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Lewenberg: Raptors seek redemption at home to Warriors

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Josh Lewenberg
3/1/2014 6:25:34 PM
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TORONTO - If you've played or coached in the NBA long enough, you probably have a tried and tested method for shaking off unsettling losses.

A couple days removed from the Raptors' most recent defeat, a triple overtime loss to the Washington Wizards, Dwane Casey is still making notes, having reviewed the game tape two or three times since Thursday night.

DeMar DeRozan has also watched the tape, hoping to identify areas of weakness in his and the team's performance.

However, that form of reflection is not for everybody. Some prefer to look ahead, rather than dwell on the past.

"I didn't watch it," Kyle Lowry admitted. "No. We lost. I didn't watch that game."

The Raptors overcame a spotty showing on the boards, giving up 18 offensive rebounds, and in the trenches, allowing 80 points in the paint, giving themselves a couple of opportunities to steal a victory in what would eventually become the franchise's longest game. In the end, Toronto simply ran out of bullets. By the third overtime period, they were without Lowry, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson - all having fouled out - as well as Terrence Ross, who left the game with an ankle injury in the first half.

"It's definitely tough, just to watch it and understand how close we came to pulling it [out] but it happens," said DeRozan, who scored 34 points - his third 30-plus point outing in the last five games - in 57 minutes of action. "It's the NBA and you've got to learn from it."

For Jonas Valanciunas, who struggled in overtime after sitting out the entire fourth quarter, Thursday's loss was another learning experience, one Casey hopes his young centre won't take too personally.

"We all make mistakes," Casey said following practice Friday afternoon. "He made some mistakes down the stretch, he's got to learn from them, not get his head down [or] feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders [and] play basketball."

"He's 21-years-old, not really good looking but a nice looking guy," he joked. "Why be stressed about anything?"

"His role is to go in, have fun, learn, get better, improve and try to play the game the right way. If you make a mistake, okay, learn from it. Don't make the same mistake twice."

With a rare four-day break looming, the Raptors have an opportunity to redeem themselves when they host the Golden State Warriors Sunday. It's been nearly three full months since they last saw the Warriors but their 112-103 loss in Oakland on Dec. 3 is not one that can easily be forgotten.

"Me personally, I remember it," Lowry said of that game, in which the Raptors surrendered a 27-point lead, the largest collapse in franchise history. "At the end of the day, we're a different team, they're a different team so we're just going to go out there and play our game."

Just six days prior to the trade of Rudy Gay, Toronto led 88-70 after 36 minutes before the Warriors went off for a 42-point quarter. Since that night, the Raptors have gone 26-15 while solidifying themselves as one of the league's best fourth quarter teams, holding opponents to 21.9 points in the final frame, first in the NBA. The Raptors have lost only two games when leading going into the fourth quarter this season.

"It was tough, man," DeRozan said, looking back on that night. "I think that game really bothered us afterwards because we had them beat and before you know it, they started raining threes. It sucks to lose like that so we definitely understand that and I definitely think everyone remembers that."

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson accounted for 26 points, on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range, in the fourth, carrying the Warriors to victory. The Raptors are winless in seven games facing Golden State with Curry in the lineup, allowing 119.3 points in those contests. The all-star guard averages 27.3 points and 8.7 assists against Toronto, his highest marks against any opponent in his career.

"You have two of the best shooters in Golden State, probably in the league," DeRozan said of Curry and Thompson. "The way Steph can score the ball at an all-time high is definitely amazing and you've got a guy like Klay that can catch and shoot at will. It makes it tough so we've got to come out [Sunday] night and be aggressive on both ends, make it tough on them."

Averaging a combined 41.8 points per game, the Warriors duo of Curry and Thompson is the NBA's highest scoring backcourt, just ahead of Lowry and DeRozan, who average 39.6.

Lowry was a full participant in practice Saturday and insists he is good to go against the Warriors after coming down on his right ankle at the end of regulation Thursday. Ross was held out of practice as a precaution, though he did get some work in on the stationary bike, and is considered questionable for Sunday's contest.

The Raptors, who have won 12 of their last 16 at home, haven't lost back-to-back games at the Air Canada Centre since Dec. 1 and hope to avoid doing so against the red-hot Warriors. Golden State, in the middle of a season-long six game road trip, has won five of six. After being held to 83 points and losing to the Bulls by 20 on Wednesday, they scored a season-high 126, dismantling the Knicks by 23 Friday night.

"We stopped attacking the basket, settled for jump shots, we tried to play their game and they're better at it," Casey said of his team's collapse in Oakland. "[We] didn't do a good job of handling their pressure offensively. They made some tough shots, now we've got to go down, attack the paint, make them play defence [and] attack the rim if our jump shots are not falling."

Jonas Valanciunas (Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
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