This is what we played the regular season for: a chance to host Game 7 with the ACC crowd behind us and all those other guys in the parking lot.  Now it’s all about rising up to the occasion and delivering the goods.  Nothing else matters.  Whatever has happened in this series thus far can be classified as learnings and everything is leading up to Sunday.  Regarding Game 6, we saw Joe Johnson destroy us again, Paul Pierce undress Amir Johnson, Deron Williams get past Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross revert to the fetal position, and the Raptors, defensively, had no clue on how to rotate  on anything.  The prospect of having such a performance repeat itself on Sunday scares me to death and I try to take some comfort in Dwane Casey hopefully relaying to his team that all that’s happened is a wash and that they need to have one complete game, at home, in Game 7.

We know where the Nets can hurt us and credit to Jason Kidd for exploiting their advantages.  The same can’t be said about the Raptors who have won three games in this series playing the type of basketball that usually would result in losses.  The cohesive ball-movement stemming from crisp passing is replaced by possessions where pressure builds by the second, and with each passing tick of the clock, the eventual shot’s degree of difficulty rises.  The doubles and traps that the Raptors punished teams for earlier in the year are now suffocating them, throwing an offense that’s so dependent on cohesion into panic.  Shockingly, we’ve won three games playing such ball.  I don’t know if we can get away with doing the same in Game 7.

Before we get to the offense, let’s touch on the defense, a defense that allowed the Nets to shoot 68% in the first quarter on their way to a 15-point lead which deflated the Raptors into early submission.  I’ll avoid delving into gory details for the sake of my breakfast staying down, and leave it at this: the Raptors appeared to have no plan on how to deal with dribble penetration, which was coming from all angles tonight, including Deron Williams against Kyle Lowry, and Alan Anderson against Demar DeRozan.  The Raptors were scrambling every time the Nets got into the paint, with multiple players (big + wing) closing out on the perimeter leaving the interior susceptible to a simple pass.  This was essentially the problem of the night: dribble penetration combined by a sheer lack of ability to respond to when the defense is breached.

More from RR:

There wasn’t a single instance of a Nets big man backing down someone and pulling a move to get a score, yet Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche went 5-7 and 4-8.  It all came from the perimeter defense being infringed upon and the Raptors failing to deal with the resulting chaos.  A shell-shocked Terrence Ross was 0-4 and, unlike in Game 5 where he hit a couple shots, was a spectator on both ends.  Joe Johnson was allowed to pass out of every double-team thrown at him with ease, with the Nets adjusting by being more active in presenting themselves, leaving the Raptors to trail the play every time.  Amir Johnson, absent in every sense, understandably had trouble guarding Pierce who sliced his way to the rim multiple times in the first quarter, bolstering the Nets’ confidence and shaking the Raptors self-belief early.

Communication on close-outs was poor to start, and as the defense became more and more porous, simple calling of screens became an issue.  Our wings were getting blindsided by Garnett and Blatche screens because nobody had called them out.  A faltering and fragmented defense meant the Nets walked the ball into the rim whenever they wanted, and put even greater pressure on an offense that has sputtered far more often than it has hummed.

The Nets started Alan Anderson ahead of Shaun Livingston on DeMar DeRozan.  The Raptors swingman responded by hitting an array of contested looks in the first quarter, going 4-6.  As Will generally says, bad process leading to good results.  Isolation-heavy ball will only work for a while, and sure enough, DeRozan went 4-12 for the rest of the game.  Lowry, frustrated at the officiating and the ease at which Williams was negotiating him on defense, tried to take the game upon himself and paid the penalty with a poor shooting night (4-16 FG, 11 points).  The larger question, though, is why the Raptors offense finds itself in such isolation-heavy sequences.

To answer that question we need not look any further than how the team handles pressure in the backcourt, which the Nets brought in ample measure.  The Nets were doubling almost every single Raptors player and were allowed to get away with it.  The reason being that the Raptors, when pressured, do not have a plan of how to get the ball out of the pressure, find the open man, and extend the Nets defense.  When DeRozan is pressured his first reaction is to back out, dribble some more, and set himself for a one-on-one move, or worse, unwittingly invite the double out, pick-up the dribble and then desperately seek an outlet.   When Lowry is doubled, he usually does well to drive and kick, except for last night he decided to look for him more than his mates.  When Ross is doubled, he wishes he wasn’t born.  The only person who is composed enough, has good court awareness, and enough ball-handling ability to navigate pressure is Greivis Vasquez, and it’s not surprising that it’s with him at the helm that the Raptors made their modest run in the fourth quarter.

