DeMarre Carroll is hungry to play more minutes on Paul George. The Toronto Raptors say loading Carroll up with minutes isn't that simple.
The Raptors' small forward has only recently returned to the lineup after missing two-thirds of the season following knee surgery. But the defensive specialist is hoping Toronto's coaches and medical staff ease up on his minutes restriction and give him more time to guard the Indiana Pacers' best player.
George had 33 points and six assists as Indiana slapped Toronto with a 100-90 loss in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series on Saturday. Carroll, still limited to about 20 minutes a game, spent some time guarding the Indiana all-star, but much of the burden fell to Toronto all-star DeMar DeRozan. Carroll said after Sunday's practice that his knee feels fine and he could play 30 minutes if asked as the Raptors try to even the best-of-seven series on Monday.
Toronto signed the defensive specialist in the off-season to guard the opposing team's toughest offensive players – much as he did for the Atlanta Hawks in last year's playoffs, covering LeBron James in the Eastern Conference final. He said he respects the team being cautious with his return, but believes he's ready to do more.
"I didn't see him as much as I wanted to see him," Carroll said. "If he's hitting 30-plus, I'll foul out making it difficult on him. I'll foul him real hard so he knows it. I have to listen to the training staff, but I felt I could have played more."
George was held to six points in the first half before exploding in the second half. Indy's superstar also defended DeRozan on the other end of the floor, and the Raptors star shot an uncharacteristic 5-of-19 from the field. DeRozan's backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, said his friend looked tired having to guard George all day while also trying to produce on the offensive end. DeRozan said he didn't feel tired, but it was tough to put enough focus on both jobs.
"You try to put all your energy on both ends," DeRozan said. "And something is going to give."
The team has been easing Carroll back gently to avoid overstressing his knee. Plus, the team had carried on without him to a 56-win regular season. Rookie Norman Powell eventually settled into Carroll's starting spot, and the team got comfortable with a nine-man rotation. So the Raptors are hesitant to tinker too much with the way they divvy out minutes.
"It hurts guys' rhythm a little bit," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Guys like Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson – it hurt their rhythm when we were swinging D.C. into the 3 and the 4 spots.
"Minutes-wise, you just can't get that many guys involved and make sure they get the minutes they deserve to get their game going, get a sweat going, get a feel of the game."
The Raptors will make some adjustments to the way they defend George in Game 2, but Casey wouldn't elaborate.
"The biggest thing with Paul George is making it difficult for him throughout the game," Carroll said. "He's a great player; he'll hit shots. But I felt like at the end of the game, he was making the same shots he was making earlier. He wasn't tired. You didn't see no fatigue on him."
Carroll has stressed that since offence isn't a major part of his role, he can make defending George his top priority.
"That's a challenge I want. That's what I live for," Carroll said. "He's great. It's not like he's not going to score, but I want to go out and make every shot hard for him. I want to be that gnat on a hot summer day when you're barbecuing and it just won't get out of your face."