Morning Coffee – Sat, Apr 30

ICYMI from Raptors Republic

 

Toronto Raptors do the hustle

In truth the Pacers success versus the Raptors isn’t exactly coming out of the blue as they played the third best defense on the Raptors this season. Nevertheless there are some areas Indy has improved upon.

To wit, the two obvious upgrades have been on the perimeter and the strategy employed to crowd/hurry Toronto’s backcourt. In season, the Pacers ranked third at defending the 3 point line (33.4%). They’ve improved upon those efforts in the playoffs holding the Raptors to 26.6% who shot the fifth best from the arc in season (37.0%).

Nor is it surprising Paul George appears in 6 of the 7 hustle categories given how he defended DeMar DeRozan, especially in the first 4 games of the series. Logically George will draw the primary defensive assignment on DeRozan again since Indy are in a must win situation. It’s also likely he’ll play more than 41 minutes which could pay dividends if the Raptors can continue to limit the rest of the Pacers offense. Additionally, Norman Powell‘s defense on George in game 5 offered insight to carry forward. By utilizing their depth (Carroll, Ross, DeRozan and Powell) the Raptors could expedite George’s fatigue level.

Despite a bad back Ian Mahinmi rates in 4 categories and the emergence of rookie Myles Turner who finds himself listed in 3 categories is aiding to Indy’s defensive success. Arguably the surprise Pacer appearing in 2 categories is Monta Ellis who is often described as defensively challenged. Again, if Frank Vogel elects to play his starters extended minutes it may not have the desired result since they’ll be tasked with shutting down the Raptors on both ends.

The Curious Case of Kyle Lowry | Raptors Republic

Some may point to Lowry’s net rating, player efficiency, or advanced metrics to analyze his impact on the games in this series. And yes, I agree, Lowry’s had an unbelievable impact on some of these past 5 games, even without scoring the basketball. I could get into all of that and most people would agree that many of those stats are meaningful. But just for the sake keeping it simple today, let’s adopt the Matt Devlin approach. As Devlin will often say, “the three is the key”. That’s not to say Lowry hitting threes is the only reason the Raptors can succeed – but the “correlation doesn’t imply causation” argument has never been one to stop us basketball over-analyzers from crunching some of the numbers and seeing what the patterns tell us. No reason to stop now.

During the regular season, when Lowry shot better than 45% from the field, the Raptors were 27-8 (77% win percentage). When he made 4 or more 3-pointers in a game, the Raptors were 16-4 (80% win percentage). Again, that’s not to say that’s why they won those games – it’s just an indicator of a correlation that likely means that the pace of the game that opens up the shooting opportunities for Lowry, is one that’s conducive to winning for the Raptors. It means we’ve got to maintain floor spacing; it means the bigs need to be playing well (to create open shots on the perimeter), and it means screens need to be set effectively such that opposing defenses players can’t fight through them. Part of that is offensive execution, but part of it also hinges on the defensive efficiency of your opponent. Indiana, the third-best defense in the league coming into this playoff series, is about as good as they get when it comes to on-the-ball and rotation/help defense. Solomon Hill, George Hill and Paul George are 3 active and capable defenders who can guard multiple positions at the point and on the wing; combine that with a struggling shot coming into the series, and some of this, while surprising, shouldn’t be shocking.

 

Articles from the Internets

 

The Raptors never fail to break your heart | The Defeated

We want so badly for this team — just once — to give us something to be proud of.
We love the Raptors, but because they’re the fucking Raptors, we’re doomed always to feel this hollow emptiness. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Raptors will break your heart. This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last.
So when the team puts in a performance like they did in Game 6, it’s not anger, it’s not frustration, I don’t feel betrayed. I can only feel disappointment.
But if we knew any better, we would feel nothing at all towards this team. Because let’s face it — they haven’t earned it.

Pressure on Raptors as ghosts continue to haunt their dreams: Arthur | Toronto Star

Well, the pressure’s here now. The Raptors have been waiting all series for Lowry to be himself. He played this game with guile and genius, passing and defending, making the plays he could make. But since banging his elbow in Orlando March 20 Lowry had made 76 of his 240 shots, or 31.7 per cent. In this game he went 4-for-14, and 1-for-7 from three, and barely looked to shoot after his early attempts. Lowry claimed, straight-faced, that his swollen right elbow isn’t the problem. He said it was Indiana’s defence, the length of George Hill, their schemes. “Give them credit,” he said, “their team defence is forcing me into tougher shots.”

