Nets 94, Raptors 87 – Box

Keep calm but panic.  Stay calm because even though the Raptors surrendered home-court advantage, it was due to errors that are correctable and first-time jitters.  In the case of DeRozan, it wasn’t so much jitters than an earthquake that rocked him to the core, reducing him to Joey Graham levels of effectiveness, or lack there of.  Panic because the Nets didn’t play well either and had served up Game 1, if not on a platter, then in a Styrofoam box that required only moderate levels of dexterity to open.  Neither team played well, and one played worse.

So ended Game 1 and you hope that if one thing comes out of it, it’s that Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross’s playoff virginity is obliterated and they return to being normal, functional players that can react to seeing a defender by not pulling down their pants and running the other way.  Because that is figuratively what happened.

The element of regret and opportunity lost stems from the predictable manner in which the Raptors lost.  In the previews we pointed out the distinct possibility of a complication arising when Amir Johnson guarded Paul Pierce, and so complications arose when Amir Johnson guarded Paul Pierce.  We suggested, based on statistical and empirical evidence, that the Nets tend to pressure the ball and force turnovers.  That ball-control, particularly possessions where DeMar DeRozan’s dribbling were at play, or when he was doubled, need to be carefully thought out, and so the Raptors backcourt combined for 8 turnovers.  More importantly, the Raptors never got the first 10 seconds of the possession right which left them scrambling for the last 14. We mused that Joe Johnson was the Net most likely to cause matchup problems, and so Joe Johnson wreaked havoc.

Shaun Livingston’s impact was predicted as well, and Greivis Vasquez – having a fantastic game – felt the pain of guarding someone who you concede inches and quickness to.  The list goes on.  In fact, I would forgive you for thinking that there wasn’t much preparation done at all, and maybe as we’re keen to forgive DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson’s first-time jitters, so should we forgive Dwane Casey’s.    Jason Kidd has a host of veterans to get him through the game, the man doesn’t need to do much coaching since he has about three on the floor at anytime.  Dwane Casey does, and he didn’t appear to do much planning for this one.

The 29-21 deficit at the end of the first felt like a reprieve because our main guns were either misfiring or riding the bench.  Terrence Ross picked up two early fouls, both avoidable, and found himself replaced by John Salmons. Amir Johnson after being asked to guard Pierce – a daunting task for anyone not used to guarding wings, and very reminiscent of Sam Mitchell asking Andrea Bargnani to guard Hedo Turkoglu  – was taken out of the game for Patterson.  DeMar DeRozan, whose dribbling had the surety of a shopping-cart with a wonky wheel, was borderline immobile as his lack of ball-handling skill hampered his every movement.  He met with the pressure that every scouting report calls for and his response was typically tame, not helped by the Raptors positioning which left him (and other pressured guards) with no option but the screener to pass to – playing right into Brooklyn’s hands.  So much for Casey having the advantage on the sidelines.

Lowry on DeRozan

“They overplayed him. They really denied him the ball. We’ve got to find ways to get a screen and get him more looks, get him open a little sooner, quicker, get him to his sweet spots.”

Kyle Lowry

Usually when 3/5ths of the starting lineup proves to be impotent, the game is lost early.  Not so here since Jonas Valanciunas (17 points, 18 rebounds) showed no sign of jitters and came out loose and looking to administer punishment on Kevin Garnett, who he got into foul trouble.  The weakness conceded by the Nets – the center in the small-ball lineup – was working well for the Raptors.  Kyle Lowry, another starter who came to play and showed no signs of fear, was switched on from the start.  It was the Lowry you’ve come to love, he didn’t skip a beat from the regular to the post-season.  It was the bench that got the Raptors back in it in the second, notably Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson (now guarding Pierce) who were 4-8 in the frame to restore some sort of belief, and send the Raptors into halftime down only four.  The former having a surprising defensive impact in the second as well.

