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Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Cavs Must Empty The 3-Point Clip To Beat The Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are full measure for their historic 73 win regular season, ignore the preseries hype about the 57 win Cavs, it isn’t going to be easy for LeBron James and company to steal the NBA Finals away from the better team. Cleveland’s best hope is to do what got them here and that’s to empty their three-point clip of every shot they can find.

If the journey to the Finals has proven anything in these playoffs it’s you can’t win without superior three-point performances. The four Conference Finals teams hoisted almost 1900 three-balls before their respective series concluded, the winners taking and making more than anyone else in the postseason.

Capture Warriors Cavs stats

Stats source: Basketball-Reference.com

Surprisingly, the Cavaliers have been taking and making more three-pointers than even the long bomb happy Warriors in the playoffs. Almost 4-in-10 Cavs shots have been from three and they’ve been hitting them at an incredible 43 percent clip. At least they were until running into the Dubs in Game One of the Finals.

Both the Cavs and Warriors have played excellent three-point defense during the postseason and both teams only shot 33.3 percent from three in Game One. However, the Cavaliers went away from what has been successful for them in the playoffs and only took a quarter of their usual shots from deep and tried to beat Golden State by going inside. That was a mistake.

As dangerous as Golden State is from beyond the arc their midrange game is deadly as well and where the Warriors have shown they can defend the two-point shot effectively, the Cavaliers haven’t. Cleveland has been giving up over 51 percent shooting from two-point range to opponents in the postseason and the Warriors torched them for 56.7 percent from inside the arc in Game One.

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue has been suggesting his team needs to pick up the pace, but that would be playing into the strength of the fastest paced team in this year’s playoffs. The Cavs have played at the fifth slowed pace in the postseason so far, ramp up to anything resembling the relative light-speed the Dubs are used to and Cleveland will be unleashing an avalanche of turnovers – Cavs turnovers specifically.

Lue needs to get his team back to what works for them. Cleveland has to find more three-point shots. His Big Three of James, Love and Irving took 13 threes in Game One, just 3.2 less than their combined average, but Smith and Frye only hoisted 4 threes between them and they should be north of 10 combined.

Smith and Frye are the Cavs best three-point threats, Lue has to find a way to get these two more shots, a lot more shots if he’s to give his team a chance to upset the Warriors. It’s no time to be shy now, empty that three-point clip Cavaliers and you just might beat the Warriors at their own game.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini





Toronto Raptors fans

In Toronto We Believe

As Jurassic Park outside Gate 5 of the Air Canada Centre was filling up 3 hours before game-time, the Toronto Raptors were preparing for their third elimination game in as many series hoping to make history by playing in a Game Seven two days from now. Been there, done that, they were ready.

“No pressure,” Bismack Biyombo said in the locker room immediately before Game Six. “Just excitement of getting out there and playing the game.

“It’s just getting out there and having fun and taking care of home. Confidence!”

Battle tested and ready for their biggest test of the season, the Raptors know they have their passionate fan base behind them. Game on.

It’s loud in here.




Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini



Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Are In A Win-Win Situation At Home

At this point there is no way to put a dampener on the Toronto Raptors season. Game Six at home in the Eastern Conference Finals against the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers who have the highest payroll in the NBA is nothing but a win-win scenario. Win and they are taking LeBron James to a Game Seven where anything goes. Lose and the fans will cheer their Raptors off the court in recognition of the best season in franchise history.

“This is new territory for our team,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “Where we are, Conference Finals. We are ahead of our process right now.”

Can that ‘our goal was to go as far as we could this season’ mantra that has recently been coming from everyone associated with the team, this season was a success when Toronto got out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half. No past or present Raptors player, coach, manager, executive, staff or ball-boy can claim to have been associated with a Raptors team that has done more or even come close and it isn’t over – yet.

“We’ve been here before,” Casey said. “If you look at all of our series, if you watch all of our series, we’ve been here before. Unfortunately in the Miami series we’ve been here, Indiana series we’ve been here, with our backs against the wall and unfortunately and fortunately we bounced back in those situations and we are here at home. We’ve played well here at home. We are playing against one of the best teams in the NBA right now and our guys take solace from being at home, understanding we’ve been here before and we can bounce back and I have faith that we will bounce back.”

There is a lot of excitement associated with Game Six. The city wants to see what can happen with a team that has successfully challenged the number one seed in the East with the support of their fans at the Air Canada Centre. The crowd outside of the ACC in Jurassic Park is expected to be especially large, boisterous and overflowing down the street. The square outside of Gate 5 will be open early for fans starting at 5:30pm, three hours before game-time.

The Raptors have already taken two games from the team that was talking about a 16-0 playoff run not long ago. They have nothing to apologize for if they don’t make it to the NBA Finals and they have given basketball fans in Toronto something they haven’t enjoyed – well ever – hope. This team still has a chance to advance, but as importantly, if president and general manager Masai Ujiri can take a sad-sack lottery team to the Eastern Conference Finals in just three seasons, think what he can accomplish in the future.

Win or lose in Game Six, the Raptors have already won this season.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Raptors Scola And Patterson Sent Cavs Love To The Bench

Can we just stop the ‘I’m missing open shots’ excuse already and give credit where credit is due. The Raptors Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson have tag-teamed the Cavs Kevin Love into two terrible games in Toronto that saw the All-Star relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter by head coach Tryonn Lue.

Neither Love nor Lue could accept the fact that Love just couldn’t get anything going against the opposing Raptors bigs and kept going back to the same well in the post only to be turned away again and again.

“I thought in Game Three they did a great job of just being physical with (Love), trying to push him off his spots because he’s a great post player,” Lue said prior to Game Four. “It’s been tough for him in this series, but we’re going to get him going and he’ll be ready tonight, so look for a heavy dose of Kevin.”

It was more of the same in Game Four. The veteran Scola is bigger and stronger than Love and the more Love tried to overpower Scola in the paint, the more frustrated he got. When Patterson was subbed in, Love went right back into the post only to increase his level of frustration.

