Raptors must get turnover under control
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
|Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas is fouled by Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova during a pre-season game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 22, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
TORONTO - There's just one game left in the pre-season and the faster paced Raptors still are giving the ball away with alarming frequency.
On a night when head coach Dwane Casey had hoped to cement his rotation with the regular season just nine days away, those plans were thwarted when rookie swingman Terrence Ross came down with flu-like symptoms and was basically told to stay home in the hopes of keeping it from spreading.
Ross' minutes were ably consumed by John Lucas III, and while Lucas did contribute minimally to the turnover problem with one of his own, his inclusion didn't impact the turnover issue to any great degree.
That's a problem that seems destined to follow the Raptors into the regular season.
But even having committed 19 turnovers, an eye-catching 14 in the first half, the Raptors were never out of this one because the Bucks had 15 turnovers of their own.
That and the fact that the Raps were shooting close to 50% for much of the night helped immeasurably in that cause.
But it wasn't the improved shooting or even another pre-season win that dominated the post-game conversation in the Raptors locker room. The focus there was the turnovers and how they couldn't continue.
"We can't turn the ball over 19 times and expect to beat too many teams in the NBA," Casey said admitting things did improve after a 14-turnover first half. "We are playing fast, but we have to play smart. We have to crank it down a bit. We were in such a hurry the first half."
Kyle Lowry, who contributed six turnovers to that 19 himself knows it has to improve, but confidently predicted there is still time to turn that around this pre-season.
"They are an aggressive-type team," Lowry said of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. "They jump passes but that's just too many (turnovers). It's something we can fix. There's still time. This was just a game where we turned it over a lot. The last game we didn't, but it's a work in progress."
While the team shooting percentage fell to 45% by game's end, it was still more than enough to close out a 104-95 win and give the Raptors its fifth consecutive win this pre-season.
DeMar DeRozan led all Raptors with 21 points, but more importantly, six different Raptors were in double-digits in scoring.
The Raptors wrap up the pre-season schedule Friday in Memphis in advance of the season opener a week from Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
SO MUCH FOR THAT
Casey came into the game hoping to get Quincy Acy and the little-used duo of Jerel McNeal and Chris Wright some playing time.
Acy got nine minutes in the first half, contributing three points, three rebounds and a couple of tough fouls but with the game never more than a seven-point spread, the plan for the other two fell by the wayside.
McNeal and Wright were brought in primarily for training camp purposes to provide some tough defence for the Raptors offensive threats and delivered in spades.
"Those guys came in and gave us a good camp so that's what I'd like to do but I might change my mind in the heat of the moment," Casey said before the game.
McNeal and Wright were waived after the game.
You've still got to dig pretty deep to find a Raptors presence in the NBA.com annual pre-season survey of the GM's, but there are a few more mentions this year than last.
As was the case a year ago, Jonas Valanciunas is the only Raptor to win a category outright. A year ago it was the best international not playing in the NBA. This year Valanciunas wins the international player most like to have a breakout season. Valanciunas was named on 17.2% of the ballots edging out a pair of Timberwolves in Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio both at 13.8%.
Other Raptors to get a mention include Kyle Lowry in the most underrated player acquisition, Valanciunas in the rookie who will be best in five years, Terrence Ross as the most athletic rookie garnering 10% of the vote (Acy also got a mention in this one), and Ross again in rookie most likely to be a "sleeper" success.
Former Raptors head coach Jay Triano, now an assistant in Portland was named on a few ballots as best assistant coach in the league.
It was past the halfway mark of the first quarter and Valanciunas did not have a foul. That's a lesson learned from the game in Montreal when he got into early foul trouble and hurt his effectiveness. Valanciunas didn't get his first foul until 20 minutes into the game and finished with just two on the night while contributing 10 points and eight rebounds ... Acy was looking a lot like Reggie Evans (and we're not talking about the bald dome) as he battled under the opposition basket for rebounds. Like Evans, more often than not he came away with the basketball or at least tipped it to a teammate ... If Acy is able to find minutes he may yet press John Lucas III for Raptors fan favourite. But with Lucas hitting circus shots like the prayer three he hit as the first quarter ended, it's going to be an uphill battle ... The more Lucas plays, the more you start to wonder whether those minutes that were headed for Terrence Ross behind DeRozan may wind up in Lucas' possession. Granted it's a long season and we have yet to see Ross for any substantial amount of time, but Lucas has been so good scoring the basketball and providing a spark, those might be the only minutes available to him with both Lowry and Calderon eating up most of the point guard minutes.