Down by 19 at halftime and 20 to start the court, the Raptors made a run with Vasquez at the point and Jonas Valanciunas having a good spell.  The Lithuanian was taken out of the game with two fouls early, which I didn’t particularly agree with.  This unwritten rule that you have to take a player out after he picks up two fouls is getting to be a bit much.  It plays right into the hands of the Nets, and I thought instead of taking Valanciunas out, the Raptors should have left him in and made him hurt the Nets.  The Raptors weren’t playing inside-out when he was in there,  and when he came out they became 100% guard-oriented.  There were perhaps four or five plays where the Raptors led with their big men, or ran plays which would see their big men finish close to the rim.  The most disheartening part of watching this was knowing that if they simply made that a greater focus of their offense, the Nets would actually have something to think about.

The same problems that hurt us in Game 1 are hurting us in Game 6.  Casey, other than randomizing his double-teams on Johnson in Game 4, has made no discernible adjustments.  Swapping out an ineffective John Salmons for an equally ineffective Terrence Ross doesn’t count for much, nor does flipping the coin between Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes.  I presume Landry Fields to be injured, though he was listed as available last night.  Tactically, Johnson remains an issue throughout the game, and Pierce at the outset, since eventually Patterson or someone else ends up on him.  The size advantage which Amir Johnson, also presumed to be carrying a knock, has over Pierce hasn’t materialized.  Even after accounting for Johnson being an unrefined offensive player, it’s hard to accept a return of 4 points and 2 points in the games 1 and 6 losses, respectively.  The Raptors are letting Pierce off scot-free.

Much like the Nets took some momentum away from the fourth quarter of Game 5, I’m hoping the Raptors can do the same from the final frame of Game 6.  Their run, which was spurred by several defensive plays being made at the rim by Patterson and Valanciunas, would have seen the the Nets’ 26-point lead slashed to 7 hadn’t it been for Patterson missing a wide open three from the corner.   They have to have taken something from that fourth quarter where they outscored the Nets 24-18.  

The officiating was a factor, not the primary one as that honor goes to the Raptors horrible defense, but a factor.  The push called against Valanciunas for his third along with one of the offensive fouls against him were simply bad calls.  There were a couple instances of Nets players picking up charges when they were clearly moving, on one occasion Pierce had a clear foot on the line and drew the charge.  When the Nets were pressuring the Raptors and throwing double-teams left and right, they fouled on every single possession without a whistle, so much so that Jack Armstrong even pointed it out.  It was that blatant.  Of course, we knew this going into the series and the onus is on the Raptors to accept this handicap, be the aggressor, and force the calls, much like DeRozan has done on a few occasions in our wins.   The 25-14 foul calls in favor of the Nets is disproportionate, even after accounting for the Raptors reduced aggressiveness in the game compared to the previous one.

Game 7 will be a new story.  My concern is that Dwane Casey has yet to make a single, sustainable adjustment in the series which would neutralize even one of the Nets’ threats.  On the evidence of last night there is a lot of defensive cleanup work to be done for the Raptors to present a respectable, cohesive and in-tune defense by Sunday.  Offensively, the Raptors have played a dangerous game in relying on individual brilliance over team basketball.  If everything’s clicking, this could be the the forumula for a Game 7 win.  However, if the Nets are able to pressure the ball again without being made to pay for it through team-offense, this post-season will end sooner than it needed to.

So, to recap:

  • Figure out your rotations off of double-teams
  • Find a way to deal with Nets pressure intelligently, without resorting to iso-ball
  • Hope that one of Terrence Ross or Amir Johnson isn’t a complete write-off
  • Have DeRozan pressure the Nets offense early, and perhaps get their key players into foul trouble for a change
  • Have Kyle Lowry’s individual one-on-one offense be the backup plan, not the one you lead with

We can do this, we just need to be a little smarter.

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  • yup

    DD went 4-12 the rest of the game as his field goals were 8-18.

    • KJ-B

      Considering that only two other raptors could scrape 4 made field goals for the ENTIRE game, what’s your point exactly?!

      • DDman

        hes just saying the doucheus that wrote this article that always has something bad to say about Demar but completely ignores Kyle being MIA every time he is, messed up the article and tried to be smart ass although that he is not bc he cant’t subtract 4 from 8. 8-18, 4-6 first, 4 -12 rest and it was a much better game than that as he had to force a couple tough shots near the end when it was pretty much already over so really he shot about 50%. and he’s wet on the midrange, those are not bad shots for him you mucks. stop relying on analytics for everything dickwads

        • KJ-B

          Yeah, I’m not on the Lowry train.. like him for right now but don’t like his body of work, so to speak, long term–and he is seeking a long term deal. Two years $22 million, team option for a 3rd, I like. But I’m sure his agent will start at 4 yrs $50 mil +…

          Lowry’s fg % is awfully low for a top tier PG not named Westbrook/Lillard. Great guy but a tad overrated, especially long term wise.

