Raptors get big not-so-easy win in New Orleans

Raptors centre Aaron Gray goes to the basket during a game against the Hornets in New Orleans, La.,...

Raptors centre Aaron Gray goes to the basket during a game against the Hornets in New Orleans, La., Feb. 29, 2012. (JONATHAN BACHMAN/Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS - The offence was inconsistent again, but the Raptors played defence so well it didn’t matter.

Toronto’s sputtering attack was in form long enough to pull out a 95-84 victory in the Big Easy on Wednesday night, despite a 4-for-21 shooting disaster of a third quarter.

The team actually opened with a surge, shooting 63.2% in the first quarter — as opposed to 18% in the first frame of Tuesday’s tough 88-85 loss in Houston — and took a 51-46 lead into the half.

But the third-quarter meltdown allowed the home side to erase the deficit and build up a seven-point edge.

Of course, the Raptors (now 9-26) then started the fourth quarter 7-for-7 to battle back.

“Making shots is huge, you can learn all you want to, but if you miss shots it does not do any good,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said of the difference between Tuesday and Wednesday’s fourth quarters.

Bounce back efforts from Amir Johnson — who Casey said set the tone — Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless allowed the Raptors to equal last season’s road win total of six. Kleiza and Calderon scored 12 apiece in the first half and Kleiza added nine more in the deciding quarter.

DeMar DeRozan scored 20 and Johnson blocked five shots, hauled in seven rebounds, dished out four assists and had a couple of steals along with his seven points in a complete effort, while Bayless was plus-21, second only to Leandro Barbosa’s plus-22 and New Orleans was held to 37.5% from the floor.

NO BIG DEAL

DeRozan got some attention for tweeting that either Tuesday’s loss in Houston or his not playing in the fourth quarter after scoring 10 points in the third were BS, but the matter had been resolved by Wednesday.

“Everything’s fine,” DeRozan said before the game.

The third-year guard said it was simply a result of frustration building up and yet another close loss, while Casey said the matter was handled internally and even was a good thing since it “showed he cared.”

Explained DeRozan: “Just frustrating, especially just losing games we should win. We’ve had a lot of close games that always came down to a couple possessions, that’s the frustrating part,” he said.

Casey chose to make sure the tweet did not become an issue.

“It’s a young guy frustrated with losing a tough game, another game that we had an opportunity to win … Part of growing up, part of being a professional. It’s just one of those things out of frustration,” he said.

“We want to be a team that’s about discipline, about doing things the right way and we’re going to be.

“(But) it shows everybody cares and that’s why I didn’t make a big deal about it because it’s a good thing. Self check, self-talk. We had a few guys in the locker room that were upset with themselves, which to me shows me that they care. If you don’t care in this business, you won’t get anything done.”

Would DeRozan have changed anything?

“Losing definitely can get to you … I don’t mean no harm by it or nothing,” he said after beating the Hornets.

“You live and you learn. Probably, couple years from now when I’m a vet I can tell a young guy (don’t) do this, something like that.”

UNFRIENDLY RIVALS?

Calderon and Jarrett Jack had a see-saw battle for the starting point guard job when both were teammates in Toronto. Though there is no bad blood or anything like that, clearly they both still get up for competing against each other. They went at each other hard on Wednesday, with both men at times careening to the court after hard hits … Toronto’s backup, Bayless, moved the ball very well — three assists in his first six minutes — but Casey opted to give Calderon heavy minutes so Bayless mostly was on the pine until the fourth. Bayless helped spark the comeback with good two-way play … Ed Davis wasn’t able to follow up his career-best 15-rebound outing with another nice performance, though he did notch three of Toronto’s seven blocks. As a whole, the Raptors protected the rim better than at most other points of the season, but also gave up a bunch of offensive rebounds in the process, which irked Casey a bit.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

Casey coached and then worked beside Nate McMillan in Seattle; Hornets head coach Monty Williams is a McMillan disciple, so it’s not surprising Casey identifies with Williams.

“We’re a lot alike, we’re from the Nate background. I started out with Nate, he was with him more recently,” Casey explained.

“We had a lot of the same defensive and offensive philosophies, especially from a defensive standpoint.

“(The Hornets) are a lot like we are, a young team getting better, throwing the kids out there, letting them play through mistakes.”

Casey also identified the focus on defence both sides preach as another similarity … Bayless and Jack have been traded for each other on two separate occasions.


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