DeMarre Carroll hit three three-balls, scored 17 points and frustrated the Pacers All-Star Paul George all night as the Toronto Raptors cruised to the 101-85 win in Indiana to take a 2-1 series lead in their first round match. This was the playoff tested ‘3-and-D’ forward the Raptors thought – no knew – they were getting when they signed Carroll to that big contract last summer. A player who could bring defensive intensity to the Raptors in the postseason.
“He is giving us intensity on the defensive end,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “That’s what we brought him here to do and hopefully his body responds well. He’s giving it to us on that end of the floor and his shooting and cutting is really helping us on the offensive end too with our spacing.”
This was just Carroll’s sixth game back after being cleared to play again following knee surgery in January and it was by far his best game. The Raptors finally willing to lift the minutes restriction on his playing time.
“It’s been a long time since I played that long,” Carroll said postgame. “It was great. It was a great feeling. I just to build off of it.”
The concern now is how he feels in the morning and Carroll even joked about his wife needing to give him a massage later, but the Raptors have shown an abundance of caution with their defensive stopper and the likelihood of a setback seems remote.
“I’ve been hurt a lot this season,” Carroll said. “A lot of people (might) sulk about it, but I’m just trying to move on, move forward and just try to come out and just try to keep helping this team win.
“The biggest thing coming off of injury is the mental state. You can get down on yourself mentally. I think I am strong mentally with all the stuff I’ve been through.”
This wasn’t the Carroll the Pacers had experienced during the first two games in Toronto. Being limited in minutes greatly reduced his impact on the court and Carroll never really found his rhythm, but that all changed when Casey told him to give all he could in Game Three.
“The biggest thing for me was just to come in and try to be physical, try to play my game,” Carroll said. “Coach (Casey) told me he was going to lift the minutes restriction. It kind of helped me, relief a little bit mentally that I’m not going to be restricted so I can play as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
It worked from the get go. Carroll was up into George from the first possession and George never looked comfortable dealing with his new adversary.
“(Carroll) just came back two weeks ago and so he is just probably getting his sea legs, the rhythm of the game, the speed of the game and now you go from regular season to the playoff intensity and that’s a huge step,” Casey said. “I thought tonight he looked closer to who he really is.”
“Tried to not let (George) get some feel good shots,” Carroll said. “Once he gets some feel good shots and see the ball go through the hoop, he’s a beast. The biggest thing for us is I make every shot harder and just keep trying to be physical with him. It’s going to be a collective group and I got to do my part.”
Carroll did his part and it made a difference. The scary thing from the Pacers standpoint should be he really is just finding his “sea legs” as Casey put it. Carroll is going to get a lot more comfortable and in rhythm the longer this series goes. This playoff veteran expects to win.