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BeitragVerfasst: 14.03.2018, 09:03 
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TORONTO - Amir Johnson has never been one to sulk over playing time. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Johnson has always accepted his role in stride, part of whats made him the Raptors unsung hero for the better part of the last three seasons. His body language spoke louder than words on Sunday, both before and after his teams 112-98 loss to the Nuggets, their third straight defeat at home. An hour before tip-off a subdued Johnson sat alone in front of his locker. Playing a racing game on his phone - with the volume turned up - he knew what everyone else would find out 50 minutes later. For the first time since Mar. 23, a span of 27 games, Johnson would come off the bench with Tyler Hansbrough replacing him in the Raptors starting five. Dwane Casey had hinted a lineup change could be on its way after practice the day prior but the Raptors coach kept his cards close to his vest during his pre-game availability, with the Nuggets withholding the status of starter Kenneth Faried. Following a couple slow starts in back-to-back defeats at home, the shakeup was not a surprise. "Weve been talking about it, a few days back," Johnson said, despondent after the game. A man of few words. While Johnson was held scoreless in 14 uninspiring minutes as a reserve - an uncharacteristic minus-16 on the afternoon - the change seemed to spark his team out of the gate. Along with Jonas Valanciunas, Hansbrough set the tone for the Raptors, who took an early 15-point lead thanks in large part to Torontos energy and physical work on the boards. However, that lead shrunk in a hurry as both teams went to their second units. The Nuggets - a team assembled, at least in part by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri - dominated the final 36 minutes with their superior depth, exploiting the deficiencies in Torontos shallow roster. "Masai did too good of a job of putting that group together," Casey joked before the game. The Nuggets and their new coach Brian Shaw went 10 players deep, six of them scoring in double figures, including four off the bench. "Our bench has got to give us something," Casey maintained after Denvers subs scored 72 points, an opponent record against the Raptors. "Our (starters) cant play for 48 (minutes), so weve got to get production from the bench." "The guys coming in have got to develop a toughness, a resilience of getting stops and it starts on the defensive end. Thats where our problems started in the second half. They shot well but we didnt make them feel us and thats the difference." As a team, the Nuggets shot 65 per cent in the second half and their bench went 17-for-23 from the field. Johnson - now a member of the Raptors second unit that managed just 16 points on Sunday - has not been himself this season, to his own admission. "No, Ive been on and off," he responded, asked if his early-season play has met his standards. "I mean thats why we made the change in the lineup," Casey said in agreement. "Just to give us some energy, give (Johnson) a chance to recharge a little bit, refresh a little bit, refocus a little bit." Even after Sundays game, Johnson is a plus-20 this season - the teams second best mark - shooting 54 per cent from the field, tops on the Raptors. Still, his effort and consequently his impact has been inconsistent following a career season last year. At times Casey has questioned the forwards focus. "Everybodys been through some rough times," said Rudy Gay, who had a team-high 23 points on 10-of-23 shooting in the loss. "Ive been through it… and hes going through it now." "Everybodys going to go through it at some point in their career and this is the time hes been going through it. But I have all confidence in Amir. Hes going to be great, hes going to be the same Amir we know he can be." Frustration boiling over The Raptors have now dropped three straight and five of their last six games at home, prompting a sensible question; is frustration beginning to get the best of them? "It should hurt," Casey insisted. "But the teams that we played against, if you looked at the schedule before the season started, how many of them would we have been favoured (in)? But thats no excuse because we put ourselves in a position (to win) in each of these games and even in this one in the first half. I dont see frustration." DeMar DeRozan didnt mince words, expressing his frustration after the loss. "Me personally, Im frustrated period," he exclaimed after scoring 17 points in defeat. "Just losing, I mean I hate it, I hate it with a passion." "I mean were right there. Were the ones doing it. Nobodys making us miss our coverages or nothing like that. Its on us. We show it in spurts, weve just got to be more consistent with it." Rare third-quarter touches for Valanciunas Coming into Sundays contest, Jonas Valanciunas had scored 71 points on 57 shots in first quarters this season, tallying just 60 points on 58 shots in the other three quarters combined. The sophomore was utilized more consistently against a smaller Denver team and he responded with one of his better performances of the campaign. "I thought he had a (good) matchup with those guys so we made it a focal point of getting him the ball in the paint," Casey said of Valanciunas, who had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. "He did an excellent job of getting to where he wanted to go." Valanciunas had four points on seven shots in the first frame, a quarter the Raptors won, also taking seven shots and scoring eight in the third, their next best quarter. As Toronto got steamrolled in the fourth, Valanciunas attempted just one field goal in over nine