If that’s it, then this is a disaster. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no player has shot under 40 per cent in the first six games of a playoff series in the shot clock era while taking at least 10 shots per game. Lowry’s the first: .231, .308, .381, .333, .273, .286 on 13, 13, 21, 12, 11 and 14 tries.

Lowry is doing every other thing he can, using every part of his basketball bag of tricks. He is passing, defending, diving for the ball. But he can’t shoot, and that makes him into a young Jason Kidd or an old Rajon Rondo, and this team isn’t built for that. Lowry animates this team. He has all year. He ran hills and tortured himself with Pilates and cut his diet into mathematical pieces last summer after the season-ending flop last year. If his elbow is the problem, then it’s an excuse. If it’s not that, then maybe Kyle Lowry can’t raise his game when the games become this physical, this hard.

DeRozan, meanwhile, was bundled into an unmarked van again by Indiana’s Paul George, again. With Indiana pushing in the third quarter Lowry tried like hell to create something, and backup Cory Joseph tried like hell to create something.

Kelly: With a chance to step on Indiana’s neck, Toronto – surprise – fell on its face | The Globe and Mail

Sunday’s Game 7 is just one contest with all the randomness that implies, but there will be knock-on effects.

If it’s a win, everyone gets well. Coach Dwane Casey’s job is safe. There is no organizational discussion about offering DeRozan a five-year max contract beyond, “Did someone bring a pen?” Lowry sheds his image as a guy who is at his best when it matters least.

If it’s a loss, all those things, to varying degrees, are up in the air. There will be significant institutional pressure to change a losing game. With the Jays getting good and the Leafs failing to be dumb, there is a real danger of basketball locking itself back into third place in the market and languishing there for a good long while.

Unless there is a significant shake-up, the next regular season will feel like the one just passed – apathetic. Only much moreso.

This really has become a binary discussion – win big or lose much bigger.

There is also the existential question. For most of 20 years, being a Raptors fan has been like living gluten-free – it’s something you endure rather than enjoy. But only one of those things is good for you.

Raptors, history not giving us reason to believe | Toronto Sun

The rest of the night, if felt like Washington a year ago.

No reason to believe there is one more win left in a team that is relying on a semi-injured Kyle Lowry, a less than 40% shooter in every game in the series, trying to tell you his elbow isn’t lousy. If his elbow isn’t lousy, his shooting is.

And there was DeMar DeRozan — “my two all-stars”, coach Dwane Casey likes to call them — in a series now down to a best-of-one. DeRozan played poorly in both Games 1 and 2, had a good quarter in Game 3, poorly in Game 4, gigantic in Game 5, invisible on Friday night. In 24 quarters of playoff basketball, the measure of the greats of the game, he has had a significant role in about six of them.

One-for-four. Which was not unlike his shooting on Friday night when he was just 3-for-13. That’s 23%. That’s embarrassing. That’s atrocious. Eight points Friday night.

Eight freaking points for a guy that averaged 25 the last month of the season and will attract $25-million in July. The forever pathetic Terrence Ross, he of the $10-million a year contract, scored nine, most of that coming in the final two minutes. But you expect Ross to be invisible. It’s what he does and who he is.

You can’t expect it, or accept it, from DeRozan on a night when there was a chance to advance.

Except it doesn’t seem to bother him. At least outwardly. He has that calmness that occasionally makes you want to scream. Because sometimes you need to scream.

Raptors have no choice now but to face all their past ghosts in Game 7 | Sportsnet.ca

“The key word is trust, I trust our guys. We’ve been together for 82 games, won 56 of them; we adjust some things in the playoffs but the bottom line is we trust who we are, our identity,” Casey said. “We trust how we play. We just have to come out and do it when the bell rings.”

But trust what? Trust that DeRozan and Lowry would finally play a good game at the same time?

The Raptors had chance to quiet their critics. To do things the easy way; to be home and cooled while Miami and Charlotte, their potential opponents in the mythical second round, fight it out in their own Game 7.

They fumbled it. And now they have choices to make.

“We have to have a long, hard look in the mirror at ourselves and realize what basketball team do we want to be,” said Patrick Patterson, who started his second straight game for the Raptors, finishing with five points on seven shots in Game 6. “Do we want to be the team that won 56 games, do we want to be the team that got two all-stars to the all-star game and all the accolades, set new records, went on long winning streaks, played great defence the first half of the season, or do we want to be this team that’s come in Indiana the past two times and got blown out of the water? We have to decide what we have to be. We have to decide what team we want to be and that’s it.”

