Raptors Through 4

First, a quick recap.

Game 1

Nightmare. Everything we feared happened. Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan shit the bed. Paul George proved he’s the best player on both ends. Despite JV’s impressive performance, the Raps lose yet another home opener and send the city into depression.

Game 2

Casey adjusts the starting lineup so Carroll spends more time on PG13. Continuing their poor shooting, Lowry adjusts as a distributor, DD keeps chucking. JV goes Demarcus Cousins with 23 and 15. Casey benches Derozan in the 4th and Corey Joseph and Patrick Patterson’s strong play gets us the win.

Game 3

On the road, the boys build a big lead due to an incredible defensive first half. Demarre Carroll is a gnat for 35 minutes and scores within the flow of the offence. Despite a hot start, Derozan still plays like trash. A couple of classic Lowry shots in the 4th keep the Pacers at bay and we regain home-court advantage.

Game 4

Myles Turner is inserted in the starting line-up, Casey sticks with Scola. For the first time in this series George Hill and Mahinmi get buckets and the Raps bench doesn’t. With six turnovers Derozan is particularly terrible. Getting outrebounded and outworked results in the squad trailing by more than 10 for the last 38 minutes of the game.

And here we are. The series is tied 2-2 and now it’s a best of 3. God damn, it’s such a trip being a Raptors fan…

Demar DeRozan

In hindsight, DeRozan’s struggles shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Paul George is one of best humans in the world at stopping another human at putting a basketball in the hoop. Put him on a guy who’s style doesn’t transfer well to the playoffs and things get ugly. Isolation in the post-season is difficult because teams will load up defenders on the obvious scoring threat. Baiting defenders into fouls is a disaster because guys know its coming, you don’t get calls and it gums up the whole offence. It’s been a frustrating viewing experience, to say the least. demar-derozan-vs-paul-george-is-the-best-thing-about-the-first-round-body-image-1461213205

There are two ways to feel about Demar’s future impact on this series. The optimistic view is that our leading scorer couldn’t have played worse and we’re tied up with home court advantage. He only needs to watch the tape and see that Paul George is his kryptonite. Simply shooting less and focusing on defense would be a huge boost. It can only go up from here.

And then there’s the darker side of things. After each failed attempt it’s the same thing over and over. If there were going to be a change in approach, it would’ve already occurred. As the stakes rise it might even get worse. The bigger the moment (Game 5 is massive) the more this team reverts back to their instinctual tendencies. Unfortunately for all eyes, that’s the Demar Derozan isolation play. No matter the bricks, the green light from coach Casey combined with his tough shot-making ability combine to create offensive stubbornness. If Demar Derozan is leaving town you can bet he’s going down shooting, it’s all he knows.

A couple years ago, Dwayne Casey was big on this “Pound the Rock” concept. The proverb went something like this: while you may have broken the rock on the 1000 hit, it was all the blows before that contributed to the final break. It essentially emphasizes process over results.

When dealing with the slow cruise of an 82 game regular season that’s a sound approach. Yet, the Raptors find themselves in a “best of 3” situation. This is now a sprint. Get out the duck tape, shed the dead weight and get this fucking ship across the line!

Demar DeRozan’s struggles hit a nerve because he’s homegrown. I remember the days where this dude couldn’t dribble, shoot or pass. All he could really do was jump. Yet, he stayed positive during the Colangelo European disaster. He kept it G and grew with the Young Gunz. He’s now an all-star during Masai’s reign over Raptorland. On top of this, he loves Toronto.

Demar Derozan is Raptors history. He embodies our inferiority complex, always fighting to be included in primetime. Always arguing to be included amongst the league’s stars. Yet, once given the opportunity, we can’t help but privately admit we don’t quite belong. Paul Pierce famously claimed we didn’t have “it”.

And you know what, we don’t have “it”. We don’t have a flashy superstar to throw on posters. A talent that gets’s national recognition. A figure that reverses all anti-Canadian stereotypes. That’s Drake.

20140419-2048raptors-29_jpg_2184x1365_q95_upOur basketball players are dudes on their second or third chances. Guys that were written off due to their attitudes, lack of potential or “insurmountable” flaws. Instead of “it”, we randomly mixed together things and ended up with “something”.

Masai decided not to blow up this core because of that “something”. Hordes of people cheer outside a stadium in the random-ass Canadian spring weather because of that “something”. Fans packed in cars and buses, drove across the border for hours, snuck signs and proudly chanted in hostile stadiums because of that “something”.

Demar Derozan stop trying to be “it”.

We’ve already accepted, supported and irrationally fell in love with the collective “something”.

Scola’s Got To Go

What does Scola have in common with Lord Farquaad from Shrek? Firstly, he looks exactly like him. Secondly, he doesn’t belong on the basketball court against the Indiana Pacers.

 

It’s been tough to find patterns in this series. Both teams have won and lost on their home court. Both teams have had bad shooting performances and pulled off wins. Yet one aspect that has correlated with winning has been strong starts. Like a bar fight, it seems that whoever lays the first punch ends up victorious.

That’s why it’s pivotal Dwayne Casey takes Scola out of the CzVTiOyDstarting line-up. The Raptors are a mentally fragile team; our execution depends on seeing success early. Therefore, we need our best group of guys on the floor to start the game.

Scola is in the starting line-up for “chemistry” and “leadership” reasons. He’s only a positive in the basketball sense when he’s scoring. The Pacers have chosen not to guard him and in the second half of game 4, Scola missed 4 wide-open threes. If I weren’t sedated from getting my wisdom teeth out, I would’ve whipped my remote at the TV screen. If your only role is to make shots and you don’t do that, why are you playing?

Indiana’s playing style only adds to the mystery of his presence on the court. The Pacers rely on pushing the ball up the floor to get easy shots because their offence sucks. JV’s slow but his destruction down low and on the glass has more than validated his playing time. But, pair him with Scola and you get the slowest frontcourt in the NBA. Probably not ideal against a team that relies on being faster than you to win the game…

Toronto Raptors' Luis Scola reacts after missing a shot against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)His start also lessens Patrick Patterson’s effectiveness. 2Pat has been one of the Raptors best players in the series. He plays awesome with JV and can guard any position in a pinch. He should be getting more minutes. The problem is that he comes in the game halfway through the first quarter and plays all the way until the end of the half. That’s exhausting. Starting him gives him a breather, instead of playing an 18-minute stretch and matches his minutes up with the opposing team’s best line-ups.

If Casey is too stubborn to get Patterson off the pine, start Jason Thompson. He can run faster, jump higher and provide some rim protection. Sure, he’s a zero on offence but so is Scola at this point.

Dwayne Casey adjusted after the loss in Game 1. I hope he does the same on Tuesday.