It is the true definition of insanity. Doing the same thing and expecting different results. it messes with the Raptors mind. It messes with everyone who picked Toronto to win the series against Cleveland. It reminds everyone you can’t veer from what you know. There is the truth. And then there are the facts.
Fact. Kyle Lowry stinks this time of year and DeMar DeRozan shows his limitations. Fact. This was supposed to be the year the two Toronto guards would fling their playoff demons behind them, but it was the same story as usual which means the ending is a bore because we can figure it out an hour before the final seconds tick off. Fact. The Raptors are going to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson have more points and rebounds than LeBron James, it is game and maybe series over for the Raptors. (Jeff Green had the highest plus/minus of all competitors, +10). A complete Cleveland team that is not stuck on LeBron James iso ball is going to be impossible for Toronto with their cornmeal for heart.
The Raptors lost whatever small confidence and swag they had. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan didn’t do anything from a strategic standpoint, a leadership standpoint or an emotional standpoint, to wrestle the game out of Cleveland’s hands. And that is when they were leading on the scoreboard. You can’t score 18 points in the fourth quarter against LeBron. The Raptors looked scared. Kyle Lowry called a timeout with 2.2 seconds left of his own possession. The Raptors turned the ball over on a five second inbound violation. They missed layup after layup. Granted the Cavs put bodies on you but still. Compete.
It’s no longer embarassing. It is just how things are. DeRozan and Lowry were +0 and +0.
The two guards for the Toronto Raptors are great regular season players but don’t ratchet up their game and mental will when the pressure is the greatest. Neither Lowry nor DeRozan took it upon themselves to say to the rest of the crew, “I will lead us through this. Trust me. I got you.”
Dwane Casey was supposed to fix this with the offseason moves and a changed defense and more ball movement. But this is a life lesson. People can change their bad habits. You can stop smoking cigarettes but when you are stressed what do you do? Smoke cigarettes. That’s the Raptors. They can play free and easy for three quarters but in the 4th they get diseased and tight on the offensive end which impacts their defensive play. But really, their defense was okay. Their offense, as usual, in the playoffs sucks.
Kyle Lowry had 10 assists and good for him but he didn’t create driving lanes because he refused to shoot. He wouldn’t put his head down and drive to the rim. The Cavs have basically figured DeMar DeRozan out. Just throw a double at him and he gets confused. Watching them play the Cavs so timid after the much younger and less experienced Pacers played the Cavs so tough is a lesson in hyperbole. Who actually was the one seed and who is the four seed?
Ty Lue pegged the Cavs when he said, “we played tough.” Kyle Korver said, “we have to grind and hit and fight.” When the Raptors talk that way, then they might break the curse.
Dwane Casey called it “nerves.” Stop with the excuses. Is it nerves losing J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver for wide open threes?
The Raptors will do the Raptors thing that bores everyone. They will brush aside all the talk about what happens to teams when they lose the first game of a series, too bitter after a loss to acknowledge teams that lose the first game of a series usually lose the series. Did the Raptors miss easy shots, shots they usually make? Yes. Did the pressure make them brick shots? Probably. Is game two the most important game of the season? Absolutely. The pressure will be a thundercloud of bricks waiting to fall and crush the Raptors into midgets if they don’t find a way to gut out a win.
All of a sudden, irony is the elephant in the room. A team that doesn’t perform well under pressure is going to have to find a way to perform under pressure.