“Luis is probably the most decorated player on our team as far as winning championships, world championships,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said prior to Game Four. “He’s probably the most experienced player. He’s a veteran. He’s been there before. The moment is not going to bother him. He’s started I don’t know how many games for us this year, so he gives us a lot. A ball mover, he’s smart. So he gives a lot as far as a player is concerned and it’s not a mystery. He has a better matchup in this series with Love and Frye.”

Scola is giving Toronto absolutely nothing in terms of scoring, but he’s been making Love look bad at the start of games and keeping one of the Cavs ‘Big Three’ and most important scorers off the scoresheet is a lot more important than his own offense. Then Patterson has been coming in and continuing the pressure.

Patterson isn’t about to say anything to discourage Lue’s approach with Love or Love’s desire to attack in the paint and why would he? If the Cavs ‘Big Three’ become a ‘Big Two’, the Raptors should win this series.

“They are posting up KLove and KLove is getting great looks,” Patterson said. “KLove is getting opportunities to score the ball, but for us, for anybody, we want to be physical without fouling and watch him and make every single catch tough and difficult and whenever the person does shoot the ball, we want to contest to the best of our abilities. Whether they make it or not, as long as we carry out our defensive principles that’s all that matters and KLove is just missing shots.”

That’s the angle I’d run with as a Raptors player too. Keep on attacking the paint Love, Scola or Patterson is waiting for you.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





NBA Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey

Improbable Raptors Have Beat The Cavs And The Referees

By Frank McLean

What was considered improbable five days ago has happened, the Toronto Raptors have tied their Eastern Conference Final with the Cleveland Cavaliers at two games apiece.

The two wins the Raptors pulled off at home in the looney bin known as the Air Canada Centre has shown once again the resilience of these players that started in training camp in October and has extended to the first four games of what is turning into an epic Eastern Conference Final.

The fact that the Raptors in the last two games have not only had to play the Cleveland Cavaliers but the National Basketball Association referees and the feudal system that they operate on makes it even more amazing.

We take you back to the fourth quarter of Game Three Saturday night when the Raptors did not go to the free throw line once in the entire fourth quarter.

Afterwards in his postgame comments Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made it known three times that officials need to be consistent in their calls and he couldn’t understand how a team could not go to foul line for an entire quarter.

As a result of his comments the league fined Casey $25,000 for expressing an opinion that was not appreciated.

So what happens in the first half of Game Four?

The Cavaliers did not get whistled for a personal foul in the entire first quarter and they did not get a personal foul called against them until four minutes or so into the second quarter. The Raptors did not get to attempt a free throw in the entire first half, which going back to the fourth quarter of Game Three, meant they went three straight quarters without seeing the free throw line.

This is the way the NBA game officials operate. As far as I’m concerned the crew led by Monty McCutchen was sending a message to stop the bitching and that we can fix you.

Now I’m not saying they were trying to fix the game in Cleveland’s favor, but what I’m saying is that from what I have seen in the 21 years covering the league is that these guys – if they don’t like you – will try and to use their influence to effect the outcome of the game.

Let’s be honest here, if you think any team in the NBA, no matter what their won-loss record, can go three quarters without fouling anyone, then you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Now things got better in the second half, as the Raptors shot 14-19 from the free throw line, but it was the best scoring night ever from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combining for 67 points that meant the old Raptors are back.

What also has helped is that the Cavaliers three-point shooting has come back down to earth. In Games Three and Four, they were a combined 27-82 behind the arc.

Also Kevin Love’s disappearance, going 5-23 in Games Three and Four, and not playing in the fourth quarter Monday either because he was hurt from stepping on a referee’s foot or because he has just stunk for someone on a $100 million contract?

Regardless of what has been thrown at them, the Raptors have taken advantage of Cleveland’s mistakes they have used it to win two games in a row.

However, Cleveland still has the home court advantage, so the Raptors have to win a game in Northeast Ohio and they haven’t won a game in Quicken Loans Arena this season.

Which means that they probably have to do it Wednesday night and they will likely have to do it against both the Cavaliers and the NBA’s inconsistent officiating.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.





Cleveland Cavaliers Tyronn Lue

Stephen A. Smith Apologizes, Says Cavs Can’t Win Now

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith just can’t believe it. The Toronto Raptors have stormed back on their home court to tie the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers at two games apiece. Maybe someone should have shown him the highlights and stats from the two teams regular season games? This series was always going to be close.

“I can’t even put into words how stunned I am,” Smith said. “I can’t believe what I saw. I got to be a man of my word and just apologize to Canada, all Canadians everywhere because I certainly thought this was going back to Cleveland 3-1 with the Cavs closing this series out on Wednesday night.”

Don’t apologize to Canada Stephen A., apologize to the Raptors players, coaches and organization. They always believed they could defend home court and you didn’t say anything here to put things right with them.

“Kyle Lowry was absolutely unstoppable tonight, I don’t understand why,” Smith said. “DeMar DeRozan was unstoppable when it counted, I don’t understand why considering that LeBron James had been on him a couple of times.”

Well that pretty much trashes any value to the earlier apology. If you had watched them at all during the regular season, you’d have known Lowry and DeRozan were the highest scoring duo in the Eastern Conference averaging 44.7 points per game. They averaged 46 points per game against Cleveland. It’ll be in your media notes somewhere or it should be.

Lowry and DeRozan combined for 52 points against the Cavs on Saturday in Game Three and upped that to 67 points in Game Four on Monday. No one in Toronto is shocked that these two All-Stars can pile up the points, impressed sure, but stunned, no. Why should an NBA “Expert” like Smith fail to understand?

The fact Cleveland had trouble making shots over the past two games just might be because Toronto had the lowest points allowed of any team left in the playoffs heading into the Conference Finals. These two teams were only one game apart in the regular season standings, anticipating an easy series defies logic. Not that any logic seems to have played a part in this long winded apology/explanation/analysis.

“To literally wondering whether or not (Cleveland) can win this series if they end up losing Game Five, because can they come back to Toronto and win Game Six?” Smith said. “I don’t know if they can right now.”

