Please welcome J.M. Poulard to the RR team. he has guest-posted for us in the past and also writes for Warriors World, Forum Blue and Gold and Piston Powered. Please welcome the Montreal-native to the team.
Since making his debut with the Toronto Raptors on February 1st against the Los Angeles Clippers, Rudy Gay has played two games versus the Miami Heat.
The former Grizzly has been incredibly productive against the defending champs, but both contests have resulted in double-digit defeats at the Air Canada Centre. As a member of the Raptors, Gay has produced 28 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals per game on 51.2 percent field goal shooting when matched up with Miami.
The numbers are impressive, but Toronto is a staggering minus-17.5 against Erik Spoelstra’s group with Gay on the floor. Is that a result of the UCONN product’s play or are his teammates at fault as well?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The data is a bit misleading, but does speak to Gay’s value to the Raptors in some respects.
In the first head-to-head match-up with LeBron James in T-Dot, the 6’8’’ forward was only playing his second game with the team and thus wasn’t completely familiar with Toronto’s concepts on both ends of the floor. Nonetheless, the Canadian resident produced points in bunches and got out in transition for some impressive scores.
He went to toe-to-toe against the reigning league MVP and forced him to exert some energy defensively. By the end of the third quarter, Gay had scored 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the floor.
The fourth quarter was a different animal mind you.
Despite playing most of the final period, Rudy was ignored on multiple possessions. By the time he finally got his touches, he forced up a few shots, which resulted in several misses. His fourth quarter tally read four points on two-for-six shooting from the field with his last make being a vicious dunk over Chris Bosh at the end of a game that was already very much decided.
The Heat’s defensive pressure completely stymied Toronto’s offense to close out the game. Given that Gay’s minutes mirrored James’ for the most part, his minus-15 rating makes some sense. It still could have been better, but it’s understandable.
The second contest occurred yesterday at the ACC and was a carbon copy of the first meeting between both teams. Rudy Gay was once again going blow-for-blow with the reigning Finals MVP, managing 25 points and eight rebounds on 11-for-16 shooting through three quarters.
Miami turned up the intensity once again in the final period and kept the ball away from the Raptors’ starting small forward. This time around, the highflyer still got a few possessions where he set himself up for some high percentage looks. However, he scored a mere two points and missed all four of his shots in the last quarter of the game.
Gay has good one-on-one skills that allow him to create terrific looks when the right side of the floor is cleared out for him late in games. But creating scoring plays against ramped defensive pressure in the final frame has been problematic.
To be fair, Gay was trapped on multiple occasions yesterday and made the right play every single time only to watch his teammates fumble some of his passes.
But in situations away from the ball, Rudy’s been quite passive. He doesn’t do much cutting when the offense breaks down and often remains stationary when the ball is on the other side of the court.
Miami felt incredibly comfortable switching on off-ball screens and allowing Dwyane Wade to guard Gay. The 26-year old attacked the Heat’s second leading scorer in the post exactly once in the fourth quarter and it resulted in free throws. Otherwise, the talented forward did little to stem the tide with the game hanging in the balance late.
One might wonder what prompted looking into the data versus Miami and it’s simple: they typically reserve an extra gear for the final stages of the game, which makes it much more difficult for opponents to score against them.
But why stop at the defending champions?
The stats bear out that Gay has played better in the first three quarters and faltered late. His game winning shots obviously get the publicity, but in truth it seems the Raptors will need a player capable of carrying the offense when the forward cannot.
Have a look at the shooting chart detailing his field goals through the first three quarters of every game as a member of the Raptors so far this season:
Now quickly glance at his field goals as a Raptor in the fourth quarter during the 2012-13 campaign:
The shooting figures aren’t good to say the least. For some perspective, LeBron James (52.1 percent), Kevin Durant (48.8 percent), Kobe Bryant (46.6 percent) and Carmelo Anthony (44.5 percent) all shoot north of 44 percent in the fourth quarter per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
Obviously, one can only hope the Connecticut product improves this summer and figures out how to carry Toronto. However, until that becomes a reality, a low post scoring threat might be extremely beneficial for a Raptors team that shoots in the restricted area at a bottom-three league rate per Hoopdata.
With 15 games left in the season, the front office’s assessment of the roster’s strengths and shortcomings should be nearing its conclusion. Nonetheless, the final contests are an opportunity whereby they can get an accurate sense of what it is the team is missing. In addition, the Raptors now have the time to formulate a game plan to acquire the required players.
Rudy Gay is a talented player with the skill and confidence needed to manufacture a great look to close out a game. But a pure scorer he is not.
And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s just a matter now of finding the talent that meshes with him.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.Follow @raptorsrepublic