The Raptors have assured themselves of their first playoff appearance since 2008. Great. This whackadoo season keeps marching on, defying preseason expectations and making mock of all of the recent trends that have plagued this organization. The point guard that was supposed to be traded has become the team’s most invaluable player. The swingman that was said by many (myself included) to be grossly overpaid now has people wondering if his contract might actually be below market value. The coach that was on the chopping block in November is now a fringe candidate for Coach of the Year. The GM that was supposed to be tanking may wind up overseeing the best regular season in team history.

Like I said; whackadoo.

So long as the team is bucking trends, though, they may as well start the prep work to avoid one of the most destructive postseason trends that has kept this team from making much noise in the NBA Playoffs: the trend of their All-Star choking in his first stint in the postseason.

When the team made their first playoff appearance back in 2000, it was largely on the back of Vince Carter’s stellar sophomore season in the NBA. The first-time All-Star averaged nearly 26-6-4 on 45.6% shooting and a 40.3% mark from behind the arc. He posted what would wind up being the second-best PER of his career at 23.4 (the best would come one year later) and for all intents and purposes he put Toronto on map as a legit NBA franchise.

When the Playoffs rolled around, though, Carter’s game fell apart. Stifled by New York’s relentless defensive attention, as well as the heightened expectations that come with being in the postseason, Carter wilted, and his team couldn’t make up for his struggles.

Carter scored only 17.5 ppg on a horrific 30% shooting clip (10% from three-point land). Dell Curry was the team’s only backcourt player that shot above 40% from the floor and Toronto was swept out of the Playoffs before they could even really get their feet wet.

Of course Carter would bounce-back the following season, using his experience in the 2000 Playoffs, as well as that summer’s Olympic Games, as a learning experience that would only make him a more deadly competitor in 2001.

Seven years later, it was Chris Bosh who pushed the team back into Playoff contention. It was his second All-Star season and first alongside a group of scrappy Euro-vets built under Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo. Despite missing thirteen games due to injury that year, Bosh was a force in pushing Toronto to their first Atlantic Division title. He averaged nearly 23-and-11 that season, shot just a hair under 50% and acted as a fulcrum for what was the best Raptors team since Carter’s shot infamously rimmed-out in Philadelphia back in 2001.

Like Carter, though, Bosh was not prepared for the meat-grinder that is the NBA Playoffs. His scoring and rebounding dipped precipitously, and his shooting fell to below 40%. He was hounded by New Jersey, especially by physical centre Jason Collins, and there simply wasn’t enough talent around Bosh to offset his reduced production – especially with Jorge Garbajosa out with a knee injury.

The Playoffs are unforgiving. Teams have the time to scout each and every wrinkle of a team’s attack, and for newcomers that can be a dramatic adjustment over the style of play in the regular season. For the Raptors and their lone All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, a repeat of history is a scary proposition, and one that could cost the Raptors a chance to advance to second round for only the second time in franchise history.

DeRozan has been struggling a little of late. His numbers haven’t dipped too much in March (though his shooting is down to 41.8% on the month), but he isn’t having as big an impact as consistently as has been needed in recent weeks. He’s been scoring lots, but he has also disappeared for large stretches of games. Not coincidentally, the team has had trouble putting away even the weakest of opponents and may be giving Dwane Casey an aneurism with their recent play in first quarters. Increasingly, it has been Kyle Lowry that has been the linchpin for the team’s attack, with DeRozan being a clear (yet potent) second option. Opposing teams have looked to play aggressively against DeRozan, knowing that he is easily frustrated when faced with physical defence, and on nights when the refs swallow their whistles that has spelled trouble for the Raptors.

In the playoffs, whoever the Raptors face will likely employ a DeRozan-swallowing strategy for exactly that reason. When Lowry is pushed, he pushes back harder. When DeRozan is pushed, he can be taken out of his game. Those are the only two players that an opposing team will have to consistently account for in a seven-game series against the Raptors, and so if an opposing team had to choose they’d probably look to bottle up DeRozan and dare Lowry to beat them four times on his own.

If history repeats itself, then that means that the Raptors will likely be sunk in round one. DeRozan will wilt under the constant pressure and Lowry will simply be overextended trying to keep the team afloat between bouts of effectiveness from Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and Greivis Vasquez.

However, in a season of bucked trends, maybe the playoffs are exactly what DeRozan needs to be activated against this style of defence. Maybe instead of getting frustrated he rises to the occasion, learns how to play through ceaseless physical play and takes the next step as an NBA professional. Getting to see the same opposition for four-to-seven games in a row might just help him figure out how to read those defences better, to see where the pressure is going to come from and to beat it before it arrives or to make the right pass a half-second quicker which forces the defence into scramble-mode to keep up.

