NEW YORK – Terrence Ross dropped an astonishing 51 points on the Los Angeles Clippers just three months ago.
But sitting in the Barclays Center on Friday morning answering questions about his poor playoff debut, that magnificent night might as well have been a million years ago.
The Toronto Raptors’ athletic guard has been invisible in his club’s first two playoff games against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring just five points combined. The 22-year-old is at a loss to explain why.
“Everybody goes through it, you’ve just got to play through it,” Ross said. “Who knows (why)? I’ve had games like this during the season, I find a way to get my way out of it.”
Ross sat courtside Friday morning after shootaround, talking to reporters hours before Toronto faced the Nets in Game 3, their first road game of the series.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey is giving Ross some space to find his feet.
“There’s no pressure on T-Ross, he’s living the dream right now, second-year guy in the playoffs. A lot of guys go their whole career and don’t make the playoffs,” Casey said. “So right now, he’s just got to relax, play basketball, have fun, (play) at a hard click, hard pace . . . but there shouldn’t be pressure.
“I’m sure he’s feeling it, but he doesn’t have to make shots. He can defend, he can run the floor, he can do a lot of other things than just make shots.”
Ross, who the Raptors selected eighth overall in the 2012 draft, has averaged 10.9 points this season. But he’s been hit or miss. He’s disappeared in some games. He’s been spectacular in others, lethal from both three-point range and at the rim with his breath-taking dunking ability.
The six-foot-six Ross poured in 51 points Jan. 25 against Los Angeles to match Vince Carter’s franchise scoring record, hitting 10 shots from beyond the arc.
Ross said he’s getting a lot of support from his teammates, and it helps that others are playing well.
“It’s just good to know you’ve guys who can help from Greivis (Vasquez) to DeMar (DeRozan) to Kyle (Lowry) to Jonas (Valanciunas) to Landry (Fields) to everybody,” Ross said. “Everybody does their part.”
Casey said it’s impossible to completely prepare players for the bright lights of the post-season.
“He’s just got to play basketball. That’s the tough thing about first time for the playoffs, you want to give him everything . . . the thing we can do is give him information, then he’s got to go out and play and get into the rhythm,” Casey said. “It’s about his rhythm, and his personal comfort level.
“The only way he’s going to go through it is to go through it.”
Ross didn’t know what to expect from the playoffs. Perhaps the biggest difference, he said, is there’s so much riding on every possession.
“It makes the game seem a lot longer than it actually is. You’re playing the same team every other night so it’s very different,” Ross said. “It’s pretty physical.
“But at the same time, you can’t be too physical. I tried doing that almost fouled out.”
Ross picked up four quick fouls in the opening game of the series, which the Nets won 94-87 at the Air Canada Centre last weekend.
The Raptors’ other sophomore – Valanciunas – has been enjoying a much different playoff debut, recording double-doubles in each of the first two games.
Casey suggested it was the Lithuanian centre’s experience playing in front of loud and passionate crowds in the Euroleague.
“Every Euroleague team has good fans. Everywhere you go, noise. . . lots of noise,” said Valanciunas, who noted he was once hit by a lighter in a Euroleague game.
“Feeling comfortable comes with (playing) the game,” he added. “These playoff games are going to give me a lot of experience and with experience I’ll feel more comfortable every day.”
Valanciunas looked loose and in good spirits during Friday morning’s shootaround, singing a verse of O Canada to nobody in particular.
The 22-year-old said playing on the road doesn’t bother the Raptors. They were 22-19 away from home this season, a franchise record for victories and tied for the most among East teams.
“Maybe because we’re playing like a team, we support each other, we help each other, we’ve got each other’s back,” Valanciunas said.
Ross, meanwhile, is enjoying the post-season despite his struggles on the court.
“I can’t complain,” he said. “I’m having fun, it’s a learning experience for me, it’s my first time doing this so I’m picking it up as I go along.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014