RaptorsHQ Nets vs Raptors Game 2 Playoffs Preview

You heard the kid... - Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for Game 2, a pivotal game in any series, and the last chance for the Raptors to even things up before heading to Brooklyn.

We've all had two days to think about that first game, but for the Raptors, I hope it's eaten away at them.

Eaten away at Jonas Valanciunas for some of the sloppy turnovers he had.

Eaten away at Amir Johnson for not blocking out and his lackluster rebounding.

Eaten away at DeMar DeRozan for his inexcusable shot selection and just plain terrible game planning.

Eaten away at Dwane Casey for not fouling the Nets immediately down the stretch and some of his substitution patterns.

I'm sure though, that it's eaten away at Kyle Lowry.

Yes, we can say that the season was a success beyond all wild expectations and that the Raptors finished 3rd in the conference. Shouldn't that be enough?

For good teams, they become greedy and hungry. It's never enough. Just being in the playoffs shouldn't satisfy these guys otherwise they have no business staying on this roster. From here on in, it's where the real test begins.

And there's no doubt that Kyle Lowry knows this. The question is, how many of his teammates will follow him?

The good new is that the Raptors have a lot of room to get better. This isn't like previous Raptors teams in the Chris Bosh era where they were already maxing out their output and weren't able to get anything more out of their roster. There's a lot more in the tank for this team.

It's been my opinion that the Raptors were destined to lose game one. With an untested leading scorer who had never had to fight against an entire defense focused solely on stopping him, it would be been surprising to say the least had DeRozan had a great game. The question now is how will he adjust?

DeMar DeRozan would undoubtedly face the same difficulties that Vince Carter and Chris Bosh had in the past. His play indicates that he thought he could will his team to a win by simply doing what came easiest to him. DeRozan hoisted jumper after jumper instead of what was tougher many of his critics have begged him to do: Get to the foul line.

And getting two days to plan and think about things should play directly in the hands of Dwane Casey, who should have a gameplay to help break his All-Star player free.

How the Raptors counterpunch is going to be the determining factor if they can regain their momentum from their first game loss. How DeRozan acts and grows from his first playoff experience is going to determine whether the Raptors can bounce back.

Without DeRozan playing at a high level, we can expect to see a lot more Nando De Colo.

So how to get DeRozan free? As I said above, he's gotta get to the free throw line a lot more. He did ok in spurts on Saturday, but it has to be a consistent undertaking for DeRozan. If he gets 20 points on free throws, that's much better than a mix of free throws and jumpers.

Secondly, he's got to use off ball screens a lot more effectively. He should take some cues from Landry Fields to make his life easier. If he's a decoy, and draws the double, so be it. Let Jonas finish at the basket. Let Ross hit the corner 3. It may get tiring, and he may get frustrated about his lack of production, but trusting his teammates is what got him here. Being inefficient is just going to get him yanked from the game.

And the Raptors need him to be there to guard a lengthy Shaun Livingston. With Deron Williams now playing the shooting guard role, the Raptors got absolutely torched by the Nets back court. Blame it on the fact that our hometown boys kept trotting out lineups with Nando De Colo and Greivis Vasquez, or Vasquez and Kyle Lowry in the hopes of jump starting their offense.

But enough about DeRozan. Let's look at the bigger picture

Comparing Saturday's game to their regular season series where the Nets and Raptors split two games, we can maybe get a better observation on how the team fared. In fact, it was pretty ugly across the board offensively. The Raptors were worse by 5.6% in FG% and 3.7% in 3PT% compared to their regular season series, produced 3.5 more turnovers and averaged 3.8 fewer steals. It explains why the Raptors TS% dipped by 3.6% compared to their regular season series.

And speaking of Advanced Metrics, the Raptors Defensive Rating went from 104.6 to 100.1, but unfortunately, their Offensive Rating dropped a full 13.5 points going from the regular season to the playoffs.

In other words, while in some cases their defense was marginally better, their offense was miles worse.

Guys like Terrence Ross who got into extreme foul trouble quicker than you could say "Blake Griffin", ended up shorting out the Raptors' offensive schemes. Toss in a possibly injured Amir Johnson and the aforementioned DeRozan, and that's three of your five starters not firing on all cylinders.

Heck, if you want to go the referee route on top of that, you could look at the fact that the Raptors got almost 2 more Personal Fouls and drew almost 4 fewer fouls than in their regular season series.

However, that's not to say that even with their poor play, the Raptors didn't have a chance to beat the Nets. They just need to be a little bit better, and it's predicated on the team figuring out how to play in a playoff environment. This includes working with the change in the refereeing style, playing at a high level for long periods of time and not giving yourself any excuses.

In fact, it's exactly the kind of attitude that Kyle Lowry already has and needs to give and share with the entire team. Kyle's the guy who wouldn't back down to Kevin Garnett, who hit clutch shots to keep the game close and put the weight of the starting lineup on his back.

It's a good thing he's our heart and leader. If there's anyone who can get us playing true Raptors basketball, it's him.

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