Raptors' DeMarre Carroll finding his rhythm against Heat
29-year-old credits coach Casey for comeback after injury-plagued season
It was only about a month ago that DeMarre Carroll worried that he'd never bounce back in time to play in the post-season.
Now, he's finding his rhythm at just the right time.
The athletic forward was a huge part of the Raptors' overtime Game 2 victory Thursday night. Now that the second-round playoff series is in Miami tied at one win apiece, with Game 3 set for 5 p.m. ET on Saturday.
"It feels real good, man," Carroll said. "For me to be able to be back, and miss that many games, and only play, what ... a total of 10 games (since his return), to finally get my rhythm back, it's amazing."
The Raptors acquired the gritty defender and solid scorer in the off-season, but his much-anticipated first year with Toronto was derailed by injuries almost from the outset. He finally missed a 42-game stretch after having knee surgery.
Basketball is a small part of life. I feel like I was always going to be able to play, even though sometimes it didn't look like it.- DeMarre Carroll
The 29-year-old said his comeback was both hard work and a lot of trust on the part of coach Dwane Casey.
"He's the one that put me out there. He could have just sat me on the bench and played me spot minutes, but he said, 'Get out there, play your minutes, and get your rhythm back,"' Carroll said, before boarding the team flight to Miami for Saturday's Game 3.
Carroll has started eight of nine playoff games, and was key in defending Pacers star Paul George in the opening round against Indiana. His ability to push the pace will be big as the Raptors hope to wear down the Heat.
"I think we can play faster, it's more to my game. Playing faster, and movement, and running, and doing all those type of things," he said. "If we can do that, and stop thinking so much and being stagnant, we can win this series."
His solid play is welcome relief to a team whose all-stars — Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan — are both mired in shooting slumps.
Carroll said he didn't lose faith in making a post-season appearance during his lengthy rehab.
"Even when my knee was swollen as a grapefruit. It was still on," he said. "It's one of those things, man, you've always got to be positive. And basketball is a small part of our life. I feel like I was always going to be able to play, even though sometimes it didn't look like it."
Carroll credited Alex McKechnie, the Raptors' director of sports science, for his recovery. But Carroll joked he's tired of seeing McKechnie.
"I look at Alex, I told him he's like my granddad, he kind of likes that," Carroll said. "We've been through a lot, man. . . it's been crazy, but it's been good."
The Raptors play Games 3 and 4 in enemy territory at American Airlines Arena.
"They're averaging 108 points a game at home versus 92 on the road," Casey said. "That's a huge difference, whether it's shooting the ball better, familiarity with their rims, their style of play doesn't change that much. They seem more confident at home shooting the basketball."
The Raptors went 24-17 on the road in the regular-season, tied for third best in the NBA. They split their two games in Miami.
"For some reason, a lot of guys on our team like to play on the road," Carroll said. "I know Kyle loves to play on the road, that's the type of competitor he is. And I like to play on the road. I think the biggest thing we have to do, we need to do it collectively."