In order for the Toronto Raptors to avoid falling into a dangerous 0-2 hole in their first-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, they know they will need more from DeMar DeRozan on Tuesday night.
Video of DeRozan’s career playoff debut shows the Toronto Raptors all-star missing jump shots and layups he typically makes, turning the ball over three times, being smothered by double teams and enduring a day-long struggle to find his sweet spots on the floor. He shot just 3 of 13 from the field in Saturday’s 94-87 Game 1 loss.
Coach Dwane Casey guaranteed freeing up the team’s leading scorer will be a major point of emphasis in the preparation for Game 2.
“You will see adjustments on Tuesday,” said Casey. “I thought the foul count bothered him a little bit. They did a good job of double teaming him; Garnett was coming across mid-point into his areas. It was almost like a triple team. We have to make some adjustments for that, in order to free him up a little bit.”
The 6-foot-7, fourth-year NBA player averaged a career-high 22.7 points per game this year to lead the Raptors. He finished ninth in the NBA in scoring and had spells of 30-plus-point performances throughout the year. Toronto got just 17 combined points from DeRozan and Terrence Ross in Saturday’s loss, as they were 0-for-6 in the first half and 4-of-17 for the game. Together, the two typically contribute an average of 35 points a night. Amir Johnson only contributed two points Saturday.
They know making up those precious points will be critical if they are to survive the series.
“We missed a lot of shots that we normally make,” said a quiet and disappointed DeRozan, slumped in a chair in front of his locker after the loss, circled by a large swarm of reporters.
“It’s one game. I’m going to go back and watch the film and the things we can do better on both ends.”
While DeRozan often dominates the team’s highlights, on Saturday, the 24-year-old’s best moments amounted to a jump shot, a layup and a dunk in the dying seconds with the game already out of reach for the Raptors.
“They overplayed him, they really denied him the ball,” said point guard Kyle Lowry. “We’ve got to find ways to screen him and get him more looks, get him open a little bit sooner and quicker, and get him to his sweet spots.”
DeRozan is not the first Raptors star player to struggle in his postseason debut. Vince Carter shot 3-for-20 from the field in his first career playoff game against the New York Knicks in 2000, but bounced back in Game 2, when he contributed 27 points.
In 2007, Chris Bosh had a shaky start for Toronto to kick off the 2007 playoffs, when he got into foul trouble in Game 1 and made just 7 of 16 shots while losing to a Vince Carter-led New Jersey Nets team. The Raptors bounced back and won Game 2 that year behind 25 points and 13 rebounds from Bosh.
Saturday in Toronto, the contrast between the two teams’ playoff experience was accentuated, particularly in the fourth quarter. While DeRozan seemed average for the afternoon, Brooklyn’s 36-year-old Paul Pierce, a 15-year NBA veteran making his 11th playoff appearance, woke from a sleepy start to pour in nine points when the game was on the line.
“It was a very intense game,” said DeRozan. “We made a couple of mental mistakes near the end and they hit some big shots. It’s just one game.”