If the Toronto Raptors can’t checkmate Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s move to go smaller with their lineup, they need to execute with the personnel they currently have. That will be the “turning point” in the series, according to guard DeMar DeRozan.
“They made a great adjustment,” DeRozan said of Spoelstra’s decision to start rookie Justise Winslow at center. “They went smaller. You have to give them credit. That’s something we have to make an adjustment to. We have to be even more dominant when it comes to rebounding.”
DeRozan had 23 points in the Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 6 loss. The Raptors out-rebounded the Heat 43 to 41.
“It means nothing when we lose,” DeRozan said. “We all got beat on the court. Even if we score 10 points each, everybody has to do something collectively. That’s all that matters. We are definitely going to be aggressive. As a whole we all got to be aggressive and that’s the turning point for us.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey and Spoelstra have been forced to morph their respective strategies based on injuries in the tough series.
“It’s just what the series has dictated right now,” Spoelstra said. “We just liked the dynamic to try to get to our game that looks familiar to us.”
Something familiar for the Raptors was watching guard Kyle Lowry attack the rim. Lowry scored a game-high 36 points, but came out of the loss excited for Sunday’s big stage in Toronto.
“We played all year to be a 56 win team and be the two seed in the east and we get home court in this type of situation,” Lowry said. “This is going to be fun. Game seven. Two vs. Three. Get the opportunity to play on one of the biggest stages there is. It’s going to be fun. Game seven in the first round was a bit more tight. This one Sunday will be just go out and hoop.”
Spoelstra suggested that in the absence of Whiteside’s 11.8 rebounds per game, the Heat must employ a gang-rebounding mentality.
“We have to be a five man rebounding team,” Spoelstra said.“We don’t have a glass-eater anymore, someone that is going to get 17-18 rebounds. We all sometimes took that for granted what Hassan brought from that department up over the crowd without block-outs. Now they have to be block-outs. Those eight offensive rebounds felt like 20. That’s how Toronto is built, they are going to try to beat us up and try to make us pay for that.”
Heat star Dwyane Wade is also “anxious” for Game seven: “Whenever you are down in a series and it’s elimination, there is always going to be a form of pressure,” Wade said. “A form of anxiety as well. When you lose games, it’s the worst. You just want to get back on the court.
"This game came quick, but you want to get out there so you can right your wrong. Tonight was just a great atmosphere and I knew that Goran was going to have an amazing performance tonight. You could just tell he was on the brink of having one.”