Raptors collapse in second half as Pacers force Game 7 | Toronto Star

Aside from a blistering start to the game, the Raptors were soundly beaten and got little production out of players who simply have to be better.

DeMar DeRozan was a non-factor with just eight points on 13 shots in a timid performance, and while Kyle Lowry put up 10 points and 10 assists, his play faded in the second half as well.

Lowry refuses to admit a swollen left elbow has limited his shooting ability.

“It’s not limiting me at all,” he said. “The Pacers are doing a great job on me, simple as that. They’re all over me, they’re mixing coverages up, and give them credit, they’re playing me extremely well, and George Hill is really playing good defence right now.”

The loss puts the Raptors in a situation they are familiar with but haven’t ever handled well. They have been in four deciding games over their history — Game 5 in New York and Game 7 in Philadelphia in 2001, Game 5 in Detroit in 2002 and against Brooklyn in Game 7 in 2014 — and the only win came over the Knicks.

This same core group — DeRozan, Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson — were mainstays on the team that lost Game 7 at home to Brooklyn two years ago so they know the way to re-focus.

“Have a nice long conversation amongst ourselves,” Patterson said. “See how bad we want this. See how bad we want to advance to the next round. Each and every one of us needs to step up, own up to our mistakes, own up to what we need to do more to get wins, individually and collectively as a team.

DeMar DeRozan fails to step up for Raptors | Toronto Sun

With everything, including his future in Toronto, on the line, DeMar DeRozan never did implore his will in Game 6 of this NBA playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

He was just another player.

A guy. A body. A player in red. But a difference-maker? No. And on this physical night of throwback, old-school ball — no blood, no foul — he needed to be more than he was. The Raptors needed him to be more.

Paul George didn’t have a great night until the game was on the line. Then he opened the fourth quarter with a basket, an assist, another bucket, and suddenly Indiana was up 13 points and he was the game’s high scorer and Game 7 was on.

The Raptors went out to an early 18-6 lead, starting better than they have in any game in the series, but were outscored the rest of the way 95-64. It was that ugly.

DeRozan wound up with all of eight points and only got to the foul line twice. For him, It wasn’t a night to remember.

Sad Drake #wethenorth #rtz

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Game Rap: Raptors 83, Pacers 101 | Toronto Raptors

ROLE REVERSAL:

After Toronto had an 18-2 run during the fourth quarter of their Game 5 comeback, they gave up an 18-0 run to the Pacers spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters in Game 6. In a complete role reversal, Toronto managed just five points in the first 8:53 of the quarter as the Pacers turned a seven-point fourth quarter lead into a 26-point advantage and forced Toronto to empty its bench. The Pacers shot 64 percent in the second half, while holding Toronto to 36 percent shooting, as they outscored the Raptors 61-39 in the half.

Raptors players say believe in us | Toronto Sun

So does Patterson, a crucial cog all season who has wobbled the past few games.

He won’t hear of any fans abandoning ship.

Not now, no matter how disappointed they feel, or how sure they are that the same awful, piercing script will play out.

“Because they should still believe in us,” Patterson said.

“No matter what the circumstances are. No matter how bad we played, no matter what our situation or the scenario may be. If you’re a Raptors fan, you’re a Raptors fan for a reason, because you believe in this team, you’re a diehard Raptors fan and you’ve been with this team since it started in the early ’90s and that should be a good enough reason right there.”

Patterson has a point.

If you’ve been a masochist for this long, suffered through every grisly moment and scenario, from Vince Carter, to Chris Childs, to Vince Carter again — this time for the opposition – to Dwight Howard, Paul Pierce and Paul Pierce again — you can handle this, you can stick it out one more time.

If they don’t write a different ending, though, then you might want to reconsider committing again.

One more game. They can’t make it all better, can’t wipe away the past, but they can finally put a smile on the faces of many people that deserve to be happy because of their commitment.

Raps lead 44-40 at the half. @jvalanciunas a force down low w/ 10 & 6. @kyle_lowry7 adds 4p-5r-8a. #WeTheNorth

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HQ Overtime Post-Game Show: Let’s talk about misery | Raptors HQ

As the prophets foretold, the Toronto Raptors will go to a seventh game against the seventh-seeded Pacers. Tonight, I’m joined by Sean Woodley and Daniel Hackett to discuss a 101-83 Pacers win. We’ll talk about what went wrong, what to look for on Sunday, and more discussion of DeMar DeRozan.