          Just need more than one year at 27/28 to convince me he’s completely reformed. But some folk are late bloomers.

          There’s an anti-Derozan bias on this site for five years and I don’t expect it’s going anywhere!

        • arsenalist

          Or maybe I did the math wrong. Surely that was one of the possibilities?

          • DDayLewis

            Nope, Illuminati

        • truth be told

          You don’t get any additional points for degree of difficulty with the shots you take.

          The same bad looks that were dropping in the 1st for him, were air balls later in the game.

          Heard Devlin gushing about how Demar can get his shot early in the game after hitting a flat footed 3. Matt, ‘getting your shot’ is not a fade away 3 after dribbling around with no purpose for 3 seconds with the shot clock now expiring.He hit it, kudo’s to him, but thats not him getting his shot. That’s the defence making him take the shots they want him to take.

          • Tee

            What do you expect him to do?
            The Net’s whole game plan is focused towards shutting him down.
            You have hit a few of those to open things up.-They were jumping passing lanes when he was trapped, just waiting for him to pass out of it.

            Nobody on the Raps was hitting shots in the 1st half except Derozan. They would have got destroyed if it wasn’t for Demar.
            Many don’t acknowledge that on this site, & he’s only 24. He’s extremely talented.

  • Eunys

    No stress we playing tomorrow at 1:00 Pm Garnet and co are too old …it feels like a back to back to them…The raptors will have their best score differential of the season! Wait and see.

    • cdub

      I dunno I always find the raps themselves don’t really play well in these early games either.

  • SickNTired

    Go Big! Nets went small with Anderson instead of Livingson, and pressuring lowry deep and forcing Tross to shoot.

    Switch Tross for Patterson. Have lowry drive and throw in low post balls to JV, Amir, and 2Pat. Kill them on the offensive rebounds.

    Pierce and Garnett played big minutes. They will be lazy and foul.

  • CM

    Move the ball on offence like the first qtr of game 5. Hope Amir wakes up. Get JV going early on offence he tends to have less stupid fouls when he’s engaged early. Lowry won’t have 2 bad games in a row. If these things happen they will win

  • rye247

    You forgot to mention getting Jonas involved early and for him to stay out of foul trouble. He’s one of the Raps biggest advantages and if he’s rendered useless, that’s a problem.

    • noname

      apparently based on what fair89 said; they are trying to keep his ego at bay because it has been swelling up ever since his stretch of good play. Honestly I think that’s a load of prime bullshit on the coaching staff’s part; if he’s getting cocky talk to him about it, don’t take him out of the game and limit his touches!

    • cdub

      its hard to stay out of foul trouble when the refs have been calling bs fouls on him all series

  • KJ-B

    The Playoffs reveal you for what you are: DeRozan’s a blue chip worth holding onto, TRoss is a pump n dump penny stock–it’s crude but he’d be and whatever team he plays for next year will be better off with him coming off the bench.

    To that end was just looking at draft boards as SF/3s available at 20 and I like TJ “Tony Buckets” Warren from NC State and the uber athletic longer 6’6″ swingman from KJ Daniels from Clemson–better yet a trade for Harrison Barnes (starter) and TRoss (bench & west coast) might be great for both players–hopefully they target a RFA/UFA PF like a Greg Monroe–we need a vet with a track record yearning to be on a winning program.

    It’s obvious the Raps glaring weakness in this playoffs is the depth at Wings. TRoss is not a Star in this League.
    Start Fields/Novak and give ’em serious burn. Either create spacing for DeMar or get help on D. Keep your wing rotation to 3 with TRoss subbing in–BANISH JOHN SALMONS ALREADY–do u have to go to Kentucky to get playing time on this team or what???

    • Heyjoe

      These playoffs are all about getting JV and Ross experience and just because both of them are having a hard time delivering doesn’t mean that they aren’t developing as a result of their failures.

      Trading Ross would just be going in circles since Raps won’t get much for him in a trade and will most likely just have to develop another inexperienced player.

      If Ross doens’t show more consistency in his scoring before next years trade deadline I would support the idea of trading him, but to me trading him based off his performance in playoffs where Raps aren’t really contenders is a short sighted knee jerk reaction.

      • KJ-B

        TRoss – It’s all in his mind. More follower than leader. Has not led in anything but inconsistency. Need solid starters.

        Everything gets magnified in Playoffs.

