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Old 10-18-2012, 10:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Toronto Star: Lowry shines in his Raptors debut

Fans will have seen Kyle Lowry looking comfortable and fit and aggressive and good and they will be pleased.

They will have seen Landry Fields finally have an impact on a game with some savvy off-the-ball cuts for easy baskets and they will be happy.

They will have watched Jonas Valanciunas look increasingly comfortable and involved at both ends and will think the future is bright.

And Dwane Casey will look and dampen a fair amount of that enthusiasm. Yes, the Raptors played well for long stretches and, yes, they beat the Washington Wizards 104-101 at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night, but there were enough issues that the coach would not call the evening an unqualified success.

(There were) some good things but those stretches that we have with mental mistakes, fumbles, non-boxouts, lackadaisical run-backs, we cant have those stretches and be a good team, Casey said after his team ran its pre-season record to 3-1.

Particularly galling to the coach was the way the team ambled into the start of the game and the beginning of the third quarter.

The Raptors allowed a questionable Wizards team missing John Wall and Nene to score 34 points in the opening quarter and Toronto gave up a 10-3 run early in third that wasted a halftime lead.

Its all well and good that the Raptors came back to win but they arent going to get away with that when they are playing either regular-season games or good teams.

Our starts are horrendous and weve got to find the answer for that, whether its lineups or combinations or whatever it is, said Casey. I think they scored 24 points in the last six minutes of the first quarter and to start the third we dug ourselves a hole.

Weve got to get our motors going quicker. We dont have two or three minutes to warm up and get loose and get into the game.

There is precious little game time for the Raptors to find that edge they need. They have three pre-season games left, against New York, Milwaukee and Memphis, and they need to be used for fine-tuning things rather than correcting basic mistakes like a lack of early-game intensity.

Of the positive signs for the Raptors was the comfort level of Lowry, playing in his first game after missing more than a week with a groin injury. He played almost 25 minutes with 14 points and six assists and was as advertised.

You can see hes a rolling pin going to the basket, he gets to where he wants to go with the ball, hes heady, he sees things that other people dont see, Casey said.

He got Landry (Fields, a game-high 15 points) going, cutting, moving without the ball, which is huge. Those are things you cant teach.

The bad?

Andrea Bargnani, who still cant find the consistency he needs with his shot, left in the third quarter after playing just 23 minutes because of a bruised left calf.

Its the same calf that was hurt last year and kept Bargnani out of 35 of 66 regular-season games, although team officials were quick to point out this is just a bruise.

Valancuinas had eight points, eight rebounds, four fouls, four turnovers and three blocked shots in his 25 minutes, precisely the kind of all-over-the-map night that could be common early in the season. But he did have one explosive pump fake and dunk in the first half and got far more comfortable as the game went on.

The good thing with J.V. is hes very flexible, said Casey. He can go against some quicker guys, he can go with stronger guys. I think he struggled with (Emeka) Okafor in the first half, did a great job in the second half using his speed and quickness.
Kyle Lowry shines in debut as Toronto Raptors defeat Washington Wizards 104-101 - thestar.com
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