#VIEWS of #Game6 🏀 #GoRaptors !!! // #WeTheNorth

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Pacers channel Game 5 disappointment into Game 6 rout | Toronto Star

“That was our fault,” he said of the Game 5 transgressions. “We definitely give credit to (the Raptors) and their type of defence and the lineup they played but we have to stay with it. We believe in ourselves. There’s no reason not to believe in ourselves. We know what type of basketball we’ve been playing of late.”

The Pacers suffocated the Raptors all night, taking their quarterly production down from 22 in the first and second quarters, outscoring them 31-20 in the third, then 30-19 in the fourth that felt over in 90 seconds.

And they did it with Paul George at his most ineffective in any of these six games. George had seven first-half points and finished with 21. The Pacers’ other four starters were in double figures, led largely by a combined 26 points from Monta Ellis and George Hill.

“Paul George can’t beat the Raptors,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “The Pacers have to beat the Raptors. We need everybody and we got really solid contributions from almost everyone that played.”

Raptors disappear in second half as Pacers force Game 7 in Toronto | Toronto Sun

Casey talked for two days about coming out and hitting first, taking the play to the Pacers and he got just what he asked for from his starters.

They had a 12-point lead 61/2 minutes into the game and looked like they might just put this one to bed early.

But basketball is a game of runs and the Pacers finally got on one of their own as Frank Vogel stayed with his starters and Casey tried to buy his own some rest by going to his bench.

The Pacers crawled back in at that point, finishing up the first quarter on a 14-4 run to get the deficit back down to two.

Early on it was the Carroll show as he put the clamps down on George and had nine points in that first quarter but after that there was very little for the travelling Raptors fan base to cheer about.

GAME 6. Hanging out at the square! 🏀 come say hi! #playoffs #Raptors #Toronto

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Insider: Pacers do more than survive to force Game 7 | Indy Star

Indiana overwhelmed Toronto with an extended look of near-flawless execution stretching from the end of third quarter to the 9:49 mark of the fourth. Suddenly, Frank Vogel’s rotation wasn’t a problem. He began the fourth quarter with several starters on the floor and the promising pair of the future (George and the rookie big man, Turner) ripped off the first six points before Toronto coach Dwane Casey could call timeout. Overall, the Pacers pelted Toronto with an 18-0 separating run. Comfort swept through the crowd, which turned into exuberance, which spiraled into madness.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Lawson said. “When we started hitting shots… the crowd was pretty crazy, into it. I started hearing them yelling U-S-A! Indiana’s kind of a wild place to play.”

The noise was so loud, Lawson could not make out a word Vogel said during the first timeout of the fourth quarter. Lawson only saw what he wrote: 48. Though the message was evident, later in a locker room where the fog had lifted, Lawson lightheartedly shared his version of that moment.

“It was a 48-minute game. Don’t get too hype right now, you know what happened last game. I’m guessing that’s what (Vogel) said,” Lawson said. “I’ve seen somebody in the crowd. He had a piece of paper with 48 (written on it) the whole time. So I think Coach might have took that from him.”

Sharpshooter. #WeTheNorth

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Indiana Pacers Win Game 6 with Big Run and Force a Game 7 | 8 Points 9 Seconds

The Good: The way the Indiana Pacers closed this game. Unlike previous efforts — anyone remember Game 5? — the team turned an advantage into a blowout and ended this one well before there was any chance of the Raptors regaining confidence. They mounted an 18-0 run starting in the third quarter to turn this one into a laugher and force a Game 7. It was a total team effort with each of the starters scoring double digits and contributing in their own ways.

Paul George was brilliant even without dominant scoring. Monta Ellis made some mistakes, but was colossal when it mattered most. George Hill was aggressive and continually got to the line. Myles Turner made shots and defended the rim. Ian Mahinmi paired with Turner to give the Pacers a dominant interior twin towers that finally, despite allowing too many offensive rebounds, made them seem like the bigger, tougher, more physical team.

And of course the team defense was just superb. The Raptors simply could not score from the late third quarter on, and finished with just 39 points in the second half — and that was only after they started putting some offense together in garbage time.

Norman Powell By @a1editsbasketball #wethenorth #wethenorm #rtz

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Doyel: Critics don’t change Frank Vogel | Indy Star

And then on Friday night he used his guys the way he wants to use them – he rested Paul George, he played a mixture of big and small lineups, he played struggling Rodney Stuckey, he gave 10 minutes to ineffective Ty Lawson – and the Pacers absolutely bludgeoned the Raptors.

