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Raptors Can’t Overcome Turnovers In Sloppy Preseason Opener

Box Score | Ulmer's Take | Follow Raptors On: Twitter | Facebook
Video: Sonny's Big Block | Game In Six | Triano


October 6, 2009

LONDON (CP) - He's expected to be a favourite with Toronto Raptors fans this year, but it took just a couple of early hustle plays for Reggie Evans to endear himself to the crowd at the John Labatt Centre.

The bruising forward grabbed a couple of steals in the opening two minutes against his former team in the Philadelphia 76ers' 107-98 victory over Toronto on Tuesday, the pre-season opener for both squads.

Andrea Bargnani scored to 22 points to lead the Raptors, who trailed by as much as 23 points but made a spirited run late in the fourth quarter to cut Philly's lead to five points. Sonnie Weems had 10 points, while rookie DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli and Marcus Banks had nine apiece.

Louis Williams had 17 points to top the Sixers, while Andre Iguodala had 15 points and eight assists. Montreal's Samuel Dalembert added 10 points and six boards.

Evans' performance - albeit short-lived - was one highlight in a sloppy affair, prompting ``Reg-gie, Reg-gie'' from the crowd.

``It felt really good, but at the end of the day we have to get these fans a win,'' Evans. ``Just the first game, pre-season, a lot of new players. . . so it was cool. We saw some good signs and saw some bad signs, we just have to correct those bad signs.''

The former Sixer, acquired specifically for his grit in the off-season for sharp-shooter Jason Kapono, picked up his fourth foul late in the second quarter and had to take a seat, finishing with four steals to go with six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.

``He's a guy that's going to bring us energy, and when he left the game in the first quarter, that's when our intensity dropped,'' Raptors coach Jay Triano said. ``We've got to have guys that match that and rise up and pick things up when he leaves the game and play with the same intensity he does, otherwise some of our guys are going to get embarrassed with the way they have a teammate playing.''

Kapono finished with 12 points.

Bargnani appears poised for a strong start to his season after finishing out last year playing some of the best basketball of his career.

``It's still practice, it's still pre-season, we've got a lot of work to do, especially on defence,'' said Bargnani, who shot 9-for-14 from the field. ``We're doing a great job, but we only had a very short time to learn to play our new defensive system, so we've got to work a lot.''

Jose Calderon played just 16 minutes, all in the first half, finishing with seven points, three assists and four turnovers. Triano opted to give Calderon a rest in his first NBA action after a season plagued by injury. The Spaniard missed 14 games last season with a hamstring injury and played hurt for most of the games that he did appear in.

The game drew 7,213 fans to the arena that's normally home to the London Knights, but Toronto didn't give the pro-Raptors crowd a lot to cheer about in the predictably messy game that saw the Sixers lead for most of the night.

Toronto's two biggest stars didn't even make the trip to London. Captain Chris Bosh remains sidelined with a strained left hamstring, while Hedo Turkoglu is coming off a busy off-season playing for Turkey following a long season that took him to the NBA finals with Orlando.

``Realistically it's something we've thought about for the last week and something I've known was going to happen, so I'm not frustrated by it,'' Triano said on the absence of the two big men. ``Ideally, would we like to have them play? Yes. But I can't worry about that now.''

Swingman Antoine Wright (right knee injury) also didn't make the trip to London.

The remade Raptors roster has nine new faces this season, and the game marked their first in-game action against an NBA opponent.

They obviously have a lot to work on.

``The learning curve is obviously pretty steep for us,'' Triano said. ``We found out where we are anyway. Some guys are getting comfortable with each other, and some guys are getting used to playing again at a high speed, and we've got a lot of work to do.''

DeRozan had both good and not-so-good moments, but said he was thrilled to make his NBA debut against someone of Iguodala's calibre.

``I think it's great, just learning a lesson like that, going up against players like that,'' the rookie said. ``It just shows me how physical, how talented a lot of these players really are.''

The Raptors host the Sixers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday. They open the regular-season Oct. 28 at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bargnani scored seven points in the first quarter, but Philly led 29-28.

Williams scored 11 points in the second as the Sixers took control, leading 65-50 at halftime.

Bargnani had seven points in the third as the Raptors pulled within nine points, but the run was short-lived and Philly took an 85-72 advantage into the fourth.

Notes: The Raptors and Sixers played at the John Labatt Centre in 2004. ... The floor for the game was trucked in from Hamilton's Copps Coliseum. ... The Sixers were technically the ``home team'' at the neutral site, so Iguodala took the mic before the game to thank the crowd.