Then came Casey’s third quarter strategy. In the home where Hack-a-Shaq was popularized, casey went to Hack-a-Jordan as in DeAndre Jordan, the phenomenal rebounder who struggles much like Shaquille O’Neal did and Dwight Howard still does.
Casey didn’t feel like he had any choice.
“We had to do something,” Casey said almost apologetically. “Physically they were just manhandling us in the paint and we had to do something. I thought that changed the game a little bit.”
Physically the Raptors were just no match for the Clippers in the paint. The combination of Jonas Valanciunas’ youth and Amir Johnson playing on a wonky ankle called for desperate measures and that’s exactly what that Hack-a-Jordan strategy was.
Jordan went to the line eight times in the quarter converting exactly half of his 16 attempts. The deficit remained about the same while Jordan spent all that time shooting free throws, but the Clippers offensive rhythm was broken. By the end of the half a game that had been in LA’s favour to the tune of 22 points was down to a nine-point deficit.
The 2 and 3 record from this road trip certainly isn’t atrocious, but Toronto should at least be coming home with another win and looks like a team that needs to do some regrouping, especially on D. Wins against the Jazz and Nuggets are fine, but the club overall just hasn’t looked very good. They gave up an average of 105 points per game on this Western Swing, a mark that summarizes the effectiveness of their defence of late, and post-All-Star break the club is going to have to get back to the basics if it wants to remain in the hunt for the third playoff spot in the East.
Rivers compared intentional fouls to intentional walks in baseball. But intentional walks — with four pitches and take your base — don’t drag games out as long as fouls do. And at least walks are a deterrent against someone who poses an actual threat, in the batter’s box. Fouling a man without the ball is like walking someone who’s sitting in the dugout.
You won’t find anyone who enjoys this stain on basketball. Not the coaches who employ it, nor the players who execute it, nor the fans who watch it. What about the networks that broadcast it, and would like to have games fit into a 2 1/2 hour window and move onto the next program? The NBA should certainly take the high-paying broadcast partners into account.
After taking care of business in two of their first three games on the trip, Casey’s team lost themselves in a pair of losses to the Kings – a bottom dweller in the West – and the Clippers, one of the conference’s elite. The Raptors fell behind early, giving up 67 points in the first half of each game, committing a total of 70 fouls and putting their opponent on the line 105 times over the course of three days.
The commonality, according to Casey, was a lack of mental and physical toughness against the likes of DeMarcus Cousins Wednesday and the duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan two days later.
“The guys are down because they know that we physically didn’t take care of business,” he said.
“The physicality of the game is something we have to get ready for, especially if we’re thinking about the playoffs because it’s a physical game in the paint, setting screens, rebounding, going to the basket. All those things are there if you’re serious about making the playoffs.”
Griffin, who had 36 points at Denver and 43 against Miami in the Clippers previous two games, capped his dominant opening quarter on a 20-footer with 2.4 seconds on the clock to give the Clippers a 29-22 lead. Crawford, who had 37 points in the previous meeting between the teams, burned the Raptors for 14 points in the second quarter while starting again for the injured J.J. Redick.
“Their bigs created some problems. And when you’ve got a player like Jamal Crawford, it can definitely get tough,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said. “That’s why you can’t give them any leeway. You’ve got to fight with them to the end.”
The Raptors tried to turn the final game of a season long road trip into a marathon of ugliness and while they were certainly successful in that regard the strategy ultimately failed.
Coach Dwane Casey told reporters the keys to victory are rebounding and limiting turnovers. As the game started the Clippers repeatedly went down low to Griffin in the post where he did some serious damage to the Raptors. Toronto responded by missing all four 3-pointers they took during the quarter. DeRozan ended Q1 with 10 points and Griffin had 19. In Q2, Ross exploded off the baseline with a thunderous dunk over Reggie Bullock.