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Can Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Adjust For Game Five

The Toronto Raptors All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan haven’t shot the ball well thru four games in their first round match with the Pacers, but center Jonas Valanciunas has been there to clean up the mess. At least he was until Game Four when he couldn’t seem to find the rebounds. The Pacers stepped up their play on the boards and heading into Game Five, it’ll be up to Valanciunas to adjust.

“We all got to prepare for Tuesday,” Valanciunas said. “We got to lock in. We got to learn from our mistakes. We got to come out with energy from the start of the game.”

The only thing that kept Valanciunas off the glass in Game One was a series of cheap fouls that limited him to just 21.3 minutes of playing time before he was fouled out. The big center set franchise records with 11 offensive rebounds and 19 total boards, breaking his own record of 18 total rebounds he grabbed in his first ever playoff game versus the Nets two years ago.

Valanciunas took down over half of the available offensive rebounds while he was on the court in the playoff opener as Toronto dominated Indiana on the glass 52-38 but let the game slip away in the fourth quarter.

Game Two was more of the same from the Raptors big center as he took down 15 total boards, 5 offensive, helping Toronto to a 44-33 advantage on the glass in the win.

Then in Game Three Valanciunas had 14 rebounds, 4 offensive, to become the first player in team history to record 14+ rebounds in three consecutive playoff games and just the fourth NBA player in the last five years to accomplish this. Toronto maintaining their edge on the glass 45-38 in the third game and taking a 2-1 series lead.

The Raptors starting guards still weren’t shooting the ball well in Game Four and Valanciunas wasn’t grabbing the rebounds as the Pacers stepped up their play and left Toronto in their collective dust. Valanciunas had just 2 offensive boards and 6 rebounds in total as the Pacers led on the glass 43-40 and tied the series at two games apiece.

Without their usual scoring punch from Lowry and DeRozan, this team has almost no chance if they can’t continue to dominate on the glass.

Pacers All-Star Paul George had been complaining his guys weren’t being physical enough with Valanciunas and even took things into his own hands causing a minor incident with the Raptors center in Game Four.

“I didn’t do anything,” Valanciunas explained. “I wasn’t trying to hit him. It was an in-game situation. It happens trying to be physical in the low post.”

Make no mistake, that incident was no accident. George and the rest of the Pacers were trying to get into Valanciunas’ space and get him off his game and it worked.

“They had the energy from the start,” Valanciunas said. “They were running. They were pushing. We were not ready.”

Valanciunas had a similar start on the glass in his first ever NBA playoff series against the Nets two years ago when he had double-digit rebounds in his first three games but couldn’t do it again over the final four games of that series. The Nets, like this year’s Pacers, weren’t known for their rebounding either, but that veteran team adjusted and Valanciunas couldn’t come up with a response.

It should be different this time. This is Valanciunas third trip to the postseason. He’s been pushed around before and he should know how to respond.

“I’m just going out there and battling,” Valanciunas said. “Nobody is going to take that away from me. I am going to battle for every single ball.”

The Raptors center has been a top 10 rebounder in the NBA this season and he has a significant size advantage over the Pacers big men. Adjusting to their quicker and more aggressive play in the paint is something he should be ready and able to do.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





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