As neither team has been able to win on the other’s home court this season, the Cavaliers are 3-0 in Cleveland and the Raptors are 4-0 in Toronto, Smith is right. If Cleveland loses Game Five, they are in a heap of trouble, but so far neither team has shown any indication they can go into the other’s building and come out on top.

Neither the coaches nor the players have any real answers as to why they are playing so much better at home and conversely, so poorly on the road in this series. They can only give credit to the fans.

“I don’t know,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said after Game Four. “I guess it’s a home court advantage. They have a great home crowd. That crowd gives them energy just like our crowd gives us energy.”

One thing for sure, the Cavaliers players are likely to be just as ticked off at Smith after his extended apology to Canada as the Raptors players were when he dismissed their chances and the Raptors players aren’t going to feel like Smith is suddenly showing them any level of respect even now.

An “apology” that tosses some more fuel on fire might be good for what the fans get to watch over the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals though. We should thank him for that.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and JR Smith

No Sweep For You Cleveland Cavaliers

By Frank McLean

Down two games to nothing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and with seemingly the whole world against them, ok maybe the entire basketball media in the United States was still pissed that they did not an Eastern Conference Final with their god Lebron James against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors came home and pulled a win out of their hat with maybe their best performance of the playoffs 99-84.

The Raptors are now 7-2 at home in these playoffs. It’s where they have played their best basketball in these playoffs.

“Specifically, our guys have performed better, with more confidence, for whatever reason, a little bit more juice”, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was saying before the game. “I’ve never put a number on it, but I just feel like just reaction time, enthusiasm, whatever it is, it just seems to be more here, especially in the playoffs. I think we perform much better here at home.”

Led by Bismack Biyombo’s all-time Raptors record of 26 rebounds and DeMar DeRozan’s 32 points, the Raptors hustled all over the floor with the ball and without it.

They have grabbed a little of the momentum back in this series. They also stopped the Cavaliers attempt at going for a perfect 16-0 record to win a championship.

The Cavaliers sweeping Detroit and Atlanta and winning the first two in this one were just one win away from tying the 1989 and 2001 Los Angeles Lakers who won their first 11 games to start the post season.

BUT… and there is a big but, the lack of consistency that comes from the NBA game officials reared its ugly head in this game. Saturday’s crew was headed by veteran Ken Mauer, along with Marc Davis and Pat Fraher who also have been in the league a long time as well.

It seems like they have been told to focus on Kyle Lowry. Lowry had two quick ticky-tac fouls assessed to him in the first quarter, then in the second he is given a foul which everyone saw was committed by Terrance Ross thus taking Lowry out of the game for pretty much the whole first half.

The amazing part is that Lowry was still able to put up 20 points playing only 32 minutes in the game.

It seemed like the referees wanted to decide the game themselves rather than let the two teams do it.

“I just know our guys are resilient,” Casey after the game. “They’re playing through a lot, playing through a lot of physicality, getting hit and fouled. We shot zero free throws in the fourth quarter, zero. That’s frustrating, but our guys played through it, so that shows a sense of toughness, a sense of togetherness. People have written us off all year.”

Three different times in his postgame comments Casey made sure to say that we have the best officials in the world and it’s a tough game to officiate, but we have to have consistency in the calling of the game.

You can tell right there that Casey was trying to plant a subliminal message to the three officials who the league will assign to work Monday night’s fourth game. The NBA head office took notice, so, not surprisingly, Casey received a $25,000 fine for sending that message and he won’t know if it paid off until after Game Four.

What irks many players, coaches, the media and fans is the way NBA referees operate in their own feudal system in the way they treat star players compared to the peasants who fill out the rest of the roster.

LeBron James did not get called for a single personal foul in the first half. You can’t tell me or anyone watching that James did not commit a foul in the first half, but that’s the way it is in the NBA and it’s been like that for years. James didn’t even get fined for the Flop Heard Around the World when he flew backwards like he’d been shot when he thought DeMarre Carroll had hit him. It was his own player who lightly touched his face by accident and James tried to sell the call as if he’d been slugged.

The Raptors have made sure this Eastern Conference Finals will not be a four game sweep and they will be heading back to Cleveland for Game Five Wednesday night. We’ll know after Monday’s fourth game if the series will be tied 2-2 or if the Cavaliers will have the hammer coming home up 3-1.

One thing for sure, in Game Three the Raptors showed they were the team that deserved to be here, sticking it to everybody else who really didn’t want them to go this far in the playoffs.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.





Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Cavs Dahntay Jones Suspended, Raptors Coach Casey Fined

With respect to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, Kiki VanDeWeghe, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations announced the following disciplinary actions on Sunday.

Cavaliers guard Dahntay Jones has been suspended one game without pay for striking Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo in the groin. The incident occurred with 17.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Raptors’ 99-84 win over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21 at Air Canada Centre. Jones will serve his suspension on Monday, May 23 during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.



Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of officiating. Casey made his comments during the postgame press conference following the Raptors’ 99-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21 at Air Canada Centre.





NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Toronto Fans Spur Raptors To Huge Home Win

Home court matters in professional sports, but it only matters if the local fans make it matter and in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto’s fans made their impact felt as they spurred the Raptors on to a huge 99-84 home win over the visiting Cavaliers.

“We get nights like this often now and it’s fun,” Kyle Lowry said. “We need it. We want it. I don’t know if the fans know how much we appreciate it, but we really do appreciate it and we want them to be as loud as they possibly can.

“I think it affects other teams and it gives us that energy. We know we make a big run or we make a big shot or Bis(mack Biyombo) gets a block and he goes and does his little thing they love it. We feed off that positive energy.”

Bismack Biyombo has been a talker and emotional leader for Toronto all season and no one feeds off the energy of the home crowd more than him. The Raptors center set a franchise high with 26 rebounds in Game Three and gave his team a lot of energy.

“We understand (Biyombo) feeds off the crowd, but he’s also a huge impact off the glass,” LeBron James said. “He gives them a lot of energy. The guy just stays in his lane. He definitely gave them a boost tonight.”

“(Biyombo) fed off the energy of his team and of the crowd,” Kevin Love said. “He was impressive on the glass.”

