INDIANAPOLIS — DeMarre Carroll has accomplished the mission. As he was lobbying for a starting role and more playing time against the Indiana Pacers, he pledged to use the opportunity to ruin Paul George’s day.
“You know that gnat when you’re having barbeque?” said Carroll. “I want to be the gnat.”
The Toronto Raptors’ small forward was signed for $60 million in the off-season with an eye toward providing some resistance to some of the bigger small forwards in the Eastern Conference, from Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James to George, the Pacers star.
In Game 3, he was definitely noticed and George wasn’t happy about the physical, pestering brand of defence Carroll favours.
“We were laughing about it during the game,” said George, despite getting to the free-throw line nine times. “Countless times, I’m telling the officials: ‘He’s hitting my elbow every shot.’
“He’s a good defender; that’s what DeMarre does. I knew at some point I was going to see that DeMarre. It was going to get chippy.”
This was music to Carroll’s ears. Apprised of George’s comments, Carroll was delighted to know that he’d made an impression.
“That’s Paul, man. I’ve known Paul for a long time,” said Carroll, who used to share an agent with the all-star. “We played a lot in Los Angeles together [in the summers], when I was a rookie and coming up so that’s Paul being Paul, man. But at the end of the day I’m going to keep playing him the way I’ve been playing him and that’s physical basketball. And obviously if the refs didn’t call it, it wasn’t a foul, right?
“Playoff basketball is physical. If it was a cakewalk, there would be a lot of people in the playoffs, right? So I feel like I’m just going to continue to play the way I’ve played him and let him talk to the refs and I’ll talk to the refs after the season.”
Whatever Carroll was doing seemed to work.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, George (25 points, 6-for-19 overall, 1-for-8 on threes) went 2-for-13 from the field (0-for-6 from beyond the arc) when Carroll was guarding him. He had gone 3-for-4 from deep in Game 1 and 2-for-5 in Game 2.
Carroll had been playing on a 20-minute restriction since returning to the lineup after missing 12 weeks due to knee surgery. In Game 3 he played 35 minutes and says he’s ready for more in Game 4.
“I feel good,” he said. “Body’s a little fatigued, but I feel good. I think I could play another 35 minutes tomorrow, so I think it was a positive.”
The Raptors have put the squeeze on the Pacers defensively, holding them to 43 per cent shooting in Game 1, 41 per cent in Game 2 and 38 per cent in Game 3.
Carroll is pleased about it, even if George is not.
“I think we’re coming out a lot more physical, we’re being the more aggressive team,” he said. “We’re paying attention to detail like we need to. First game I don’t think we paid attention to detail. And that’s the biggest thing in this series is we all know each other’s plays by now but it’s who can pay attention to detail and who’s the more physical team. I think we’ve been the more physical team so far.”