Down only four. At halftime.  While committing 11 turnovers and shooting 35%.  This was a scoreline you’d accept on the belief that it could have been far worse given how Joe Johnson – the man pointed out as the most dangerous of all in the previews – was playing some of the most intelligent basketball of his career without nary a double-team in sight.  He was putting Ross and Salmons on his hip all the way to the rim, using a screen and daring Valanciunas to come out to defend and when he didn’t, drained the short jumper.  He posted up DeMar DeRozan with ease, using superior strength and juke-moves to create.  He might not have deserved an All-Star berth this season, but he was the MVP of this game.

Casey on DeRozan

“They did a good job of double-teaming him.  [When Kevin] Garnett was coming across … into his areas, it was almost like a triple-team. We have to make some adjustments for that in order to free him up a little better.”

– Dwane Casey

The adjustments on Johnson came in the second half – too late in my view – as Dwane Casey sent Valanciunas as secondary help.  The rotations that followed were mediocre and this is where I consider the Raptors fortunate since the Nets missed some very, very good looks.  Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic and Marcus Thornton missed shots that they generally make (Nets were 4-24 from three), and this is what scares me.  I do expect Ross, Johnson and DeRozan to rebound, and so I expect the Nets to do the same.

Dwane Casey decided that in order to get DeMar DeRozan out of his slump, he needed to feature him in the offense.  That didn’t work, and the increased effort to start possessions with DeRozan as the ball-handler were met with abject failure of the usual kind – poor passes that allow the defense to get set by the time they’re made, turnovers, and low-quality shots. The two-guard lineup was easily the most effective one for the Raptors since between Vasquez and Lowry there’s enough ball-handling to make sure the rock isn’t stuck, which wasn’t the case when DeRozan was featured.  The offense continued to labour, though, with DeRozan playing the full quarter.

I’d like to give the defense credit in the area of persistence – the effort never quite dropped, the rebounding was there (+8 for the game); it was just that there was no plan at hand for Joe Johnson and the Raptors were left to improvise, never a high-percentage option in a playoff game.  Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were simply using superior ball-handling and  intelligent screen-usage (Garnett is still one of the best screeners in the league), and Livingston was using his God-given physical advantage to great effect.  We really are in trouble if Williams decides to return to his Utah Jazz-form in this series, let’s hope this game is an anomaly and he goes back to his soul-sucking ways.

The turnovers were ultimately the problem because they resulted in nine more FGAs for the Nets, a huge margin in such a tight game.  The Raptors had 17 turnovers, which were of the momentum-killing type and allowed the Nets to maintain a 5-8 point lead, and prevented the Raptors from making the surge that would turn the crowd from excited to mental.  The fourth quarter saw Valanciunas subbed for Chuck Hayes, which seems asinine until you realize that Valanciunas was gassed.  This was not a tactical substitution but one designed to give a tired man a breather.  After his hot start, the Lithuanian maintained a high energy and always looked to be a threat.  His turnovers crept up once the Nets doubled on first-dribble, which should prompt an adjustment from Casey that never came – perhaps in the form of an easier outlet for him, maybe a three-point shooter.

Pierce is cold-hearted

“I really feed off the emotions of the crowd, especially on the road. It’s fun when you get to go on the road and beat a team. I think it’s more gratifying than winning at home. I love those moments.”

– Paul Pierce

The Raptors did take the lead on a Greivis Vasquez three, but it was short-lived as Johnson, Garnett and Pierce scored back-to-back-to-back to extend to a six-point game with 2:58 left and the Raptors had little to offer in response.  In that spell, the Raptors offense mustered a deep Lowry three after a sputtering possession, Patrick Patterson missing a jumper, Vasquez mssing a contested layup, and a shot-clock turnover.  Pierce, guarded by Patterson, was exquisite late in the game and hit two tough jumpers and a layup (on which he travelled) to keep the Raptors at bay.

I don’t like to complain about officiating and won’t do so.  I will point out that no defensive fouls were called on Brooklyn in the fourth (to the Raptors’  6) which was odd since there were plays where there was definite contact.  When you reflect upon it, this game might’ve been lost before tip-off due to lack of preparation and 60% of our starting lineup having frazzled nerves.  Both are correctable, which is good news.

