Playoff experience is the early theme of Toronto Raptors-Brooklyn Nets series
Friday, Apr 18, 2014 10:30 am
TORONTO - Kyle Lowry addressed his teammates after the Toronto Raptors concluded the regular-season Wednesday night.
While Toronto's point guard wouldn't repeat his speech for reporters — "That's for me and my guys to know" — any words of wisdom are much appreciated by this young Raptors playoff team.
"I think they're going to lean on us (veterans) a lot," Lowry said of his less experienced teammates. "But we're all going to help. We're all going to be in this together.
"We're 15 deep so we've got guys who are very experienced, inexperienced, we've got a coach who has a ring. So everyone is going to lean on everybody."
Experience is the early theme of the Raptors' opening-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. Toronto hosts the Nets in Game 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Tuesday before the series shifts to Brooklyn.
The Nets' expected starting five — Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — have 417 post-season starts between them.
The Raptors' starters — Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas — have none.
Lowry and Johnson at least have some post-season experience — Lowry played 13 playoff games as a backup point guard for Houston in 2009 while Johnson played in 11 post-season games with Detroit in 2008 and '09.
As for the rest of the starters, they don't know quite what to expect. But they're about to find out.
"We'll figure it out Saturday," the 23-year-old Ross said.
Ross said he's been told the big difference is intensity.
"The one thing that stuck out to me the most is the season's all about repetition," Ross said. "When you get to the playoffs, it's all about it's your chance to prove what you've been doing the whole season.
"The season's about repetition but when you get to the playoffs, it's either win or go home."
DeRozan said it's important to remain calm.
"Don't overhype anything, go out there and take it one game at a time," DeRozan said. "That's how we've all got to treat it.
"We've got to treat it like it's another big game but we understand what's at stake."
Johnson said the mood in the locker-room has taken on a decidedly more serious tone.
"(I'm) just telling everybody it's a brand new season," the forward said. "We've just got to pay attention to detail.
"We're doing that in practice, we're going through a lot of film. It's a very serious approach."
The 26-year-old said the team is making a conscious effort to not become swept up in the playoff excitement that's gripping Raptors fans.
“There's a lot of stuff coming at us. Family, fans, media," Johnson said. "It's basically just us as a team and we have to stick together and stay focused and just look at the bigger picture."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey, whose defensive expertise helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat for the 2011 NBA title, has been preparing his players for the more intense post-season game.
"There's a higher level of being specific on each play, attention to detail. You've got to challenge the shot, you've got to box out and rebound — second shots are a no-no. Physicality, no layups," Casey said. "A lot of different things change in the playoffs that we've talked about."
Asked if his young players will adapt quickly to the post-season style of play, the coach said "Well, we better.
"We better in a couple possessions. Again, it's basketball. I don't want to say it's day and night. You're still putting the ball through the hole and keeping your guy from scoring, as basic as you can get. I don't want to overhype it to scare our guys. It's still basketball.
"Again, guys will see the difference and they'll feel it. . . the pace of the game, they'll feel that as soon as they walk on the court."
Still, Casey said there can be too much emphasis placed on playoff experience.
"It's important, but it's not the only thing, you've still got to play the game," Casey said. "I go back to Dallas, we were an underdog in every series. We had experience, but we were still an underdog. It's important, but it's not the only thing you measure it by."
Coaching is where the Raptors do win the experience game. Brooklyn's Jason Kidd is in his rookie season as a coach. Kidd was the point guard for that Mavs team that beat LeBron James and the Heat back in 2011.
"Jason, I'm sure he's prepared himself pretty well to handle the situation," Casey said.