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Raptors look to bounce back from Philly meltdown

Toronto Raptors forward James Johnson has the ball slapped by Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Philadelphia.


Despite a brutal stretch of five games over the next six days, beginning Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey is not about to become a softie.

Of course, judging by Toronto's last two outings, the team has not given the rookie coach any reason to stop cracking the whip.

Casey launched the Raptors into their busy week Monday morning with a 30-minute video session culled from their brutal effort on Saturday night in Philadelphia, a 97-62 loss to the 76ers.

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After that, Casey marched his team onto the floor at the Air Canada Centre for a game-day shoot-around that lasted another hour or so.

That's the price the Raptors, 3-5 on the NBA season, are paying for back-to-back mediocre efforts that began with a 97-85 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Friday.

"It cannot happen again," Toronto point guard Jose Calderon stressed emphatically on Monday, referring to Saturday's meltdown against the 76ers where the team connected on just 31.8 per cent of their shots, their worst shooting performance in almost two years.

Monday's game against the Timberwolves is the first of back-to-back-to-back games the Raptors will have to endure.

Following the game the Raptors will fly out to Washington for a Tuesday night encounter against the Wizards before rushing home to play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Toronto will play the Indiana Pacers at home on Friday before concluding its busy week on Saturday in Chicago against the Bulls.

Casey said he was disappointed how the Raptors essentially packed it in against the 76ers over the second half, becoming lethargic on both ends of the court after their continued struggles on offence.

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"We've got to pull up our socks, put on our work boots and come back on the defensive end and stay in the game," Casey said.

Minnesota also enters Monday's game with a 3-5 record and will feature rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, who has created a lot of buzz throughout the NBA with his play so far this season.

Chosen fifth overall by the Timberwolves back in the 2009 draft, Rubio opted to continue to play professionally in his native Spain for the next two years before jumping to the NBA.

"Rubio is special," Casey said of the 21-year-old Spaniard, who has already recorded two double-doubles on the season and leads all NBA rookies in assists at 6.7 per game. "He gets to where he wants to go, excellent passer. He's developed his shooting which makes him a double threat.

"He's going to be a special player."

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