Wednesday saw the return of Raptors forward Linas Kleiza to the lineup after nearly a year away from game action following microfracture knee surgery and the versatile forward provided a big boost off the bench with 10 points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
“I feel good, it’s fun to be back,” said Kleiza post-game. “Of course the game didn’t end the way anybody wanted but for me personally, after a year off, it feels good to be back.
“I’ve got a lot of people to thank and this is just the beginning, but it’s a good first step.”
His energy was evident when he was on the floor and no more so than on the sequence below in the second quarter. Kleiza grabs a defensive rebound, outlets to start a fast break, sprints upcourt(directly in front of us working courtside), takes a pass in stride and finishes with his offhand. No issues with the knee and no rust for Kleiza who added that playing in a game “is like an easy practice for me in comparing to what I’ve been doing off the court.”
His head coach was impressed with what he saw.
“He gave us a lift in the first half, he came in in the second half and gave us a lift,” said Dwane Casey post-game. “He had no minutes restrictions, he just did an excellent job at the three and the four. I was really excited to see that, but again, we can’t expect a lot out of him, too soon, too quick.”
Kleiza rounding into form could provide some much-needed scoring punch for the Raptors, who continue to receive some good defensive play from Rasual Butler and James Johnson at the small forward spot, but very little production offensively.
He also played more in the post as a four in the second half, something Casey may need to do more if Andrea Bargnani is out for any extended period of time.
Top 10 #RTZ tweets: Kings @ Raptors – Linas Kleiza Edition
Kleiza was also caught the eye of many taking part in our in-game twitter chat. Here’s more of what fans were talking about, courtesy of Natasha Alibhai (@rtzfans)
@jamie_maw Offensive flow, where did ya go?
@girlfrmmars Kleiza with a rebound and draws the foul! Looking amazing. Welcome back, Kleiza!
@Arab_Naji Raps are looking a lot better with Kleiza back, can’t wait for Bayless to be back then we will have great depth on the team
@jaysatur Amir hits that three, draaaags his hand along the floor on the way back upcourt… smooth.
@_Up_n_Adam Kleizas post presence was sorely missed by the Raptors
@The_Benjamins_ Now that the Raptors have improved on defense… seems like their offense has taken a major hit tho
@Ronny006 Demarcus Cousins single-handedly outplayed the Raptors front court tonight
@sabrinamadhani The effects of a condensed schedule really shining through with this team