This was the DeMarre Carroll the Raptors signed to long-term contract in the offseason with the belief he could put them over the top in the playoffs.
Carroll played over 35 minutes in Toronto's 101-85 win over the Pacers in Game 3 on Thursday night – the most minutes he's played in a game since Nov. 29 – and he was a force on both ends of the floor, guarding Paul George for long stretches and fitting in nicely offensively.
Locking up George, who shot 6-for-19 from the field for 25 points, is no easy task and his 17 points were a welcome bonus for the Raptors. It's been a slow process for Carroll to get back to full health following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in January. He missed the better part of three months, only returning on a minutes restriction in the final week of the regular season, and hasn't been able to make much of an impact until now.
"We ramped his minutes up ... he gave us intensity on the defensive end and hopefully he responds well, his body responds well," head coach Dwane Casey said in his postgame press conference. "His shooting and cutting is really helping us on the offensive end with our spacing ... I thought tonight he looked closer to who he really is."
And while it was absolutely encouraging for the Raptors to see Carroll thriving, it was business as usual from Toronto's bench unit. Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, Bismack Biyombo, and Terrence Ross all did their jobs exceptionally, just like they've done for the entire season.
Joseph and Patterson in particular have excelled so far this series. Joseph had 10 points and four assists while Patterson made a number of key defensive plays to go with his seven points and four rebounds. Casey's ability to play the four reserves in the same lineup along with either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan makes them even more valuable. There aren't many teams that can afford to play four bench players at the same time and actually see their lead grow.
It's really the difference between the two teams. George is great, but it's clear his supporting cast is nowhere near as deep or effective as Toronto's crew.
The old adage in the NBA is that role players don't travel well and the All-Stars need to step for teams to win on the road. DeRozan was better than he had been in Game 1 and Game 2 (it was hard for him not to be) and Lowry hit some big shots, but the role players deserve their due. This was as much of a team win as you'll find this time of year.
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