Raptors 112, Warriors 124 – Box

Hang your heads in shame boys, what you guys did (or didn’t do as the case may be) last night was nothing more than going through the motions. Enough of you have checked out, for some reason, and the ones who are still fighting are doing it alone. This team is in worse shape than the one that started the year 7-13; at least that squad was trying to make sense of 9 new players (who still don’t speak the same language) and a new coach who doesn’t appear to have done anything at all except…no, he’s got nothing.

If I were planning for this game, I would have made it a point to address a few key things:

  1. Dictate the pace of the game: the Warriors like to get up and down the court and jack up shots. Don Nelson has given them the green-light to take whatever shot they want…and most of these guys can hit them. So yeah, you need to worry about quick transition shots. Also, when you have the ball, there is no need to push the ball and force anything when there is no defense being played against you. Be aggressive, but don’t force the issue. It’s key you play the game you know how to, not the game you want to.
  2. Protect the glass: with so many shots going up, you have to get the rebound. You have 4 guys who will get heavy minutes that are 6″9 or taller, and the Warriors have 1. You have to use the weapons you have. Since the Raptors are a bigger/stronger team, boxing out and keeping a body between your check and basket is a key thing. Nothing hurts more than a team taking a wild shot, missing badly, only to grab the offensive board and lay it back in quickly.
  3. Perimeter defense: you have a team that is strictly built for run-and-gun without any big bodies who play in the paint. To me, I start thinking about ways to protect the perimeter, not give them anything easy. Zone defense maybe. Not switching on screens. Not doubling anyone who might not warrant a double. All these actions open up space for a shooter to shoot. Maybe you want to get your best perimeter players out there.

The game started with both teams hot from the field. The Raptors would pound the ball into the paint and score; the Warriors would run it back and quickly answer within 16 seconds. Jack and Turkoglu were orchestrating the offense perfectly: feeding the post, finding slashers, penetrating and dishing…ball movement at it’s finest.

DeRozan was attacking off the bounce. Taking his man off the dribble, or slashing through the paint off the ball, giving a target and converting. The fact that the Warriors play no defense helped, but he was committed to driving to the rim. When that commitment is there, good things will happen.

The Warriors had no idea what to do with Amir. The guy was furious in his 4minutes of play. Rolling to the rim, hitting everything, grabbing every rebound he could. He even had the block of the year on Maggette who was trying to dunk the ball in the open court. Vicious.

It was so frantic though. They bait you into playing that up and down game that every NBA player wants to, but that only a few can do effectively, and in the first quarter, it was working in the Raptors favour because they were being aggressive, but they moved the ball around until they got the shot that they wanted (and was appropriate). The Raptors assisted on 10 of their 15 1st quarter baskets, and all those baskets (except for Calderon’s three at the end of the quarter) were within 15 feet. Great, clean looks that allowed them to close out the 1st quarter on a 15-2 run.

The second quarter saw the Raps move away from the things they were doing well, and all-together stop doing everything else. They started the 2nd with Bosh and Johnson pounding the paint; then Weems gave them a 12 point lead with a layup in the paint when the Raptor off-switch was flipped, and they went scoreless for 5 minutes. It wasn’t even a matter of them being defended, they just stopped doing the things that constitutes team basketball. They weren’t sharing the ball, took shots early in the clock, and most of those shots were deep jumpers. Yes they hit a few, but it all came at the expense of the interior game which was what got them the 10 point lead.

In that 5 minutes, the Raptors only mustered 5 shots. Five bloody shots in a frantically paced game. Pathetic. Three of them were outside of 23 feet, and two were missed layups by Turkoglu (who somehow got past his check at walking speed). In that 5 minutes, the Raptors did commit 3 fouls and 3 turnovers though, so the stat sheet got filled up. What happened in that 5 minutes? The Warriors showed a really weak zone defense that totally blind sided the Raptors. They weren’t even pressing that hard, just were in a zone formation, running around and such.

The Warriors did crash the hell out of the boards. They missed 17 shots, but grabbed 9 offensive rebounds. The Raptors were absolutely invisible on the glass: Amir and Bargnani only mustered 1 rebound between the two of them in 20 minutes of play. Pathetic. The Warriors weren’t quite ready to take the game over, but it seemed as though the Raptors were willing to give it up.

…and boy did they do just that in the 3rd quarter. The Raptors came out absolutely flat. They did nothing. Had 2 points (a DeRozan layup) in the first three and a half minutes. Committed a few fouls, turned the ball over gladly. Scored a couple buckets, then went cold for another two and a half minutes. Then with about 4:30 left, they gave it a bit of a go, but couldn’t sustain any real momentum. The Warriors had their feet on their necks, and applied just enough pressure at the right times to stop any semblance of anything. To cap it off, some guy named Hunter had a put-back dunk with four-tenths of a second left in the quarter. The game was done at that point. The 4th quarter was a 12-minute death rattle.

So back to the game plan I outlined earlier:

Dictate the pace of the game

The Warriors took 95 shots, 27 of which were three-pointers. They had 25 fast break points. They grabbed 36% of all offensive rebounds. 55.7% eFG. Sure the Raptors had an eFG of 61.8%, but they turned the ball over 17 times, allowed 18 offensive rebounds. The Warriors ran, shot, missed, grabbed the rebound, and put it back before the Raptors knew what hit them.

Protect the glass
The Warriors had a 36% offensive rebounding rate. That means that they grabbed 36% of all available offensive rebounds. Given that they missed 50 shots during the game, that’s a lot. Guys called Chris Hunter and Anthony Tolliver had 6 and 5 offensive rebounds respectively.  I mean seriously? Both these guys were cold-calling people at night trying to sell Foreman grills while playing in the D-League two months ago. Tolliver is a 6″9 center for crying out loud. Blame Bargnani and Johnson for grabbing less rebounds combined than Tolliver did.

Perimeter Defense
Monta Ellis: 45min 31pts 4rebs 2ast 2st
Stephen Curry: 42min 35pts 6rebs 10ast 4stl 1blk

These were the only two guys we had to plan for, and they did what they wanted. Marcus Banks, our best defender at the point, and possibly the best defender on the team got exactly zero minutes. Ellis/Curry did what they wanted, when they wanted and as much as they wanted. Not sure what Triano planned to do this game, but clearly these two weren’t being accounted, and if they were, the plan had to have been to let them do what they wanted, because they did.

The highlight of the night for me was Jack Armstrong who had a few gems:

“These guys must be in shape to play 40+ minutes at this point of the season”

“MGD….I can use one watching this Raptor perimter defense”

“Don Nelson is standing up actually coaching”

Tonight the Raptors get the Blazers on the second night of the back-to-back. The pace will be slower, but the result will be the same. Arsenalist will check in with the pre-game in the afternoon.

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