Kyrie Irving

I don’t know if you often peruse other TrueHoop Network sites but NBA Playbook is one of my favorites. Sebastian Pruiti (who also runs the Nets blog) does a great job of breaking down what does and doesn’t go right on a nightly basis in the NBA. So in honor of him (he should be honored more), I decided to break down the end of the Raptors game in a similar style.

The recipe of a comeback has to have a couple of essential parts in no particular order. You usually need:

- A little bit of luck

- Multiple defensive stops

- Some offensive execution

- A fortunate occurrence

- Some late-game heroics

Go back in the history of every comeback in the NBA and you’ll see this same recipe. Actually, don’t go back and check on that. It doesn’t always happen. But it does happen often and it certainly happened for the Raptors on Wednesday night. Let’s check out what happened.

The first part of the comeback happened with about 1:15 left in the game with the Hawks up 105-101. Here’s how the recipe played out from here:

Little Bit of Luck Ingredient

So how was this lucky? Looks like a fine defensive stop, right? Wrong. Jamal Crawford is the all-time leader in four-point plays in NBA history. And while I don’t believe that Sonny Weems touched him and it was just a fine acting job by Crawford, the fact that a guy who gets that call all the time didn’t get that call is a lot of luck. The play was actually well executed by the Hawks. It was a soft pick-and-pop play between Crawford and Horford that Crawford adjusted nicely to. Once, Horford didn’t really have anywhere to go, Crawford ran back to the corner where Horford’s presence created a screen and enough space on the hand-off that Jamal got a great look at the three.

Mix in Some Offensive Execution

This was one of the moments of offensive execution by the Raptors here. Once Hedo gets the ball at the top, he runs a quick pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh in which the main design is to get the defenders to switch. They do and now you have Josh Smith covering Bosh when Horford had been doing an All-Star worthy job on him all game long. This allows Bosh to take Smith into the post.

The big mistake here by the Hawks was that Mike Bibby didn’t come over and help Smith with Bosh once he made his move to the middle. Bibby was guarding Sonny Weems and even though you don’t want to leave a guy open, you’d probably rather live with Weems taking a 15-footer with someone closing out than letting Bosh operate one-on-one in the paint against anybody. Bosh uses his length to get the half-hook over Smith’s length and the lead is cut to 105-103 with 45 seconds remaining.

A Dash of Defensive Stop

The Raptors defense is actually all over the place in good then bad then good ways. First, Weems does a great job of funneling Jamal Crawford to the baseline with Hedo Turkoglu coming over in solid help. But once the pass goes to Bibby on the right wing, the Raptors defense begins to break down quite a bit. Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani both scramble to Bibby while Hedo and Weems are slow to make up their mind on where to recover defensively.

This leaves Marvin Williams open in the corner and Josh Smith open at the top. Weems closes out on Williams when Bibby passes him the ball. When Williams drives towards the middle, Hedo is left in the low block guarding nobody while Josh Smith cuts through the lane. When Williams shovels the pass to the cutting Smith, Bosh steps up, gets his hands high in the air and causes Smith to throw up an errant layup attempt. The loose ball scrapes off of Josh Smith’s fingers before landing out of bounds and the Raptors have officially had a defensive stand.

A Pinch More of Offensive Execution

With 22 seconds left, Toronto gets the ball to Hedo at the top. He drives to the right wing while Jarrett Jack vacates that area to essentially switch spots with Hedo. Jack runs extremely fast to the top of the key, which forces the Hawks to have no choice but to switch defensively. This leaves Jamal Crawford on Hedo and Hedo with his eyes on scoring. Turk drives to the middle and gets Crawford to reach in, putting Hedo at the line with a chance to tie the game.

But Hedo doesn’t tie the game. He makes the first free throw, misses the second and all hell breaks loose with the Raptors down one:

Whisk Together While Adding A Fortunate Occurrence

Okay, all hell didn’t really break loose but the Hawks royally screwed up the rebound there. You know what the key to this play was? Chris Bosh had five fouls. The Raptors couldn’t afford the chance of Hedo missing the free throw and the Hawks getting the rebound near Bosh, which would have forced him to foul out of the game. Instead, Jay Triano brought in Amir Johnson instead. Amir crashed into the rebounding space, the ball went flying and Marvin Williams touched the ball while standing out of bounds. If Bosh is in, he probably doesn’t crash the board like that because of the foul trouble. You can’t risk losing the best player on the floor there.

Now You Add the Late-Game Heroics

I really don’t know how the Hawks could have defended this differently. Once they isolated Bosh on the right side, the entire Raptors team got the hell out of the way. If the Hawks bring someone over to double, the spacing is so good that it leaves open a cutting lane or a wide-open shot. Instead, Chris has room to operate against Horford. Once Bosh creates the space with the jab step, I’m sure he knew the shot wasn’t really going to be challenged. As good as a defender as Horford is and as well as he played Bosh defensively last night, Bosh got the separation he needed almost instantly. That step-back jumper is impossible to guard. You just have to hope you can close the gap as quickly as possible, get a hand up and pray the ball doesn’t rip through the net.

But the game isn’t over here. There are still just over two seconds remaining with a big shot maker in Jamal Crawford on the court.

A Sprinkle of Defensive Stop And a Garnish of Parsely for Presentation

Crawford initially gets a good look at a last second shot but Sonny Weems does a fantastic job of tipping it. The final result is a Raptors win against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. If the Raps get their stuff together in the final 16 games, they can work their way up to the fifth or sixth seed and match up against the Hawks in the first round (which would be the best-case scenario for this team).

While the late game execution on offense and defense were nearly flawless for the Raptors, they can’t forget what got them in this position to win the game. Chris Bosh had a terrible game until the final minutes and yet the Raptors were still in a position to win this game. They didn’t turn the ball over, they got to the free throw line, and they got solid contributions from three players (Hedo, Bargs, DeRozan) to keep everything in line for Chris Bosh to be the hero at the end.

And once you get down to the close game, you just have to follow the recipe for a comeback in order to win.

Bon Appétit.