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Old 10-18-2012, 11:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Raptors Okafor: Valanciunas is tough to guard

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When Landry Fields darted along the baseline to the basket, Kyle Lowry managed to find him.

Lowry played with hustle and poise in his Raptors debut and combined with Fields like they were longtime teammates on Wednesday in Toronto’s 104-101 pre-season victory over the Washington Wizards.

“(Lowry) has sea legs right now and it affected his shot, but you can see he’s a rolling pin going to the basket, he gets to where he wants to go with the ball, he’s heady, he sees things that other people don’t see, he got Landry going, cutting moving off the ball, which was huge,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “Those things you can’t teach. He’s a true leader.”

Fields scored 15 points while Lowry had 14 of his own to go along with six assists.

Amir Johnson added 13 points, Jose Calderon had 12 points and eight assists, and DeMar DeRozan added 11 points for the Raptors (3-1).

Trevor Booker had 12 points to top the Wizards (1-4), while Emeka Okafor, Martell Webster, Jan Vesely and Bradley Beal had 11 apiece.

The Raptors trailed 77-73 heading into the fourth quarter of a game that had seen 15 lead changes.

Toronto managed to build a three-point lead with a minute left in the game and led by a point when Lowry drained two free throws with 13 seconds left to seal it.

Lowry started after missing the first three games of the exhibition schedule — and a good chunk of Toronto’s training camp in Halifax — with a groin injury.

Casey had said that Lowry needed to shake off the rust. But the point guard scored the Raptors’ first points off a steal and drive to the hoop, and didn’t slow down, in front of a crowd of 11,750 that included Jon Bon Jovi and former Raptor Tracy Murray.

“It was great, I had fun, just trying to get my legs under me,” Lowry said. “I was a little bit winded, but it was great to get back out there.”

During a strong stretch in the third quarter, Lowry repeatedly found Fields cutting to the basket.

“I thought (Fields) did an excellent job, running the floor, back-cutting, moving without the ball,” Casey said. “Those things you can’t teach, those are instinctive plays, we have them in but a lot of times guys freeze over there, get like a magnet on the three-point line, but he did a great job of cutting, moving without the ball.”

Fields said finally having Lowry on the floor was a big boost to the team.

“He’s a fantastic player, he demands a lot out of his teammates, so when we’re out there we want to give it our best,” he said.

Who will start at point guard has been one of the storylines of training camp. Calderon came off the bench to do a decent job of running an energetic second unit, and hit a pair of big three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors’ fifth pick in the 2011 draft, also continues to generate a buzz with his play just three games into his tenure in Toronto. The big Lithuanian brought his teammates on the bench to their feet with a first-quarter play that saw him pump fake twice before blowing by Okafor for a one-handed dunk.

“He is a very strong player and very active,” Okafor said of guarding Valanciunas. “He is a difficult player to play against because he is high energy and is always moving, always doing something.”


Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani got kicked in the left calf in the third quarter and left the game. Raptors officials said the injury isn’t related to the strained calf that kept him out of 35 games last season.

Toronto has started off slowly in each of its games in the pre-season and Wednesday was no exception as the Raptors trailed 34-24 heading into the second.

“We’ve got to get our motors going quicker,” Casey said. “We don’t have two or three minutes to warm up and get loose and get into the game.”

The Raptors shot 55 per cent in the second — and held the Wizards to 24 per cent from the field — to lead 54-49 at halftime.
Kyle Lowry leads Raptors to win over Wizards - The Globe and Mail
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