Raptors 109, Sixers 98 – Box
If you were part of the legions starved for offensive continuity and team play then you got your fill last night. The Raptors, albeit against the lowly Sixers, showcased a variety of team ball that we haven’t witnessed all year. Whether this is a positive turn for Dwane Casey’s offense or a mere routing of a nominal opponent, only time will tell, but let us savour in the taste of free-flowing offense while tempering our enthusiasm as appropriate.

The story for this game can be told in two key stats and none of them are FG percentage, which the Raptors shot a pedestrian 42%. They’re assists and forced turnovers. The Raptors turned the Sixers over 20 times which led to 19 points. In conjunction with this defensive pressure which included steals, deflections, and traps, the Raptors, through proper read of double-teams and dribble penetration, created positive offensive situations which led to some easy viewing. This resulted in 24 assists with the game never being in doubt.

[Did you read the player grades? Raptors 108 vs 76ers 98]

DeMar DeRozan’s 33 points might get the headlines, but Rudy Gay’s season-high eight assists is what stuck out in the box score and we’ll see some examples in a bit. Jonas Valanciunas was unable to find his place with Spencer Hawes and Daniel Orton pulling him outside, but on this night against this opponent he wasn’t needed which is what I’m thinking explains the fourth quarter benching. Great sub-play by Terrence Ross, a terrific cameo by Steve Novak (a man shrouded in mystery of late), and some very aggressive offensive rebounding from Tyler Hansbrough, sealed the deal for the Raptors.

Let’s spend the rest of the post looking at some of the offensive plays from this game that might lead you to believe that there’s hope here. Click on the image to load the GIF.

Here’s Rudy Gay attracting a double from the weak-side, Ross doing well to present himself and Gay responding to Ross’ movement by finding him for the three.

Here’s some good spacing by the Raptors which is made even better by movement as Gay drives, and Novak shifts nicely to present Gay with a passing option – open three.

I’m not going to lie and say all was great, there were still plays like these where Gay opted to shoot when options were open on the wing – notice how open Ross is here.

Here’s Ross taking advantage of a defense that is hesitating to drive and setup Tyler Hansbrough for an And1.

Rudy Gay recognizes the shift to his left and finds Lowry, a great three-point shooter, for the open look.

Johnson sets a great screen to free up DeRozan, and Lowry’s pass is on point. Yes, the defense isn’t great but they’re also worn down by the Raptors’ team play all game long.

Here’s the Philly defense lagging and Gay stepping up to make the three – notice the Philly defender finally come in to view in the last second of this GIF.

A great drive and kick by Dwight Buycks, the pass is a bit weak but Novak is in the right place to step-in and hit the jumper. Treasure this moment as you’ll never see Novak this close to the rim again.

This is just ridiculous play by the Philly defense – they’ve given up at this point and allow Buycks to come across the court for the three.

The Raptors drew a foul on this play where a solid screen was set to flash DeRozan at the elbow, and he used Amir Johnson as a screen for the second time to drive, while Johnson rolled – the pass back resulted in the foul.

It was a good day at the office. We are 5-7 which is in line with what was predicted – we’re on pace for 43 wins.

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  • 2damkule

    how are they ‘on pace’ for 43 wins? oh, wait…not in reality, but according to the game-by-game prediction thingy. i see.

  • Ujiri wake up

    Sixers are tanking means all this pics are just entertainment

    • Casey Sherman

      Tell that to Miami!

  • Sixers are the worst defensive team in the league with a bunch of players only looking out for their next contract – how they won this many games is a mystery. But, take the win with no complaints – a loss would have been really depressing

    • arsenalist

      The quality of the opponent doesn’t bug me here much because I saw the team trying to make plays that they didn’t even look to before. If they stick to the fundamentals of working intelligently from the double teams they attract, space out their shooters, and have good interior passing, they’ll be fine.

      I honestly don’t think this is a terrible team. They’re very hard to watch at times because of the selfishness they play with and the static nature of their offense, but overall in this Eastern conference, they should make the playoffs. I’ll make my judgements 20 games in.

      • Dec 14 is game 22, I think that’s the day a lot of realities will start to become apparent – they are playing better lately

  • Philthecrackin

    I have to say the option to shoot in the third GIF maybe wasn’t the right move but he did almost get it in. The defense was collapsing on Gay and you want him to pass across the key through 3 defenders? That’s the ultimate worst thing you can do in that situation. That move would have resulted in a turn over. Have you ever played organized basketball? Or chalk up your expertise for critique to school yard ball? And if you really wanted Gay to pass the ball there, The player slashing (Hansbrough?) would have been the best option.

    • 2damkule

      disagree…he had two options, and the one pointed out (skip to ross in the corner) was an easy play at this level…both defenders closest to ross closed when gay made his move, and both were in the paint. if gay elevates & throws even a marginally decent skip pass to ross, he has a clean, uncontested look at an open corner 3. alternatively – and this would be more difficult due to the defensive rotation, and because the pass would have to go back across his body – he had novak at the top at the arc. both options – ross in the corner, novak at the top – are better options from an efficiency standpoint than a contested fall-away mid-range jumper with 3 guys on him.

      additionally, a skip to ross there throws the D out of whack, as they would either have to concede the shot, or send a guy late to cover (in all likelihood, the defender at the top watching novak, who would be late rotating to ross), which would likely either open a better rebounding opportunity for psycho, or cause a rotation down, leaving novak open for another pass from ross.

      further, a pass from gay in that situation forces the D to react on future possessions (or at least consider doing so), such that they can’t overplay the shot, and have to respect the shooters on the floor, and won’t be able to send help as often or as quickly from the weakside, which opens up more opportunities for gay.

      also disagree that the best passing option in that situation is psycho…the key at that point was too congested, he (psycho) isn’t expecting a pass, and he’s closing too hard to make a catch a high percentage option.

    • arsenalist

      Cross-court or skip-passes are the norm in the NBA. This isn’t a situation where the defender is playing the passing lanes (e.g., wing to point pass made under pressure). Sure, Hansbrough is an option as well, but playing it to Ross extends the defense and forces them to defend the entire court rather than just the strong-side.

      Also, Ross had just hit a three before that play.

  • joe

    Can a team be 9th and still win the division, as unlikely as that may be? Does that make the playoffs then?

    • Thimble

      Yes, the 8th place team would not qualify.

  • Paul

    MU’s wait and see strategy is already scuttling my tanking dreams.
    It’s arguably getting too late to blow it up.
    With the Knicks and Nets in the toilet, its not unthinkable that the Raptors could win the division.
    With home court, this team could potentially reach the second round. The East has never looked weaker outside the top three (MIA, IND, CHI)
    Is it worth missing out on this draft for a first round matchup with a team outside these top three (ex Hawks)?
    I don’t think so, but if we keep beating up on the dregs, tanking is out the window.