Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors came away with the 121-100 victory against the Phoenix Suns. After their lackluster performance against Boston on Friday night, the team fought back against an early 13-point lead for the Suns thanks to the energy and effort that was missing against the Celtics and put on an impressive offensive display with six players reaching double-figures.
In addition to all of the points they put on the scoreboard, the Raptors also crashed the boards, winning the battle on the glass, 57-38 (24 offensive) as Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans combined for 24 points and 23 rebounds and Linas Kleiza led the way with 23 points and eight boards of his own.
Some quick quotes from postgame are below. I will be back with more thoughts, notes and observations from the game later.
- On the play of Johnson and Evans: “They did a tremendous job for us on the interior tonight. Not only rebounding, but defensively talking on pick and rolls which is not an easy job. Those guys did a great job.”
- On the reception Hedo Turkoglu received from the fans: “It was expected. We knew after what happened in Vancouver…he got an introduction there and he still gets to come here on more time. Lucky for him, I guess.”
- On Turkoglu laughing the boos off: “Turk is a very ahh…always has his sense of humor going so I’m sure he’s not going to let it grasp onto him too much. He’s just going to shrug it off, smile a little bit and go about his business.”
- On feeling more comfortable on the court with this team: “You’ve gotta wait for games to start. Start playing and then we’ll see. I believe, as I said before, talk is cheap. You’ve gotta go out there and do it. We’ve got a young team. We’re going to need to go out there every game and play hard. That’s going to be our key. That’s going to be what we’ve got to do, play hard and then we’ll have a chance to be in the ball game, to win the ball game. If we just go out there and try to outshoot people, we’re going to be in trouble.”
- Knowing how to score: “I’ve been a scorer my whole life since I was a little kid on the teams I’ve played. I kinda have maybe a little knack of where to be and what to do. It’s just playing a lot and being on a lot of teams.”
- On the passion for basketball in Lithuania: “When you come from my country, basketball is very big. It’s like hockey here maybe times 10.” That’s how we appreciate basketball back home. Growing up that’s what I used to do all of the time, that’s who I used to look up to, that’s who I wanted to be. My dream was never at first to play in the NBA, my dream was to play for my national team, represent my country. That’s where my appreciation for basketball comes from as a little kid.”
- On seeing Grant Hill racing up and down the court at 38 years-old: “That’s not crazy, that’s motivation. That’s not crazy at all. It’s motivation. I’m like, ‘What are you doing, so I can get to that?’ Grant, Juwan Howard. I asked Juwan Howard, ‘What do you do?’ That’s motivation. It ain’t like ‘What are you doing out here?’ because you can see when guys are old and you’re like, ‘What the hell are you guys doing?’ but Grant, he’s running up and down no problem. He’s running like he’s 25 years old. Especially with that injury? That’s motivation. He’s motivating.”
- On how much easier it is to run the floor now that he’s slimmed down: “Even though I’m lighter I had to make sure I stayed strong so nobody could push me around. It felt good to be able to get up and down, just being in good shape, definitely plus. It’s good from a mental standpoint. Your mind healthy, body healthy, knowing that you’re in good shape. Losing weight, it turned into more lean…it felt good. It’s definitely, definitely different.”
- On playing with Amir: “We were just hooping. Talking to each other and stuff like that. Making sure we were in the right spots defensively. It felt good to play with him.”
- On bringing the ball out after getting offensive rebounds: “My high school coach always told me, ‘Do what you’re told,’ and I’d always say, ‘By who,’ and he’d say, “Your coaching staff”. That never mattered if that was the freshman coach, JV coach or the varsity coach. Me and Jay had a little talk, a brief talk, just real quick, straight and to the point. I do what the coach says, that’s who puts me in and out of the games.”
- The key for this team: “We’ve gotta keep it within the guidelines of the direction we want to go as a unit. Stay within the guidelines, coach got us going. As long as we stay within that and leave it out on the court, good things can happen.”
- On looking happy during the game: “I was just laughing because Turkoglu was messing with me on the free throw line and stuff like that. That’s why I was smiling.”
- On conversing with Suns assistant coach, Dan Majerle during a timeout: “I asked him if he still got it and he was like, ‘Hell yeah’. It’s always good to see some of the peers you grew up watching. I know it feels good for them to know that we still acknowledge them. That’s just paying homage. You’ve always got to pay homage to the guys that played before you and had a great career in this league.”
- Importance of the third quarter where the Raptors outscored the Suns, 39-24: “That third quarter was a big challenge for us. Even in the past year, the third was like crucial for us. It was good that we got off to a good start from a mental standpoint. That was the main thing. Knowing we stayed aggressive offensively and defensively. It was just good knowing we was ready to roll in that third quarter.
- The energy in today’s game: “Our guys had a lot more energy. I thought midway through the first half we found something and the guys picked it up a little bit and started pressuring a little bit more. At the beginning of the game they made a bunch of shots early on, where we got a little bit discouraged, and we can’t do that. We fought through it today which we didn’t do the other night so I was pleased with that and I thought our energy from that point on was very good. We got down 13 at one point and guys fought back, and we did it with good defence. It had very little to do with our offence.”
- On the play of Evans and Johnson: “I think that both of those guys came in and got us second shot opportunities by getting offensive rebounds and cleaning up the glass and had a lot of easy put backs. Amir’s line is pretty impressive when you look at the fact that he was 8-for-9, but it’s just put backs right there. He goes to the glass and he’s going to be rewarded for that. That’s the type of thing we need and that’s his best game so far. Reggie earns us extra possessions. That’s his job and his role. He knows that and he fights for it. He dribbles the ball out and gives it to one of his teammates. If he’s got a layup, he’ll take it, but for the post part his job is to get us extra possessions and bring the ball back out.”