Raps adjust to life without Bargnani — again

Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani of Italy gets fouled by Phoenix Suns point guard Sebastian...

Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani of Italy gets fouled by Phoenix Suns point guard Sebastian Telfair during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Arizona Jan. 24, 2012. (REUTERS/Rick Scuteri)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

Two weeks without Andrea Bargnani crippled the Raptors offensively.

The team went 0-6 without him in the lineup, scored an average of 81 points and lost by an average of 12 points a night in those games.

Outside of the Indiana game, the first without Bargnani in the lineup, the Raps were never really a threat to win any of them.

In the two games he played after his return, the Raptors went 2-0 with Bargnani accounting for just under 30% of the scoring himself.

If you believe Bargnani’s self diagnosis, his absence this time will be longer. The fact he could not put any weight on the injured left calf Thursday is telling. His two-week absence the first time around came as a surprise to those who watched the Sacramento game.

Few even noticed that injury. There was no hiding the severity of the injury Wednesday night in Utah.

Bargnani tried to get up and battle Paul Millsap for a rebound, but his feet never left the ground. The left leg just gave out.

He tried to run with his team back up court but literally dragged the left leg up the court with him.

He’ll undergo the mandatory MRI but his words — “Yeah, this one is bad” — and more specifically his body language after the game told the tale.

He’s going to be out a while, longer than two weeks.

Next man up is a phrase more associated with football than basketball but the Raptors have no choice but to take that approach.

The immediate impact will see Bargnani’s spot in the lineup taken by Ed Davis.

Davis is no where near Bargnani’s class as a scorer.

Davis’ points come, almost exclusively from within five feet of the basket.

Bargnani scores anywhere from the rim to 25 feet out. He force defences to honour his three-point shooting and that makes him such a pivotal piece of a rather pedestrian offence. Take him out of the mix and scoring becomes much harder for everyone. Defences don’t have to cover the same amount of space so the gaps are much smaller making getting to the basket that much harder.

Without Bargnani on the floor defences can lock onto DeMar DeRozan or Jose Calderon or even Leandro Barbosa depending on who has the current hot hand.

“It’s going to have to be a collective effort from everyone,” DeRozan said after Toronto’s first win in Utah in eight years became a side story to the Bargnani injury. “We have to understand that’s 20-25 shots that are now out of there. We need everyone to contribute, especially on the offensive end.”

Linas Kleiza, who filled the Bargnani void for the final minute of the first overtime and then the full five of the second overtime in Salt Lake City, believes this is no time to start lamenting the Raptors’ bad fortune.

“This is NBA basketball,” Kleiza said. “Somebody is going to have to step up. We have a lot of great young guys, especially Ed (Davis). He’s going to have a bigger role. A bigger opportunity. He has to step in but collectively we have to pick it up. But if we play hard with energy like we did the last couple of nights we can get it done. “We still made a lot of mistakes especially in the beginning the past two games. We spotted them a lot of points. We can’t do that, especially now with Andrea out. We just have to go out there and play with confidence.”

If there is a bright side to an injury of this magnitude, it’s in the timing of it. At least it comes with the rest of the team healthy. Jerryd Bayless is back and the ankle he rolled just before New Year’s is getting stronger every day. Aaron Gray appears to have put the irregular heart beat scare behind him.

Kleiza, who returned to the lineup nine games ago following microfracture surgery, is just now starting to feel like himself on the court again.

“My legs are coming along,” Kleiza said after a season-high 25 point and 32 minutes of action Wednesday night. “My conditioning is getting there. I’m getting in good shape.”

All of that should help in Bargnani’s absence, but the simple truth is no one on the Raptors can do what Bargnani does.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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