Biyombo tries to play the same way on the road as he does at home, but his stats and his impact is just greater at the Air Canada Centre.

“I play the same ways,” Biyombo said. “It’s just that when you are home its there are a lot of fans that are involved. The fans are involved and if you go back and watch in Cleveland, Cleveland was very physical in Cleveland and when we come here and as we get physical our crowd gets involved and we stay with the game.”

The crowd pumps up Biyombo, Biyombo pumps up the crowd and that energy affects his teammates. There is no substitute for playing harder  than your opponent.

” (Biyombo) gives that confidence,” Lowry said. “It gives us the energy. It gets the crowd into it and the crowd gets us into it. We feed off that energy.”

“They came out and played hard,” Tristan Thompson said. “We knew that and we expected that especially coming home with the crowd so energetic.”

The Raptors are going to need another huge effort from their fans if they are to take Game Four on Monday and knot this series up at two games apiece. Lowry, Biyombo and their teammates are expecting nothing less.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Raptors Want Justice For Low Blow To Biyombo

Something happened at the end of Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, something usually associated with a bad loser. After setting a franchise record with 26 rebounds, Bismack Biyombo slowly crumpled to the floor after what appeared to be a low blow from the 35-year-old veteran Dahntay Jones just before time expired on the 15 point Raptors home victory.

Biyombo had to be helped up after several minutes and assisted to the locker room.

“I got hit in an area that I wasn’t to get hit on,” Biyombo said after the game. “A private area. Whenever the league has a chance, probably want to take a look at that. That’s all I can say on that one.”

The comment brought some laughter from the media and Biyombo, but it wasn’t funny. That looked like a dirty play from a long-time veteran who should have known better. It’s going to be hard to argue the incident was an accident.

It shouldn’t take long for an official response from the NBA.

As an active aggressive center, Biyombo takes a lot of abuse as he fights for rebounds and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is starting to boil over about the complete lack of foul calls his player is getting.

“He’s one of the top rebounders in the league and no telling how many times he gets hit and fouled under there without being called,” Casey said. “Again, I’m going to say this, I think he gets hit almost on every rebound and putback there is and he just doesn’t get calls.

“There’s one play where they almost have a brawl (and Biyombo) gets killed on that play. I don’t know if he’s getting hit because of how physical and tough he is, but he’s getting cracked.”

It has looked like it’s been open season on Biyombo in this series, but that final blow at the end of Game Three. Something like that crosses every line.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





Defend Territory Toronto Raptors NBA Playoffs 2016

Raptors Look To Their Home Crowd To Beat The Cavs

The Toronto Raptors enjoy a significant home court advantage inside the Air Canada Centre and outside Gate Five in Jurassic Park. It’s loud inside and it’s loud outside, so loud in fact that even the Raptors have struggled with the noise level in every Playoff Game One at home in the Dwane Casey era. Visiting teams can’t help but notice the crowd impact.

Jurassic Park Toronto Raptors

“Have you been here before?” DeMar DeRozan responded incredulously to a media inquiry this morning.

There will likely be an even higher level of electricity in the air and overwhelming noise inside the building and outside Gate Five for the first ever Eastern Conference Final game held in Toronto. The Raptors will need every advantage to beat the Cavs.

“I think being at home will help us,” Casey said after practice on Friday.

“We got our home crowd energy to feed off,” DeRozan said. “Understanding we’ve been great at home and we’ve kind of been in this position before. Probably not at this magnitude, but understanding that this is an opportunity for us to go home where we are comfortable at.”

Despite their Game One record in the postseason, the Raptors have played significantly better at home when the pressure is on. In the last two series, they had to win Game Five and Game Seven at the ACC to advance and they dominated after bad Game Four and Game Six losses. They have been here before, just not in an Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ll make shots tomorrow,” Lowry said on Friday. “We are going to be at home. We are going to play better. We got pride. We are going to play hard.”

The Raptors will give their all in front of their home crowd. The only question at this point is, will it be enough?

“Every game we get an opportunity to play is a must-win-game from here on out,” DeRozan said.

Toronto has to take both Game Three and Game Four at the ACC to get back in this series. It’s a steep hill to climb, but they’ve beaten the Cavaliers in Toronto twice before this season with the help of some fabulous crowd support. It’s just another opportunity with much higher stakes.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Showing Frustration For The First Time

By Frank McLean

I was not in the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night to see the second game of this Eastern Conference Final. I watched it from the comfort of home, but I didn’t need to be in Cleveland live to see for myself that for the first time this year that dreaded F word coaches hate use “Frustration” is showing in the Toronto Raptors.

That will happen to team who had 56 wins in the regular season and had not lost two games in row since March 23rd and 25th. This team has had more highs than lows this year.

The Raptors had been consistent all season. In fact, it’s something that head coach Dwane Casey preaches so much that team is probably sick of hearing it.

“If you are consistent you don’t have these highs and lows,” Casey said in Cleveland prior to Game Two.

“If you get emotionally high and emotionally low, you are never going to be successful in this league. You got to have consistent emotional approach and a consistent physical approach. I think that plays into us bouncing back throughout the year.”

However, human nature being such, when you have constant success and every time things start to go wrong you able to figure it out, and then suddenly everything you try doesn’t work, that dreaded “Frustration” can show up.

That’s what you see in the Raptors after two spankings in Cleveland and the player showing it the worst is point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry’s playoff statistics are like looking at a heart beats on an EKG graph. When Lowry can score 20 or more points in game, and he has only done it in five of their 16 playoff games, the Raptors are 4-1. Seven times he has scored 12 or fewer points in these playoffs.

Lowry is starting to show it in front of the world. With 2:30 left in the second quarter in Game Two, and score tied 46 all, he headed for the locker room. He said wasn’t hurt after the game, he just needed to decompress.

While he was in the room the Cavaliers went on a 12-2 run to close the first half.

It wasn’t just Lowry who stood out, the body language of the whole team as they headed into the locker room at half-time looked like the victims of a drive by shooting. The Cavaliers offensive power can make you look like that.

