Raptors shrug off late-night casino visit
Carroll, Joseph reportedly spotted out late before Game 5
The Raptors are downplaying a late-night visit to a Cleveland casino by two players on the eve of a blowout loss, saying NBA players have a different schedule than most.
A Toronto Sun columnist saw DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph at a downtown casino near the team hotel just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. Later that day, the Raptors were hammered 116-78 by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference final.
The Sun's online headline was: "Carroll, Joseph put reps on line with late-night casino visit."
On Thursday, the casino walkabout largely obscured the fact that the Raptors are facing elimination Friday night at Air Canada Centre when the Cavaliers come to visit up three games to two.
Carroll and Joseph downplayed the casino visit, with Joseph explaining "our sleep schedule's different than a person that works nine to five."
All-star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan backed him up.
'We work differently'
"We work differently," said Lowry, who was named to the all-NBA third team Thursday. "Sometimes I'm up at 3:30 in the morning because we just landed at two ... our clocks are different. They got plenty of rest, I'm sure."
"Whatever they did, they were prepared for the game," he added. "We just lost. If we didn't lose then what? People wouldn't say anything."
DeRozan dismissed the fuss, saying he was up in his hotel room until 4 a.m. that night, watching "Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice."
"Would that be a story?" he asked.
DeRozan then played film critic, saying "I was upset after I watched it. I really was."
He said he couldn't remember the last time he was in bed before 2:30 or 3 a.m., often leaving the gym at 1 or 2 a.m.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said the two players in question are adults, weren't drinking and broke no laws or team curfew.
"It wasn't like they were drinking, partying at a club," he said. "That was not my concern. My concern was getting our butt kicked ... them being at a casino right across the street or wherever it was had nothing to do with it."
Joseph said he actually got 10 to 11 hours sleep — in a couple of segments — in advance of Wednesday's game, more than usual.
Carroll and Joseph noted they were accompanied by two police officers and two casino employees, to avoid causing a scene with fans, rather than travelling with an entourage as the story suggested.
Carroll said he didn't think it was much of an issue, although he conceded some people's perception might be different.
Carroll won money, Joseph lost
On the minus side, while Carroll won some money, Joseph was down.
"I didn't have a great night. It was a bad day for me," Joseph said morosely.
Carroll said he put his winnings in the bank as soon as he got it.
"We had a great night," he said. "We had a great team dinner. Actually if we don't have that team dinner, we probably could have went to the casino a little earlier."
Both players aren't short on pocket money. Carroll is making US$13.6 million this season while Joseph is at $7 million.
On the subject of basketball, DeRozan said Wednesday's lopsided loss was behind them.
"You honestly can't get too high or get too low," he said. "Because you don't want to affect your next game, your next performance. We understand we lost. Whether we lost by one point or 50 points, it was a loss. And we understand what's at stake this next game for us."
All five games in the series have been won by the home team. DeRozan said just seeing fans on his drive to the arena pumps him up. As does being so close to the NBA finals.
Home not a magic bullet
Casey, who will be looking to find ways to deflect the Cavs' suffocating defence on his backcourt, reminded his audience that playing at home is not a magic bullet.
"It's about us being in new territory, how bad do we want it, us understanding the moment, seizing the moment, making sure we take care of home, but home is not going to take care of you," he said. "You've got to take care of home with your intensity, your focus, attention to detail, because everybody is playing hard.
"But it's your attention to detail and doing the little things to make sure you execute against a very talented team."
There are some ominous signs for the Raptors, despite their home success.
According to ESPN Stats, LeBron James is 8-1 all-time in series in which his teams take a 3-2 lead including a perfect 3-0 in the conference final.
And Cleveland.com notes James' teams have never lost a series in which they led 2-0, have won the last six closeout games and won at least one road game in the last 24 consecutive series.