With a hard-fought 87-76 Game 4 victory in Milwaukee, the Toronto Raptors tied up their first-round series against the Bucks. The series now shifts to Toronto for Game 5 on Monday.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: NBA TV, TSN/ TSN1050
Preparing for everything
Through four games in this series, each contest has taken on its own narrative. The postseason always brings plenty of talk of momentum, but Dwane Casey isn’t buying into it following a Game 4 victory to tie the first-round series at two games apiece.
“Each game has a different story,” Casey said. “As you have seen momentum hasn’t meant anything in this series. I think you have to come in with the approach of having a chip on your shoulder because we haven’t accomplished anything. We are back to square one. We have put ourselves in the position where we have come back home and it’s back to square one. We have to take it personally that they are coming into our home and try and outwork us on our court. Play with a chip on our shoulders. We are much better when our backs are against the wall. [Monday’s] game is just as important and should be just as intense as [Game 4].”
After holding the Bucks to 37 percent shooting in a Game 4 victory, Toronto expects Milwaukee to come out aggressive from the jump in Game 5.
“We know they’re definitely going to come out to fight,” Casey said. “They’re going to come out ready to compete. They’re talking about how they didn’t play physical and aggressive and that type of thing. So we know what to expect from them. It’s not going to be a surprise that they’re going to come out like they did in Game 1 at our place and Game 1 at their place. We’ve got to be ready for that and that’s why we can’t relax.”
Powell providing boost
Dwane Casey made a switch to his starting lineup in Game 4 when he inserted Norman Powell into the starting five in place of Jonas Valanciunas. It was the first time the team had changed the starting five in the postseason and the move paid off for Toronto. Powell played 34 minutes on Saturday, scoring 12 points on 3-for-7 field goals, including a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also added four rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot, with his final 3-pointer giving Toronto its first double-digit lead of the game. It was a solid performance from a sophomore player who has excelled at staying ready when his name gets called.
“That’s a true professional right there,” DeMar DeRozan said. “A guy [that’s] still young but understands whenever his name is called, he’s ready. That’s one guy that’s in the gym every single morning, you walk in here, he’s getting his work in and it shows when he gets put in the situation.”
Casey echoed DeRozan’s thoughts on Powell’s professionalism. Having a player who can deal with his own role changing game to game or series to series is a relief for a coaching staff that wants to make adjustments on the fly and not have to worry about a player not being ready or prepared to step in — or out — if needed.
“He was out of the rotation a little bit but he stayed ready, worked hard, put in extra time the way most young players should – really all young players should,” Casey said. “Be in early, be the last one off the court and he kept a positive attitude. You don’t like your role but he embraced it and understood the situation. You never want a player to like not being in the rotation and Norm is no different, but he stayed ready and that’s what I tell all the young players. They have to stay ready, physically and mentally for when your time comes. I think for the most part all of our guys have done that. Our coaches have done a good job of working with them and keeping them ready.”
Powell was instrumental in Toronto’s postseason run a season ago. He said the one thing that’s different about this year’s playoffs is that he didn’t have any nerves this time around.
“It wasn’t really different, I didn’t have any nerves,” Powell said. “It was going in there, playing my game, playing to the best of my ability, and living with the results of it. You know, laying it all out there for my team and for myself. I prepare for this day in, day out, early mornings, late nights, extra workouts in prepping myself for the games. It wasn’t really different than any other game for me, it was just going out there and playing and being inserted into a role where I needed to come out and play well for my team to win.”
After bounce-back game, DeRozan wants more
DeMar DeRozan followed up an eight-point Game 3 performance where he was held scoreless from the floor with a 33-point, nine-rebound, five-assist, two-steal performance in Game 4. He attacked early and often and looked like an entirely different player than the one who struggled through Game 3, vowing after the loss that it would not happen again.
Despite Toronto picking up the victory and DeRozan redeeming his own Game 3 performance, he isn’t ready to let go of the feelings after that loss, choosing instead to channel them as motivation.
“That was embarrassing,” DeRozan said of the Game 3 loss. “Looking up at that score, losing the way we did, embarrassing. It’s a feeling you can’t get over.”
With the series tied at two games apiece, the best of seven first-round series now becomes a best of three. DeRozan spent Sunday stressing the importance of heading into Game 5 like their backs are against the wall.
“We’ve got to understand we’ve got to have that same anger, intensity, everything that we had the night before we played [Saturday] going into [Game 5].