With the Toronto Raptors All-Stars starting to admit they were feeling the pressure of the playoffs in their home opener against the Pacers, their oldest and youngest active players came through with steady, solid efforts.
“I think we was just too tight on both ends,” DeMar DeRozan finally admitted after shootaround. “We really didn’t get a rhythm offensively. We let a couple of things get past us defensively that hurt. That one’s over, we get another opportunity tonight.”
Much to the dismay of his detractors, Raptors veteran power forward Luis Scola got the start, just like he has all season and the 35-year-old veteran did what he usually does. He was steady, solid and came out of the game midway through the first quarter with the score tied.
Scola doesn’t play big minutes for Toronto and when he has the occasional big game it’s a bonus. In Game One he played 14.6 minutes, scored 4 points on 4 shots, grabbed 6 boards and a steal and exited with a -1, the second best plus/minus on the team.
What Scola did was hold his counterpart Lavoy Allen to 4 points on 6 shots and 7 boards in nearly identical minutes. Scola did his job and he’ll be expected to do it again as long as the playoffs last for Toronto.
As much as rookie Norman Powell has caught the imagination of the local fans, it wouldn’t have come as a shock if head coach Dwane Casey had turned to the veteran DeMarre Carrol or even James Johnson for the start in Game One. However, in fairness, Powell earned the start with his play since the All-Star break and he didn’t disappoint.
“(My coach and teammates) thought I did well,” Powell explained. “Just focus on details. Pick-and-rolls being more physical, trying to feel out the game how physical I can be. They thought I played well in the minutes that I’ve gotten.”
Getting permission to play more physical should draw an interesting response in Game Two from a rookie who likes the rough stuff.
In 16.8 minutes, Powell scored 5 points on 4 shots and his corner three-ball rimed out in the third quarter or Casey probably can’t take him out of the game. Powell was a -2, good for the third best plus/minus on the Raptors. It was tough watching Terrence Ross struggle at both ends of the court in the fourth quarter and not wonder what if that was the rookie out there instead?
Casey attributed Ross’ struggles to the team’s deeper rotation with DeMarre Carroll back, but this is the playoffs. If a player can’t handle his assignment, someone else has to take over.
The Raptors success or failure in the first round of the playoffs is not going to hang on the play of their youngest and oldest players. As they have all season, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are expected to carry them. However, it should be apparent Toronto isn’t going to lose a series in the playoffs because of Scola and Powell. They aren’t fazed by the moment.