TORONTO (CBSNewYork/AP) — For Raptors’ All-Star DeMar DeRozan, the waiting between playoff games is the hardest part.
The Brooklyn Nets, however, don’t mind one bit.
The slow pace of Toronto’s first-round playoff series against Brooklyn, with two days off between each of the first three games, isn’t really to DeRozan’s liking. Extra down time after a disappointing Game 1 wasn’t what the Raptors guard wanted.
“It’s tough,” DeRozan said Monday. “You have a tough game, you’re used to getting right back out there and making up for it.”
DeRozan will get his chance when the Raptors host the Nets on Tuesday night, hoping to bounce back after a 94-87 defeat in Game 1.
The Nets, who flew home to New York between games, have no problem with the relaxed schedule. Brooklyn went 5-13 in the second half of back-to-backs this season, losing twice to Toronto.
“We haven’t been great in back-to-backs all year so thank goodness we don’t have to do that,” Nets forward Paul Pierce said Monday.
“We have probably one of the worst records in back-to-back games. Maybe that’s due to the age of this team, maybe that’s just due to fatigue. Who knows? There are none in the playoffs so it’s definitely advantageous to us.”
Pierce also said he feels stronger this April than he did with Boston last year. After taking on a bigger workload in the wake of Rajon Rondo’s knee injury, Pierce was “kind of spent” by the time the playoffs arrived, and the Celtics lost their first-round series to New York in six games.
Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd, meanwhile, had a different take on why Pierce was feeling fresher this spring.
“I thought he was worn down last year because he had to guard me,” the former Knicks guard joked.
Here are five things to watch for in Game 2 on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre:
1. THE PIERCE PROBLEM: One key for the Raptors in Game 2 will be controlling Pierce, who scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson drew the defensive assignment on Pierce in Game 1, and it wasn’t easy for either one. “He’s an NBA champion, he will be a Hall of Famer,” Patterson said of Pierce. “He can do so much at that position, he causes havoc for me and Amir.” With that in mind, the Raptors are considering changes when it comes to defending Pierce on Tuesday. “I don’t want to tip my hand totally, but we’re looking at different people,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
2. TRYING TO TAKE TWO: In his 10 previous trips to the playoffs, Pierce only remembers one occasion where his team was able to start a series by winning consecutive games on an opponent’s court. But that’s the ambitious goal Pierce and the Nets have set after winning Game 1. “We’re going up there with urgency to try and get a second win and that’s all that’s on our mind,” Pierce said. “Since I’ve been in the playoffs, I’ve only done it one time. It’s a hard thing to do. We’ve got to understand how hard it is to go and win in another building two times in a row in the playoffs. We’ve got to come with that mentality and nothing less.”
3. CRYING FOUL: Displeasure with the officiating in Game 1 has become a simmering story line among the Raptors, particularly an absence of calls in their favor in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn was whistled for 18 fouls through the first three quarters Saturday, but only one in the fourth. “I’m not going to comment on officiating, except to say I went back to watch the calls in the fourth quarter and we didn’t get any,” Casey said. “And that’s unusual.” DeRozan, however, said Toronto didn’t do enough to earn trips to the line down the stretch. “I think we kind of shied away from being aggressive, trying to attack the rim,” he said. “We got to the free throw line earlier in the game and we kind of settled for jump shots in the fourth quarter.”
4. DYNAMIC DEBUT: DeRozan and Toronto guard Terrence Ross both struggled in their playoff debuts, but Jonas Valanciunas came up big. The second-year center from Lithuania scored 17 points and set a Raptors playoff record with 18 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He became the first Toronto player to notch a double-double in his playoff debut since Tracy McGrady did it against the Knicks in 2000. “He’s trying to own the paint right now,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said of Valanciunas. “You can see the way he’s playing with a sense of urgency that he understands the situation.” The one negative in Valanciunas’ otherwise glittering Game 1 performance? He had six of Toronto’s 19 turnovers.
5. KEEPING IT CLOSE: If recent history is any indication, Game 2 is likely to go right down to the wire. In five meetings between the Nets and Raptors so far this season, including Game 1, neither team has led by more than five points heading into the fourth quarter. Brooklyn’s seven-point margin of victory Saturday is the second-biggest in the five games so far, three of which have been decided by four or fewer points.
NOTES: Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri was fined $25,000 by the NBA for “F-bombing” Brooklyn during a rally prior to Game 1.
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