Raptors insist ‘we are going to ride or die with DeMar and Kyle’
Plenty of chance for adjustments, but they’ll stick with what got them there
Dwane Casey is not one to share. Ask him who is starting, even 90 minutes from tipoff, and the Toronto Raptors coach will respond with a pleasant “We’ll see,” as though it will be news to him, too: Gosh, I hope it’s DeMarre Carroll!
Before Game 4 in Indianapolis, he ruminated on his secrecy a bit, and said he just didn’t like more information, beyond the bare minimum, being out there.
If you wanted to know something about his plans, Casey said, “Call me, and that way I don’t have to lie to your face.”
The subject of honesty, and his lack of it, came up again on Monday, amid discussions of what the Raptors might try to do against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday in a huge Game 5.
Will they make big changes? Or dance with what brung them?
“Everybody’s making adjustments now. The hardest thing is getting up here and talking about it. Because guess who’s listening?” Casey said at the Raptors’ practice facility.
“Coaches are not going to be honest with you. They are going to lie to you, big time.”
But the coach did allow that the cut and thrust of playoff basketball, the chess match that sees teams try to figure each other out, not just from game to game but within games, might not be as significant as outside observers believe. Yes, the playoff schedule, with its absence of back-to-backs and leisurely spacing between games, provides more time for coaching adjustments than does the regular season.
But Casey said they can only do so much with it.
“You can make subtle adjustments in a day,” he said. “I don’t know of any coach in this league that can change major, make major adjustments — I know it’s the so-called buzzword in the playoffs, adjustments — but I don’t know anyone who can make gaping, huge adjustments. There’s just not enough time.”
Then he hit on something else: “And again, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
This is the thing that is staring the Toronto Raptors in the face: they are in a playoff fight largely because their two best players, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, are shooting an abysmal 31 per cent combined. But it’s not like there’s time to blow the whole system up and, say, turn the team over to Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson.
The offence is DeRozan and Lowry, with a healthy dollop of Jonas Valanciunas thrown in, depending on the matchup. This is what it will continue to be.
Lowry did say on Monday that the post-season sees more emphasis on adjustments than the regular season, even in-game.
“It’s who figures it out quickest,” he said. “Eighty-two games is a different beast than when you come down to playing the same team over and over and over.”
But he also said, as he and DeRozan have said so very often in the past week and a half, that the pair of them just have to score more. Shots have to be made at a rate of better than once every three times.
“You gotta go hoop,” Lowry said. “You gotta play basketball.
“No excuses made, we have to play better.”
That’s not absolutely true, strictly speaking. Toronto won Game 2 at home when Lowry and DeRozan weren’t making shots, and they won Game 3 in Indianapolis when they still didn’t make many.
This is a Raptors team that drilled Indiana by 13 points just two weeks ago, on a night when four regular Toronto starters didn’t play, behind 27 points from rookie Norm Powell.
One could draw up a scenario where the Raptors rely on scoring from Valanciunas, and their superior bench unit, with Carroll harassing Paul George all over the court, and it still might add up to Toronto wins.
But between the comments from Lowry, DeRozan and Casey, no one sounds the least bit inclined to try something dramatically different. In a series that opened with the Raptors losing at home for their seventh straight playoff loss, dropping Game 4 on Saturday wasn’t even the biggest crisis Toronto faced that week, let alone the season.
And so, they will run the offence through DeRozan and Lowry and they will trust that the shots will eventually start falling.
If they don’t want the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday to quickly turn into in auditorium of angst and despair, they had better hope those shots start falling immediately. Raptors fans have seen this play before, and they know it ends with their heroes dead at centre court. “They’re our guys,” Casey said. There will be no magic adjustment that solves Toronto’s problems.
“We are going to ride or die with DeMar and Kyle.” That’s the plan, then. Unless he was lying.