MILWAUKEE â€” Kyle Lowry had barely slept. DeMar DeRozan was still smoldering from the indignity of being held without a field goal for the first time in his playoff career.
The Toronto Raptors gathered for practice Friday on the same inhospitable Bradley Center floor where hours earlier they’d been handed one of the ugliest post-season losses in franchise history.
If there was a message mixed in with their outrage, it was about channelling their anger into Saturday’s Game 4.
DeRozan, who averaged 27.3 points a night during the best regular season of his career, finished with just eight points in Game 3, all on free throws. According to Elias Sports Bureau, DeRozan is the first 25-points-a-game scorer in history to go 0-for-3 or worse in a playoff game in the same season.
Did he take it personally?
“Tremendously personally,” DeRozan said. “It won’t be the outcome (Saturday). Things happen, there’s a side of me that’s going to come out after I feel like I let my team down, and every individual out there feels the same way.
“It’s going to be a different team (Saturday).”
Heading into what the Raptors call a “must-win” Game 4, they trail the Bucks 2-1 in their best-of-seven opening round playoff series.
The Raptors are 4-6 all-time in Game 4s, and have traditionally struggled on the road in the post-season.
“We just got to use it as motivation, man,” DeRozan said. “It’s embarrassing to lose like that, especially in the post-season, to play like that on both ends.”
“It’s on us to come out this next game and tie it up.”
Playing in front of a deafening Milwaukee crowd that made the Air Canada Centre feel like a library, the Raptors looked completely unhinged from the opening tipoff against a young Bucks team that featured two rookies in Thon Maker, who was playing high school basketball at this time last year in Ontario, and Malcolm Brogdon.
“I’m a young coach so I think we all fit with the experience level,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Thon and Malcolm being two rookies, believe they can do the job, and they’ve show that all season. . . We try to keep things simple and have fun with it, and they do all the work. Watching those two guys play right now is fun.”
No fun for Toronto.
“I didn’t sleep too much last night,” Lowry said. “But I’m alive now and ready to get back to practice and get better and learn from the challenges we have come across in this series and try to come out in Game 4 and get a win.”
The team had a lengthy film session where they studied the first half in particular. There was no lack of attention from the players, said coach Dwane Casey.
“It’s always easier to get guys attention after you play as badly as we did (Thursday) night,” Casey said. “It’s all of us. We didn’t coach a good game. We didn’t play a good game. It’s all of us together.
“Our forcefulness, our intensity. . . it was back at Game 1. It wasn’t at Game 2 level. Offensively we didn’t move the basketball, we had 24 assists in Game 2. (They had 11 on Thursday). We tried to beat them with the dribble. We have to trust the pass. That’s one thing we’ve figured out offensively that we have to do a much, much better job of.”
Casey hinted there could be changes to his rotation.
DeRozan said the Raptors have to be willing to roll with whatever changes are made.
“If it’s going to be something that’s going to help, if it’s something going in a positive way, we have to be all for it,” he said.
“Coach is going to make his decision and ultimately we have to go with his decision,” Lowry said. “He is going to try and do things and put us in a better position to be successful so for us all we can do is roll with what they tell us to do. They put together a game plan and sometimes a game plan is what we follow and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Raptors can take some small measure of comfort in the fact they’ve been here before.
“Indiana series. Miami series,” Casey said, in reference to last year’s playoffs. “Every series we’ve been in this situation, we put ourselves in. In this situation our backs are against the wall and the only people who can take care of it is us.
“We can’t talk about it, we can’t make excuses about it, it’s not the answer. (Saturday), for 48 minutes is the answer.”
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press