Sports DeRozan and Lowry add to bad NBA playoff rep: Feschuk

11:36  17 april  2017
11:36  17 april  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

DeRozan leads Raptors past Heat 96-94

  DeRozan leads Raptors past Heat 96-94 DeMar DeRozan had a strong first half and finished with 38 points to go with six rebounds as the Raptors beat the Miami Heat 96-94 on Friday night in Toronto's final home game of the regular season. Canadian point guard Cory Joseph came off the bench with 14 points and three assists for Toronto (49-31), who cut the idle Boston Celtics lead in the Atlantic Division to 1 1/2 games. Kyle Lowry had 12 points, six assists and seven rebounds in his first game back in Toronto since wrist surgery on March 1 forced him to miss 18 games.

Raptors’ two-note offence doesn’t often play well in post-season spotlight. They’re working on it.

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Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan, looking for a way around Tony Snell of the Bucks, shot 33 per cent from the field in Game 1. © Rick Madonik Raptors all-star DeMar DeRozan, looking for a way around Tony Snell of the Bucks, shot 33 per cent from the field in Game 1.

It has become an annual spring ritual in Raptorland: Examining the wreckage of a Game 1 playoff defeat, determining if the damage is repairable.

And in this case, there’s nothing to suggest Sunday’s 97-83 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks isn’t something that can’t be overcome. It was one game. It was also Kyle Lowry’s usual game in a playoff series opener. He’s played in six Game 1s as a Raptor. And in those half-dozen outings — all of them losses, as is the ancient franchise custom that predates him — Lowry is averaging a dismal 10 points a game on about 13 field-goal attempts. When your team’s beating heart is thumping so haphazardly — 2-for-11 shooting on Saturday, 27 per cent from the field in career series openers as a Raptor — well, best of luck.

Raptors close East gap with Lowry back: Arthur

  Raptors close East gap with Lowry back: Arthur One thing Kyle Lowry likes to do is pretend he’s not smart. Or at least, pretend that his basketball brain, his biggest asset other than abundance of both will and posterior, shuts off and relaxes. Ask the Toronto Raptors point guard about what Cleveland is doing these days, go ahead. “I don’t watch what they’re doing defensively or offensively,” said Lowry before Toronto’s Friday night matchup with the Miami Heat at the Air Canada Centre. “I watch us, and worry about us. Honestly, I watch the games, I love watching them play, but I don’t look at the schemes or what they’re doing. Just watch basketball.”Mmm hmm.

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“It sounds like a yearly song we sing,” Dwane Casey, the Raptors coach, was saying on Sunday, “but we’re going to go as (Lowry) and DeMar goes.”

That’s obvious, of course. This is a two-man offence if there ever was one, complete with the league’s lowest assist rate in more than a decade. And here’s what we’ve come to understand about that two-man offence. The heightened intensity of the post-season often puts a dent in its predictable, one-on-one-based style. Which is a big reason why Toronto’s duelling all-stars are so often slow out of the blocks.

Some players raise their games this time of year. DeRozan and Lowry mostly raise questions about theirs. And here we go again.

“It gets worse,” Lowry said, speaking of his perennial post-season struggle. “It got worse (on Saturday).”

Raptors are ready for another long playoff grind

  Raptors are ready for another long playoff grind They know what’s in front of them, the pitfalls and the pressure and the pain, but the Toronto Raptors also know the NBA playoffs are about them rather than who they play or when. A veteran team with a core that remembers well the grind of last spring has to take care of its own business first and foremost.“We play it out and whatever happens, happens,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “Don’t care about who we play, where we play. We just gotta go play.”Heading into the penultimate night of the regular season on Tuesday, the Raptors were still unsure who they will meet when the best-of-seven first round begins on the weekend.

The Raptors are up 3-2 and the Warriors are into the Western Conference Finals after Wednesday night in the NBA playoffs . DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry followed up one of their worst games with one of their best.

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Just to refresh your memory about how ugly this can get, remember that DeRozan, for all his all-star-worthy virtues, has established a long track record of post-season fall-offs. Basically he’s a 45-per-cent shooter in the regular season who devolves into a 39-per-cent shooter in the playoffs. (He shot 33 per cent from the field on Saturday.)

And Lowry’s career dip is nearly as stark. He’s a 42-per-cent career regular-season shooter who morphs into a 38-per-cent guy under the bright lights and micro-scrutiny of the NBA’s championship tournament.

When DeRozan and Lowry have seen their offensive effectiveness take a hit, so have the Raptors. A season ago, Toronto had the fifth-most efficient offence in the league in the regular season. By the end of their run to the Eastern final, they ranked 12th among 16 playoff teams. Two seasons ago they finished third in regular-season offensive efficiency. In the playoffs they ranked 15th of 16 teams.

