TORONTO - With just over two minutes remaining in the first half of Mondays win over the lowly Bucks, Kyle Lowry dumped the ball into Jonas Valanciunas on the left block. Isolated against Ersan Ilyasova, Valanciunas turned to face up, took one dribble and barreled into the smaller defender, who took the charge. As Milwaukee called a timeout, Lowry followed the Raptors promising sophomore centre straight to the bench. “Know your opponent,” he implored, instructing Valanciunas to post-up when he has a size and strength advantage over the defender. The Raptors were up by 14 at the time, they would go on to win by 22 and Valanciunas would register his 12th double-double of the campaign, four more than he totalled as a rookie last season. Still, Lowry was all over the gaffe. The two have developed a mutually beneficial mentor-protégé relationship. "Hes kind of like a coach," Valanciunas said of Lowry after practice the day prior. He knows a lot, he tries to help everybody, especially me because Im the young guy." Lowry has been as tough on the young centre as anyone in the Raptors organization and as such his fingerprints can be found all over the 21-year-olds continued development. "Hes been great," coach Dwane Casey told TSN.ca, speaking of Lowry and the leadership role hes taken with Valanciunas. "He has a way of getting on him but yet still he has a relationship with him that he can talk to him that way. "Other people may not understand it but Kyles done a great job of working with Jonas, letting him know what he needs to do. [Hes] just been a great mentor to him. Thats been huge for Jonas." Both players are approaching the middle of their second season together in Toronto. Lowry was acquired in a trade from Houston in July of 2012, just around the same time Valanciunas - Torontos fifth overall pick in 2011 - had arrived from Lithuania. After missing the bulk of training camp with injuries last season, both of their Raptor careers got off to shaky starts. While Lowry struggled through injuries, fluctuating playing time and philosophical differences with the coaching staff, Valanciunas experienced the growing pains you would expect from a 20-year-old getting accustomed to his surroundings in a new country, in a new league. Valanciunas has seen his playing time increase by five minutes per night in his second season; hes regularly on the court during crucial moments at the end of games and he is becoming more of a focal point in Torontos offence. However, as both his coach and his point guard would tell you, hes far from a finished product. He continues to make nightly mistakes - with his positioning, in the pick-and-roll game, and on defence, particularly as the help man - and Lowry is usually the first person to let him hear about it. "Every time he messes up we talk about it," Lowry said. "I tell him what he did and then he fixes it and I congratulate him when he does it [right]. "I think he has the skills and he has the heart and he has the right mentality to be one of the best bigs in the league," the Raptors point guard continued. "My constructive criticism is just tough, big brother love. I think the world of him, I think he can be so good [and] thats why I push him. Im always going to be tough on him because I know how good hes going to be." Lowry, an eight-year NBA vet, is also coming into his own, playing the best basketball of his career and spearheading the Raptors recent resurgence. "Thats just coming from buying in if you ask me," former Raptors teammate Alan Anderson said of Lowry. Most importantly - for a player that will be in the market for a new contract this summer - he is well on his way to shedding the reputation that has followed him like a dark cloud over the years. "Kyles showed hes been a positive leader," Casey said over the weekend. "I think that was the biggest question among coaches around the league, could he be a positive leader and be productive on the court." Not only has he been productive, averaging career-highs across the board, but hes been the consummate professional his team has desperately needed him to be while remaining a positive influence on his younger teammates, namely Valanciunas. Occasionally combative, Lowrys fiery nature has often been misunderstood. The reality - which his teammates and coaches have come to accept and appreciate - is, he holds himself and everyone around him to an incredibly high standard. He is a fierce competitor with an unrelenting will to win. Lowry is a strong personality, certainly not the first Casey has coached. The Raptors coach worked with future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett in Minnesota and current Nets bench boss Jason Kidd in Dallas, but Lowrys leadership style reminds him of another hard-nosed point guard from his past. "The guards that Ive had, Gary Payton was one of the [toughest]," Casey said, having coached ‘The Glove as an assistant in Seattle. "He would use some colourful words to talk with his teammates but they understood it, he had a relationship with [them], just like Kyle. Kyle reminds me so much of Gary in the fact that he can talk to players in a certain way that they understand because he has their respect and he has a relationship with them. "As long as you have that relationship and you back it up with love and real sugar than you can get on guys but I havent seen Kyle be overly tough on JV, just when he needs it and just the right amount." As Casey points out, Lowry walks a fine line between tough love and going too far, but he does it with precision. Hes hard on Valanciunas because he recognizes the young mans upside but also, and most importantly, he