For a team as inexperienced as the Raptors are, a huge element in their success or failure in the postseason is going to be their first round matchup. However, if the Raptors can keep both Lowry and DeRozan effective for the duration of their series they have a chance of pushing through regardless of which team is pushing back. It wouldn’t be in keeping with how the Raptors have traditionally introduced their All-Stars to the postseason, but not much that has happened this season has been in keeping with team history. If the Raptors are going to keep bucking trends, they may as well work towards bucking their most destructive postseason tendency. While this would have been considered unlikely in most seasons, it would be perfectly in keeping with this whackadoo campaign where so little that has happened has any precedence in the seasons that came before.

  • Lyall

    HEY! Anybody remember Bob “Whackadoo”? lol

  • or nah?

    This is a post bashing DeRozan.

    • JonasBrutha

      Oh come on, I digress. He’s our all star and “face of the franchise”, so his game is open to scrutiny. The author brings up a valid point with regards to our playoff history and the players that assumed the role of the number one guy, I felt it was quite rational. It should be interesting to see how DeRozan responds.

  • Ds

    DeRozan can shine if he understands early that hero ball doesn’t work in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Carter and Bosh, both better and smarter players than DeRozan, didn’t understand that the first time around. So…

  • stretch bigman

    Hard to say what will happen as much will depend on the opponent.

    Everything considered though, Demar will have a tough time in the playoffs against a good seasoned opponent. Jump shooters (that don’t shoot a good %) that have difficulty creating their own shot but take the majority of the teams possessions, is not a recipe for success in the playoffs this season or moving forward for that matter.

    Respect what Demar has done this year but the playoffs will shed much spotlight on the good and bad in his game.

    For the Raps to have a good postseason run, it will have to be mainly through Lowry’s contribtuions

  • LULZBRO

    Bro…..just…..Let It Goooo…..Let It Gooooo…..you guys can fill in the rest cuz i can’t think of anything, but yeah, what will happen will happen, it’s just a matter of the pieces falling together, you can’t really do anything about it, what’s done will be done, end of story…..period…..s

    • lol

      Bob, I told you to lay off the weed!

  • Isaiah Babcock

    Nice article. Let’s hope you’re right. DD has shown that he has improved court vision and that he passes well out of double teams. Those skills will need to be on point for the Raps to advance in the first round.

  • GoingBig

    One advantage this time is that there are two all-stars to consider – DeRozan and Lowry
    That’s going to require the opponent to handle two guards & if there’s any weakness in their defence, Lowry and DeRozan can work off of each other. But that requires passing

    In the three games against the consistently D-strong CHI Bulls, DeRozan had the following:
    Dec 14 – DD had 15 points, 1 assist; Lowry 16points. 6 assists (Blowout victory against struggling Bulls – 2 days after the Rudy Trade)
    Dec 31 – DD had 15 points, 4 assists; Lowry had 13 points, 6 assists (Raptors win – come from behind)
    Feb 14 – DD had 32 points, 1 assists; Lowry had 16 points, 7 assists (Close Raptors loss)
    One thing about the 2 first games against the Bulls – JV had the most points(or near most)

    So, with pressure, DD does not pass as he should and others need to bring up their game
    Things to watch for
    – JV has to keep out of foul trouble – he seems to be learning
    – The inside-outside game needs to get going including DD passing off to the bigs
    – Ball movement is number one – with Patterson returning, maybe that will open up again and improve(eye test). The last 7 games show assists at 13/23/17/30/17/OKC 18/20. That OKC game is low considering it was triple OT

  • why

    I like Demar however don’t see him at the same level as VC or Bosh. On the other hand this season’s Raps team is probably less dependent on their primary scorer (Demar) than the VC or Bosh teams – so even if he does struggle a bit it might not be the end of the world.

  • Bacadi!

    “so if an opposing team had to choose they’d probably look to bottle up DeRozan and dare Lowry to beat them four times on his own.” As a Raptors fan, I’m praying that our first round opponent tries this…automatic second round.

  • Bendit

    This Raps team is better balanced than the others and the spear is the pg. DD could have issues but there have been many games where he is marginalized for possibly 3 qtrs.with his mates picking up the slack. If the defense slacks off him in the 4th….well then… the Raps have the best 4th qtr record I hear.

    • noname

      you hear right. we do.

