Raptors look to rebound from loss
TORONTO — After an NBA playoff debut that didn’t go as well as he’d planned, DeMar DeRozan went home and put his feet up.
“I sat in my room the rest of the day, I didn’t leave the room,” DeRozan said. “I didn’t turn the TV on. I didn’t watch any games. I just cleared my mind. Just understand it was my first playoff game.”
He fought the urge to go back to the Air Canada Centre for a late-night shooting session.
“I thought about it. I really thought about it,” DeRozan said. “About 1 a.m. I was going to come back, but I was like: don’t put too much pressure on myself. Just get my rest, regroup. We’ve got two days until we play, so just get ready. I try not to think so much or stress myself out — just relax.”
The 24-year-old all-star scored 14 points — well below his season average of 22.7 — in the Raptors’ 94-87 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Saturday’s Game 1 of the best-of-seven playoff series.
The player whose hot hand led the Raptors in their record run to the post-season went cold Saturday. DeRozan, who was the picture of post-season confidence earlier in the week, scoffing that the playoffs weren’t “rocket science,” shot just 3-for-13 from the field. He missed all four of his three-point attempts.
He insisted he wasn’t nervous.
“I think with as much energy was going on, it felt like things were going faster than they were,” DeRozan said.
While it wasn’t the coming-out party any of Toronto’s playoff rookies had hoped for, they were all breathing a little easier Sunday morning, glad that Game 1 of their series was over and done with.
“I think Game 2 is a whole different animal,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I think the newness and the shiny part of the playoffs is worn off by Game 2. I think that’ll help (DeRozan) tremendously. I think that’ll help our whole team.”
Kyle Lowry, one of the few Raptors who looked unfazed by the playoff pressure in his 22-point performance, agreed.
“I think the bright lights will dim a little bit for everyone, everything will calm down a little bit,” Lowry said.
“I think that first game is always tough at home, because of the excitement, and we have a bunch of young guys. But now it’s over. Now guys are ready to move on, now we’re ready to go.”
Game 2 is Tuesday in Toronto, then the series shifts to Brooklyn for Game 3 on Friday.
The series was heated before it even began after the Nets seemingly tanked to fall to sixth-place, preferring to play the inexperienced Raptors.
Toronto GM Masai Ujiri then threw gasoline onto the fire Saturday when he dropped an F-bomb when addressing the crowd in Maple Leaf Square, pairing the F-word with Brooklyn.
New York’s tabloid newspapers fought back.
The headline on Sunday’s New York Daily News read: “Don’t’ F With Brooklyn! Nets give foul-mouthed Raptors a spanking to take Game 1.”
The New York Post’s front page was a picture of a grinning Paul Pierce with the headline: “After Toronto GM insults B’klyn, Nets shut up Raptors. F(at)K YEAH!”
The Raptors had put Saturday’s drama behind them by Sunday’s practice at the Air Canada Centre.
“This is about basketball,” Casey said. “All that stuff has happened. We’re very supportive of whatever Masai said. This is about basketball. I will say this, I thought our fans were fantastic (Saturday). They were great. I’ve been in championship arenas, championship games, and this is as big-time as can be.
“All the other stuff, what was said, it’s about basketball. It’s about screening. It’s about finishing plays. It’s about executing defensively. I don’t want to get off on another tangent.”
As for DeRozan’s less-than-impressive debut, Casey said he thought both DeRozan and Terrence Ross — also making his playoff debut — looked frustrated after they got in early foul trouble Saturday. Ross had just three points on the afternoon.
“Young guys have to be somewhere learning to play in the NBA playoffs and this is a great start for (Ross), it’s a great start for DeMar,” Casey said.
“There’s no way I’m disappointed in their performance. Their point-productivity, yes. But this is a great positive for our organization.”
DeRozan was asked if one game is enough to adjust to the pressure-packed playoffs.
“I don’t need a whole ’nother playoff round to get ready for it,” DeRozan said. “I watched a lot of film. I understand. I’m definitely not going to make the same mistakes twice. It’s adjustments.”
His teammates are confident they’ll see the best of DeRozan in Game 2.
“He’s had rough games before. . . he’s fine. I’m positive he’ll bounce back,” Lowry said. “He’s really focused. Yeah, a rough shooting night. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes the ball don’t go in the hole.”
Why so positive?
“Because he’s an all-star,” Lowry replied. “There’s a reason he’s an all-star. He averages what he averages, he’s a helluva player, and he’s only going to get better.”
The Raptors are hoping the ACC fans — dressed all in white Saturday and waving white towels, thanks to a T-shirt and towel giveaway — remain as vocal as they were in Game 1.
“It was live,” Amir Johnson said. “I didn’t get to see outside (where hundreds of fans gathered in Maple Leaf Square) but I’ve seen pictures on the Internet. It was a pretty dope crowd.
“It’s big. We need them. We need everybody. The whole country.”
Saturday’s shot-clock debacle should also be behind them. American sports broadcaster ESPN caused the shot-clock malfunction in Game 1, according to a Raptors official. Toronto had to rely on announcer Herbie Kuhn to count down the 24 seconds on each possession after the clocks above the baskets died with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment took blame for using the same power source for the primary and backup shot clocks. The damaged cables in the baskets were replaced and tested Sunday, and the primary and backup clocks are no longer using the same power source.