“You may be seeing something I don’t see,” Casey said after the game. “I don’t see quit. They beat us two games, but I don’t it’s not over yet.”

Casey is right the series is not over. The job of Casey and the rest of his coaching staff is to not yell and scream at their players, because it’s not their fault the Cavaliers are the better team. What they have to do is their best job of convincing them that it’s us against the world. The Raptors aren’t that bad. Counting the playoffs, they have won 64 basketball games this year, and in the regular season they did beat Cleveland in two out of three times (both times in Toronto).

But in reality, this is how a team becomes playoff tested, getting beat by a team that was expected to be in the NBA Finals. When this series is over, the Raptors will know what it will take to contend for a championship in the future.

Being around this team like I have all year I expect them to come out flying at home in Game Three trying to win one for the home fans, but the frustration is starting to show. It’s only human nature when you finally run into an opponent who is better than you and you can’t find anything to stop them.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini




NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry

The Raptors Lack Of Depth Is Showing

When you are going up against a team that has the highest payroll in the league and was in the NBA Finals last year, any deficiencies are going to be exposed and the Toronto Raptors started this season trying to build on their recent success with five players expected to spend a lot of time in the NBA Development League. It was never expected to take much for their lack of depth to start showing.

Just like in the regular season, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been juggling line-ups throughout the postseason due to various issues and injuries to his starters. While unexpected opportunities to play were a benefit to the team before the postseason, missing a starter or two as the competition ramps up in the playoffs isn’t as easy to work with.

“Our rhythm is off offensively because of our starters,” Casey said at shootaround prior to Game Two against the Cavaliers. “The guys that were with that (second) group are now starters. That’s one issue and so we are going to try to remedy that with different rotations, getting different guys in there to make sure we make up for that offensively because we do have some guys out of position.

“That happened in the second quarter (of Game One vs the Cavs), end of the first, start of the second last game.”

Early in the postseason Casey inserted Patrick Patterson in place of Luis Scola who had started all season. Patterson was playing more minutes off the bench than Scola during the regular season and Scola seems to have lost the shooting touch that made him so effective from three-point range this year, but Patterson’s shooting and defense has been badly missed in the second unit. Patterson’s absence from the second unit was noticeable long before Game One in Cleveland.

Then in the second round Jonas Valanciunas was hurt and Bismack Biyombo got the start. Another change and another hole when Casey goes to his bench.

Even losing rookie Norman Powell could be having an effect. He eventually took the starting small forward job when DeMarre Carroll was injured during the season, but fell out of the rotation altogether in the second round of the playoffs trying to guard Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. His energy is missing and could be a logical addition to play bigger minutes with Casey’s second unit in Game Two.

The easy and obvious change for Casey to consider is to return Scola to the starting unit and hope his veteran can give him 15 minutes of defense on Kevin Love. That way Patterson can bolster the second unit while still giving him 30 plus minutes and closing out each of the quarters.

The other benefit of returning Patterson to the second unit is it may help get Cory Joseph out of his funk. Joseph hasn’t looked good since the second unit was shaken up.

“Cory is not playing instinctively,” Casey said. ” The way he normally plays. He is thinking way too much.”

Joseph would almost certainly play better surrounded by the guys he was used to playing with during the regular season. He wouldn’t have to think so much, he’d know where his guys would be and what they can do.

No matter what Casey decides, his options are limited. Bruno Caboclo won’t dress. Valanciunas is still injured. Lucas Nogueira or Delon Wright would be desperation moves and Jason Thompson, while a veteran, just hasn’t played that much. As Casey likes to remind everyone, the Raptors are a work in progress.

A better effort is expected from Toronto in Game Two, however, there is only so much Casey can tweak with his rotation. The Raptors aren’t carrying a wealth of playoff tested veterans on the back end of their bench. To do that, you need to build your roster more like the Cavaliers.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




Cavs LeBron James

Cavs LeBron James Has Raised The Bar In The Playoffs

By Frank McLean

What did we learn from the Raptors 31 point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first game of the Eastern Conference Final? The Cavs have raised the bar and are way up there.

The Toronto Raptors have raised the bar too. They finally made it to the final four of the playoffs, but their bar has a ways to go to reach height of where the Cavaliers have placed it.

When you watched the game Tuesday night, live in the Quicken Loans Arena, or in your living room on your big flat screen TV, you saw the Cavaliers have something every NBA team wants and that’s an elite player that puts you over the top like LeBron James.

Elite players like James are guys that make you a championship contender. As far as I’m concerned there are only three of them in the league right now, James, the current MVP Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.

James only had to play 28 minutes, but that’s all he had to play to make a statement and guarantee a victory.

He was a perfect 7-7 from the field in the first half, finishing the game 11- 13 for 24 points and six boards, but it’s what he does running the offense that’s most impressive. He is his team’s best facilitator, setting up teammates and putting them in the right spot where they can be successful. He is not just a guy who hits jumps shots and can drive to the hoop.

Ball movement is the key to how the Cavaliers run their offense says their head coach Tyrone Lue.

“This year we are just trusting the pass more, more ball movement, more pace. This year we understand who we are as a team. Who we want to play through, who we want to go through and I think it has made it easier for the guys.”

Having a healthy roster also makes it easier for James.

In last year’s NBA Finals James was missing his big man Kevin Love who had his left shoulder dislocated by Kelly Olynyk in their first round match-up with the Boston Celtics. Love is a double-double machine, always in that 19 point 12 rebound neighborhood, like he was in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

He also sets Kyrie Irving up to make those big three point shots which are usually daggers in the hearts of their opponents.

Without Love and James trying to do everything, the Cavs fell to a Warriors team which many felt if the Cavaliers were healthy they could have beaten.

You have seen the determination in his eyes if you watched any of the Cavaliers games in the first two rounds. James has unfinished business to take care off. He came back to his native Ohio to bring Cleveland a championship, a city in which none of its teams has won anything since Jim Brown led the Browns to an NFL title in 1964.

You know he won’t admit it, but Dwane Casey while standing on the sideline and watching his team get their butt kicked had to be wondering what life would be like if he had James on his team.

