Two days between games feels a lot different after a Game 1 loss than after a Game 1 victory, it turns out. Instead of multiple days to stew in panic, the Toronto Raptors have been able to simply spend the time repeating their mantras ahead of Game 2 against the Washington Wizards. You’ve heard enough of it by now – it’s a Game 7, they’re desperate, and so on. If the NBA schedulers had mercy, there wouldn’t be three of these two-day breaks within the first five games of this series. Anyway, it was more staying on message on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to come out and play just as desperate. We can’t wait until they hit us, we have to come out and throw the first punch,” DeMar DeRozan said at shootaround. “Whenever we play on our home floor our mindset is always to go out there and win by any means. We’ve got another opportunity to go out here on our home floor, take care of business and extend this thing to 2-0.”
The Raptors were asked whether treating every game with such a desperation is difficult. After all, there could be up to 28 games in the playoffs, a third of a season. That’s an awful long time to be at full intensity. This is what they’ve played and prepared for, though, and the answer as to how they bring the requisite desperation is to just bring it. Only way to do it is to do it, you know?
“You just gotta do it,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “You gotta treat every game as the most important game. it’s the time of the year, we have to do it. It’s difficult, it’s not difficult, there’s no easy stuff here. You gotta just do it.”
It’s almost time to do it. Mercifully.
Not exactly a shocker here: Both teams have some adjustments planned and are anticipating adjustments from the other side. Neither will tip their hand – Scott Brooks was particularly coy in suggesting the lineup could change while giving little away about his tactical plans – but the sense from both sides was pretty clear. Game 1 included enough good and bad that both teams think they can do better, and while Brooks was adamant that his team’s biggest failing was just missing shots, the Raptors think they’ll be better this time around, too.
“Our motivation is we could’ve been better last game,” DeRozan said. “We have another opportunity to be better and with that we need the win. That’s how we have to treat it. We need the win. No matter how you want to twist it or turn it, we need a win.”
This is what the playoffs are. Both teams come out in Game 1 and play their game, both come away with positives and negatives, and both adjust and anticipated adjustments. Neither coach is going to give those away, but it’s still pretty easy (at the team level) to anticipate what might be coming based on other opponents have adjusted in the recent past. For Washington, that might mean sending fewer traps to stay home on shooters, or defending the 3-on-4 underneath those traps a little differently. It could mean mixing up the frontcourt assignments (Serge Ibaka torched Markieff Morris when they were guarding each other and Morris won the minutes where each was being guarded by someone else). It could mean better staggering rotations. The Raptors will have likely discussed most of the potential tweaks. This is the grind and the chess match, and the Raptors know it well.
Valanciunas also did a really nice job of putting the mentality of a playoff series in its proper context:
“Mindset is the same: To win the game. Now, it’s not a game where you have different opponents every night. We know what they do and they know what we do. It’s about executing the small things. It’s about one step, where you gonna take one step, how you gonna space out, how you gonna move your feet on defense, it’s about little things. It’s not about major things. So mindset, the mindset is to win, it’s not changing. There’s no weak teams in the playoffs. They’re all capable of doing big things, so it’s on us how we’re gonna play.”
- Fred VanVleet went through shootaround and is a game-time call for tonight. He was officially listed on the game notes as questionable and has since been downgraded to doubtful. Jared Greenberg of NBA TV first reported the downgrade in status, which came after Monday’s practice but wasn’t yet reflected in the game notes until Tuesday. Dwane Casey told us VanVleet went through shootaround and was a game-time call, so it’s hard to tell what his actual chances of playing are. VanVleet sounded somewhat close to playing Saturday, the Raptors said, was no longer feeling pain, partially participated in practice Sunday then went through most of it Monday, and today did shootaround. The slow escalation of activity is notable, and so yesterday’s apparent downgrade to doubtful is perhaps a little concerning. VanVleet missing Game 2 wouldn’t be the end of the world given the team’s depth, but it would obviously be preferable to have him out there.
- Pascal Siakam was asked about his confidence to continue shooting the three: “I have all season. I know it hasn’t been going in, but I always let it fly.”
- Siakam also took questions in French, so he’s only a couple of languages behind Serge Ibaka.
- The Wizards were very chatty about the officiating from Game 1. This is a part of the playoff back-and-forth, working the officials and points of emphasis and trying to prime that things have been against one team’s favor. John Wall even noted that the referees from Game 1 admitted to him at halftime that they had missed some calls, which Wall didn’t appreciate since, like the Last Two Minute Report, he’d rather not even know. (Game 1 did not qualify for an L2M report, by the way.) The fouls and free throws were fairly even throughout – only a rough gauge of officiating balance given that fouls are dictated by style and execution, and the Wizards are a high-foul team in general – and to my eyes, there were enough missed calls both ways that it shouldn’t be a talking point. Alas, this is the game, and the Raptors will surely be talking the same way if they drop Game 2 (specifically about Marcin Gortat, I will bet).
- Here are the t-shirts for Game 2. They’re once again white and with the same theme but this time go with the “Hustle OVER Hype” edition of the team’s marketing campaign.
Sticking with the same theme, different slogan for Game 2 pic.twitter.com/tPOG0Kq8yA
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) April 17, 2018
- Jurassic Park is open for the viewing party tonight, per MLSE.
- Here’s a cool video from Vice talking with Serge Ibaka about what he’s liked about the city of Toronto.
Eating homecooked Congolese food is @sergeibaka's secret to success.
— VICE Sports (@VICESports) April 17, 2018
- This isn’t a Raptors note, per say, but the G League is increasing salaries for all players to $35,000 next year, a nice step forward from the $26,000 max of the last two years (and lower for some players). This will need to continue to grow with the league to ensure the best talent stays in the NBA’s feeder system rather than going overseas.