NBA

Lewenberg: New-look Raptors block out trade noise in win

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Josh Lewenberg
12/14/2013 1:10:28 AM
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TORONTO - Kyle Lowry was the first player on the floor, shooting around before the game.

It was just after 4:00pm, three full hours ahead of tip-off at the Air Canada Centre.

Lowry has been the subject of trade speculation for the better part of two days but the Raptors point guard, who shrugged off the rumours Friday morning, continued to lead his current team, a team that looked unrecognizable in a wire-to-wire win over the road-weary 76ers.

"He was a leader out there on the floor and that's what we need from him, that leadership," Casey said of Lowry, who has now led Toronto in assists in 13 straight games. "He didn't get frustrated because he couldn't get some shots to go down. He still got the ball where it needed to go and that was huge."

With his name linked to multiple trade reports, Lowry faced the rumours head-on when he met with the media Friday morning. Instead of sulking or worrying about where he might end up, Lowry smiled, cracked a few jokes and promised to go about his business here until he's told otherwise.

In what may have been his last home game as a member of the Raptors, Lowry recorded a season-high 11 assists, committing just one turnover despite shooting just 2-of-9 from the floor.

Once again Lowry set the tone and his teammates - three of them making their Raptors debut - followed his lead. Three nights after totalling 23 assists in a loss to the Spurs, the Raptors continued to play a team game in the aftermath of Monday's Rudy Gay trade.

DeMar DeRozan - also scoring 27 points - added six assists, including five in a dominant first quarter. His first three set up Terrence Ross, who had a breakout performance scoring a season-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

"That's the way we've got to play," Casey said of Toronto's ball movement. "Because we're not going to beat anyone with stellar one-on-one play each and every night. We've got to help each other with the screen and trust the pass."

Averaging just 18 assists per contest this season, the Raptors have totalled 66 dimes in three games since Gay was traded. They opened the evening with 12 assists on 14 made field goals, outscoring Philadelphia 36-21 in the first quarter and would later seal the game on a play that embodied this team's new offence.

With just under two minutes remaining, the scrappy 76ers down two, DeRozan caught the ball off a screen on a pass from Lowry. Once the double came, DeRozan swung it back to Lowry who hit Ross in the corner for a momentum shifting three-pointer.

Amir Johnson scored seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, sending the 76ers away with their 10th straight loss on the road.

In their Raptor debuts, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez were the first three players off Toronto's bench.

With all three on the floor at the same time to begin the second quarter, Philadelphia ripped off a 20-7 run, cutting Toronto's lead to two. The learning curve was apparent.

"They're learning," Casey acknowledged. "They're learning the system, we're kind of learning to play with each other."

"I like what I saw," he said. "Going forward I think they are going to mix in quite well."

Patterson shot just 1-of-5, scoring five points in 18 minutes while Salmons scored three in just under 20 minutes of action. Vasquez was the most impressive of the three but not in the way he would have hoped.

"Tonight I did not have that many assists," said the pass-first Vasquez, who recorded just two but hit five of his seven shots for 12 points in 17 minutes. "The thing that stood out for me was that we were moving the ball without me in the game. We were passing and getting shots and that is fun to watch."

"If we keep doing what we did tonight we are going to be really hard to guard and we will win a lot of games."

For the first time all season, Casey could comfortably rest Lowry without fearing the significant drop-off that would inevitably ensue at the point guard position. With Lowry on the block, Vasquez's role figures to expand.

Up next

The Raptors travel to Chicago to face the Bulls (9-12) in the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday. Chicago had lost five of six games before defeating the Bucks 91-90 in Milwaukee Friday night.

The fourth Raptors newcomer, Chuck Hayes, will not be available to play or practice until he completes routine baseline cardiac tests at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday.

Kyle Lowry and Evan Turner (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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