On a chaotic afternoon after dropping a 94-87 decision to the Brooklyn Nets, DeMar DeRozan was straight and to the point. He missed shots.The team missed shots they usually make. There were too many turnovers. He just missed shots.
Getting his first taste of the postseason in his five-year career (shooting 3-for-13 in the series opener), DeRozan took a breath while sitting in the chair in front of his locker.
“I think we’re all glad to just get it out the way,” he said. “[We] understand what adjustments we have to make to go out there and be successful.”
On the best of days, there is a lot going on in playoff games. Emotions are heightened, the intensity skyrockets and pressure mounts. Add an amazing home crowd atmosphere, a general manager getting so fired up he had to hold an impromptu halftime media scrum to apologize for his colourful choice of words, and a shot clock malfunction throughout the second half and Game 1 was a test of composure and patience.
While Jonas Valanciunas shined in his playoff debut with 17 points and 18 rebounds (a Raptors franchise record), Terrence Ross got into foul trouble early and played just 16 minutes.
“I thought we played a little bit as expected as it is our first playoff game,” Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said. “We got some ticky-tack foul trouble. I thought that took us out. I thought that bothered T-Ross a little bit. DeMar got two quick fouls and mentally I thought that affected us a little bit.”
While DeRozan struggled, Kyle Lowry did his best to lead his team against the Nets, playing 44 minutes and finishing with 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Lowry, like the rest of Toronto, struggled from the floor. The Raptors shot just 39 percent in Game 1. They also turned the ball over 17 times.
“That’s not us,” DeRozan said. “Every time we have turnovers like that we put ourselves in a tough position to win games. We understand that. We clean that up, cut that in half and it’s a different ball game.”
It can take time to adjust to the level of physicality in postseason play. Toronto got into foul trouble early, while Brooklyn went the entire fourth quarter without being called for a team foul.
“We got to match up their intensity,” Greivis Vasquez said. “I’ll tell you this, we’re going to be extremely physical next game. They were physical, they did a good job. You’ve got to give them credit. It’s just one game. They got it. So now we got to come back here on Tuesday and play our game. No excuses.”
Vasquez Steps Up
In Brooklyn’s locker room, Paul Pierce didn’t have, nor need, any excuses either. Engaged in a back-and-forth battle with the Raptors in the fourth, Pierce answered the bell again and again down the stretch, scoring nine of his 15 points in the final three minutes of the game.
“This is playoff basketball,” Nets head coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s about getting stops in crucial times. It was a wonderful game to watch and probably for players to participate in.”
While the Raptors are not pleased with dropping the first game, a highly competitive and close game despite three of their five starters being limited significantly is an encouraging sign. Another positive was the play of Vasquez. Coming in for Ross, Vasquez contributed 18 points and eight assists while providing a spark off the bench.
If the Raptors look to match Brooklyn’s small lineup moving forward, or if Ross continues to find himself in foul trouble, Vasquez could see significant minutes against the Nets.
With the first game out of the way, the Raptors will spend the next 48 hours going over film and making adjustments for Tuesday night.
“We just gotta remain humble,” Vasquez said. “We can still shock the whole league. This is our main stage. We’ve got to just go step by step. Take the loss, though it’s going to be hard to swallow. Watch film, get better and we’ll go from there.