“On the top of my head, when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be right there at the top,” Casey said about James.

“I don’t know if fans appreciate what they see with James. I think we take some of it for granted like we did with Kobe (Bryant) and when I was coaching against Michael (Jordan). We did (with) Michael. It’s going to be the same thing.”

The Raptors have had a great season, the best in their 21 year history and that cannot be taken away, but in order to win a championship in this modern day NBA you need to have an elite player. The Cavaliers have that elite player which is why the city of Cleveland, Ohio might finally get the championship that the Indians and Browns have failed to provide.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey

Are You Ready To Believe In Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey Now?

By Frank McLean

With the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, are you ready to believe now?

So how did this happen? How did the Raptors finally go from pretender to contender?
It was one man, Dwane Casey.

“I still don’t think he gets a lot of the credit that he (Casey) deserves,” DeMar DeRozan said at shootaround in Cleveland. “He stuck to everything since day one. Casey hasn’t changed one bit. When you have a coach like that (who) sticks to what he thinks is right, it gets you here years later.”

What a difference 15 years makes.

Unlike game seven of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi-Final in Philadelphia, no one on the Raptors had to attend their college graduation ceremony on the morning of what was then the biggest game in franchise history.

The seventh game 15 years later in Toronto with a different opponent, the Miami Heat, had no drama off the court. All of it was on the court and that’s what it should have been.

But who saw this happening, a fourth quarter blow out win which finally sees the 21-year old franchise making it to the conference finals and just four wins away from a shot at their first appearance in a championship final.

Maybe that’s getting a little carried away, but it’s a fact the Raptors are just four more wins away from a chance to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The words Toronto Raptors and NBA Champions have never been used together without people rolling on the floor with laughter.

Sunday’s 116-89 win finally moved this franchise from Canada from the punch line of a bad joke to a legitimate NBA contender. They made the final four and in the United States the way they look at sports no one takes you seriously until you are one of the final four teams standing. And with the NBA being a United States based league having just one team in another country, making the final four is the only way Canada is going to get any attention.

When Casey was brought to Toronto by former President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo in 2011 he was fresh from winning an NBA Championship as an assistant coach for Rick Carlisle’s Dallas Mavericks. He brought 16 years of NBA coaching experience with him including a year and a half as the head man in Minnesota. He knew the ingredient that makes you a contender in the NBA is defense first.

He also brought the patience to never deviate from the program and a belief in the players on his roster.

It showed right from the beginning of the playoffs against Indiana with the struggles of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The shooting woes of the two Raptors guards was so well documented that a whole forest of trees was cut down to supply enough newsprint for sportswriters to write that these guys have to go.

Lowry was in the slumps of all slumps, he couldn’t make a basket and DeRozan well he just isn’t a playoff performer and if the Raptors sign him to max contract the person who does that should be fired or so said Toronto’s media naysayers.

Then duo combined for 63 of the Raptors 116 points in the Game Seven win over Miami. The winning formula for a Raptors has been, if the duo combine for 40 or more points, the Raptors win. “Empty the clip,” as Lowry explained earlier.

Every time you asked Casey about Lowry and DeRozan he would tell you that he never doubted they would get out of their funk and that “players like them don’t forget how to score, it’s like riding a bike you don’t forget how to do it.”

Casey will not sit on his laurels though and in his postgame comments Sunday he is still keeping his eye on the prize so to speak.

“I’m not a sentimental person,” Casey said. “For this program, from where we were to where we are, it’s important. We did what we set out to do. Again, we’re not done yet. I know what it’s like to win a championship and I’m not saying we can do that, but I think this group is hungry and never, say never. I know one thing our guys will compete and that’s all you can ask at this time, play hard, lay it all on the line for 48 minutes, no matter who is out there.

“Personally, it’s rewarding to see for our coaching staff, but we still have a series to go in the Eastern Conference.”

Also kudos have to go with current Raptors basketball head Masai Ujiri who could have let Casey go when he came on board. It’s the right of any new boss in sports to come in and bring in their own people. He didn’t and that’s a credit to Ujiri who saw that he already had his man to run the bench.

But like Casey said it’s not over yet, the next chapter is the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The pundits have this being another Cavaliers four game sweep and yes with this Raptors team being battered and bruised and missing their big man in middle Jonas Valanciunas, it’s going to be a lot tougher to go up against LeBron James.

The Cavaliers are on mission, they have unfinished business against the Golden State Warriors.

However, coach Casey will have his team ready to play with their usual defense first game plan and I wouldn’t bet on a four game Cleveland sweep.

Not with Dwane Casey running the show.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

Three Is Key For Stingy Raptors To Shock The Cavaliers

It seems like no one is giving the Eastern Conference second place Toronto Raptors even a slim chance to defeat the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. So what the 57-win Cavs only barely held on to first place by a single win over the Raptors this season. No worries that Toronto took two of the three regular season games they played head-to-head. The Cavs have James and James goes to the NBA Finals every year – right?

The basketball world has chosen to ignore the fact that the stingy North has the lowest postseason opponent’s scoring average by a very wide margin over the three other teams left that have in all fairness played much prettier games to watch in the playoffs than Toronto.

Of the four teams left, the Raptors are the lowest scoring, but the hardest to score on and that at least should be raising some eyebrows or is all that “defense wins championships” just lip service?

Final 4 NBA playoffs

The Warriors, Cavs and Thunder are 1, 2, 3 in playoff scoring, the Raptors way back in tenth and that stat alone explains why no one at TNT or ESPN wanted to watch the Raptors in the playoffs this year. However, Toronto eliminated the number one and number three ranked teams in opponent’s scoring, the Pacers and Heat respectively. You shouldn’t have to guess the Spurs were second best. (During the regular season, the Spurs were number one, the Raptors number three, the Heat number five and the Pacers number eight in opponent’s scoring.)

Ignore those cries of the regular season doesn’t matter that typically occur when the results don’t match the preferred story line, those three regular season games played out exactly how this Eastern Conference Finals is going to go.

