NBA

Raptors focused on court, not social media as crucial Game 3 looms

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told his players to stay off social media before the NBA post-season even began.

An onslaught of memes, jokes circulated after another loss to Cavs

The Toronto Raptors head to Cleveland down 2-0 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series after a disastrous 128-110 home loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Thursday evening. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told his players to stay off social media before the NBA post-season even began.

If they ignored him, he's hoping they will use Friday's onslaught of memes and jokes at their expense as a motivational tool to dig themselves out of a 2-0 deficit in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Basketball fans have been ruthless in their mockery of the Raptors following Thursday's disastrous 128-110 home loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers, showing off their creativity with a photo of the Toronto sign at downtown's Nathan Phillips Square being altered to read "LEBRONTO" and videos of dinosaurs going extinct being widely shared.

Irish NBA fan and graphic designer Cormac Corcoran cooked up a re-imagined Nathan Phillips Square after Thursday's game. He's never been to Toronto, but said it "looks like a fantastic place." (@mythaddict/Twitter)

"If our players are reading that, that should motivate you," said Casey. "We're professional people. We should use execution, physicality, toughness as our motivation and understand what we need to do from there.

"And I'm not making light of what they're saying. I don't know how to use social media. We should have that to motivate us. What happens on the court should motivate us."

Raptors unfazed by online mockery

As they prepared to head to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 in danger of being swept by the Cavs for a second straight year, the Raptors were unfazed by the online mockery.

"I'm not paying attention to it," guard Fred VanVleet said at the team's practice facility. "I don't think most guys on the team are really paying to social media right now. We're locked into the playoffs.

"I haven't really seen or heard any of it. I've been tuned out to most of the outside world, to be honest with you."

C.J. Miles, one of the Raptors leaders coming off the bench, claims he doesn't follow social media. He's more concerned with stopping James, who led Cleveland with 43 points and 14 assists Thursday.

"You've got to put some pressure on him, you've got to put some pressure on everybody," said Miles. "Make them wrestle, make them fight. I always say if I'm going to go down I'm going to go down with all my bullets gone. You're going to go down fighting. And that's the way it's got to be."

Ibaka's struggles

Toronto's all-star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were not made available to media on Friday. They combined for 45 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in the Game 2 loss. Forward Serge Ibaka was on the court at the BioSteel Centre on Friday, working on his mid-range game a day after he managed only two points — both from free throws — and six rebounds.

"We're going to support [Serge], we're going to push him, we're going to try to find, make things easier for him, instead of putting dirt on him and saying he's dead," said Casey. "Again, we're the top team in our conference, we won 59 games, we won the conference. It's not like we're chopped liver or anything.

"Serge, all players, not only Serge, have gone through tough stretches and it's our job as a coaching staff and as teammates to help pull him up."

Game 3 is on Saturday night with Game 4 on Monday. If the Raptors can win at least a game on the road, Game 5 will be in Toronto on Wednesday.

Only 19 teams have battled back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series, but VanVleet is still confident.

"Ain't nothing changed. There's a reason why we are who we are," said VanVleet. "There's a reason why we're in the position we're in. We get paid to do this. Obviously it hasn't been our best showing, down 0-2. But it's the first to four. All we can worry about is going to Cleveland trying to get one."

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