This game was so destructive, it was almost painful to watch. The Raptors are mentally fragile, DeMar DeRozan a priceless Faberge egg that has been cracked open by Paul George. After exploding for 34 points in Game 5, DeRozan returned to the ineffective head case he’s been the rest of the series. The NBA’s ninth-leading scorer managed just eight points on Friday night. He was 3 of 13 from the floor. He had four turnovers.

But it wasn’t just DeRozan. This was every single Raptor being treated like a piece of dried wood, being broken over the Pacers’ knee. Kyle Lowry was 4 of 14 from the floor. DeMarre Carroll was 5 of 12. Patrick Patterson was shooting air balls. Jonas Valanciunas was being outplayed by Pacers rookie Myles Turner.

No doubt #wethenorth #wethenorm #rtz

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NBA Playoffs: Pacers open up in second half to force Game 7 against Raptors | Indy Cornrows

Even though Indiana could never break through in the first half, the game itself was one waiting for someone to take control of it. The Pacers predictably struggled with Jonas Valanciunas (14 points) and Cory Joseph (15 points), but neither was able to explode. It wasn’t until Hill and Ellis exploded in the third that the game had individual players swing the flow of the game and Toronto had a difficult time grasping hold once the game shifted towards the Pacers.

As has also been the theme of the series, the struggle of the Raptors has come down to the struggles of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. While Ellis and Hill combined for 19 in the third, Lowry and DeRozan combined for 18 in the game. The duo shot 7-27, with Lowry shooting 1-7 deep, and just four combined free throw attempts. At no point were either a factor in the outcome of the game, which of course works in Indiana’s favor.

Indiana had deceptively solid ball movement all night, though their struggles early masked that. Indiana finished with 21 assists on 35 baskets, with four players reaching four assists. For Toronto, however, they totaled just 14 assists, with Lowry dominating 10 of them as the Raptors shot 36.7% on the night. Indiana did a much better job tonight forcing and scoring off of turnovers, forcing 17 Raptors miscues and outscoring them 20-12 in points off turnovers.

The good news is of course that the Pacers will force a Game 7, but more than that, Indiana has largely been in control of the series since Game 4. Indiana had tied or outscored Toronto in 8 of the 12 quarters, and only have their worst quarter in franchise history standing in the way of it being potentially three consecutive wins to close out the series.

Toronto Raptors fall to Indiana Pacers in Game 6 | Raptors Cage

Offence: D

The Raptors came out of the gates hot, ending the first half with a 44-40 lead. But the second half is where the offence stagnated. Turnovers proved to be another issue with the Raptors. Toronto turned the ball over 17 times, resulting in 20 points for Indiana.

Another issue was the Pacers defence: throughout the series, Indiana has been able to clog the paint, preventing drives to the lane or opportunities in the post. Tonight was no different.

DeRozan failed to get into any kind of rhythm the entire game. When he drew multiple defenders, he took low-percentage shots instead of passing to the open man. Jonas Valanciunas (14 points, 9 rebounds) failed to establish a paint presence due to constant double-teaming or failure to draw fouls.

Pacers Seriously Excited About Game 7 Opportunity | Indiana Pacers

“It’s like Game 1,” George said. “We have to go in and impose our will early. They’re going to have everything on their side at home, the crowd going crazy. If we continue on how we (played) to start Game 5, take the crowd out of it, let it just be about basketball, we’ll be confident to leave Toronto with the series in our hands.”

One could argue the pressure will be on the Raptors in Game 7. They’re the second-seeded team, the one that won 56 regular season games, the one that’s been gradually built to this point, the one that has failed to get out of the First Round the past two seasons.

George acknowledged that.

“The pressure’s on both teams,” he said. “It’s the final game, it’s win or go home. But yeah, there’s added pressure on them, being at home, their troubles getting out of the First Round. It comes down to who wants it. And we feel good about it.”

Indiana Pacers force Game 7 with Toronto Raptors | ESPN

“We’ve got an opportunity,” DeRozan said. “We love to play the game — we love the game of basketball. You can’t make it seem like a funeral. It’s a chance for us to go out and compete at the highest level, which we love to do, and an opportunity for us to do it on our home court.”

Still, all they’ve accomplished this season would be rendered meaningless if they get bounced after taking a 3-2 series lead.

