The Toronto Raptors – Miami Heat second round playoff series has become a war of attrition. First it was Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside battling until both were lost to injury in Game Three. Then DeMarre Carroll and Luol Deng were sidelined in Game Five. The series has become so physical that the Raptors Canadian Cory Joseph suggests it’s like a hockey game out there.
“It’s basketball,” Joseph said. “You know I’m Canadian. We like hockey. We play hockey a little bit. I don’t try anything that’s hockey, this is basketball. I don’t try anything that’s not basketball related, but it’s competitive.”
Goran Dragic must have got that retroactive technical foul for taking a swing at Joseph because the two of them haven’t been in an actual physical battle for position on the court all series.
Joseph admitted he was trying to protect his pocketbook with his answers and while it is still basketball out there, it’s more like old-time basketball when players traded shots going down the court and established position with a hard forearm to the chest. The scoring has suffered in the melee, but these games are being played hard and they are fun to watch if you know what to look for and aren’t expecting a lot of pretty plays.
Both teams are coached to play tough. To not let anyone move anywhere without “feeling” a defender and on offense, they are expected to fight their way through the defense. It’s a battle players on these two teams are expected to embrace.
“It’s playoffs,” Patrick Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “I take it we’re dishing just as much as we are receiving. At the end of the day, the playoffs are a very physical game. You do whatever it takes to get a loose ball, a rebound, to get a stop, to stop your man from getting to the basket or scoring.
“A lot of pushing. A lot of shoving. A lot of stuff going on out there on the court.
“It’s a lot of fun. You are able to bang, push and shove, no calls being made. It’s just playing free out there.”
This isn’t regular season basketball anymore. Nothing that has been happening on the court resembles what went on before the playoffs and both coaches are loving it.
“A big part of it is how both teams are defending,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game Five. “Neither team played like this during the regular season and it’s just coming down to how many plays you can make during the course of the game. How efficient you can be with your offense even if you aren’t scoring big and inevitably it comes down to those final possessions coming down the stretch.
“I don’t know if the offense is going to trend for either team.
“Our guys love this, love this kind of competition.”
The defense being played in this series is over the top and at a level that isn’t often seen even in the postseason (anymore). Both Toronto and Miami averaged over a 100 points per game during the regular season, but only Miami has been able to crack the century mark with overtime in Game One and since then the Heat has averaged just 92 points per game. The Raptors are only averaging 94.6 points per game.
“The defense always picks up in the playoffs,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Five. “We are both being physical with each other and we stopping, we’re trying to hold each other to each’s weaknesses and it’s working pretty good.”
Even after spending four seasons with the very disciplined Spurs, Joseph can’t remember scoring being this hard to get in the playoffs.
“Actually, no I haven’t,” Joseph said. “I haven’t been where it’s this close. I’ve been in a couple of Game Sevens in terms of where nobody can break ahead.
“We are just playing hard and holding each other to each other’s weaknesses and trying to take away each other’s strengths and it’s been working. It’s been pretty low scoring.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a grind it out game.”
Count on it, with these two teams and these two head coaches, they’ll be grinding it out like it’s a hockey game right to the bitter end of this series.