        • Heyjoe

          The thing is, the Raps don’t have to trade Ross to have solid starters, he can easily 6th man. Leadership can be developed, just look at Kyle Lowry.

          • KJ-B

            Good point but it still doesn’t solve the problem at 3 long to trade potential for production. Would trade for Harrison Barnes yesterday–if league allowed. Barnes was lights out as a rookie starter in the playoffs last year…disgruntled as a bench player.

            Flip both teams/roles and both play better!

            • Musik

              This Summer will tell us a lot about Ross. Maybe DD and KL can push him in their direction when it comes to off season training. Its been two seasons and hes already shown a lot of growth from the last. Why would you give up on him now? Makes no sense.

              • KJ-B

                Decisions by successful teams are made lighting fast when the time is right…you also look at it from a biz decision. Wouldn’t give TRoss 4 yrs 30 mil.

                Trade him, while he’s got value.

                Now, if Ross comes up big tomorrow–which would mean a Raps W and leads vs Miami, bc he always plays well against them, then keep him. It’s that cut n dry. Why stay the same when u can get better.

                All the physical tools in the world but not there mentally…

                • Musik

                  I dont know i just think its way too early. I can see DD & Ross turning into VC and T-Mac down the road. If they can both work on their defense this off season, we will be a dangerous team. It all comes down to Ross’s work ethic though because with his natural abilities he could have a high ceiling. But like you said can he mentally, he needs to get over that hump.

                • KJ-B

                  Thing about the VC -TMac comparison, is that those two only played two years together… Ross is a great movable chip that can bring back high quality with our 2016 NYK 1st rounder… I’d be open to it–why the heck not?!

                • Musik

                  Depending on Anthony im thinking that 1st rounder could be quite valuable. If thats the case I would be open to using that and Ross as some bait to get us a budding star.

                • KJ-B

                  Now we talking… I know these are fantasy GM trades which don’t mean squat in MLSE board room BUT could you imagine Harrison Barnes/Draymond Greene in purple?!

                  That’s what trading a young asset high can do..unlike TMac which under that CBA could walk–sersiously tho, a legit franchise 3 to run with #Comp10 and a versatile big who can guard stretch 4s like Pierce!

                • truth be told

                  And the fact that Vince and TMac were considerably better than Demar/Ross

                • KJ-B

                  “Truth be told”. However DeRozan’s 1st playoffs trumps them both. Has taken to top dog like a duck to water after GM 1.

            • noname

              nah, I have a feeling that barnes is a bust. He seemed like a gem last year but his confidence has been destroyed this year. T-ross seems like a gem this year (forget the playoff struggles), hopefully his confidence doesn’t get destroyed. And JV; well he’s Jonas Christ Superstar! NOW JUST GIVE HIM MORE FREAKING TOUCHES!

              • KJ-B

                Barnes is frustrated. More length, even better defender. Can plug him at 3 for 10 years barring the unknown. Disappointed at TRoss shrinking in the moment.

                • Northbound

                  Buy low sell high huh
                  So you were saying trade Ross?

                • KJ-B

                  I’m done with this one.. This fantasy trade may become a reality trade if Terrence don’t wake up soon enough. Hopefully he’s focused on Basketball and not the show around it.

                  Ujiri is as cold n calculating as it gets. Regards production. Ships out potential.

                  Go Raps Go. Would love nothing better than TRoss getting 25+ 2moro–we win in that scenario!!!

          • feylines

            I don’t know about 6th man, I don’t think anyone will be able to beat vasquez to that title if he sticks around

            • Heyjoe

              Both Vasquez and Lowry are going to be FA this summer and I find it unlikely Raps will keep both, time will tell though.

              • Musik

                Both stay. Also Patterson. No way they leave what they have here. Consistent minutes and for Lowry this is his team. Which is what hes always wanted.

                • Heyjoe

                  Merely speculation. I find it unlikely that Vasquez would sign for the Raps to play off the bench when he could sign with, for example, the Knicks and start while also playing for Phil Jackson and likely be coached by Steve Kerr.

                  Just an example though, Vasquez is going to have a whole lot of options as a FA.

                  Patterson I have no clue about.

                  Lowry could also leave, I mean he wasn’t very loyal in Houston. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lowry just goes to whoever pays him the most.

                • Musik

                  Lowry was an asshole in Houston. Hes grown up and hes also said numerous times he loves this team. I also think management gives him whatever number he asks for cause without him we go back to the dark ages. Vasquez I dont even like the guy but the chemistry between him and Lowry on the floor is something you dont see too often. Its not like hes not getting starting minutes either. If you let him walk and take a risk on someone else our whole flow can be wiped out. This team actually likes each other i wouldnt mess with that.

