Despite winning Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had trouble sleeping Wednesday night.
While his team pulled out a 115-113 victory to take a 3-2 series lead, Casey couldn’t get their fourth quarter collapse out of his mind. It made for a long night.
“Watching this film about five times,” Casey said. “Not sleeping… two, three hours. I think this is playoff time, no matter who, where you are. I was the same way when I was in Dallas, Seattle. This time of year, you’re locked into what the other team is doing, what your team is doing, trying to find whatever millimetre that you can get to help you win the game.”
After taking a 26-point third-quarter lead, the Raptors fell apart in the fourth and caught themselves watching helplessly as the Nets rallied to hang a 44-point quarter on them. What should have been an opportunity for starters to get some rest turned into a highly stressful affair that went down to the final seconds.
Casey wasn’t the only person haunted by the messy ending.
“None of us were happy,” Greivis Vasquez said. “That was very irresponsible. We want to be a great team. In order to be a great team, you can’t be satisfied. You can’t be happy with that performance in the fourth quarter. I couldn’t sleep. That was disgusting. That was ugly. A couple turnovers, a couple fouls, a couple and-1s for them. It wasn’t us. When we win, we win as a team. When we lose, we lose as a team. Last night we all agreed we’re so much better than how we finished the game in the fourth quarter.”
In the immediate aftermath, Casey was as angry as he has been all season. A day later, with some time to cool down, he was able to talk about the coaching process through a rough finish.
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“It’s tough love, but it’s love because they’re ours,” Casey said. “They’re not going anywhere. Last night was a little tougher, today was more teaching. But again, they’re correctable things. They’re things that can be corrected, and we’ve been doing that all year. It’s been tough love all year and you have to learn from it.”
For a team that is hoping to close out the Nets on Friday in Brooklyn, the Raptors not only understood Casey’s stern message after Wednesday’s victory, they welcomed it.
“We like that,” Vasquez said. “We don’t want him to be happy. We want him to get on us. That means he cares. He’s doing such a great job. He wasn’t happy. You know what, I wasn’t happy… We’ve got to get better. In order for us to win the series we can’t be happy on the farm. We’ve got to understand what we’re playing for, understand that we’ve got to be pros. All the way around.”
Kyle Lowry has said and done all the right things in the postseason. After scoring 36 points in Game 5, Lowry deflected the attention his performance received. That didn’t change Thursday afternoon before the team flew to Brooklyn.
“I didn’t win it, my team, our team won it,” Lowry said. “I’ve got a group of guys in there, a coaching staff, we all feed off each other.”
Outside of the locker room, the Raptors have been able to feed off of their fan support as well. DeRozan said the team heard Toronto fans the second they stepped onto the court in Brooklyn. Playing at home, to a sold out Air Canada Centre and thousands of fans standing outside in the rain at Maple Leaf Square, things were on another level.
“It’s been amazing,” Lowry said. “The energy we’re getting from inside and outside. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. Every day, every game, it’s a great thing to see. I haven’t left my house, so I don’t know about the rest of the city, but I’m sure it is there too.”
After watching Joe Johnson find his rhythm in the second half of Game 5, the Raptors know he will be a priority in Brooklyn. With his back against the wall, Toronto expects his best effort.
As for how problematic it could be if Johnson gets going early in Game 5, Vasquez quickly reminded the assembled media that they have their own go-to guy.
“We are very concerned [about Johnson finding a rhythm],” Vasquez said. “But, they should be concerned with Kyle Lowry having the hot hand, you know? It goes both ways.”