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Lewenberg: All business in Raptors' revenge game with Kings

Josh Lewenberg, TSN 1050
3/8/2014 1:31:59 AM
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TORONTO - As Rudy Gay took to the Air Canada Centre court for the first time since being traded, moments after being introduced to a chorus of tepid boos, he approached each Raptors starter, slapping hands with his former teammates.

They reciprocated, but none of them initiated the round of pre-game pleasantries.

On the team's bench sat a quartet of former Sacramento Kings, but you wouldn't know it. Their focus mirrored that of the starters. They meant business.

"We all have friends on that team," acknowledged Patrick Patterson, one of the former Kings that came to Toronto in the seven-player trade completed on December 9. "Going into this game, we have to treat it as if they're the enemy. We have to treat them like they're the villain and we're the superhero, pretty much. We can't be friendly with them. As soon as the game starts, you have to put your hard hat on."

The Raptors learnt that lesson the hard way.

A month earlier, the two teams faced off in Sacramento, their first meeting since the early-season swap.

"I thought the way that we approached the game last time was too friendly, too cool, too lackadaisical, too laid-back," Patterson said, looking back at his return to California.

Emotions were high, on both sides, as players embraced their friends and old teammates prior to tip-off, laughing and joking around, having also shared a meal the night before. Only the Kings were laughing 48 minutes later. Embarrassed, the Raptors - a post-trade feel-good story - left with their tail in-between their legs. Dwane Casey questioned his team's disposition and professionalism, Chuck Hayes called it their worst performance since the trade and John Salmons conducted his entire post-game interview head down after a 109-101 loss.

Round two would be different, Casey promised leading up to the rematch in Toronto on Friday. From the moment his club took the floor, coming face-to-face with Gay and the Kings, it was clear that message had been received.

"I thought the roles were reversed this time," Patterson after his new team closed out their 99-87 win. "I thought we came out the right way, with the right intensity."

"Guys were professional, very professional, workman-like, not disrespecting their friends on the other team, but yet still knowing we had a job to do when you walk out between those lines," Casey echoed. "After the game is over you can shake hands, hug, kiss, whatever you want to do, but once the game starts those guys have a different colour jersey and we've got to have that razor-like focus every time we walk on the floor."

Like the Kings had done in Sacramento, the Raptors jumped on the visitors right out of the gate, taking a 29-19 lead into the second quarter. Although the Kings dominated the paint and lived at the free throw line once again, Toronto neutralized their best player early. DeMarcus Cousins, who has owned the Raptors over his career, played just eight first-half minutes, saddled with foul trouble.

After losing some ground in the second frame, the Raptors came out in the third quarter and - like they did in the first - outscored Sacramento 29-19, effectively repaying their old friends for last month's debacle.

"I think we let go of the personal stuff," said Salmons, who has been preaching forgiveness over the last couple days. "We thought we were doing that the first game, clearly we didn't. This time we just let it go and played basketball."

Returning from an ankle injury, Terrence Ross scored half of his team-leading 18 points, hitting half of his six threes in the third. Patterson also added seven of his 15 points in the quarter.

"I'll tell you what, he's been a godsend for us, as far as stretching the floor," Casey said of Patterson, who hit three of his four attempts from long range Friday. "Not only that, just his intensity, his work ethic, how hard how plays. He's got a reputation around the league of playing hard. He's one of our best pick-and-roll defenders because he uses his quickness and then he can go down and stretch the floor out. It's a big plus, not a lot of guys can do that and he does an excellent job of doing it.

The boos for Gay were faint, mostly, but consistent every time he touched the ball. The former Raptors forward scored 15 points on 5-of-13 from the field, a shooting percentage reminiscent of his time spent in Toronto. Gay has shot 50 per cent or better in 23 of 38 games as a King after doing so just once in 18 contests with the Raptors this season.

Again, the Raptors won as a team. They got double-digit scoring from five players and although DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry struggled from the field - shooting a combined 6-for-24 - the Raptors backcourt duo totalled 13 assists, one fewer than the entire Kings team.

Salmons added eight points off the bench, Greivis Vasquez chipped in with four and, although Hayes was scoreless in 10 minutes, his defence on Cousins changed the game in the third quarter.

"He has that old man stretch," Casey said of Hayes. "You've got to be strong to hold your ground against Cousins. He's a beast in there and now they bring Reggie Evans in, two of the strongest guys in the league. So I thought his brute strength helped him hold his position."

With their 34th victory, the Raptors matched last season's win total in just 60 games.

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