Young Raptors need to step up against Suns

Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa and City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook fight for a loose ball in...

Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa and City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook fight for a loose ball in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 20, 2011. (BRYAN TERRY/Reuters)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

PHOENIX — As painful as it to watch the Raptors when virtually nothing gets accomplished at either of the floor, the experience will one day prove beneficial.

At least that’s the hope.

But as the five-game road trip, which began with a memorable win over Oklahoma City on Sunday, shifts to the Valley of the Sun, the biggest question remains: Just how much improvement is being achieved?

Early in Monday’s mauling in Denver, the game’s tempo suited the Raptors.

But as shots continued to hit everything except the bottom of the net, the Nuggets took control and never looked back, at one point leading by as many as 41 points en route to a 123-90 win.

In Toronto’s three previous visits to the Mile High City, the Raptors yielded 130, 132 and 137 points in each loss, which included the sacking of Sam Mitchell.

On Monday, Toronto’s bench needed to produce, but it didn’t when it mattered most.

It was so one-sided that anything remotely resembling a moral victory couldn’t be found, unless one views Alexis Ajinca’s career-high rebounds (9) and season-high 10 points as important.

In the big picture, the big Frenchman who likes to play on the perimeter like his fellow seven-foot teammate who hails from Italy can’t possibly fit into Toronto’s long-range plans.

If he is, then this whole rebuilding promises to get even worse before it gets better, which is a frightful concept to ponder.

When Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis were asked to make an impact on a game that was turning into a rout, neither could succeed.

Combined, two of the Raptors’ young pieces went 1-of-11 from the field.

Bayless did get to the line six times and would dish off nine assists.

There is no time in the NBA to feel sorry for ones lot in a league where opponents seize upon any sign of vulnerability.

Against the Nuggets, energy was lacking as too was any player to inject any kind of life.

“When you’re a step slow in this league, whether it’s fatigue playing the back end of a back-to-back or inexperience, you get exposed,’’ head coach Jay Triano said in as blunt an assessment as he’s ever provided.

In basketball’s lexicon, it’s called playing with juice and the Raptors had none.

Tuesday was a day of rest for most of the weary Raptors.

Those banged up, such as Amir Johnson, were scheduled to get treatment, while others were slated to get some shots up.

The host Suns were in Los Angeles on Tuesday night playing the Lakers.

Even if Steve Nash had to play extended minutes, you know he’ll approach Wednesday’s visit from his good friend and former coach like any other, yet another opportunity to upstage Triano.

And everyone knows how much Vince Carter enjoys playing his former team.

Hopefully the pain in Denver follows the Raptors to Phoenix and hopefully the painful lesson gets applied.

“They have to feel as sh--ty as they feel to not let it happen again and to find a way to fight through it,’’ Triano added.

For the Raptors, their odyssey began with a back-to-back and it’ll end with a back-to-back.

But for now, they have so show more of a compete level against the Suns, especially from some of the youngsters.

“You just have to be mentally strong,’’ DeMar DeRozan said when facing a back-to-back set. “It’s definitely tough in this situation, especially when you beat one of the best teams in the NBA.

“You just got to come out with more energy.”


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