On the afternoon after their first playoff-focused practice, the Toronto Raptors were in deflection mode. While the talk around the league was of the Brooklyn Nets purposefully losing their last game in order to face the Raptors, Toronto wanted no part of the conversation. Their focus remained on their own locker room and what they need to do to take care of home court when their first round series tips off on Saturday afternoon.
“They can do what they want, they can say what they want,” Kyle Lowry said. “We’ve got our motivation, and that’s to win games.“
Raptors guard Terrence Ross wanted to clear up any misconceptions about a recent Reddit AMA he participated in where he said Brooklyn would be his choice for a first round opponent.
“I feel like everybody blew it out of proportion, everyone took it out of context and ran with it,” Ross said. “I said I wanted to have Brooklyn because, looking up to those guys when I was younger. Paul Pierce, KG, Joe Johnson, so getting a chance to play with them would be like an honour.”
Along with Ross diffusing a briefly-lived controversy that he hadn’t ever intended to start, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey downplayed the talk of motivational material between the two teams in the lead up to Saturday’s series tip-off game. He also shrugged off questions about speculation that the Nets tried to ensure they faced the Raptors in Round 1 instead of the Chicago Bulls.
“If you have to use that as bulletin board material at this time of year, you’re in trouble,” Casey said. “It should tick you off, but if it’s going to make you play harder, get back in transition a little faster, you’re in trouble.”
Less than 24 hours since the match-up with the Nets was solidified, DeMar DeRozan has already had enough of the questions about the postseason experience disparity between the two teams.
Having exceeded the expectations of everyone throughout the regular season, DeRozan wasn’t about to concede nervousness because of the veterans on Brooklyn’s roster.
“Man, we’ve had a chip on our shoulder all year,” DeRozan said. “We don’t care. It ain’t going to stop now. The same chip we had before the season even started, we’ve got it now. Nothing’s going to change, it don’t matter who we’re playing against. At the end of the day it’s a playoff team. Only the good teams make the playoffs, right? You’re going to have to play somebody good so it don’t matter to us.”
As Casey has been preaching concentration, the players on his team who have been through the playoffs before are also speaking to their teammates and trying to give them a crash course in what to expect come Saturday.
Lowry also spoke with the team after Wednesday’s game in New York. While he chose to keep the content of that conversation private, he did acknowledge that the main message was to continue to remain focused.
“You’ve got to go out there and be calm,” DeRozan said. “Don’t overhype anything, go out there and take it one game at a time. That’s how we’ve all got to treat it. We’ve got to treat it like it’s another big game but we understand what’s at stake.”
Sophomore Ross admitted that he doesn’t know what to expect in his first postseason appearance, but he’s glad it’ll be tipping off at Air Canada Centre in front of the Raptors’ home fans. As the city’s excitement grows with each passing day, Ross is looking forward to seeing the reaction for the home team.
“Insanity,” he said. “Everybody going crazy, I hope. Nobody sits down, I hope everyone’s screaming constantly all the time. I just want it to be the loudest arena in the NBA.”
After a five-year postseason wait, the city seems primed to grant him that wish.