Three games in the lessons continue for the Raptors.
A young team is slowly but progressively finding its way defensively, but the defensive lessons aren’t the only one’s that need to be learned.
After the loss in Dallas in a game the Raptors had played themselves back into courtesy of a third quarter 17-2 run, the Raptors youth showed.
To hear veteran guard Anthony Carter tell it, they got all giddy with themselves and lost that focus to detail that made that run a possibility.
Next thing they knew the seven-point lead they had built was gone, gone for good as it turned out as the Mavs rolled to a 99-86 win.
“We can’t be jumping up in the air when guys are coming to the bench,” Carter said. “We have to act like we’ve been there before. You guys saw what happened, they went on that run right after. That was a big mistake and we have to learn from that.”
DeMar DeRozan, while a member of the core group of this team going forward, is still one of the young guys on the team but 15 minutes after the game ended someone had clearly filled him in on the night’s lesson or he had picked it up himself.
“We can’t let that get us excited,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to understand we’ve still got a job to do,” DeRozan said. “We got a brand new lead, but then while we take the lead we can’t get too happy. We’ve still got to lock down and play defence. We let them hit a couple of (uncontested) shots after that. It kind of killed our spirits. You’ve just got to play defence for 48 minutes. We can’t let one big shot get us down.”
Dwane Casey saw it very much like his players, but wanted to emphasize this was one his team let get away.
“Some of the turnovers we had last night were just careless turnovers,” he said. “We beat ourselves. Mavericks played an excellent game. They’re back playing good basketball but we did a lot of things to shoot ourselves in the foot. When you get a 68-61 lead on anybody that’s when the work really begins. You got to really focus and concentrate and do the simple things. We tried to do a little too much.”
THE KLEIZA WATCH
Three games into the season forward Linas Kleiza’s ability to return to action is being closely monitored.
While James Johnson has shown flashes of being a capable defensive small forward and Rasual Butler brings a certain defensive swagger to the starting unit, the way the Raptors roster is presently made up, they need to get some scoring out of that position and they’re currently getting very little.
Between them, Butler and Johnson combined for two points on 1-for-6 shooting and a total of eight rebounds for the night.
That’s just not enough production. The hope has to be that Kleiza, when he is fully rehabbed following that micro fracture surgery he had last February, will provide some of that needed scoring.
Like Johnson and Butler, Kleiza is not afraid to play a physical style, which is the definitely in vogue this year under Casey, so his return to the starting lineup should not come at the cost of something else.
ABOUT ALL THOSE FOULS
Carter alluded to it after the Raps were whistled for 23 personal fouls leading to 38 free throw attempts for the Mavs. Conversely, Toronto only got to the line 18 times but did convert 14 of them.
“We fouled them a lot tonight,” Carter said. “We’ve got to clean that up.”
While there has been some thought outside the Raptors locker room that the huge discrepancy in foul calls is as much about who the Raptors aren’t (a contender) as it is about who they are facing on the court.
The feeling is the officials are giving the more veteran teams the benefit of the doubt on calls but that same benefit isn’t working in Toronto’s favour.
As former Raptors had coach Sam Mitchell used to say: “That’s just something you have to earn.” But fans must also realize that a team that is finally playing a physical style must have time to learn what they can get away with and what they can’t. Like everything else this year, that too is a process that has to be worked through.
“We don’t want the free throw line discrepancy,” Casey said. “I think it’s like 88-44 right now and that’s way too much but until officials and everybody gets used to us being an aggressive team, we are not going to get those calls. We have to establish that reputation of playing hard and playing physical and playing clean and playing with our feet and not making it a surprise that Toronto is playing hard. That’s the way we are going to be and the way we will live for the 63 games we have to go.
The large number of fouls are not Casey’s priority right now.
“I don’t mind (the fouls) as much as the turnovers. We are going to play aggressive. We have to learn to play physical without fouling but it’s easier to say whoa than it is giddy-up in that situation.”