This series will boil down to how Dwane Casey matches up with the Nets’ smaller lineup.  For example, Amir Johnson, if he’s playing against Pierce needs to punish him on every single possession in some way.  Giving him the ball 22-feet out in a face-up situation is not ideal, as evidenced by the turnover it resulted in.  Some hi-lo plays, with a three-point shooter spaced court, that see Johnson catch and shoot without bringing the ball down might be in order.  Tyler Hansbrough, who has featured in smaller lineups during the season, may have to be used.  Nando De Colo’s speed and pace could throw the Nets a look they’re not preparing for and give them a dose of their own small-ball medicine.  Whatever the case, we can’t go into Game 2 with the same approach and not come out with an 0-2 deficit.

There needs to be some experiments done with a zone because if Livingston and Johnson continue to be problematic, a creative approach may be needed to stop them.  Defensively, Johnson needs to be funnelled to the right help – and right help isn’t Jonas Valanciunas winging it, not knowing whether he’s supposed to stay back or come out.  The Raptors only forced 8 turnovers, which follows the trend of recent defensive performances – we simply aren’t applying enough pressure in the backcourt to disrupt offensive flow and are not getting enough easy baskets.  Everything is a grind and a strain and that is a stressful way to play the game.

The ball is in Casey’s court to make the adjustments, as he’s promised.  The question I raise is whether we even needed to play a game to know what the Nets approach will be.

Some general comments about the day:

  • DeMar DeRozan’s “this ain’t rocket science” approach to the game was a way of convincing himself that it’s no different; it’s a sound positive-mentality strategy which didn’t work because, in truth, the playoff atmosphere and pressure is quite different
  • The shot-clock broke down in the second-half which was quite embarrassing (Nets fans reaction), and when they couldn’t get the sideline shot-clocks to work it was left to the announcer for calling out 10-seconds and 5-second countdowns.  I think this is karma hitting MLSE real hard for screwing with our shirts.
  • Masai Ujiri was seen yelling F**k Brooklyn which was silly; I get what he’s trying to do, but if someone had done that to Toronto, I’d be pissed and would think the guy is a joke.  Jason Kidd’s reaction? “I don’t even know who their GM is”
  • The crowd was fantastic – too bad the Raptors didn’t give them much to cheer about – if they had gotten another stop after taking that one-point lead in the fourth, the crowd was ready to win them the game
  • My opinion this: Not digging the Drake association – it makes too much of the game and the promotion around it about some individual who a good chunk of the fans don’t even relate to.  I do like his comment about Jay-Z eating fondues, but I could do without it
  • Toronto Sun’s cover was also commented on by Paul Pierce, when asked about whether he played a game without a working shot-clock, he responded: “I don’t know because I’m a dinosaur”.  We’re really not doing this playoff thing well so far, and are coming out looking very classless

This series is not over, it just requires some work and the Raptors have to be prepared to do it.

  • dave9t5

    #correction
    Toronto Sun’s cover.

    • FLUXLAND

      + “I don’t even know who their GM is” – Jason Kidd.
      + JV 17p / 18r

    • AxlT

      There’s nothing Toronto Sun likes to do more than ramp up the pressure on a local team and provide bulletin board material for the opposition!

  • Ds

    The Pierce travel no-call killed the Raptors’ momentum, it was a one-point game, and all of a sudden the floods opened. Can’t figure out why they didn’t call it. I was watching the screens by Garnett and Plumlee, and almost EVERY time, there was a hip check on the trailer. That is why Johnson and LIvingston got so free time and again. If the refs are going to call these, the Raps have to start doing the same.

    • AxlT

      Refs were in full Donaghy mode, killing momentum early and often

    • ioan1491

      sorry to ask but would you mind explaining how that was a travel? i know even the Nets’ commentators doubted it was legal at first sight, but I’ve watched it 10 times and I only see a 2 foot gather before he goes for the layup ..?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzh7S17aEBA (from 0:22 onwards)

      • truth be told

        It wasn’t a travel. Jack Armstrong hyped it up on the local broadcast so now most fans think it was a walk when it was just a nice play by Pierce

    • Wes mantooth

      They tried to. JV did it and they called it before it even happened. It’s 8 against 5 for a lot of these situations. We just have to rise above.

