Toronto, April 4 (IANS) Toronto Raptors rookie-centre Jonas Valanciunas scored a career-high 25 points in the team's 88-78 victory over the Washington Wizards in NBA action Wednesday night.
The Lithuanian's 25 points eclipses his previous high of 22 points set Nov 25, 2012 against the San Antonio Spurs, Xinhua reports.
The strong effort against the Wizards also resulted in career highs in minutes played (41), free throws attempted (16) and free throws made (18). All three were also the highest in the game from either team.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey credits the rookie's hard work to earn the respect from the league.
"He's getting the respect of the league and respect of the officials," said Casey during the post-game press conference.
"He's just not a big bloke out there that's taking up space. This kid can play."
Casey also credits the increase in physicality of Valanciunas' game that has allowed him to be success at the end of games.
"The physicality of the game doesn't bother him anymore. Before, he would disappear a little bit," said Casey.
"Now, JV (Valanciunas) is huge at end of games, you can go to him, he can make free throws, pass the basketball. Most of all, he can defend, without fouling and rebound in traffic."
The 2.13 meter Valanciunas expected the transition into the NBA to be a difficult one, as rookies take time to earn the respect of officials.
"From the start, I was this new guy in the NBA, they knew a lot about it," said Valanciunas after the game.
"There is a big learning process during the game. I was not talking to them, not complaining about calls."
With seven games remaining on the season and no chances of making the playoffs, Casey will look for the Lithuanian native who will look to finish strong and build on tonight's strong effort.