Jonas Valanciunas leaves game with ankle injury

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Jonas Valanciunas leaves game with ankle injury

Jonas Valanciunas played on his sprained left ankle for two minutes before heading to the locker room.

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors frontcourt was dealt a major blow Saturday when center Jonas Valanciunas suffered an ankle injury against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, Valanciunas sprained his ankle and missed the remainder of the game.

The 2011 fifth overall draft pick has shown marked improvement throughout his career and had a terrific debut this season with 23 points and 15 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

Valanciunas’ scoring dropped off slightly last season to 12.0 points per game, but he set a new personal best with 9.5 rebounds per contest.

The Lithuanian also appeared in 80 games, which was the third time he reached that mark in five campaigns.

He is the primary contributor in the paint at both ends of the floor for a Raptors team that finished third in the Eastern Conference during the 2016-17 regular season.

While Valanciunas missed just three games in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns combined, he sat out for 22 games in 2015-16 and 20 contests as a rookie.

The 7-footer also missed action last season because of a left knee contusion, but he bounced back quickly and missed just two contests in total.

Valanciunas is a game-changer, and the Raptors are a different team when he isn’t in the lineup.

They’re still a strong squad that’s capable of beating anyone thanks to the presence of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, but no other big on the roster brings the same skill set to the table that Valanciunas does.

Second-year man Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira are likely to eat up most of the minutes at center if Valanciunas misses time, while starting power forward Serge Ibaka will have increased responsibilities at both ends of the floor.

Toronto showed in the past that it could remain competitive without Valanciunas for periods of time, but it needs him in order to be a true playoff threat.

By: Mike Chiari / Bleacher Report

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