There is obviously a lot riding on Game 7. The Raptors would love nothing more than to get over the hump and make everyone forget about all the previous times they’ve failed to come through in this exact spot.

For the Raptors and Canada, this will be a significant moment.

“It means everything for us to advance,” DeRozan said. “The season would be a failure if we don’t make it out of this first round and give ourselves a chance to play in the second round. We understand that. It’s basketball. We love to play this game. It comes with highs, it comes with lows, but you’ve got to be ready for the challenge at the end of the day.”

Added Casey: “I think we will respond. I know we will respond. I think there is fight in that locker room. I have confidence in this group. I have faith in this group that they will come out and fight.”

Indiana extends its season with a win, forces a Game 7 in Toronto | Yahoo

Toronto’s offensive issues, according to coach Dwane Casey, bled over into its defensive woes. Or vice/versa. In an 18-0 run, who can ever tell?

The Raptors, just a quarter and a half away from making it to the second round for just the second time in the team’s 21-season history, failed to score for a 6:37 stretch in the third quarter. Star swingman DeMar DeRozan played all 12 minutes in the frame but missed three of four shots. The free agent to-be missed 10 of 13 shots on the night, only making it to the free throw line twice, ending his evening with just eight points.

Kyle Lowry waved off any attempts to pin his continued poor shooting on a bum right elbow, but he clearly has not been the same since injuring his right arm against Orlando on March 20. He shot just under 32 percent in nine games to end the regular season, and Friday evening’s 4-14 performance left him at just 30.9 shooting from the floor in the postseason.

The All-Star guard made a point to dribble mostly with his left arm throughout, and though Raps coach Dwane Casey acknowledged that Lowry “can do more things for us than just making shots,” Lowry’s 10 assists didn’t exactly put Toronto over the top.

Measuring DeMar DeRozan’s Worth | BBALLBREAKDOWN

While DeRozan may have held all the bargaining chips heading into the All-Star break, a few things have changed since. Terrence Ross played much better basketball over the second half of the season, and perhaps more significantly, so has Norman Powell. The former was being scrutinized for receiving a new three-year, $33 million extension that appears modest by today’s standards. The latter was learning the game with Toronto’s D-League affiliate, Raptors 905.

Yet by all accounts, and especially in light of Powell’s apparent coming of age through five games, the Raptors now have a contingency plan. Much like DeRozan, Powell works tremendously hard on his game and fears no one. Outside shooting was considered a major weakness when he was drafted. But after attempting just 14 threes and making one through February, he hit 38 of his next 86 attempts (44.2 percent) from beyond the arc to finish the season.

He looks to be very much in the Avery Bradley mould, an undersized shooting guard with excellent defensive instincts, more athleticism (as evidenced by his breakaway dunk to tie the game at 92 in Game 5), and the potential for more impact as a scorer.

Should all of this concern DeMar DeRozan? Possibly. Will it? Probably not.

“It’s not surprising. Me being older, maturing, going through a lot basketball-wise, I never got frustrated,” DeRozan said. “It’s easy to complain and make excuses when things aren’t going your way. But I know how hard I work, how much I put into the game. I’m not who I am for no reason.”

DeRozan’s game may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but much like the guy vying for his spot, hard work goes a long way in this league. There aren’t too many 26-year-old veterans in this league with his combination of talent and character. If he can show that Games 1-4 were a problem he solved, and add playoff series winner to his resume over the course of this weekend, the kid straight out of Compton will be worth “it” to someone.

Raptors’ Kyle Lowry shakes up routine | Toronto Sun

But clearly bothered by his 31.4% shooting in the series (before Game 6), which included dreadful 18.8% shooting from three-point range, Lowry clearly felt like going back to something familiar might help.

It might have been a case of willing to be a bit more tired during the contest if it meant his shot attempts felt better when they left his hand. He didn’t want to become the first player ever to shoot lower than 40% in the first six games of a series.

The change didn’t work for Lowry. His jumper remained missing in action, even if he did everything else at a high level. He started 2-for-9 from the field, missing each of his four attempts from behind the arc and things didn’t get much better from there.

Lowry mostly went away from trying to shoot and focused on facilitating, tying his post-season record with eight assists in the first quarter alone.

He also fell hard on his already damaged right elbow, then promptly clanked a free throw.

Lowry is still making an impact, but his missing jumper was one of many things that ailed the Raptors on this, the latest forgettable night.

Unless his elbow miraculously heals, Game 7 could be a repeat.

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