CLEVELAND -- Toronto Raptors star guard DeMar DeRozan just cannot get started offensively against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
A 27.3 points-per-game scorer during the regular season, DeRozan averaged 23.5 in a first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he has struggled to put the ball in the hoop against the Cavaliers. DeRozan has averaged just 12 points over the first two games, including a season-low five in a 125-103 Game 2 loss at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday.
“We’re doing a great job of cutting his angles off, keeping him away from that basket, keeping him unbalanced,” shooting guard Iman Shumpert said.
“You don’t really know what’s coming when he comes off ball screens or when he comes off down screens, but we’re just trying to keep him uncomfortable at all times. J.R.’s been doing a tremendous job of even when he does get to his spots, he’s got a contest there. Nobody’s going for shot fakes, so his work’s cut out for him this series.”
DeRozan buried just two of his 11 shots from the field against the Cavaliers in the 22-point loss in Game 2, and the typically strong free-throw shooter got to the line for just three attempts, and came up short on two of those tries.
Typically known for his ability to drive to the hoop, DeRozan has been kept out of the paint by the Cavaliers’ defense.
“We have different coverages,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “We have so many different defensive packages that we can go through. When you put two on the ball, then you’re vulnerable because it’s four on three on the backside, so you have no choice but to fly around.
“You have no choice but to activate yourself because you’re at a disadvantage when you’ve got two on the ball. It’s just a numbers game, so I think it works well for us right now because it just activates us and gets us moving and talking and communicating.”
Although DeRozan is the most notable Raptor who is struggling, he is far from the only one, as Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll were taken out of the starting lineup after Game 1, and yet, the Cavaliers found a way to build onto their lead in three of the four quarters in Game 2.
“It’s easy to say professionalism, but we have a lot of pros on this team that are very locked in and know our gameplan,” power forward Kevin Love said. “Our coach has put us in the right spot for us to execute that, but our communication has gotten so much better since the playoffs have started, and I think you’ve seen that with our rotations.
“A lot of guys stepped up on the offensive end, but defensively, I thought we were very good in keeping to our schemes and shutting down especially DeRozan and Lowry as best as we could because those guys are so great scoring the ball.”