As LeBron James’ presence grows in the second round of the Eastern Conference postseason, DeMar DeRozan’s shrinks as if it was in unison. The All-Star starter hasn’t looked like an All-Star starter at all times throughout these playoffs, and his effort has particularly fallen in the two games against Cleveland.
DeRozan only managed five points on Wednesday, almost going the game without a field goal made until the Raptors subbed him back into the game early in the fourth quarter. The outcome had already been clearly decided by that point, but DeRozan scored two buckets that made his final stat line look the tiniest bit more acceptable when they weren’t. Without that, it could’ve been his second game these playoffs without hitting a field goal, following up on how he was rocked in Game 3 of the first round to the tune of 0-of-8 shooting.
Toronto, down two games to none, is already on the ropes. We can all see that. However, the Raptors can remember that this happened again last year, too, only to bounce back once the series returned to Canada and tie it up at two. That series, even then, never felt all that close. But two wins would make things more competitive, no doubt, to say the least. It’s a good place to start.
To have a chance at it, the Raptors need DeRozan to be so much better, starting immediately. DeRozan had a 33- and 32-point game in the final three of the Bucks series, which proved instrumental, and he wasn’t terrible in Game 1 against Cleveland, even as they swept to a win. On Friday, DeRozan needs to look like an overmatched wing and look like the All-Star starter he was this year.
It’s Toronto’s only small chance at making this series competitive, anyhow.
The important thing to remember is that the Toronto Raptors didn’t do anything wrong. They traded for P.J. Tucker at February’s deadline hoping his defense would help. They’ve tried different defensive approaches and schemes, just to make sure those wouldn’t work. Ultimately, they can’t stop LeBron James.
Everyone in the NBA understands their problem.
James scored 39 points on just 14 field goal attempts on Wednesday. He shot 10-of-14 from the field, hit 4-of-6 on threes, and recorded six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks. It was a typically nonsensical performance; you can probably count on one hand the players in NBA history who you could expect to record numbers like that in a playoff game. And it didn’t even look like James was really trying.
It’s a problem everyone can relate with, so don’t worry.
San Antonio isn’t made up of bad players, by any means, but a dirty secret around the league is that the Spurs aren’t as good as we’ve perhaps made them out to be. Despite 61 wins, San Antonio has had to lean heavily on Leonard throughout the year to be the best player, lacking enough consistency around him to direct those responsibilities to anybody else.
At every stop along the way, Leonard responded positively. Now, with the season on the line and Leonard already in the midst of a career year, the Spurs are asking him to do even more. Keep scoring on offense, they tell him, while making him defend a star opponent for even longer stretches of time.
So far, it’s working perfectly.
These changes are small, but they’re rather important, as well.
Rockets fans see the series shift to Houston with no real complaints.
A road team can’t be greedy in the playoffs, and the Rockets are boasting a 1-1 split against San Antonio as they head back to their home arena. Here’s how The Dream Shake are feeling:
Despite the loss, the Rockets are still heading back to H-town with a 1-1 series split, and if you told any Rockets fan before the series that they’d be leaving San Antonio with a tie, you take that all day. Now the series really starts on Friday after both teams landed haymakers in the first two contests.
Despite the large final margin on the scoreboard, the Rockets were battling close in this game for three quarters, and managed to keep it tight until the final frame despite The Beard’s less than stellar performance, so there are reasons for optimism even coming off of a loss.
The Spurs will also be dealing with the likely loss of Parker and will have to make some serious adjustments in their backcourt, while the Rockets need to regroup now that the real Spurs have decided to show up.
We really hope Tony Parker is alright.
However, the early returns don’t seem good: a non-contact knee injury that he couldn’t put weight on and required his teammates to carry him off the floor.
Wednesday’s best flop
This is honestly a work of art from Patty Mills.
Wednesday’s best play
The most Spursian play ever.
Wednesday’s final scores
NBA playoff scores 2017: DeMar DeRozan isn’t living up to Raptors’ high expectations for him – SB Nation