CLEVELAND – Dwane Casey wants his players to stop giving LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers so much respect.
A day after the Raptors were thrashed by Cleveland in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the coach’s message to his team Tuesday was simple: the Cavs are human.
“They’re a good team, we know that. But we’re a good team, too, had the same record (51-31),” Casey said. “We have to go in with that confidence, that feeling of understanding say ‘Hey look, they put their pants on one leg at a time, too. One shoe at a time.’ I haven’t seen ’em jump in and pull them up at the same time.
“So we’ve got to go in with that belief, that understanding. And I have a belief that we’ll play better and get to that next gear the next game.”
The Raptors battle the Cavs in Game 2 at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday before the series heads home to Toronto for Games 3 and 4.
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James made like the cruel cat toying with a mouse en route to 35 points and 10 rebounds on Monday night. Whether it was his fake sideline beer-swigging, or his alley-oop dunk off the backboard, his hijinx conjured images of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Was DeMar DeRozan bothered by how the Cavs had fun at the Raptors expense?
“That’s them, man. Every team that LeBron has been on, they did some type of whatever,” he said.
“We can’t get caught up in that or making that part of the game. We gotta understand they we can go out there and control what we control and that’s for us to get a win.”
The danger, said Casey, is when players become awestruck by superstars. The 60-year-old coach has seen it before.
“We used to do that with Michael Jordan. We used to have to tell Gary Payton (in Seattle) and those guys ‘Hey, he puts his pants on one leg.’ . . I think that’s natural, it’s human nature to watch a Michael Jordan or a Karl Malone, spectate until they hit you in the mouth.
“When a guy hits you in the mouth a few times, now what are you going to do? That’s the mentality we have to have. They punched us. They won the first game. It didn’t feel good, but it’s a long series.”
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The Raptors spent Tuesday morning dissecting video from the 116-105 loss.
Kyle Lowry was asked: did he like anything he saw?
“I liked that we had opportunities to be better. That’s what I did like,” Lowry said.
Lowry had the line of the afternoon. When asked if he was happy with his own performance Monday, he replied: “We lost. I’m never happy when we lose. I’m barely happy when we win.”
The three-time all-star had 20 points and 11 assists, and was arguably the Raptors’ most aggressive player on the night.
Lowry said the Raptors didn’t play with the pace they needed in Monday night’s track meet.
“When they score, you can’t put your head down,” he said. “You’ve got to get the ball out. You’ve got to run down the floor and not look to get a play call. The play call is secondary. Try to get something easy. Try to get a jump shot or open look quicker or get a layup.
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“A lot of things they did, they made a shot, we took our time and it’s just a difficult pace to play at when you’re playing against a team that can roam and kind of junk up the game defensively.”
Lowry planned to spend much of what was left of Tuesday reviewing video.
“I’ll watch games tonight. I love basketball. My life revolves around basketball,” he said. “And you just watch the film. You’ve got your iPad. You’ve got your film on. You watch more film and see what you can do. You watch games tonight and enjoy it and go back to work tomorrow.”
The Raptors, who’ve made a habit of losing series openers – they’re now a woeful 1-12 – lost 115-84 in Cleveland in Game 1 in last season’s conference finals.
DeRozan said Monday’s defeat didn’t sting quite as much.
“It sucks to lose any type of way. But the way we lost last year, it hit a lot harder,” he said. “This time around we have kind of that confidence and understanding of how to get back on our feet.
“We’ve been here before and we know what it takes, especially after Game 1, being down with our foot in a hole so we gotta go out there and leave it out there.”
While the Raptors traditionally bounce back in Game 2s, they dropped the second game of last season’s series with Cleveland 108-89.