minutes. If the Raptors hope to diversify their offence, which has largely been centred on Gay and DeRozan, they must find ways to incorporate their centre more consistently, a task thats easier said than done given the teams personnel and the sophomores continued development on both ends of the floor. Up next After winning one of four games during their season-long home stand, the Raptors travel west next week. Their first stop is in Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors. Kendell Beckwith Jersey . - Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has nothing but good problems right now. J. R. Sweezy Jersey . -- Shanshan Feng was alone in her opinion about the pin positions in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. http://www.authenticbuccaneersstoreonli ... ns-Jersey/. - Nikita Jevpalovs scored 6:22 into the second overtime as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada edged the visiting Rimouski Oceanic 2-1 on Tuesday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff action. Cameron Brate Jersey . In five games last month, Billings led all scorers with 11 goals, 27 assists and 38 points as the Rock posted a 2-3 record. Davonte Lambert Jersey .This one was bigger than most.Ben Roethlisberger and LeVeon Bell came up big in a game that Pittsburgh had to win Sunday, leading the Steelers to a 42-21 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals that left the AFC North race wide open. DENVER -- David Lees season came to a painful end the last time he played in Denver. He put that memory to rest in his return. Lee had 28 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double, leading the Golden State Warriors past the Denver Nuggets 89-81 on Monday night. Stephen Curry, battling foul trouble much of the night, added 14 points in the first meeting between the teams since the Warriors, as the sixth seed, ousted third-seeded Denver 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs last spring. Lee tore his right hip flexor in the fourth quarter of the first playoff game, missing the rest of the Warriors post-season run. "The last time I played in this building wasnt the greatest result," Lee said. "I got injured, so I wanted to come out tonight, put that behind me and attack the basket early, get any thoughts of that kind of stuff out of the way. I had some success early and I just tried to be consistent throughout the game." Klay Thompson scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, helping Golden State overcome a fourth-quarter deficit for the fourth time this season and sending the Nuggets to their season-high fourth consecutive loss. The Warriors also got a strong game from Andre Iguodala, a former Nugget who hit a key 3-pointer late in the game and finished with 12 points while shrugging off the constant boos from the crowd. "It wasnt that bad," he said. "Its just our day and age in sports. Theres so many transactions, and fans are so into it now with the media, being so close to the game, you see it a lot more." For all the noise and attention over his return, it was the game that Lee put together in his first game back in Denver that made the difference for the Warriors, Iguodala said. "He went to work for us early to get us our lead and when we hit a little bit of a drought, we went back to him and he kind of got us out of it," Iguodala said. "Hes been doing a great job of wracking up those double doubles and being a go-to guy." Ty Lawson had 16 points to lead Denver, which was outscored 25-15 in the final period. Andre Miller and Timofey Mozgov had 14 poiints apiece.dddddddddddd "We didnt have a good game," Miller said. "We havent had a good month. We need better practices. We need to get better when we come back from Christmas. It is always frustrating when you are struggling." Mozgov also had 11 rebounds while starting in place of injured of Kenneth Faried, who was held out of the game to rest a sprained ankle. The Nuggets used a 10-run, capped by successive 3-pointers by Lawson and Wilson Chandler to go in front 55-52 midway through the third quarter for their first lead of the game. Nate Robinsons stepback jumper gave Denver a 64-62 lead going into the fourth quarter, and the game remained tight throughout the period. After Miller made one of two free throws pulling the Nuggets to within 80-78, Iguodala, a former Nugget, drained a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a five-point edge with 3:19 remaining. Miller made a jumper for Denver with 2:24 left and the teams traded turnovers before Chandlers attempt at a game-tying 3 with 42 seconds left to play hit the rim and bounced away. The Warriors responded with a turnaround jumper by Thompson to help seal the win with 22.6 seconds remaining. "I dont think we are playing with the confidence and the sense of urgency it takes to win," Miller said. "We have to figure out the way to get our confidence back and share the ball a little better." The Warriors led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter but settled for a 47-43 halftime lead, getting consecutive baskets by Lee in the last minute of the second period after the Nuggets evened the score on a driving dunk by Mozgov. Golden State had a 30-point first quarter but had barely half that in the second, when the Warriors were held to 17 points. It was their lowest scoring second quarter since being held to 13 against San Antonio on Nov. 8. NOTES: Mozgov has three double doubles this season. ... The Warriors missed their first eight free throws of the game before Lee connected on a pair with 1:09 left in the third quarter. ... Andrew Bogut had 11 rebounds to go with his four points. It was his ninth straight game with double digit rebounds. 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