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LOS ANGELES - With sluggish starts costing his team two of their last three games, Dwane Casey has considered making a change to the lineup ahead of Friday nights contest against the Clippers. The Raptors have been outscored 88-66 in the opening quarter over a three-game span to begin the month of February. Their most recent loss, 109-101 in Sacramento on Wednesday, was eerily similar to Saturdays defeat at the hands of the Trail Blazers. After digging themselves an early hole on both nights, the Raptors were unable to close out late-game comeback bids, forcing Casey to question his first units disposition. "Every team has their cross to bear and ours is starting games," he said after practice Thursday afternoon. "Whether weve got to change the lineup to start the game or whatever, I dont know we have to see." "Thats been our problem and it just didnt start [in Sacramento Wednesday], its been going on for a while. Weve been able to dig out of it but you cant get hit like that and expect to bounce back that way every game, it just takes too much of a toll on your body." In many ways the Raptors have been defeating themselves. Over that three-game stretch they held opponents to 43 per cent shooting in the first quarter, an impressive mark, but the hustle stats tell a different story. Toronto was out-rebounded in the opening 12 minutes of each game and put both Portland and Sacramento on the line 12 times. "We addressed it, we talked about it," Casey said, citing his teams focus, toughness and attention to detail. If Casey does opt to shake up his starting lineup in Los Angles, even temporarily, the most likely casualty would be slumping California-native Amir Johnson. Johnson has been hampered by a sore right ankle after turning it late in last weeks win over Orlando. He has logged fewer than 20 minutes in just six games this season, yet three of those have come in the last four contests. The forward has been Torontos most reliable and valuable player over the last three years but its clear he hasnt been himself, even before his most recent injury. After averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds on 63 per cent shooting in December, Johnsons production dropped last month, scoring 9.5 points and grabbing 6.0 rebounds a night. His 47 per cent field goal shooting in January was his lowest in a full month since March of 2011. As a team the Raptors surrendered 11 points more than they scored with Johnson on the floor in the month. Johnson, who routinely tops the team in the plus/minus stat, was the only Raptor (minimum 50 minutes) that was a net-minus in January, per NBA.com/stats. Mired in a similar slump, and with the team struggling late in November, Johnson was pulled from the starting lineup in favour of Tyler Hansbrough (Johnson told the Toronto Sun that he had requested a move to the bench). Johnson would go on to play his best basketball of the season over the following nine games, averaging 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds on 68 per cent shooting, and getting his starting job back after three games when Hansbrough went down with an ankle injury. Poised to make a run at the playoffs, the Raptors need Johnson, a nine-year veteran, healthy and focused late in the season. Another temporary demotion could be in the best interest of both the Raptors and their best defensive player. Although Hansbrough could be a candidate to replace him should a change be made, without disrupting the chemistry of the second unit, he has fallen out of Caseys regular rotation since returning from injury. Patrick Patterson would seem to be the most logical choice. Often the first player of Torontos bench, Patterson has been consistently effective since coming over in the trade from Sacramento in December. The forward has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 20 games, averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 52 per cent from the field and connecting on 17 of his 35 attempts from three-point range over that stretch. The Raptors have outscored opponents by 132 points when hes been on the floor during that span. Johnny Damon Jersey . - Gary Kubiak is John Elways No. Masahiro Tanaka Jersey . He liked what he saw on Tuesday night. Not only did his team post a comeback 3-2 victory in a shootout over the Montreal Canadiens, but the rival Washington Capitals were beaten 5-1 in Buffalo. http://www.customyankeesjersey.com/ . Never caused problems. Never raised a ruckus. Never got sick or hurt while frolicking in the fields of Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. Custom Derek Jeter Jersey . The 19-year-old Swiss centre back will initially have to impress in Uniteds reserve side to earn a spot in the first team. Veseli says "Manchester United has a long history of younger players coming through and hopefully I can follow and do the same. Brooks Kriske Jersey . - The Toronto Blue Jays have optioned pitchers Kyle Drabek, Chad Jenkins and Sean Nolin to triple-A Buffalo.In his weekly column, Sky Sports Spanish football expert Guillem Balague reflects on another below-par Real Madrid performance as well as answering your questions on the futures of Isco, Zinedine Zidane and Aitor Karanka... Real Madrid are a team lacking ideas; they just look like an old team. Youve only got to look at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munichs performances this week to see the difference.Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and even clubs like Villarreal and Sevilla, have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve - Real Madrid dont. For Atleti, Antoine Griezmann has scored in each of their last four games and, as a team, they have scored nine goals in their last three outings. They appear to be peaking just at the right time.There is such positivity at Barcelona, at the moment, that they could afford to leave Luis Suarez on the bench against Getafe.Everyone adds to the collective and everyone is playing their best football, again at the right time. The same cannot be said for Real.Guillem answers YOUR questions...Isco to Arsenal. What are the chances? @rohaannairGUILLEM SAYS: Many people will say Isco is a typical Arsenal player. He is an elegant player who fails to fulfil his potential, doesnt score or assist enough and doesnt work hard enough without the ball. For me, he is not a player Arsenal need. That doesnt mean he wont go to the Emirates, the transfer market can serve up anything, I just feel he is a not a player for Arsenal. Real Madrids midfielder Isco (L) celebrates a goal with Cristiano Ronaldo Why is Isco struggling, Guillem? How do you rate him? @ahsannovGUILLEM SAYS: Quite simply, he is not good enough for Real Madrid. He is not consistent so he gets frustrated by being in and out of the team, and that turn affects his consistency. Its a vicious circle if you would like to use that analogy. He hasnt reached the level he should be at. He was perfect for clubs of Malaga, Sevilla or Villarreals stature, but not good enough for Real.When does Aitor Karanka start at Valencia? One unhappy BORO fan! @boromick67 Middlesbroughs promotion charge has faltered in recent weeks GUILLEM SAYS: Karanka is not going to Valencia. The story at Middlesbrough, I believe, is a story of misunderstanding. Everyone at Middlesbrough - the fans, the club, the players and Karanka himself - want him to continue. There will be a meeting this week in which the current situation will be clarified. Thoughts on the Suarez quotes? #AskGuillem @The_Rad_Ad_ Luis Suarez was rested in Barcelonas 6-0 thumping of Getafe GUILLEM SAYS: I assume youre referring to his comments about Liverpool, and that he still keeps an eye on his former clubs results? If that is right, I hope people arent implying that he could go back to Anfield. He was simply expressing his emotions for Liverpool, end of! Suarez back at Liverpool Luis Suarez made a surprise return to Liverpools Melwood training ground while on holiday. Theres talk Zinedine Zidane might not be Real Madrid manager next season, if so whos it likely to be? @MartyStrong88GUILLEM SAYS: Real Madrid want Zidane to been a manager/coach, but only if things go well this season.dddddddddddd. That goes back to my earlier point that they have no idea what they want to do. Zidane is not good enough for this level, he doesnt have the experience. Will he ever be? I dont think so, he is an old-fashioned coach that likes to deal with people rather than tactics. He doesnt belong with the elite. Real are aware that there isnt a clear candidate to replace him and they might allow him stay if he wins the Champions League. Incredible as it may sound, at this stage, that is only a might. Zinedine Zidanes future at Real Madrid could hinge on success in the Champions League Who do you think Real Madrid should buy first in order to improve squad depth? #AskGuillem @Sir_YokoGUILLEM SAYS: A manager! They need a manager that makes them work, perhaps Thomas Tuchel from Borussia Dortmund. I like him a lot! Real Madrid needed a late winner to beat Las Palmas to keep their faint title hopes alive Do you think Sevilla can get top four after their win at Villarreal? @07PavGUILLEM SAYS: Sevilla are the only team in La Liga not to have won an away game this season! Despite that, they have only lost four games on the road, drawing the other nine. If they start to improve their away form then, by all means, they can reach the top four. Unai Emery is burdened far too often by the tactics of the opposition, when playing away from home. Unai Emerys Sevilla moved to within four points of the top four with victory over Villarreal If he let his side play with the offensive aggression they show at home, they would certainly win more games on the road. If they change their dynamic, they could well finish on a high. Villarreal, who currently have their best squad ever, in my opinion, may have peaked early and Sevilla are well placed to take advantage of any bad days they have. It will be a fascinating fight for Champions League qualification. Also See: Real close gap on Atletico Zidane concerned by Real form Sevilla close gap Guillem Balague ' ' '
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