Lewenberg: Raptors try to forget about collapse through bowling

Josh Lewenberg
12/5/2013 7:00:16 PM
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PHOENIX - It's not easy to turn the page after being on the wrong side of a 27-point comeback.
There's no manual on regrouping in the aftermath of something like that, mostly because it doesn't happen much. Tuesday was the first time the franchise had suffered such a collapse in its 19-year existence.
"We could have stayed here and practiced for 10 hours, but we needed something to refresh our minds," Dwane Casey explained after his team returned to practice at Phoenix's US Airways Center Thursday afternoon.
The team bus was en route to the arena the day prior when Casey and his staff called an audible, surprising their players who were expecting to spend the afternoon in the gym. Instead, they stopped a few blocks away for lunch and spent the next few hours at the bowling alley.
"It was good for us," Casey said of his team's bonding day, which was planned before Tuesday's "debacle" in Oakland. "Guys got guys in a better spirit, ate lunch, spent time together."
"We knew we had two days to prepare for Phoenix. No disrespect to Phoenix and no disrespect to [Friday's] game, because we know we have work to do, but that was the reason why [we took the day off], to refresh the mind, get us juiced up again, clear our minds a little bit and get back to work."
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but some of Toronto's most encouraging games during the first month of the season have come directly after bonding days or team dinners on the road. They handed it to the 76ers after sharing a meal at Kyle Lowry's house and their victory in Memphis - still their only win against a team currently over the .500 mark - came after Rudy Gay hosted a dinner at his home.
"It definitely helps us free our minds [and] takes a lot of tension, a lot of stress off our minds from the previous game," said DeMar DeRozan, who claimed to have bowled a 100, his personal average. The big winner, according to DeRozan, was Aaron Gray with a score of 185.
"Something like that definitely helps," he continued. "[To] just bond, really feel normal as a group, just go out there and feel normal and that's what we did yesterday. I think it always helps."
It wasn't all fun and games though. The elephant on the lanes was - as you would expect - the team's 112-103 loss to the Warriors, a game in which they were outscored 42-15 in the fourth quarter.
"We talked about it yesterday," said Casey. "We flushed it then. It's a long season and one game doesn't define us. Does it hurt? Yes, and it should hurt."
Although they watched tape from the loss, Casey didn't make his players sit through the entire fourth quarter. The Raptors coach, however, watched it three or four times.
"Last night was the first time I slept [since the loss],” he said.
"It's frustrating," DeRozan admitted after re-watching parts of the collapse. "We watched it and we have to continue to learn from our mistakes and understand we've got to play the whole game. Even if we're up [by] 50 with two minutes left, we have to finish the game off strong."
Back to work Thursday, Casey said the team had a good, hard practice focusing on some reoccurring issues that stood out from watching that film.
"Today we worked on screening, timing on screens, waiting for screens and the other [issue] is spacing," Casey mentioned. "We talked about that because that is an issue. Teams are able to clog, double team or whatever and give half a man to those wings if we are not spaced properly."
Further to that, ball movement was emphasized once again. The Raptors, who still rank dead last in the league in assists, recorded just one dime in the fourth on Tuesday.
Three full days removed from their most embarrassing loss of the campaign, the Raptors will get another shot at snapping their losing skid - which now stands at four - on Friday against the Suns, one of the league's biggest surprises at 10-9.
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