TORONTO — The morning after another third-quarter collapse, the Toronto Raptors good-naturedly tossed around ideas for some halftime motivation.
Jot down the score as 0-0. Hand out fake box scores that have the Raptors trailing after two quarters instead of leading. Send the players upstairs to the practice court to shoot during the break.
The Raptors (13-7) host the Indiana Pacers (12-10) on Friday, and all the talk Thursday at Biosteel Centre was about ending their third-quarter slumps.
"We've got to understand that teams are going to come at us, they're coming at us out of the locker room with some type of adjustment or something," guard DeMar DeRozan said. "We've got to understand it and not treat it like it's the same game."
The Raptors came away with a 126-113 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, but their woeful third quarter — they allowed a 10-0 run that sliced their 19-point lead in half — had coach Dwane Casey erupt in a post-game tirade.
"It's still bad," a calmer Casey said on Thursday. "And a trend I was told by the analytics people that in the previous games we were a plus-25 or 27 or something like that, and those three games we were a minus-58."
The three games were Charlotte, a 108-100 loss in New York, and a 107-104 loss at Indiana. The New York loss actually made history — the Raptors were outscored 41-10, and their minus-31 point differential tied for the worst quarter the franchise has ever had. The mark was previously set by the team that went 16-66 in 1997-98.
Backup guard Fred VanVleet said Casey's locker room message to the team was similar to his irate post-game press conference.
"His language is probably a little bit better with you guys than with us, but other than that we've just got to figure it out," VanVleet said. "We're at the bottom of the league in third quarters and that's something we've got to improve on and we're just trying to find soluations."
What's particularly frustrating about their terrible third quarters, said forward C.J. Miles, is they could so easily be putting games away at that point.
"I keep reminding guys, the first five minutes man is just huge, especially when you've got a lead, you can pretty much almost end the game in that first five minutes if you've got a big lead," Miles said. "You can change the other team's attitude as far as what they feel like they can do.
"That first few minutes we end up having to call the first timeout, then the bench gets into it, then you see guys start feeling themselves, you give them a confidence they really didn't have coming out of the half. We've got to come out and understand that that score is 0-0, and just kind of stomp on people."
Miles faces his former team on Friday, but said he "can't let the emotional side take you away from what you've got to do." The Raptors acquired Miles in the deal that sent Canadian guard Cory Joseph to Indiana.
Joseph's former teammates spoke fondly of him.
"His smoothness, Cory was the smoothest guy who came through the organization," DeRozan said. "For him to be from (Toronto), you got that sense that this is his city. This is his town, his country and everything. It was great to have him here, the energy he brought, his vibe and everything was always a positive.
"You rarely saw Cory being upset or mad about anything. When you have that kind of aura around you, it's contagious on the court and off the court."
The Raptors host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, then head out on the road for four games in Memphis, Sacramento, Los Angeles (Clippers), and Phoenix.