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The Globe and Mail

Win without Bargnani an encouraging sign for Raptors

Toronto Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless (5) is fouled by New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow (22) as he tries to shoot in the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Newark, New Jersey, January 29, 2012.


The Toronto Raptors managed to win for the first time this season in New Jersey against the Nets on Sunday without Andrea Bargnani in the starting lineup.

They were 0-7 without the 7-foot presence of their leading scorer and 6-7 in games that he started.

And with the big Italian out indefinitely after re-injuring his left calf muscle in last week's road game in Utah, it will be incumbent for Toronto to continue to find ways to be successful during his absence.

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New Jersey, where Toronto excelled with a smaller lineup during a 94-73 win, was a good start.

Toronto head coach Dwane Casey hopes the momentum from that victory will carry into Tuesday night when they play the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre.

"As I told the team, we've got to perform with or without Andrea," Casey said Tuesday morning following team shootaround at the Air Canada Centre "He's day-to-day, we don't know when he's coming back. So we've got to go out and perform. We've got to come out with a sense of urgency and play together. And I thought that's what we did the other night in New Jersey."

Adept ball handling was the key to the success of the new lineup against the Nets, which featured DeMar DeRozan sliding from guard up to the wing position and Jerryd Bayless getting the start in the backcourt beside point guard Jose Calderon.

Amir Johnson started at centre with James Johnson at the four. It is anticipated the same starting five will take to the floor on Tuesday to try to contain the Hawks.

A smaller lineup might prove beneficial against a team like Atlanta, who rank second in the league with a 40.4 per cent success rate firing from three-point territory with three players - Marvin Williams, Jeff Teague and Willie Green - all ranked in the top 10 in percentage.

"Also too, the pace," Casey said. "We want to keep the pace up, we want to run with the basketball. Atlanta's a very good defensive team in the half-court setting and sometimes you can outrun them getting to the other end.

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"But once you get in a half-court game, their length and athleticism comes into play."

While Bargnani is out for what the team is describing as an "indefinite" period, Casey is also uncertain about the status of guard Leandro Barbosa, who sat out the New Jersey game with a sore ankle.

Barbosa took part in shootaround but Casey said he won't know until game time if he'll be able to play or not against the Hawks.

For the time being it appears that Casey will continue to try to get the most with a smaller lineup.

James Johnson, who is settling in quite nicely as the starting power forward in Bargnani's absence, said the team got a big shot of confidence winning in New Jersey without their full lineup.

"But no one's going to feel sorry for us," said Johnson, who is averaging 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in seven games as a starter. "We've got to come out and play with the guys that we have. We're all capable of playing he game and we're all capable of playing hard."

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