TORONTO â€” DeMar DeRozan hasn’t finished redeeming himself yet.
The Raptors all-star rallied with a game-high 33 points Saturday in Toronto’s 87-76 Game 4 win in Milwaukee after failing to hit a field goal in a humiliating 104-77 loss to the Bucks in Game 3.
But the bad taste of that debacle persists, despite the fact that Toronto holds home-court advantage as the first-round playoff series â€” tied two games apiece â€” switches to the Air Canada Centre for Game 5 on Monday night.
“Looking up at that score, losing the way we did, it was embarrassing. It was feeling you can’t get over,” DeRozan, speaking after practice Sunday, said of his miserable Game 3 memories.
That was music to coach Dwane Casey’s ears.
He wants the Raptors to break the cycle of upping its game after a loss and then relaxing after a win.
“That’s been our MO (modus operandi),” he said. “So that’s why I’m glad to hear that DeMar was upset and not (saying) ‘OK, I had one good game.’ And that’s he’s ready to come out.”
Casey wants his entire team, like DeRozan, to come out with a chip on its shoulder.
“We’re much better when our backs are against the wall,” he said.
Added DeRozan: “We’re going to have to play extremely hard. We’re going to have to play like we’re on the road, our backs (are) against the wall, it’s a Game 7. Sort of like we played (Saturday). That’s the mentality we’ve got to have.”
Casey said the Bucks will hold no surprises Monday.
“They’re going to come out ready to fight, they’re going to come out ready to compete … We know what to expect from them,” Casey said.
“We’ve got to be ready for that. That’s why we can’t relax.”
Toronto will have to shoot better.
Going into games Sunday, Toronto ranked bottom among the 16 playoff teams in scoring average (88.3), 15th in shooting percentage (39.9) and 14th in three-point shooting percentage (31.3).
“We’ve missed some shots that we normally make,” said Casey. “We’ve haven’t shot the ball well. Even on open shots, I think we’ve missed some shots we normally make. At some point they’re going to go in.”
Milwaukee wasn’t much better â€” 15th in scoring average (94.3) and 13th in shooting percentage (43.7). The Bucks ranked third in three-point shooting percentage (41.1).
The Raptors coach also wants his team to improve its rebounding and to be smarter when to use its physicality. Also to make sure that if shots aren’t landing, that players look to up their defence or contribute in other ways.
Casey offered no concrete hints of whether he would continue with Norman Powell in the starting lineup at the expense of centre Jonas Valanciunas. But he praised Powell.
“I thought Norm performed. He did a good job offensively and defensively,” said Casey.
Powell’s insertion made a difference in Game 4, with DeRozan saying having an extra ball handler on the court helped him find space.
DeRozan tied for fifth in scoring during the regular season with 27.3 points a game. He ranked 18th in these playoffs as of Sunday, averaging 22.8 points.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press