Raptors-Cavs 2016

In the Raptors two home wins over the Cavaliers, James led his team in scoring with Kevin Love in strong support, but the others – looking at you J.R. Smith and the Cavs three-point shooters – were held in check.

In Cleveland, Irving led the Cavs in scoring, Smith went off for eight three-balls and the Cavs hit 17-33 long bombs to win by 22 points.

How the Raptors can beat the Cavaliers is no mystery to head coach Dwane Casey.

“(The three-ball) is going to be the issue,” Casey told the media by phone on Monday. “They are such a great transition team, such a great penetrate pick and roll team that (if) you try to stop everything, you don’t stop anything. We have to pick a poison.

“Atlanta tried to take away a lot. They tried to take away a lot of pick and roll stuff, but they ended up not taking away anything.

“They are a lethal team right now. They can put a team on the floor one thru five that can stretch you out and shoot.

“What (LeBron) brings to the table now is probably more lethal than his scoring. His passing is probably his biggest weapon because he is such a smart player. He sees the floor. He finds his shooters and they only have to move their hands. He puts it right on the numbers.”

Casey didn’t change his defensive philosophy during the regular season and if anything, the Raptors have tightened up on those principles during the playoffs. It was the only way they could advance with their offense in a funk during much of the first two rounds.

“Our philosophy all year has been to take away the paint first and then get out to three-point shooters,” Casey said. “We may have to adjust that. There are things you have to adjust to compensate for the three-ball.”

For the Raptors, they’ve been practicing those adjustments thru two playoff series. Paul George went off in the first round, but the Raptors didn’t let anyone else get going and they advanced. Dwyane Wade went off in some games and Goran Dragic in others, but no one else on the Heat got rolling and Casey’s team moved on again.

The Eastern Conference Finals will be tougher, but more of the same. Just like in the regular season, if the Cavs are forced to turn to James for scoring because the others can’t get it going, the Raptors can win. If James picks them apart with his passing and guys like Smith have big games, the Cavs will cruise to easy victories.

The Cavaliers will hit threes and there is nothing that can stop it, but the Raptors can’t let them get the multitude of open looks the Hawks afforded them or they will suffer that same fate. It will come down to the Raptors defense once again. DeMarre Carroll doesn’t have to stop James from scoring, just keep the number out of the stratosphere and don’t ask for too much help.

Three will be key in this series, but the D will still decide the outcome. Don’t shovel dirt on the Raptors chances just yet.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini



NBA Toronto Raptors ACC

Raptors Expect Biggest Canadian TV Audience Ever For Game 7

Canadians are starting to tune in Raptors playoff games in record numbers and if Game Five against the Heat was any indication, the Sunday afternoon Game Seven should sport a National TV audience in Canada that gets the NBA head office drooling.

Game Five between the Raptors and the Heat was the first big time breakthrough for NBA basketball in some 15 years since the good old days of Vince Carter according to Yahoo Sports,

this might be the kind of breakthrough they haven’t seen since the Vince Carter days. A total of 4.4 million Canadians watch some or all of Sunday’s game and the audience peaked at 2.6 million near game’s end.

It outdrew everything else on Canadian TV that night, a first for basketball in this country.

The Numeris overnight rating was 1,530,000 on Sportsnet.

However, the US Networks don’t care what the Canadian audience is as those numbers don’t help them with their advertisers, but they should care what the US numbers have been and the Raptors are drawing well down south.

Sports Media Watch reports the TV audience numbers In the US and those US Networks need to pay closer attention.

Monday’s Raptors/Heat Game 4 had 4.0 million — up 27% from Hawks/Wizards last year

Game 5 of Heat/Raptors drew 4.0 million — up 5% from Wizards/Hawks last year (3.8M)

The Sunday afternoon 3:30pm ET start for Game Seven should easily top those gaudy numbers (for a Raptors game).



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





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NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Game 7 Is The New Biggest Game In Raptors History

By Frank McLean

For the second time in this 2016 playoff run and for the third time in the last three years the Toronto Raptors will host a Game Seven, but this time it really is the biggest game in Raptors history as a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals hangs in the balance. You should be there if you can get tickets or at least head down to Jurassic Park!

For the third time in the last three seasons, the Raptors failed to win a Game Six and eliminate the need for the 50/50 crap-shoot that a seventh and deciding game of a playoff series can bring. They are now zero and seven when they go into a playoff game leading in a series after the Game Six loss Friday night.

The defense was not there Friday night for the Raptors. It was the first time in the series that the Heat were able to put 100 plus up on the board without overtime.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, in what could be called an act of desperation to avoid elimination, went with a small eight man rotation. Josh McRoberts was the tallest at 6’10, while the other seven players average height was just under 6’6.

It was another adjustment in a series of one coaching adjustment after another that worked for Spoelstra. His small line-up worked as the Raptors defense could not stop them, especially guard Goran Dragic.

Toronto held Dwyane Wade to 22 points and when you keep Wade to around 20 points, you usually have a chance to win, but Dragic went off for 30 points, a career best in the playoffs, which turned out to be the magic formula to get the Heat to a Game Seven.

“Last year at this time we were all on vacation,” Spoelstra said. “So often in this business people tend to want to search for the easy route. There’s usually not an easy way in a seven-game series, certainly not with a second and third seed going against each other. This is the path and now we’ve pushed it to a Game Seven.”

To be honest if you thought the Heat with their championship pedigree would allow themselves to be eliminated at home you obviously have not watched this team in playoffs over the last five to seven years. Even without LeBron James, there are too many proud veterans like Wade that would not allow that to happen.

Overmatched is the one word that can describe what the small Heat attack against the Raptors D.

“Offense was not the issue,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after the game. “We needed to get stops. The defensive end was our nemesis tonight.”

DeMar DeRozan, with a shoelace on his thumb, and Kyle Lowry combined for 58 points, however, the rest of the gang could only add another 32, but even at that, if they could have made a few stops, there would have been no need for a Game Seven.

“Ball containment, keeping it in front of us,” Casey added about the team’s defensive problems. “Dictating direction in terms of which way we wanted to send the basketball. They dictated to us how fast they wanted to play. They set the tone from the tip. I don’t think anyone had a good night defensively.”

