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Toronto Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu (C) drives to the basket against Houston Rockets defenders Kyle Lowry (L) and Shane Battier (R) during the first half of their pre-season NBA basketball game in Toronto October 15, 2009.REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)
Toronto Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu (C) drives to the basket against Houston Rockets defenders Kyle Lowry (L) and Shane Battier (R) during the first half of their pre-season NBA basketball game in Toronto October 15, 2009.REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (MIKE CASSESE)

Raptors to work out the kinks Add to ...

As a finished product, there's a way to go: The house is framed and the drywall is up, but the finishing touches are weeks away and the budget is spent.

Still, there are signs of a house worth living in coming together, even as the Raptors lost 124-112 to the Houston Rockets at the Air Canada Centre last night, dropping their preseason record to 2-4.

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How it all ends up will hinge largely on the efforts of Hedo Turkoglu, the $53-million (U.S.) free-agent signing who made this home debut and just his second appearance as a Raptor.

However, last night's performance was not exactly compelling. Having sat out the first two weeks of training camp to recover from a heavy off-season with the Turkish national team, Turkoglu was obviously rusty, though he finished with nine points and five assists in 22 minutes of court time.

On his first touch, he worked a pick-and-roll with Andrea Bargnani but threw the ball behind the cutting centre for a turnover. Next time, he corralled a long defensive rebound and jump-started the break - something Raptors head coach Jay Triano wants him to do in order to increase the club's tempo - but a pull-up jumper in transition wasn't close.

He took a couple of his patented quicker-than-he-looks drives to the basket but failed to finish either of them.

He was the first of the starting five that Triano brought to the bench in the first quarter with the Raptors trailing 21-18.

Defensively it wasn't a great turn either: Three times the Rockets' noted three-point specialist Shane Battier set up in the corner and three times Turkoglu, who was covering him, failed to find him fast enough, leading to triples on each occasion for Houston.

But even Triano has acknowledged that at this stage, with two weeks still to go before the regular season starts, the 6-foot-9 small forward is getting minutes as a practical matter rather than on merit.

"We just need to get those guys to play as many minutes as possible [and]push it a little bit beyond that," Triano said.

Bargnani led the Raptors, delivering 16 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. Battier led all scorers with 26 points.

Triano gave his key cogs some more playing time at the end of the half and the beginning of the third quarter and got a better taste of what might lay in store. Turkoglu drove the lane again but this time converted. He drained a deep three-pointer to end the shot-clock and a tough step-back jumper later on.

But his best moments came early in the third quarter when, ball in hand, he repeatedly worked his shoulders past his man, causing the defence to move and threaded passes to open teammates cross-court.

"He's fit in well, he was obviously paying attention when he was sitting on the sidelines because he knows the rotations and what he's supposed to be doing on the defensive end of the floor," Triano said of Turkoglu. "And offensively he just has a knack for finding guys."

 

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