  • Tee

    Has anyone ever thought that this, “whackadoo season” was a natural progression of things?

    The author’s rationale to trade the core of this team might be the only evidence of anything whackadoo.

    This team is comprised of late lottery picks: Tim that takes time to develop.
    Yes, years to develop; sometimes 5-6 years man.

    Lebron learned a lot in the playoffs. It took years for him to adjust his game. I think he won a ring after 7 years of playoff experience.

    Very solid article & I enjoyed the insight. But maybe patience should be a central theme in a piece like this, instead of a history of failure.

    • Vodoo Child

      One thing to consider is that Toronto has a head coach who has playoff experience himself as a coach. Neither Butch nor Sam did.

      And if they get eliminated in the first round, it’s not the end of the world. This is a young team and the playoffs are part of their growth. Yes, patience.

  • webfeat

    The big difference between this team and those other Raptor playoff teams is that there isn’t such a big falloff between the primary offensive player (DD) and the rest of the team. The combination of JV/KLo/TRoss/Amir/2Pat/GV as other offensive outlets is much better than in years past. Plus, Novak might go supernova or Salmons might get into an old man groove.

    • jjdynomite

      I think you mean SuperNOVAK.

      /Devlin sucks

      P.S. Salmons is already gone fishin’. It will be useless to play him in the playoffs considering: a. he’s not coming back next season so what’s the point in him getting “playoff experience” with the rest of the Raptors young guns, and b. it’s not like his diminished skills can help Casey get to the second round and a subsequent guaranteed coaching extension. I seriously trust Hayes right now more than Salmons, especially considering the huge drop-off of the Raps bigs after Jonas and Amir. Come back soon PP!

  • RapNig

    Pregame??

    • Ogi

      Lol was just about to ask the same thing

  • jjdynomite

    One thing you missed in your negativity-borderline-realism, Tim W, er, Tim C, is the nature of the Raptors’ opponents for VC’s and Bosh’s first playoff seasons. The Van Gundy-led 1999-2000 Knicks that swept the Raps (in 3, best of 5) were a team that was one year removed from making the Finals, and in that particular season lost in 6 games in the ECF to the Pacers. The 2006-2007 team that defeated the Boshes in 6 were enjoying their 6th straight year in the playoffs, including two JKidd-led trips to the Finals (pre-VC).

    So it’s not like the Raps were bad, just vastly inexperienced. To pin this on the “stars” flopping (VC, Bosh or DeMar) is just nitpicking an all-around institutional weakness. Unfortunately, this year’s reality is that the most experienced current Raptor is the frickin’ head coach.

  • Wes mantooth

    Great article. I don’t know what expect from the post season. I don’t even know what expect game to game in this reg season. Close or losing games against tanking teams with injured stars then highly competitive victories against contenders.
    However I feel like the difference between demar and those other guys especially Vince is that he was already a superstar coming into those series. Not a great work ethic a bloated ego and bloated self worth. All came easy to him , until the playoffs. I don’t feel like DD even feels like he’s an allstar nor does he feel like it’s on his shoulders , as h often defers attention and praise to his team and Lowry. If there’s one thing that he has shown us in his time here is that he wants to work to win. He’s always been the underdog. He came in an athlete dunker and is now a mid range shooter. What I’m saying is that he’s always had the ability and the lack of ego in his game to make adjustments.
    As far as the bosh year is concerned the Jorge injury killed us , as we were playing a team game. Much like this team now. The strides of Ross and JV as of late will prove to be hugely impactful to our final result. I actually think tross is the raptor that comes out shining in the first round victory for the raps.

  • Mexiballer

    I think Demar is going to have to find the open man…a lot. teams have been double teaming and trapping him nearly every night. That will be even more intense in the playoffs. If his point total goes down and his assist total goes up thats a good thing. Another factor is how much rest he will he get before the playoffs start. If they can rest him for the last game or two that would be huge. Its doubtful though. It looks like the battle for the third seed with Chicago will go down to the very end.

  • Mexiballer

    Its difficult if not irrelevant to compare Derozan’s importance to this team and Bosh’s and Carters to previous Raptors teams. Derozan is not the main cog in the way that Carter and Bosh were, and this team is much more designed to move the ball and find the open man. Demar has said many times that he needs to be a decoy and is more than willing to do that. He doesnt have to carry the load game in and game out in the same way Bosh and Carter did. What he does need to do is make the right play when the traps and double teams come, and not turn the ball over or force up bad shots.

  • Louvens Remy

    The key to stopping the Raps is stopping Kyle Lowry. Not Demar.