In the Cavaliers’ Game 1 win over the Raptors, Toronto got outscored by eight points in the 12 minutes both teams’ starting lineups were on the floor. The Raptors’ starters ranged from -13 (Kyle Lowry) to -32 (DeMar DeRozan). Cleveland built a 25-point lead before letting up in garbage time.
The outcome screams for Toronto adjustments.
But starting Norman Powell and Jakob Poeltl over DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas?
According to sources, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey — desperate to find a way to score enough to keep up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are averaging 113.4-points points a game through five playoff starts — is giving strong consideration to sitting both Carroll and Valanciunas for Game 2.
In their place would go Powell and rookie Jakob Poeltl. Powell’s role would be to reprise the added ball-handling and shooting that the second-year guard provided the Raptors when he started Games 4-6 against the Milwaukee Bucks while the Austrian rookie would be expected to give Toronto some additional quickness to help on the Cavs pick-and-roll attacks while still maintaining some size to battle the offensive rebounding pressure Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love bring.
“The league is changing,” said Casey at the Raptors practice Tuesday. “The league is changing. You have to change or you get stuck in the mud. It’s more of a scoring league now. You saw what San Antonio had done to them last night [in a 27-point loss to the Houston Rockets the Spurs gave up 22 threes on 50 attempts].
“We have to score points,” said Casey, whose club is averaging just 95.4 points a game in the post-season, worst among active teams and 11.4 points off their regular season average. “We have to manufacture points and not get our dobber down if the other team scores. If they score, boom, hey, next play. Not to say defence isn’t important, because it is. But we can’t get caught up in ‘we gotta stop them.’”
This is a stunning statement by Casey, who has preached defense at every opportunity. It’s fascinating to watch his philosophy change in real time.
Starting Poeltl would be a wild machination. Dahntay Jones harassed Poeltl in Game 1. What would LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson do to the rookie?
I get starting Powell over Carroll. After falling behind 2-1 to the Bucks in the first round, Toronto inserted Powell into the starting lineup (for Valanciunas) then won three straight. With Powell again coming off the bench, the Raptors lost Game 1 to the Cavaliers. Powell brings 3-and-D skills with playmaking that would be particularly helpful against a Cavs defense vulnerable to breakdowns once it gets moving.
But Poeltl? He’s more mobile than Valanciunas, but the 7-foot Poeltl is hardly fleet of foot. The rookie has been in and out of the rotation all year.
Why not start P.J. Tucker over Valanciunas instead, sliding Serge Ibaka to center? The Cavaliers’ floor spacing begs opponents to go small, but then Thompson and Love feast on the offensive glass. Ibaka and Tucker bring small-ball spacing, but they’re tough enough to still compete on the boards. It’s not as if Poeltl has been a strong defensive rebounder, anyway.
The problem with that strategy is guarding backup Cleveland center Channing Frye, a 3-point shooter. If there’s a place for Valanciunas in this series, it’s starting. He can’t handle Frye. Maybe Poeltl can? If Ibaka is playing center with the starters, he can’t also play the position with the backups. He needs rest at some point.
Overall, Casey sounds desperate. But he should be. Have you seen the Cavs?