In the midst of the Toronto Raptors’ Game 3 rout of Indiana on Thursday night a mini-battle raged.
DeMarre Carroll versus Paul George. Carroll emerged as the undisputed victor.
The defensive specialist, who was acquired by the Raptors in the off-season for exactly the reasons he showed in Game 3, held George to 6-of-19 shooting in the 101-85 victory that gave Toronto a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
Thursday’s on-court hostilities spilled into a good-natured war of words on Friday, with Carroll scoffing at George’s complaints of non-calls.
“Playoff basketball is physical. If it was a cakewalk, there would be a lot of people in the playoffs, right?” Carroll said. “So I feel like I’m just going to continue to play the way I’ve played him and let him talk to the refs and I’ll talk to the refs after the season.”
George said he’d complained to officials countless times during Game 3, claiming that Carroll was “hitting my elbow every shot.”
“We were laughing about it during the game. . . That’s what DeMarre does,” George said. “I knew at some point I was going to see that DeMarre that’s going to be the chippy DeMarre. But a lot of my shots he was getting away with hitting the elbow hitting the wrist, making it tough for me to follow through and see the ball go down.”
George’s complaints came despite a big discrepancy in free throws favouring the Pacers. George went 12-for-12 from the foul line, and the Pacers had 33 free throws. The Raptors went to the line just 16 times.
“How many more free throws you want? 20? 30?” Carroll said. “But that’s on him, man. Like I said I’m going to worry about myself and worry about the Raptors and we’re going to come out and keep doing what we need to do.”
“That’s Paul being Paul, man,” Carroll added. “But at the end of the day I’m going to keep playing him the way I’ve been playing him and that’s physical basketball. And obviously if the refs didn’t call it, it wasn’t a foul, right?”
Carroll’s solid 35-minute performance, which included 17 points, was welcome news for the Raptors, who’ve waited for months for Carroll to be back at his best. Even better news: he declared himself healthy and able to go for another 35 minutes if needed in Saturday’s Game 4 in Indianapolis.
“I feel good,” said Carroll, who practised in compression tights under his basketball shorts. “Body’s a little fatigued, but I feel good. The (knee swelling) is the same as it’s been the whole time, so that was a positive thing. We’re just going to take it from there, and do some more treatment tonight and it will be like I never played 35 minutes before.”
Carroll was signed to a four-year, US$60-million contract last summer, but missed more than half the season with injuries, including 42 games in a row after knee surgery, and didn’t return until April 7.
“To have DeMarre out that long, play that amount of minutes, to do what he did on both ends, that’s big,” said DeMar DeRozan. “That’s the DeMarre that everybody expected when he first came to this team.”
The Raptors have never won three consecutive playoff games, but have all the momentum going into Game 4.
“Yeah, you’ve definitely got to buy into (momentum), because that’s the approach we take, as a team, and we treat it like that a lot of times when we go on the road, try and take that momentum we have playing well on the road,” DeRozan said.
“I think that’s why we’ve been so good on the road, it’s having that self-momentum when it comes to playing basketball, and I definitely feel that way.”
DeRozan made a point of praising the Raptors fans that made the trip to Indy. There were small pockets around the arena, but they were a vocal bunch, chanting “Let’s Go Raptors!” as the final seconds ticked down the game.
“It’s been kinda cool the last couple of years, honestly man, when we go on the road. We experienced it in Brooklyn (2014 playoffs). It’s big when you can hear that. No matter if it’s one fan. . . that kind of motivates us, honestly,” DeRozan said.
“We already feel like 19,000 people against us as it is, so just to hear some Raptor fans is definitely big.”
DeRozan said they players could hear the fans even before tip-off, singing and cheering during “O Canada.”
“That’s cool, man. To be able to see the purple jerseys, red jerseys, Raptors fans cheering, that’s a cool thing.”