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Evans, Johnson The Difference Against Suns

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Video: Game Highlights | Triano | Johnson | Evans | Jack | Kleiza | Weems
More Video: Kleiza To Weems | Johnson With The Finish | Weems On The Break
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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com
October 17, 2010

The Toronto Raptors cuffed Steve Nash, Hedo Turkoglu and the rest of the Phoenix Suns 121-100 Sunday and Raptors fans will find this news delightful for a bunch of reasons.  

For one thing, it squared the Raptors record at 3-3 to level off a training camp schedule that ends when the Raps open against the New York Knicks a week Wednesday. It also relegates Friday’s 117-112 loss to the Celtics to the dustbin of history. As if to prove that very fact we will write about the Boston game no more.

The 12,902 on hand booed Turkoglu, a spectacular underachiever last season often and early, thus continuing a history of vilification of former Raptors that would induce Americans to think we are a very, very vengeful people. In the hubbub, Steve Nash’s visit to Toronto was a little less newsy, even if Nash did his part with a team-high 16 points on six for eight shooting. He tossed in eight assists for good measure.

As far as the number goes, you won’t get better than the 23 points poured in by Linas Kleiza. Jarrett Jack scored 17 points. Sonny Weems fnished with 16, Andrea Bargnani hit for 15 points.

No, aside from a 13-point Phoenix lead the Raps had all but eroded by halftime, the compelling story rode on the shoulders of Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans.

Ponder these numbers. Johnson played 25 minutes, went eight-for-nine from the field and was never farther from the basket than butter is from corn. He had 17 points and seven of his 11 rebounds came under the other guy’s basket.

Evans was equally energetic. He banked seven points but prowled about the paint for 12 rebounds.

Those two were the story.

“I think both those guys came in got second-shot opportunities by getting offensive rebounds off the glass,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano.

“They had a lot of easy putbacks too. Amir’s line was pretty impressive. When he goes to the glass he is going to get rewarded. That was his best game so far.”

But while they are both expected to fight among the redwoods for possession, what happens when they come up with a rebound differs wildly. Johnson is encouraged to go back up. Evans, a player with a more limited offensive repertoire, brings the ball back out.

“That’s by design,” said Triano. “Reggie gives us extra possessions. That’s his style and that’s his role. He knows that. He fights for it, he dribbles the ball out and he gets us extra possessions.”

Evans says he has gotten the message and links it to advice he received before he began his career at the University of Iowa.

“My high school always told me ‘do as you are told.’ I would always say ‘by who?’ He said ‘by the coaching staff.’ It didn’t matter by the freshman coach or the junior varsity coach or the varsity coach. Me and Jay had a brief talk, real brief, straight to the point. I do what the coach says.”

Johnson and Evans were effective in the second half when the Raptors played turned to a smaller lineup.

“We both know to go hard to the boards,” said Johnson. “We both like body contact. It definitely helps out.”

The Raptors started Bargnani, Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Kleiza and Evans and from Triano’s disappointment at the poor start, he likely had that group on the floor for a good reason.

“I don’t know whether that’s personnel or just a slow start,” he said. “We’ve got to figure that out. We can’t afford to fall down like we did tonight and like we did against Boston.”

Meanwhile, it fell to Nash to put the best spin on the Turkoglu booing story.

“It wasn’t as bad as (when the two teams met) in Vancouver,” he said.

“Wherever you go some people like you and some people don’t,” Turkoglu said. “I wasn’t paying attention to that. I just tried to go out there and play my game and try to do my best. I didn’t get much love when I was here too.”