The panic is back and spreading like wildfire.
Prior to Saturday's Game 4 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors fans were starting to get confident, and perhaps even a little cocky. Now the sky is falling once again.
DeMar DeRozan returned to his Game 1 and 2 form, and the team on the whole just did not look ready to play. Nonetheless, the Raptors did manage to wrestle home-court advantage back in their favour by splitting the two contests south of the border.
Here are three storylines to follow in a pivotal Game 5:
Dwane Casey has a decision on his hands. Does he roll with the same starting five that set a franchise record for wins by a wide margin and earned the East's second seed, or does he shake things up? The move would involve removing the experienced-but-struggling Luis Scola, who started all 76 games he appeared in during the regular season, from the starting lineup.
If we are to see a new starter at the four spot, the most obvious candidate would be Patrick Patterson. Patterson is the Raptors' most versatile big man, providing strong defence and floor spacing. However, that would have a trickle-down effect as it would remove him from the "Lowry-plus-reserves lineup" that has been among the best units in the NBA.
Alternatively, Casey could elect to go small and tap standout rookie Norman Powell. This would bump DeMarre Carroll to power forward and mean Powell would likely be tasked with guarding Paul George to start the game. Powell has been impressive when he's seen the floor in the playoffs, shooting 43 per cent from three-point range while playing gritty defence. He's also a +25 for the series.
30.7 per cent. If you heard two all-stars combined to shoot 40-of-130 through four playoff games, you'd think that team had either been swept, or was down 3-1. That's how poorly DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been shooting in the post-season. Maybe it's time they change their approach a bit, right? Well, the duo has stated they will continue to take the same shots moving forward. Sounds like a recipe for success.* They have to be due to get hot, though, don't they?
The single biggest culprit in Saturday's shellacking was Toronto's inability to take care of the ball. Through the game's first 20 minutes, the visitors had turned the ball over 11 times, leading to a heap of easy points for Indiana. It was especially back-breaking considering the Pacers have struggled to score in the half-court offence. The Raptors were one of the league's best this year when it came to ball security, committing only 13.1 turnovers per game during the regular season. If they can return to form, it will go a long way in helping them grab a 3-2 series lead.
Where to watch: Sportsnet at 6:00 p.m. ET (yes, the NBA hates Canada)*