Raps look for respectable treatment
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors didn't sound a lot like a No. 3-seeded team on Monday.
Down 1-0 in the first round to the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto played the "nobody believes in us" card repeatedly. To an extent, it's true -- no one expected the Raptors to have such a successful regular season, and this group overcame all sorts of trade-and-tanking talk in December. After Toronto won 48 games, many predicted that the four multi-time All-Stars in the Nets' starting lineup meant the Raptors would have a short playoff run. Part of the rationale there was the perception that Toronto's young players wouldn't get the benefit of the doubt from the referees.
"We've accepted that all year long as far as not getting recognition or getting respect or even getting calls we think we should get," Raptors forward Patrick Patterson said. "That's happened all year long so for us to think it's going to change in the playoffs, we're fooling ourselves. We have to go out there and not worry about the referees, not worry about the calls and just play basketball."
Saturday's Game 1 was Patterson's first postseason experience, and the same could be said for three of Toronto's starters. While no one admitted to being nervous -- aside from second-year center Jonas Valanciunas, who overcame those nerves to score 17 points and grab a franchise playoff-record 18 rebounds -- Patterson described it as a learning experience. He said Toronto would need to balance physicality and intensity with avoiding foul trouble.
"I'm not going to comment on officiating, except to say I went back to watch the calls in the fourth quarter and we didn't get any," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "And that's unusual."
While Brooklyn was whistled for only one foul to Toronto's six in the final quarter, it would be difficult to argue that the referees cost Toronto Game 1. The Raptors' 19 turnovers and 39 percent shooting were likely far greater factors.
"We can't expect anything in these games," Toronto point guard Greivis Vasquez said. "This is the playoffs. We're playing against vets. They've been in this league, they earned that respect. We can't [make] excuses on the refereeing or anything like that, we gotta play our game. If they're physical, we're going to have to be extra physical."
Casey often says that he wants the Raptors to be the more desperate team and to hit first. Before a recent game, he said he wanted them to be ready to protect themselves as if they were walking down the street and someone approached wielding a hammer.
"We have to go in with an edge and be the underdog team and attack it," Casey said. "We're the better team that way when we're the underdog. We've been that way all year, nobody counted us in, so for us to give ourselves a chance to be successful, we've got to be that team."
The Raptors didn't appear on ESPN, ABC or TNT until the playoffs started, and Tuesday's game will be broadcast on NBA TV. After they lost home-court advantage, there will be fewer and fewer people projecting them to get to the second round.
Vasquez said the whole team took the loss personally, and guaranteed Toronto wouldn't be outworked going forward. He called the next game a must-win, and said the Raptors were confident enough to get it done. With the extra-long layoff between games, it felt as if they'd all have preferred to not have to wait another day to strike back on the court.
"To me, it's fun," Vasquez said. "I'm an underdog guy, so I've got to prove myself every day. I wake up with a 220,000-pound [chip] on my shoulder, so I've got to be able to find a way to walk and get to my job. It's fun when you face Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG. I mean, I grew up watching those guys, especially KG and Paul Pierce. Now I got a chance to beat 'em? To me, I can't ask for anything better than that."
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