Rap­tors’ first task is hang­ing onto ball

Have com­mit­ted 59 turnovers in 3 games

SundayXtra - - SPORTS BASKETBALL - By Lori Ewing

BROOK­LYN, N.Y. — A whop­ping 59 turnovers in three post-sea­son games.

There’ve been times the Toronto Rap­tors’ play­off se­ries against the Brook­lyn Nets has re­sem­bled a kick-ball tour­na­ment, with balls bounc­ing wildly off feet.

The Nets lead the best- of-seven play­off se­ries 2-1 head­ing into to­day’s Game 4 at Bar­clays Cen­ter, and the Rap­tors know they des­per­ately need to clean up their act to avoid head­ing back to Toronto trail­ing 3-1.

“If we can get it down to 13, 12, some­where in that area we are happy with that,” said Rap­tors coach Dwane Casey. “Some of the no-look passes, passes where we think our team­mates are go­ing to be, are things we can cor­rect.

“You are not go­ing to turn some of our guys into Magic John­son overnight but we can make bet­ter de­ci­sions of things we con­trol in our turnovers.”

Give­aways have been a theme of all three games, and each time, the Rap­tors have come away vow­ing to do a bet­ter job of pro­tect­ing the ball. Yet the kick balls and the crazy passes con­tinue. They coughed it up 19 times in Game 1, 21 times in Game 2, and 19 times in Fri­day night’s Game 3, a 102-98 loss.

The Rap­tors prac­tised at Pace Univer­sity on Satur­day, just across the bridge from Brook­lyn. It was a long morn­ing of mak­ing ad­just­ments on both the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive end, said Casey, ahead of Game 4. The Rap­tors are look­ing for their first play­off vic­tory on the road since a win over Philadel­phia way back in 2001.

At least for part of the prac­tice, Casey ad­dressed turnovers. He said ag­gres­sion has some­thing to do with it — play­ers are get­ting bumped and giv­ing up the ball.

He spoke of work­ing on play­ers’ “dis­po­si­tions,” which goes for both their ag­gres­sion in hold­ing onto the ball, and play­ing with ag­gres­sion pe­riod. The Rap­tors were man­han­dled by the Nets for the bet­ter part of four quar­ters Fri­day, fi­nally fight­ing back late in the game to come within a point.

But dis­po­si­tion isn’t an easy thing to coach with just a day or two be­tween easy games.

“Well, you have to ap­peal to the guys’ pride, their ego and in­tel­li­gence and we have some in­tel­li­gent play­ers on this team,” the coach said. “Again, it’s play­off bas­ket­ball. If you can’t get a dis­po­si­tion in the right or­der at this time of year, this is what we play for.

“Our fran­chise hasn’t been there for a while so if we can’t get ex­cited now about be­ing tough, phys­i­cal and fight­ing through the screens, not com­plain­ing about it but fight­ing through the screens and not let­ting them hold you and get­ting to your spot, all those things are dis­po­si­tion plays.”

DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas have been Toronto’s best two play­ers this se­ries, but they’ve also turned the ball over more than any­one. Valan­ci­u­nas has turned it over 13 times, one more than DeRozan.

The Nets have turned the ball over 31 times com­bined over the three games, and the dis­crep­ancy in give­aways is the one glar­ing statistic in a se­ries that is other­wise so even. The Rap­tors have outscored the Nets by just a sin­gle point — 678- 677 — in the seven meet­ings be­tween these two teams this sea­son.

“Man we’ve just got to be strong with the ball,” said Rap­tors point guard Kyle Lowry. “They’re def­i­nitely phys­i­cal when we drive the lane but we’ve got to be a lit­tle bit stronger. It’s play­off time. We’ve got to be stronger with the ball when we’re driv­ing.”

Casey said the pre­vi­ous night that Lowry looked like he’d been through a “15-round bout,” and the gritty point guard looked sim­i­larly the worse for wear Satur­day morn­ing.

— The Cana­dian Press

FRANK GUNN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

The Rap­tors need a big ef­fort to­day from guard DeMar DeRozan.

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