thursday that the team is badly hobbled.

Guard Leandro Barbosa is feeling better, but not well enough to travel with the team to Florida and will get a chance to heal his ailing shoulder and wrist.

Centre David Andersen is being kept away from the team because of a bout with the flu, forward Linas Kleiza sat out practice and is doubtful, while Triano pronounced starting point guard Jarrett Jack (finger, knee) and Reggie Evans (hip) are probable, even though they also skipped practice.

After an all-tournament performance at the FIBA world championship this summer, big things were expected from Kleiza, but he has struggled after hurting his Achilles in the pre-season.

I thanked him for trying to play because hes not even close, Triano said of Kleiza.

Hes a good shooter and he shot an air ball (against Charlotte on Wednesday). He has no lift, no strength.

The absence of Barbosa and likely Kleiza will open the door for more minutes for Sonny Weems and Julian Wright. The Raptors had just 10 healthy players (including rookie Ed Davis who is not yet ready for game action) available for Thursdays practice

Triano said Wright made some defensive mistakes which hurt the club in its latest loss (leaving gunner Stephen Jackson open for threes), but praised his energy and hustle.

(Wrights) going to have to (play), Triano said. Were down to DeMar, Sonny and Julian, three guys rotating at the wing spots. We told him over the first five games when he didnt play keep working, you never know when somebody is going to get injured, youre going to get an opportunity.

That opportunity will come against players like Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis and later, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Yikes.

Just as tough will be trying to contain Magic behemoth Dwight Howard, who is scoring more than ever before and still doing his thing on the boards.

With Evans limited or out entirely, Joey Dorsey will be called on to match up with the similarly built Howard.

There are not a lot of capable options against Dwight in the league, Joey is one of our best, Triano said, adding that Dorsey has the physical strength to deter Howard from getting inside for easy baskets more than other Raptors.

Triano said he is fine with Howard taking more shots for Orlando.

Theyre trying to reward him for all the rebounding and the defence that he gives and give him some more touches, but, when we break it down statistically, him shooting a tough two or going to the free throw line is a lot more advantageous for us than them shooting 15-16 threes like they do and making 10.

We want to be physical with him and not give him dunks. Make him earn it. When they shoot an abundance of threes, thats when they win the game.

The approach makes sense. Even though the Magic is 5-2, the team is 20th in field goal percentage, 22nd in three-point percentage and dead-last in free-throw percentage.

But stopping Howard sounds far easier than it actually is and the Raptors will likely learn that the hard way.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, what awaits them in Miami will likely be even worse.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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