Raptors hope experience takes DeRozan to new playoff heights

  Raptors hope experience takes DeRozan to new playoff heights Heading into his fourth consecutive NBA Playoffs, experience has DeMar DeRozan better equipped to succeed than ever before. Now it’s time for him to take advantage.Listen to DeMar DeRozan as he and his Toronto Raptors teammates turn their attention to their first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks – Game 1 set for Saturday at 5:30 — and the 27-year-old sounds like a wise old man.

But per NBA .com, Lowry shot 50 percent with Brogdon on the court and 50 percent when he was off against the Bucks. If DeRozan and Lowry struggle early on, Valanciunas may be called on to bail out the Raptors’ playoff offense, as he has in the past.

DeRozan and Lowry average around 50 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and two steals per game. Opposition back courts will struggle to hold down this pair of studs. DeRozan can shoot a long two but floor spacing in the NBA Playoffs is vital. Milwaukee Bucks.

This is who they are — a gaggle of players predictable and limited enough in their attack as to be seen as stoppable. DeRozan’s reliance on mid-range jumpers and free-throw-inducing drives isn’t always conducive to beating the more concentrated defensive approaches of the post-season (although Saturday’s 27-point performance, in which he took 21 shots but went 13 for 14 from the free-throw line, was encouraging enough.)

Still, the Raptors would obviously prefer both of their all-stars on comfortable footing, which is why Casey was insisting on Sunday that Lowry needs to be more aggressive in his approach. Lowry is the Raptor most gifted at creating shots for both himself and teammates by breaking down the defence in ways that are difficult to stymie through simple strategic tweaks. So it says something that Lowry bristled at the idea that he could have done more in Game 1.

Actually, Lowry essentially scoffed at the coach’s concept, insisting he made all the correct reads when he was incessantly double-teamed.

“You got four arms on you, but I gotta be more aggressive,” Lowry said, speaking with obvious sarcasm.

Raptors takeaways: Toronto outplayed in every facet

  Raptors takeaways: Toronto outplayed in every facet Here are some takeaways from a 104-77 Game 3 loss the Raptors and their fans would like to swiftly forget.Two hundred and eighty miles away in Indianapolis, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers mounted a 26-point comeback over the Pacers. It could have been a theme on the evening — the night of comebacks — but the Raptors never even threatened to make a game of it.

Third time is the charm it is said and if that's the case it should be a very interesting weekend in New Orleans for both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan . The two Raptors are making their respective third trips to the NBA 's jewel of the mid-season and

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Lowry, in his usual argumentative way, suggested it’s his teammates who need to step it up.

“(The Bucks) game-planned really well for us. That’s one thing about the playoffs, teams are gonna game plan for me and DeMar,” Lowry said. “We gotta figure out ways to make tough shots or everybody else gotta help us. We gotta get other guys to get even more open looks.”

None of this is to say the Raptors shouldn’t be able to beat the Bucks. Speaking of open looks, on Saturday Toronto missed 16 of 24 shots deemed either “open” or “wide open” by the NBA’s player-tracking technology. Knock down a few more of those and it’s a different game. Knock down a few of those and maybe the Raptors offence doesn’t grind to a halt down the stretch, missing 28 or 35 second-half field-goal attempts while coughing up seven turnovers.

“We got some open shots. A lot of shots we normally make weren’t going in and we can live with that, because we know we’ll make shots,” said P.J. Tucker, the veteran forward. “For us, it’s more about the defence.”

No doubt the Raptors need to find a way to make life more difficult for Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, who went 13 for 18 from the field in a long-reaching, hard-dunking display of dominance. Making more shots, and thus limiting Antetokounmpo’s effectiveness on the fast break, would help, too. And playing harder wouldn’t hurt, either.

“They beat us, they outworked us, they out-physicaled us, they out-screened us in every area that you could possibly talk about, and that’s what we showed the guys on film this morning,” Casey said. “To win in this league, we have to play at another level. You can’t play on a regular-season level. You have to screen in playoff form, you have to cut in playoff form, you have to run in playoff form.”

The problem, of course, is that “playoff form,” if you’re talking about a certain couple of Toronto all-stars, doesn’t necessarily come with positive connotations. If you’re DeRozan and Lowry, Tuesday’s Game 2 would be as good a time as any to head off your usual playoff fall-off and find a way to rise.

How Norman Powell swung the series vs. Milwaukee in Toronto's favor .
TORONTO - Outside of a season-saving performance against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of last year's playoffs, Norman Powell entered the Raptors' first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks - and the Raptors' starting lineup in Game 4 - as a relative unknown outside of Toronto. The 23-year-old averaged fewer than 17 minutes per game through his first two seasons, and just over 11 minutes per game over his first 20 playoff appearances, but the two-way spark he's provided a Raptors team in desperate need of one in Games 4 and 5 was always a tantalizing, under-the-radar outcome of the Raptors trading Terrence Ross (and a first-round pick) for

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