To say Saturday was a whirlwind for the Toronto Raptors would be an understatement.
Masai Ujiri kicked things off before the game by swearing during a prep rally at Maple Leaf Square. The incident was captured on Instagram and by halftime it had gone viral and Ujiri was meeting with the media attempting to apologize for his comment.
Once the game started things didn’t get much better for the Raptors as nerves got in the way and allowed Brooklyn to race out to a 25-13 lead.
In the second half the craziness continued as the 24 second shot clock had issues and was out of service for the remainder of the game.
Through all of this turmoil and craziness on and off the court, DeMar DeRozan felt the pressure of playing the first playoff game of his NBA career and he didn’t play like an all-star as he went 3-13 from the field.
DeRozan didn’t score his first field goal until the 2:34 mark of the third quarter and he looked flustered by all of the different looks Brooklyn threw at him.
After averaging 22.7 points per game this season and 22.0 points in April, DeRozan only managed to score 14 points against Brooklyn in Game 1 of this first round series.
Despite all of the doom and gloom that came from dropping the opening game of this series at home, it’s not time to write off DeRozan’s chances of having an impact on this series and helping Toronto win the series.
Brooklyn defenders were sagging off of DeRozan all game daring him to shoot mid-range jumpers or three’s. Neither of those shots are ideal for DeRozan at this stage of his career as shown by the fact he went 0-4 from beyond the arc and 1-5 from mid-range.
Even more troubling is only three of DeRozan’s field goal attempts came in the paint. For a player that was in the top five in free throw attempts this season – he went 8-8 from the free throw line in Game 1 – he needs to be more aggressive looking for shots at the rim or in the paint.
A visibly frustrated DeRozan only attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter.
“It’s one game, man” DeRozan told a journalist who asked if he expects to bounce back in Game 2. “I know I’m going to go back and watch the film tomorrow and see what kinds of things we can do better on both ends of the court. Without a doubt (I’ll do better in Game 2). I just had a tough game today.”
Dwane Casey was tight lipped about what adjustments he’d make for DeRozan in Game 2 and would only tell the media while smirking, “You’ll see on Tuesday in Game 2.”
Casey may not have shared what changes he will make with the media but he knows DeRozan can get his mojo back in this series with only a few small tweaks.
In Game 1 Brooklyn threw constant double – and sometimes even triple teams – at DeRozan. That problem can be easily fixed by Toronto setting more screens for DeRozan.
On top of that, DeRozan needs to do a better job of reading Brooklyn’s defense and realize when they are sagging off of him they are daring him to shoot ill-advised jumpers. When that happens he needs to either swing the ball to an open teammate or take the ball into the teeth of Brooklyn’s defense and make something happen in the paint.
DeRozan’s body will likely take a pounding in this series, but if he’s able to bump up his free throw attempts while attempting more shots in the paint it will result in a big jump in his scoring while giving Toronto a great opportunity to even up this series.
Game 1 should prove to be an anomaly in this series as DeRozan will come back with a much-improved showing in Game 2 by playing more to his strengths as someone who can score in the paint and draw fouls.
If not, look for Brooklyn to make short work of Toronto in this first round matchup.