      • truth be told

        Stop bringing up the refs. The game was called fairly.

    • truth be told

      It wasn’t called because it wasn’t a travel. Euro two step.

  • Ballaholic55

    Hey guys, if we’re frustrated with the Amir-Pierce matchup, I’m pretty sure Landry Fields is healthy and fast enough laterally on defense to shadow Pierce. Remember last year vs. Carmelo……I’m just saying I think we should give it a try.

    • webfeat

      I don’t know what Landry put in Casey’s cereal this season, but Casey seems to hate Landry’s guts. If there is another reason he’s not played, it eludes me. So what if he can’t shoot? Just put him on the floor with three shooters (2Pat, TRoss/DD and KLo/GV) and his deficiencies can be masked. Fields can still slash and drive for offense.

      • Ballaholic55

        Exactly, I mean I’m pretty sure this’ll get the crowd and the team pumped to get going better then a 3 pointer

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQsD1BwjaD4

        • Ballaholic55

          Not to mention he get out and runs too, I think we don’t have that much to lose by subbing Landry in if Amir can’t handle Pierce

    • Paul

      I agree. Field’s shooting deficiencies should be less of an issue playing at the 4. Plus he’s shown that he can contribute in other ways offensively when given a chance.

      • Paul

        Also, this will allow Amir to slide into the backup center role which will keep Hayes off the floor.

        • Ballaholic55

          Real Talk! I mean imagine 2 fresh centers alternating, JV and Amir! Honestly I don’t want Salmons or Hayes on the floor against these nets.

    • ace5950

      The thing with taking out Amir is that our pick and roll offence will be reduced, I don’t think it’s just a matchup thing taking out one player can change the entire look of an offence, and face it our defence wasn’t that bad first game we just couldn’t score.

      • Ballaholic55

        True, are offense was atrocious last game, but hopefully are shooters in Demar, Kyle and Terrence are on point, making it less of an issue. If we can push the tempo with Landry, we’d be very hard to beat. It’s just a matter of changing styles of play, with Landry we can attack more and get fouled, with Amir we can look for more open shots, given the refs don’t cheese us again.

    • bobmasa

      Seems Duwen Casey has personal issues with Landry Fields therefore stupid Casey will never give him any minites

  • ckh26

    Its the first game of a seven game series. Reading the mainstream local press you’d think the lineups to jump off the Bloor Street bridge were as long as the traffic on May 24 weekend on the 400. The “experience thing” has now played out its effect. Now the real work begins. We can play better .. way better and we will. I think what we saw from Brooklyn is what they have. Sure amp it up a micrometer or two but thats it. You saw what they got and its not all that scary.
    Nostrodomus like I say we win the next one at home and one in Brooklyn and viola we are back with home court.Still stick to the Raps in 6 call I have.

    Shamelessly stealing from the post game WHAT WE SAW theme.

    Anyone else see during the TV broadcast a crowd shot that showed a raptor fan in his white shirt showing the commish Adam Silver the replay on his hand held of an obvious shooting foul on JV on a made basket late in the game with the standard Ed Malloy blind in one eye Raptor no call. ? How he got that close to Silver is amazing in itself. Silver did look a touch uncomfortable at watching it and was soon being ushered out by his handlers and off to the jet to the next locale. Still curious to see if the greatest aspect of the game that can’t be beaten by hard work and a game plan may be evened out on a call from NYC. Watch to see if Ed Malloy gets another Rap game. I bet no.

    • truth be told

      When most of these same players go and play their first road game of their careers in Brooklyn, would that not also count as a lack of experience?

      • ckh26

        I can see your point of view. I look at it as being on stage in a play. After your first appearance, regardless of where the second appearance takes place, one has “been there done that”

  • Transition_D

    Great piece. Another key IMHO – Raptors have to get out in transition, whether it’s a primary or secondary break. There were zero easy baskets for TO in the half court. Raptors are not winning unless they push the pace

    • caccia

      The fast break seemed to come out of mothballs in April, so now is the time to devote two solid days to polishing it in practice. With two point guards on the floor on frequent occasions, there is no reason it cannot be effective, other than lack of practice. Our guys are faster, both first and second teams.