“It is just our one-on-one defense,” DeRozan summed up what the Raptors need to do in Sunday’s game seven. “We have to buckle down and not rely on help so much. Everyone has to man up and do their job.”

Winning 56 games in the regular season gave the Raptors the second seed in the East and home court advantage in this best of seven series. It’s the reward for all the hard work they put in since opening night at the end of October.

With Hassan Whiteside’s knee and Luol Deng’s wrist injury, the Heat are down to just eight small players and lost a chunk of their height in their roster.

Two things Toronto needs to do Sunday in Game Seven are make some stops on the defensive end, and one more game of 40 points plus from the duo of DeRozan and Lowry. That should be enough to send the Raptors to Cleveland Tuesday night and uncharted territory – the Eastern Conference Finals.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini




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Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat Are Extra Tough In Elimination Games

As the Toronto Raptors look to make franchise history by advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, they face an opponent in the Miami Heat that has been extra tough in elimination games under head coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat have won their last five straight elimination games at home, the longest current streak in the NBA and Spoelstra is 7-1 at home when facing elimination, the second best home elimination record in NBA history playing eight elimination games or more.

It would be hard to call Game Six any better than a coin flip. Through the first five games, three went to overtime and neither team has dominated anything. It’s been a war of attrition where defense has trumped offense and no quarter is given.

In his Thursday media conference call, Spoelstra said Hassan Whiteside will not play Friday and forward Luol Deng is questionable with a bruised left wrist. So, if Deng can go at all, just like the Raptors DeMarre Carroll who also has a bruised wrist, he’ll play.

NBA Miami Heat Luol Deng

“You’re just trying to do whatever you have to do to get some kind of advantage,” Spoelstra said. “I told our guys that for them, it’s a privilege to be a part of a series like this, where you really get challenged.”

Dwyane Wade has been the only Heat player who has been able to find any kind of offense on a consistent basis against a smothering Raptors defense and he’ll be expected to carry the load again.

Wade has scored in double-figures against the Raptors 40 consecutive times, tying his longest active double-figure scoring streak against any opponent and he will pass this mark in Game Six. He leads the Heat in scoring this postseason and is shooting a team-high 60 percent (9-15) from three-point range in the playoffs and his nine made threes this postseason already surpass his entire total of seven in the regular season. He has hit seven of those threes in five games against Toronto.

The Heat will be looking for Wade to re-create those back-to-back 30-point games at home of 38 points in Game Three and then 30 points in Game Four to give his team a chance to steal Game Six.

Unfortunately for the Heat, they aren’t just looking to Wade for scoring. The future Hall-of-Fame All-Star guard also leads what’s left of his team in rebounds (6.2 per game) and assists (3.4 per game), so they’ll be looking for someone – anyone – else to step up.

Miami will be counting on veterans Joe Johnson and Goran Dragic. Johnson is 1-17 from three-point range in this series and is only averaging 13.8 points per game against the Raptors. After two 20 point efforts to start the series, Goran Dragic has slumped to 13.3 points per game over the last three games and needs to find his offensive mojo as well.

For Spoelstra’s elimination game luck to hold up, his veterans will have to pull through tonight.

Game Six in Miami marks the eighth time in franchise history the Raptors have had an opportunity to closeout a playoff series. They are 2-5 all-time. The last time Toronto won a playoff series with a road victory was May 4, 2001 in Game Five at New York. They are 1-3 overall in Game Sixes of seven-game series.

It’s been a season of shattering historical bugaboos for the Raptors. They’ll be looking to kick yet another cliche about their team to the curb in Miami.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Won Because DeMar DeRozan Played Hurt

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors won game five of their series with the Miami Heat Wednesday night the old fashioned Raptors way, DeMar DeRozan was shooting the basketball and it was going in the hoop.

It sounds simplistic, but when DeRozan and his partner in crime at the guard position Kyle Lowry combine to score 40 or more points in game, the Raptors usually win. It’s one of the few givens in life like death and taxes.

However, the duo has struggled this postseason. Lowry has been in the worst shooting slump of his career and DeRozan has as well, but in Game Five against the Heat, DeRozan was 11-22 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the foul line for his playoff best game of 34 points. Lowry attempted 25 shots from the field, made nine, but was 4-9 from behind the three point line and chipped in with a solid 25 points. Added together, they combined for 59 of the Raptors 99 points on the night.

Lowry had his best game of the playoffs in this series back on Saturday in Game Three with a 33 point performance, but he and DeRozan have not been completely in sync in the same playoff game for the whole postseason. That is something the Raptors and their fans have been waiting for.

“We can disparage them all we want and talk about how bad their shooting is, but you don’t forget how to score the basketball,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s going to come back. When? You hope it’s within this series, but it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season and not one-time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball.

“And now they have to ramp it up again for the next game.”

DeRozan has taken a beating in the press and on social media over his lack of performance in the playoffs. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and go for a max deal in the neighborhood of $20-25-million per season. One Toronto sports writer actually said on Wednesday that if the Raptors did sign DeRozan to a max deal that person should be fired.

DeRozan’s performance in Game Five was a gigantic “stick it” to his detractors.

The fact is he played the game hurt, the thumb on his shooting hand is hurting and hurting bad. He played through the pain. Many stars have sat out with less pain and just shut it down.

In the fourth quarter DeRozan re-injured his thumb and made a bee line to the locker room. He was followed by the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The cagey Scotsman did his best MacGyver imitation by using a shoelace on DeRozan’s thumb and he came back and finished the game.

“Thousand dollar shoelaces” is what DeRozan called the device.

When asked, what does the thumb hurt like? DeRozan said, “it hurt likes a blow torch.”
That’s pretty graphic.

Plain and simple the Raptors don’t win without DeRozan sucking it up and playing. He played like the legendary war horses of the old days in the NBA.

That’s why the Raptors head to Miami up three games to two instead of being down three games to two.

They need DeRozan and Lowry to keep up doing what they did Wednesday night if they want to advance to the Toronto Raptors first ever Conference Final.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.