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Lewenberg: Raptors take early-season frustration out on Jazz

Josh Lewenberg
11/9/2013 11:17:41 PM
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TORONTO - With frustration mounting following three consecutive losses, the Raptors needed a lift as much as any team could seven games into a long season.

They've been a punching bag for both Eastern Conference finalists, lost a heartbreaker to the lowly Bobcats and now face an increasingly difficult early-season schedule.

Returning home to face the NBA's lone winless team was just what the doctor ordered.

"We just needed to get our head on straight, come out with some focus and take all our anger out on somebody," said Terrence Ross moments after his team handed the Jazz their seventh straight loss to the begin the season, 115-91 at the Air Canada Centre Saturday. "We came out here and took care of business."

"I think it's good for our confidence," said Tyler Hansbrough, who led the Raptors - now 3-4 on the season - in scoring with 23 points off the bench. "Especially when you're on a losing streak like this. It's good just to get a win and get your confidence up."

A victim of slow starts and/or botched execution down the stretch during the first six games of the season, the Raptors put in their first 48-minute effort, a wire-to-wire victory.

"No matter who you play you've got to give it 48," Dwane Casey added after the win. "We started the game out and we ended it playing the game the right way and that's what we're looking for."

Casey called a timeout after a short-lived Jazz run cut the Raptors' lead to two points midway through the first quarter. His team responded by scoring 33 of the next 41 points into the second quarter and never looked back from there, leading by as many as 38.

Despite the low level of difficulty - Utah is every bit as bad as advertised - the Raptors desperately needed to get their groove back ahead of another tough road swing. The victory was important for a team that had recently dropped a couple of games to the league's best - the Heat and Pacers - and failed to take advantage of Wednesday's meeting with the Bobcats. Saturday's game was winnable and it was one they needed to have.

Most encouraging was how they got it. For the first time this season, Toronto's offence looked diverse and cohesive from start to finish. The Raptors registered a season-high 23 assists and committed just 12 turnovers. They shot 48 per cent, hit 10 three-pointers and no player attempted more than 14 shots. Everyone that played contributed in some fashion, a focus for Casey's club entering the game.

"If collectively we can get everybody in the same rhythm, going the same way it'll help us a lot," Casey said before tip-off. "We've got to get everyone clicking at the same time offensively."

Second unit production

The second unit had been part of the problem, outscored by the opponent's reserves in each of the first six games. On Saturday, Toronto's bench led the way, scoring 56 points on 50 per cent shooting. Hansbrough was particularly impressive, setting a career-high in free throw attempts with 13 and knocking down 11 of them.

"I thought Tyler Hansbrough was just a handful," Casey said. "That's the kind of intensity it takes to be a winning program, every night not just once a month but every night. What he's doing is contagious."

Sophomores Ross and Quincy Acy chipped in with nine points apiece and Julyan Stone added seven as the Raptors were able to rest their starters late in the second half.

"That's our team in practice so we have a chemistry down," Ross said of the second unit. "We're all learning how to play with each other. We know what each player likes to do so we're just taking it to the court."

Lowry exits early

Kyle Lowry hobbled to the locker room at halftime after coming down on the foot of Enes Kanter going in for a layup at the end of the second quarter. He did not return, sitting out the second half with a sprained right ankle.

"I think he just tweaked it," Casey said. "I think if he had to go he would have been okay."

The Raptors' guard said the ankle was sore after the game but expects to be ready to go when the team visits Houston and Memphis - both former teams of his - next week.

Up next

The Raptors have an off-day on Sunday following their third consecutive back-to-back set before taking on Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets in Houston Monday.

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