Raptors running on empty

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:20 PM ET

TORONTO - With no healthy bodies available and no sense in tempting fate, the Raptors decided not to practise Saturday.

If ever one day summed up the team’s plight this season, it was Saturday.

And with four days and three games left to the season, there will be no more practices.

Following Sunday’s visit by New Jersey, the Raptors head to Milwaukee to play the Bucks on Monday.

Because of the back to back, no practice is scheduled for Tuesday as Wednesday’s season finale featuring the Heat awaits.

When they lost to the Sixers on Friday, the team also lost Sonny Weems to a knee injury, shortening a bench that was already thin.

Without Jose Calderon and without Leandro Barbosa, there was no backup at the point position, which meant some possessions for James Johnson and Julian Wright to fill in for Jerryd Bayless when Bayless needed a breather.

As bad as they played in the first half, especially offensively, the Raptors were good in the second half, staked by a more aggressive Bayless as Toronto used more screen and rolls.

Toronto would come all the way back from a 15-point deficit and had a chance to pull off one of the most memorable comebacks in recent memory.

Ironically, Sixers assistant Brian James, who once served as an assistant in Toronto, recalled a game earlier this decade when the Raptors had eight players available and were playing Michael Jordan and the host Wizards in Washington.

Toronto would win and James spoke of that night prior to Friday night’s tip.

Credit the Raptors for fighting back and credit the team for not quitting with nothing to play for except pride.

“Whenever you step on the court, you just want to respect the game,’’ Reggie Evans said. “You want to respect the court and you want to go out there and play hard, no matter the circumstances.

“It’s like playing pickup games knowing if you lose in the park, you might as well go home because you may never get a chance to play again.

“You know that waiting are five or six people with their teams’ picks. When you get on the court, the mentality is that you still want to win.”

A lot must still be learned, but the growth in Toronto’s starting backcourt is encouraging.

With so many injured players and so few options on offence, there is virtually no room for error.

If anything, the Raptors may have found their perfect foe in New Jersey, a team that swept the Raptors in that back-to-back set played in London, England.

On paper, Toronto will field better talent, but how it plays out is yet to be seen.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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