knows the seven-footer can take it. "Hes really receptive," Lowry said, "because I tell him, I tell him why Im so tough on him and he understands that. "He knows how to do it," said Valanciunas, who has thick skin, having played professionally in Europe since he was 15. "I understand hes my teammates, he wants me to do good and [Ive] just got to live with that." Whether or not Valanciunas realizes or fully appreciates it now, Lowry should have a long-lasting impact on his auspicious NBA career. As for Lowry, his future with the team remains uncertain but wherever he ends up, after cashing in on this seasons revival, his Raptors legacy will live on in the growth of the franchises emerging centre. Troy Brouwer Jersey . -- Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will be sidelined for at least two weeks because of a strained calf muscle, and pitcher C. Mike Smith Jersey . The Thornhill, Ont., native, who is ranked 11th in the world, said hed hoped he would be ready when Canada begins its World Group first-round tie against Japan in Tokyo on Friday. http://www.jerseyofficialhockeyflames.co...-hockey-jersey/. This game was inside. Adrian Peterson was missing. The stage was set for another step toward the playoffs. Doug Gilmour Jersey . -- Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer, Colby Rasmus drove in two runs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Detroit Tigers 9-4 on Saturday. Jaromir Jagr Jersey . Lexie Lou earned a commanding 4 1/2-length win Sunday in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.PORTLAND, Ore. -- Long after all the fans had gone and the turf was being vacuumed of confetti, Real Salt Lake was still celebrating its Western Conference championship. Aided by a boom box, RSL players sang and danced as they headed for their bus following Sunday nights 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers. The win gave Salt Lake a 5-2 aggregate advantage in the two-leg conference final. It also gave the team a spot in the MLS Cup against Sporting Kansas City on Dec. 7. "Its a good win for the team," said Robbie Findley, who scored the only goal in the second leg. "I think everybody put in the hard work, and when you have that, when you have all the guys committed to working hard and doing their jobs, you win games. We feel good right now, but we have one more to go." Salt Lake, which won the league championship in 2009, took a 4-2 lead two weeks ago at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first game of the conference final. Salt Lake has been to the playoffs for six straight seasons, the longest active streak in MLS. It lost to Seattle in the conference semifinals last season. RSL advanced to this years conference final by eliminating the two-time defending league champion Galaxy in the semis. Sundays victory extended RSLs unbeaten streak against Portland to 10 straight matches. The Timbers remain winless against Real Salt Lake since their first meeting when Portland joined MLS in the 2011 season. Portland went into the match with just one home loss this season. The Timbers were looking to become the first team in nine years to come back from a two-goal shortfall in the second match of an aggregate-goals series. Portland appeared to score off a corner in the 15th minute but the goal was waived off by the referee because of a foul in the box, frustrating the sellout crowd at Jeld-Wen Field. Findley had a rebound goal in the 29th minute. The RSL reserves spilled off the bench to join the celebration on the sideline, while Timbers first-year coach Caleb Porter looked on with pursed lipps.dddddddddddd. Portland had a second goal nullified in the 33rd minute when Futty Danso was called offside by the linesman. "If Portland scores the first goal, they have all the momentum, theyre on their home field, theyve got their fans behind them and I think we would have been in a really, really tough place," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "If we score the first goal, now its three goals, now they get a little desperate, some heads are hanging and theres some frustration involved. So great that we got the goal. Probably wasnt the prettiest one weve ever scored, but well take it and I thought we handled the match well from there." Porter said the officiating wasnt to blame, but he couldnt understand why the Timbers first goal was called back. He called it a "phantom foul." "Im left scratching my head as to what he saw on that play," Porter said. The Timbers outshot Real Salt Lake 18-7 for the match. "You could see their maturity, you could see their experience," Porter said about Salt Lake. "And they did what they needed to do." Salt Lake was without striker Alvaro Saborio, the teams leading scorer with 12 goals this season, because of a right hip flexor injury that also kept him out of the first leg. He did not travel to Portland. Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert was also out because of a broken rib and collapsed lung from the first leg. Meanwhile, Portlands top scorer, Diego Valeri, had struggled with an adductor injury, but practiced at full speed this week and started. Sporting advanced to the final with a 2-1 victory over Houston in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final on Saturday. The teams played to a scoreless draw in the first match. Its Sportings first trip to the MLS Cup since 2004. The Timbers finished last season 8-10-16 for eighth place in the conference and 17th in the league. But they made a dramatic turnaround under Porter, finishing atop the conference for their first playoff appearance. 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