NBA: Valanciunas shines in Raptors win over Pistons

Toronto, Jan 9 (IANS) Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas recorded 16 points and 11 rebounds in the team’s 112-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league.

The strong effort against the Pistons was the Lithuanian’s team-leading 11th double-double of the season.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was proud of Valanciunas’ improvements since entering the NBA last season but said he has not reached his potential.
“He’s learning, he’s still growing,” said Casey after the victory. “This (the NBA) is a man’s league.”
After the game against the Pistons, Valanciunas averaged 10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds in 29 minutes of action, an improvement from the 8.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 24 minutes from his rookie season.
When asked on the differences between the two seasons, the 21-year-old center credited respect from the officials and his ability to stay on the court longer as factors for his success.
“That’s the biggest thing for me, to stay on the court,” said Valanciunas. “I feel more respect from the referees. I’m just trying to play hard. I’m trying to give 100% on the court.”
The Lithuanian believes respect from the officials is a product of the team’s recent winning ways.
“When you’re winning, you’re getting more respect because you are winning. We just need to win as much as we can to get that respect,” said Valanciunas.
Since the trade of Rudy Gay Dec 10, Toronto has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. With an 11-5 record, Toronto has maintained their lead in the Atlantic division and appears destined for the playoffs.
Valanciunas has taken advantage of extra playing time since the trade, averaging 12.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and averaging 31 minutes.
The Raptors center is very positive about the team’s direction and would consider making the playoffs a good season.
“Our goal is playoffs,” said Valanciunas. “We’re playing like a team now. We’re sharing the ball. We’re helping each other on the defensive end. We’ve become a team.”