The declining Toronto Raptors hope the next six home games can turn the season around
TORONTO — The day after Precious Achiuwa returned from injury, he lamented a couple of fouls from Scottie Barnes.
Achiuwa had 11 points and three blocks in 12 energetic minutes in the match Toronto Raptors lost 122-114 in Indiana. It was his first game after missing his 24th game with a torn ankle ligament, and his return was one of the bright spots in Toronto’s difficult period.
But those alleys, he joked, definitely tested his fitness.
“The first one is good. The second one, he could have blamed it all on me,” Achiuwa said Tuesday. “Can’t let me jump out here like this. I just came back from more than 20 games.”
“I’m so tired,” he added of his first shift. “It was crazy. I was so tired I couldn’t even drink water. It felt like I was going to faint. After that, I started to feel better.”
Achiuwa’s return is not premature, as the Raptors are bogged down with just 3 wins in 10 games. They open a six-game home run on Wednesday when they host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, and are keen to see the same change they saw a year ago at this point.
The Raptors opened 2022 with a five-game winning streak, four of which were wins at Scotiabank Arena. Defender Fred VanVleet has scored 32 plus points in four home wins. The record proved to be a reversal of fortunes from last season – they opened January 15-17 and ended January 25-23.
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“Sure,” Pascal Siakam said of the importance of the upcoming homestay. “Every game is important. It felt like every game we were in at the time was like we wanted to turn the page, and this was a good opportunity, a great opportunity.
“I think that’s the thing about the league. You have a chance and there are games you play badly and the next day you have to come and play. Like, what would you do?
Monday’s loss sent the Raptors down to 16-21 and 12 in the Eastern Conference.
After the Bucks, the Raptors host the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets, twice and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks, Knicks and Blazers are all above 0.500.
“I think this is a perfect opportunity in front of our home audience,” Siakam said. “I just want us to continue to be together. Hopefully the atmosphere in the arena is great and we come in with a lot of energy as players. This is an important stage.”
Achiuwa, who has averaged career-high 8.3 points and 6.5 rebounds this season, was asked what he’s observed while benching through injury during Toronto. downfall.
“We have to be more locked in defense,” he said. “I think if we play defensively how do we know we can play defensively, it will be difficult to beat us. (Second) it’s just a few defensive blunders here and there. Those are the things that I saw during the time I was out.
“If we fix the little defensive mistakes we’re making, that’s really helpful. It will be really, really good.
Tips: Wounded guard Otto Porter Jr. Not expected to return any time soon. Porter hasn’t competed since dislocating his toe on November 14. When asked if he was making any progress, coach Nick Nurse said: “He hasn’t. He is not.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 3, 2023.
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