TORONTO — While the Cavaliers rest in Cleveland, the Raptors have more first-round work to do in Milwaukee on Thursday.
And Toronto forward DeMarre Carroll hopes they can they take care of business sooner than later.
The Raptors failed to close out series in Game 6 on the road last year against Indiana and Miami, although they rallied to win Game 7 at home both times. Three years ago, they lost Game 6 to Brooklyn and were eliminated in seven by the Nets.
“Hopefully we’ve learned a lesson,” said Carroll. “We don’t want to come back home and try to take care of this athletic, long Milwaukee team. We want to take care of them on the road.”
Third-seeded Toronto leads sixth-seeded Milwaukee three games to two.
The series winner will advance to play the second-seeded Cavaliers, who finished off a sweep of No. 7 Indiana on Sunday.
Carroll says the Raptors need to avoid the physical and mental pressure that a Game 7 brings when “every shot counts.”
“Guys need time off to recuperate and we should understand that more now than we did last year … If we don’t understand it now, we’re never going to understand it,” he added. “Game 6 is a must-win for us.”
They have learned that the hard way.
Last year, Cleveland needed just eight games to get to the conference final compared to 14 for the Raptors.
“When we saw them it was like we hit a brick wall,” Carroll said of the Cavs, who disposed of the Raptors in six games. “We fought and fought all we could. We were tired, our legs were tired, we were missing shots, we weren’t playing with that zip like we normally play with.”
Added DeMar DeRozan: “It was brutal. It was tough. We really didn’t realize it until the conference finals when we really looked up and we said ‘We’ve been playing every other day for almost a month,’ it felt like. It took a toll.
“Just to stay away from that would be great because we could go out there and play until exhaustion for 48 minutes. And that’s what we’re going to need to do next round because the next team is waiting.”
Coach Dwane Casey said the Raptors will have to expect a fierce reception in Milwaukee as the Bucks fight to continue playing.
The 60-year-old Casey was in a folksy mood Tuesday, twice referring to himself as “just an ol’ country boy from Kentucky” who didn’t know very much. Casey, who is as sharp as a tack, did everything but chew a piece of straw during his meeting with the media.
But his message was clear.
“Hopefully we do learn from past experience in a Game 6 and take that to heed — and understand how hard it is in this league to close out a series, whatever series it is. The most difficult thing to do in the NBA is close out a series.”
Despite the 25-point win Monday, Casey wasn’t totally enamoured with his team’s play. The Bucks still managed to shoot 50 per cent with an assortment of layups and dunks, he noted.
Carroll said the Raptors ultimately succeeded because of their ball movement. Some stiff defence sent the ball quickly on offence — “swing, swing” is how he described it. That kind of transition offence has meant the team has often dispensed with calling plays because there’s simply no time.
“We’re ripping and running,” said Carroll. “We’re not slowing the ball down … Now it’s all about just playing basketball.”
Toronto finished with 28 assists on the night, helped in part by Norm Powell’s ability to slash into the paint.
Powell, who led the team with 25 points, wasn’t basking in his success as a starter. The 23-year-old was the first player to arrive at the practice facility Tuesday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points Monday with Carroll suggesting the Raptors may have to take a more physical approach to guarding the Greek Freak.
“We can’t keep him getting layups after layups after layups ” said Carroll, who described Antetokounmpo as “the head of the (Milwaukee) snake.”
As for point guard Kyle Lowry’s stiff back, Casey said it was better if not much better.