    • Bryan Colangelo

      One of the reasons why Brooklyn is such a poor rebounding team is that they don’t crash the offensive boards, and run back immediately to prevent transition baskets — that’s how fucking old they are.

      That being said, the Raptors should still try to push the pace, make or miss, to test the Brooklyn legs on defense and hopefully wear them down over the course of the game.

  • Colonel_Hapablapp

    If Ujiri says F Brooklyn and Amir says F Brooklyn, then I also say F Brooklyn! This is our new rallying cry.

    A few observations:

    ESPN was VERY impressed with the crowds in Maple Leaf Square. Even though it looks like it’s gonna rain on Tuesday, let’s hope we get a similar crowd

    Crowd was LOUD. I was at the Overtime loss to OKC, and this crowd was louder and more raucous than ever. Loved every second of it.

    Pierce is the only concern going forward. We don’t have anybody that can reasonably keep him in check. And for as bad as we played, we were within striking distance. That’s a huge positive going forward.

    Did anybody else try to get in through MLS and have problems with it? Cause it got to a point where we were being told by security a different thing each time for how to get in through Gate 6.

    Lets hope we make the necessary adjustments and take Game 2.

  • Mexiballer

    This article is dead on. It is troubling that Brooklyn did exactly what was expected and we looked unprepared for it.
    Its also troubling that Toronto does look classless in the eyes of many the way yesterday went off.

  • Lyall

    HEY! Why doesn’t Raptors Republic change their chisrts to say “F**K Brooklyn!” on the front?

  • Rupert

    Gotta hope the raptors show up on tuesday must admit under the prime time playoff pressure we looked bad validating all the haters who said we arent a real 3 seed and stuff. There are points where i feel lowry must be jordan for us to win the series because everyone else is scared. On tuesday the raptors need a convincing win one that shows we have more talent and a better team.

    • Wes mantooth

      JV didn’t look scared. He just didn’t get the ball. Adjustment number 1

    • Tinman

      Sorry – no pressure at all.
      We finished third – it’s in the books.
      Now winning the first round, that’s a different story. Game one was lost, but I expect us to bounce back on Tuesday. Jitters are out of the way. Nets didn’t impress.
      The Fat Lady isn’t even in the building yet.

  • ad

    Its really too bad that everytime the raps make the playoffs, they face a more experienced and/or talented team in the 1st round. The crowd was electric and its too bad the team wasnt ready to perform better. This analysis really exposes what a terrible coach casey is particularly on the offensive end. If I had to choose, record notwithstanding, he would not be back next season. The team plays hard for him but I remain unimpressed with the offensive sets and rotations. Not to mention, the d really let us down yesterday and that is supposed to be his calling card.

  • ioan1491

    I have trouble swallowing it, but there’s a fine line between humble pride and undeserved arrogance, and we stepped out drenched in the latter. DeRozan’s attitude, when followed by 3-13 FG, is just nowhere near what you can expect from your team’s supposed all-star. Ujiri’s swipe at Brooklyn was rather over the top as well. I hope it pays off in the long run, but for now we just added more fuel to the old saying that you should let your game do the talking … J.Johnson, Deron, and in the end Garnett and Pierce certainly took that to heart and played with a purpose.

    • Dan

      Demar was both frustrating to watch during the game and listen to after. Acting as if he just missed shots he always takes. The only matchup in the playoffs Demar had a chance of succeeding at was against Bradley Beal from Washington. Demar has always struggled against long defenders who actually apply ball pressure on him. In the playoffs he will face that every possession. Without strong outside shooting or ball handling the Raptors best shot at winning is not running the offence through him and make him try to get open before receiving the ball and stick with quick shots or drives off curls and screens. Limit is handling and don’t be afraid to bench him. If he is not getting to the line then he is pretty useless as he shoots a low percentage and does not defend well.

