With just over one minute remaining in double OT, the game tied at 116, Valanciunas negated a Vasquez runner, needlessly tipping in the shot that was already on its way down, above the cylinder. The look of frustration on the sophomore's face said it all. This was not his night.
The Raptors were outscored by 14 points in the 29 minutes that Valanciunas was on the floor.
"I feel really sad," Valanciunas lamented, with his head down after the game. "I feel really bad right now. I could do a much better job than what I did."
Valanciunas lost more than his rhythm, sitting as long as he did in the second half of Thursday's ball game. His confidence appeared to be at an all-time low.
The second-year centre has had a rough couple of weeks, averaging 7.1 points and 7.6 rebounds, shooting 45 per cent in 24 minutes per in his last eight games. Over the previous eight contests, he put up averages of 15.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, shot 58 per cent from the field and logged just over 29 minutes a night.
Perhaps fatigue has played a factor - he eclipsed his minute total from his rookie season last week - but the most noticeable variation in his approach hinders on an immeasurable concept that he has downplayed in the past.
Valanciunas is a different animal when he plays with that edge, anger and fire, when he gets outside of his head, stops over-thinking the game and just plays basketball. Too often you can almost see his thought process on the court, his movements are robotic as he aims to avoid disaster, fearful of making a mistake that will draw the ire of his head coach. However, he's at his best when he plays freely and Casey knows it.
"The key is patience, not getting down on yourself, have fun," Casey said after morning shoot-around on Thursday. "I mean you're playing basketball. There's no pressure on JV to produce. The pressure is on DeMar (DeRozan) and Kyle (Lowry) and Amir, the older guys."