Raptors centre thankful his teammates kept them alive long enough for return - InfoNews

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Raptors centre thankful his teammates kept them alive long enough for return

Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas prepares to shoot at practice in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Valanciunas is thankful his teammates have given him another chance to play in the post-season.The Toronto Raptors centre is back on the active roster after spraining his ankle in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal versus Miami. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
May 25, 2016 - 5:59 PM

CLEVELAND - Jonas Valanciunas is thankful his teammates have given him another chance to play in the post-season.

The Toronto Raptors centre played for the first time Wednesday night after spraining his ankle in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal versus Miami.

The Lithuanian centre checked in with 6:05 to play in the first quarter, and the Raptors trailing 16-7, and scored two quick baskets at Quicken Loans Arena.

After the Raptors knocked off Miami in seven games, they evened their best-of-seven conference final series against Cleveland at two wins apiece — all but guaranteeing a Valanciunas return.

"It was tough (to sit out), but I was happy with how they were playing," Valanciunas said at Wednesday morning's shootaround ahead of Game 5. "They gave me a chance to come back and be part of that. So I think that was a great scenario for me, being able to come back and join them."

Valanciunas was made active for Monday's Game 4, but didn't play in the 105-99 win, as coach Dwane Casey figured out how to work him back into the rotation.

"I know he's our starting centre, but it's tough to put him out there if they're playing Channing Frye big minutes at (centre)," Casey said. "We just have to make sure that he has a matchup and he's not out there chasing three-point shooters all around the perimeter.

"He's going to be valuable for us because he is an excellent passer and can make plays from the top of the key."

The 24-year-old Valanciunas said he's "close" to 100 per cent.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "Percentage-wise, my ankle doesn't say a percentage. I'm just ready to go."

Valanciunas is averaging 15 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 10 games in the post-season.

The 24-year-old from Lithuania praised Bismack Biyombo for coming up big in his absence. Biyombo moved to the starting lineup, and grabbed 26 rebounds in Saturday's Game 3 win — a franchise record for the post-season.

"He was great," Valanciunas said. "He was great on the defensive end, he was protecting the rim, getting those rebounds, and protecting the paint, being an anchor on the defence. That's what we needed, that's what he did."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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