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Lewenberg: Three-ball sinks Raptors in OT loss to Blazers

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Josh Lewenberg
11/17/2013 5:56:16 PM
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TORONTO - The Raptors knocked down 10 of their first 12 shots, two days after missing 10 of their first 12 attempts.

They reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in five games, bested the visiting Trail Blazers by 34 in the paint and scored 19 of the final 25 points in regulation.

Despite all the aforementioned improvements over Friday's embarrassing defeat to the Bulls, they still picked up their seventh loss in 11 games to begin the season.

The culprit of their demise on Sunday afternoon was the three-point shot.

"It's tough when they're knocking down shots like that," said Rudy Gay, after the Blazers went 15-for-32 from three-point range in their 118-110 overtime victory. "No matter how much we rotated, moved around and switched, it's tough to [beat] that, when a team has it going like that."

Portland entered the game fifth in three-point shooting at 41 per cent and its shooters were red-hot from start to finish. Four Blazers hit three or more treys and they outscored the Raptors, who shot 3-of-17, by 36 from beyond the arc.

As a result, Portland extended its lead to as many as 17 before the home team cracked down on defence and Gay took over. Gay, who scored 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the game, engineered a 19-6 Raptors run to close out the fourth quarter.

Gay had 10 points in that stretch, including the buzzer-beating lay-up that tied the game at 102 and forced overtime. It was his sixth go-ahead or game-tying basket in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in the past four seasons, passing Carmelo Anthony for most in the league.

"It was go-time," Gay said of the comeback that ultimately fell short in extra time. "Of course, the whole game you have to play like it's go-time but when you're back's against the wall, you have to pick it up and find a way to get the win."

In overtime, the three broke Toronto's back again as Portland hit three of five attempts and held the Raptors to 2-of-12 shooting overall.

Ball movement, or lack thereof

Gay and DeMar DeRozan attempted 54 of Toronto's 94 field goals - 27 each - but they combined for just three assists. Despite his game-high 30 points, Gay was held without an assist and despite Kyle Lowry's 10 dimes - to go along with 10 points - only three Raptors registered a helper.

"We definitely want there to be movement," Casey acknowledged after the game. "We have out limitations from that standpoint but we want to move the ball, set screens [and] move the ball from side-to-side. Again, we've got to do a better job of that; that's where we've got to find ourselves offensively."

Treading water

A year ago, the Raptors dug themselves an insurmountable hole after a tumultuous early-season schedule got the best of them. By the time the schedule eased up and their fortunes began to turn, it was too late. Now, as they navigate through a similarly challenging start to the campaign, they thrive to avoid making that same mistake.

"We want to make sure we're at sea level when the schedule does balance out and not be so far behind that we can't catch up," Casey said Saturday following an afternoon practice. "We want to make sure we're treading water and not get so far behind the eight ball while we're trying to find out who we are."

Fortunately for the Raptors, they're not the only ones trying to find their identity early in the season. Heading into Sunday's action, only four teams in the East (Indiana, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta) boasted records above .500, and at 4-7, Toronto finds itself in the thick of the Eastern Conference and just one game out of first in its division, where the Nets and Knicks are also struggling.

"The league hasn't gone anywhere and that's what I tell our players," said Casey. "We still want to have a sense a urgency of finding out who we are offensively and defensively and make sure we find out pretty quick."

DeMar DeRozan (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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