TORONTO – In the wake of a painful overtime loss in Miami, Raptors coach Dwane Casey says he’s sleeping like a baby – “waking up and crying.”
The quip drew the laughter he intended. In reality, Casey says it’s all about maintaining an even keel going into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal Wednesday against the Heat.
The best-of-seven series is knotted at two games apiece after the Heat’s 94-87 overtime victory Monday in Miami.
“Everybody’s upset that we lost, which they should be. But nobody’s pushed the panic button,” Casey told reporters Tuesday at the team’s training centre after flying back from Florida. “Because it’s such a competitive series.”
Casey calls it a “nip-and-tuck” series, three of the four games have gone to OT with Miami leading Toronto in total points 379-374.
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Watching from the comfort of their homes are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who swept the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. They will be well rested come the Eastern final.
Toronto’s all-star backcourt continues to struggle. Kyle Lowry, who fouled out with 1:58 remaining, and DeMar DeRozan, nursing an injured thumb, shot a combined 6 for 28 on Monday night.
Lowry, who had a breakout night in Game 3, is averaging 15.0 points a game in the playoffs on 33.1 per cent shooting. DeRozan is averaging 17.7 points on 33.0 per cent shooting. The regular season numbers for Lowry were 21.2 points and 42.7 per cent shooting and for DeRozan 23.5 points and 44.6 per cent shooting.
“The guys, they’re not shooting well … We know about it, Miami knows about it,” Casey said. “We’re trying to do things to get around it and trying to create more offence with those guys struggling the way they are.
“But again they’re going to be our guys. Because at some point they’re going to get their rhythm, their shot – somebody else is going to step up and they may be more of a decoy – but it’s not like we’re just going to bench Kyle and DeMar and go away from them. They’re our guys. We believe in them. They’re our two all-stars and sooner or later they’re going to come through or be a part of what we’re trying to do.”
READ MORE: Raptors’ centre Valanciunas out for rest of Heat series with sprained ankle
DeRozan did sit out all but 1:38 of the final quarter Monday, however.
Casey, who has said his team will “ride or die” with the two all-stars, noted DeRozan’s shooting was off before he jammed his thumb in Game 1 of the series. “A double whammy,” he said.
Even more so given that other teams are whacking the thumb every chance they get.
Both teams will be without their starting centres Wednesday for the second game in a row. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Hassan Whiteside is staying in Miami for rest and therapy on his injured knee. The seven-footer is listed day-to-day with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
Toronto big man Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) has been ruled out of the series.
Only the coaches were made available to the media Tuesday.
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Casey looked to the positives, singling out Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph and Lucas Nogueira for stepping up.
“It’s going to be different storylines each night, different ways trying to win, different ways trying to find offence,” he said.
Casey said the Raptors’ biggest problem in Game 4 was the inability to prevent the Heat from scoring in the paint (54 points). Dwyane Wade penetrated time and time again en route to his 30 points.
“I don’t care if you have Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell back there, one dribble to the rim, there’s not many big guys going to get there,” Casey said.
Game 6 is Friday night in Miami with Game 7, if needed, set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Toronto.