More than 200 NHL players signed with European teams during the lockout while many others spent time in the American Hockey League. That number is far greater than the amount of players who took basketball jobs elsewhere during the NBA lockout.
Home games Wednesday against struggling Philadelphia (15-20 heading into Tuesday night), woeful Charlotte (9-24 and freefalling) on Friday and Milwaukee (on its second coach this season) on Sunday present a great chance for Toronto to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
“Ed’s been taking advantage of an opportunity but I met with him (on the off-day Monday) and I challenged him. I didn’t think he brought it against Oklahoma City. I thought he could have brought it more, competed harder, banged harder, got to the boards harder. A lot of things. His screens, taking some of the shots he had,” Casey said.
Going through a defensive-minded practice, many guys hung around long after practice ended to get in extra work. Specifically Jonas Valanciunas, who is recovering from a fractured metacarpal on the ring finger of his right hand, sustained during a victory over the Orlando Magic on Dec. 21. Valanciunas worked with assistant coaches and basketball development consultant Jamaal Magloire long after the practice facility had emptied. Defensive close-outs, one-handed free throws and sprints up and down the length of the court, Valanciunas got in a great workout.
The fact that the Raptors have lost two games and Davis and DeRozan have not played well is likely not a surprise. The one thing you seek from all young players is that magical word consistency. We are starting to see that more from both on a regular basis.
The Raptors six-game home stand will wrap up and if the team wants to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, they’ll need a winning record against their remaining opponents. After going 1-2 to start things off at home, there is little room for error in the final three games. Toronto will tip-off Wednesday against the 15-20 Philadelphia 76ers, before hosting the 9-24 Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 11, followed by the 16-16 Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 13.
The Raptors have been much improved over the last few weeks, but the way that betting seems to work is that you’re only as good as your last performance, and Toronto have just lost at home, albeit to Western Conference contenders OKC, and also lost to the Kings at home 2 days before that to the tune of 9 points. Interestingly, the only 2 times the Raptors have failed to cover 2 games in a row at home is their last 2 games, as well as 2 games earlier in the season, with one of those being the aforementioned loss to Philly. Toronto are averaging 103 points in their last 5 games, but have only cracked the 100 mark once in their last 5 at home.
“There are so many things we can do better as far as the mental part of the game,” Casey said. “We gotta learn from playing against a team like (the Thunder), but we can’t lose our mojo. We gotta get our mojo back here in the next couple days and get ready for this coming week.”
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