      • ioan1491

        he scared me very much last night (4 am game time as i am in Europe) but I did feel proud that he managed to hit those shots. Aside from that, I completely agree that we should never run the offense through him, even though I do acknowledge he hit Lowry for that drive down Bay Street a bit after.
        The swingman position, both offense and defense (Landry!!!!!) is where we risk losing this series. Ross needs to wake up and hit his open jumpers, and DeRozan needs to steady himself. We should be fine if that happens, whatever adjustments BKN make.

  • Junior Qamar

    We really could use fields to guard joe johnson. He needs to play fields I dont think theres much of a choice here. We dont need much offense from him just be a stopper on pierce or joe johnson.

  • asifyouknow

    They will be fine. I notice in the first five minutes DeMar war complaining to his team mates, very animated, I believe it was about some missed switches. Right there I knew he was over his head in this type of playoff atmosphere, he has always been a cool character. The -moment go to him-

    More ball movement will keep the OLD NETS running and get those old legs weak. Get this series to 5 and the NETS are done, they can’t go seven with the Toronto’s youth.

    Vasquez, Lowry and DeRozen should start together to get the ball moving. Crazy man, JV, Amir and Hayes have 24 fouls to give, use them for HARD fouls, use them often and hope they miss.

    Casey was out smarted today by a rookie coach, but Casey always adjusts well so I think he will win Tuesday.
    (just seen Parker get turned,,lol what a defensive bum he is)…lol

  • gizzly73

    Tyler Hansbrough – active, playoff experienced, gets rebounds, competes like hell, agitates, bangs bodies etc, gets to the foul line consistently, hustles.

    Why then does Casey put Hayes on the floor instead of TH when he contributes almost nothing except a large body and is next to useless on offense and consistently gives up easy baskets, loose balls, and offensive rebounds? It baffles me.

    • Ballaholic55

      True, but who would he have guarded. He’s not fast enough to keep up with all the picks and fakes that Pierce has. Garnett is long but I still feel Tyler could do damage on him.

      • caccia

        Yesterday he guarded Teletovic and Garnett. Tyler is plenty fast on his feet. A lot of times he double-teams the ball handler on the drive and his man is left open; someone has to rotate. Ross fouled on the first such play yesterday. So perhaps Casey will tell him to lay back and keep his man covered, or to double-team Williams. Regardless, Tyler always makes things happen. Hayes cannot do any of that.

        • Ballaholic55

          Yeah, it’s more a play style we have to change with the guys off the bench rather than our starter.

          • gizzly73

            Simply put, TH deserves the minutes that Hayes is getting no matter

  • Wes mantooth

    I just rewatched the game like a psychotic to see what they were doing to demar. It wasn’t rocket science man. He just needs to learn how to pass better on the pick n roll and needs learn to throw an alleyoop. There were about 5 plays where this would’ve been possible. He can’t be scared to turn it over he’s gotta make the pass. This is what will back them off and it will also get Amir and JV more involved. I hope they practice this the next 2 days. Also if tross is out there and hitting his threes it will give another option for a pass

    • Bryan Colangelo

      Agree completely. He just needs to make a decision to drive or pass much faster. Trying to dribble his way out and about a double team or shoot over two defenders just isn’t in his wheel house. At the very least if he isn’t comfortable he should give up the ball and trust his teammates will swing it around quickly enough to the open man.

  • Raps2014

    BIggest mistake was not going back to JV all game. They just went to him in the first and third terrible coaching

  • Peter G

    “We’re really not doing this playoff thing well so far, and are coming out looking very classless”

    That’s because this city IS class less. We’re still booing Vinc Carter for crying out loud. Now you have the hockey fans hopping on the bandwagon and it gets ten times worse.

  • bobmasa

    Next game we are planning to bring signs of “FREE LONDRY FIELDS” Masai should never extend Casey contract period!!!!

  • Buschfire

    #FreeLandry

  • llaen

    Good rundown but you should maybe stop using the word “Raptors” so much or this blog might get taken down.

  • TheR3dMenace

    On point with absolutely everything here

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