                • ZQ

                  Vaquez stated that he wanted to stay here in his post game interview after game 5

                • Heyjoe

                  It’s still speculation. Just because he’s saying now that he wants to stay doesn’t mean that he’s gonna sign. He’s also not saying how much he expects to get paid to stay and he also doens’t necessarily know how much other teams will offer him, till they do make the offer.

                  Even if lowry and vasquez did stay, Ross could still be 6th man. Just start Vasquez at 2 guard.

    • raptorstand

      Jesus the season isn’t even over yet and we get this bs. There is something to be said for developing our 21 yr old kids together . If it wasn’t for these two players break out season we would not be in the seventh game. Keeping our elite players together will be a blast to watch for the next ten years. We finally get a season of fun basketball with young players and a nice mix of older players and what we need to do is trade our youth. Pull your head outta your ass . I smell a tanker from way back.

      • KJ-B

        It’s an opinion site last I checked. U need to stop with all the sniffing tho… TRoss ain’t a 3 man…so u want him guarding LeBron James in the next round, really? in the playoffs… maybe he’ll find his confidence then?!

        Terrence Ross is 23. Stop sniffin!

        • raptorstand

          Sniff this Homey. We played the Heat tough this year obviously you didn’t watch . We match up well against the Heat. Yea I want Tross to lay it on the floor against the best. Tross is 22 , what smells?

          • KJ-B

            Born in ’91 February. I get ur point. Thx. Go Raps!

            • raptorstand

              Dawg …. you trippin, you dance with the ho that you took to the block party. The gin and juice is going to taste that much sweeter when Tross shows up and starts takin it to the hole and opening up the outside shot. The only thing I’m sniffin is Dawg shit Homey.

              • KJ-B

                Enjoy the game… Have good Dawgy dreams!

    • noname

      Ross will develop into a stud; don’t worry about that. when demar was 21 he was faaaaaarrrrrr worse. The problem is we have 2 sg’s and we’re trying to disguise one of them as a sf. So unless Ross gets bigger, we may have to trade one of them. And even then, I’d trade derozan.


      Get back to watching hockey, please.

      • KJ-B

        AhhK PuckxLand….

  • RPT23

    F#ck Brooklyn, F#ck Convention wisdom, put Vasquez in for TRoss and to start the game so we can get a good cohesion going with our offense. GV will get the guys involved on offense so we can get off to a good start. We need to make adjustments because now it’s a DO or DIE situation. Our defense have to be smarter… If not adding GV into the starting line up then put Fields on Pierce and have Amir off the bench. We’ll at least have better mobility on defense and quick hands in the passing lanes.

    We go to do SOMETHING if we want to get out of the first round.

    • KJ-B

      Would make sense if DeColo was in rotation but Casey and Ross are both from Washington state, so I get the feeling he’s gonna ride with Ross as starter with a semi quick hook!

      Dwane’s set in his ways (remember Nets role player Alan Anderson?) and maybe he should be as he’s had some success. On the other hand someone like a Coach Pop could care less about these sort of things. Heck Kidd sat KG/Pierce – – let’s start right there!

    • raptorstand

      Start the same line up and attack. Take it fing to them, every player should be looking to go to the hole. Make them adjust to us, we are clearly the better team when we attack . On defense we just have to close out and get tighter , movement and in your face d . We will win there is no doubt if we come out and attack on both ends, lay it all on the floor. If a player isn’t doing that quick hook.

  • Każdy pragnie zamieszkiwać w świetnym miejscu, które będzie jednoczyć się z samym ciepłem i rodzinną atmosferą. Zanim będziemy w stanie nasycić się takimi widokami, trzeba stworzyć dom i go umeblować. Nie ma kłopotu – nasza idealna firma ochoczo pomoże, pokazując równocześnie, że to nie takie trudne. Jeśli myślą państwo, że budowa domu to termin niewykonalnym – to błąd, który my naprawimy i pokażemy, że jest całkowicie inaczej. Uprzejmie zapraszamy do zapoznania się z wszelkimi usługami opisującej nas firmy. Zapewniamy, że spełnimy Państwa oczekiwania, pokazując równolegle, że nie ma rzeczy niemożliwych. Potrzebni są tylko profesjonaliści, którzy znają się na swoim fachu.

  • Hassan Mehmood Khan

    man Tross not hitting some threes is really hurting us he needs to at least make a couple threes for us to have an effective offence

    • Hassan Mehmood Khan

      we need some shot making ability , we should start novak beside derozan to space things out more

      • Truth Teller

        Novak couldn’t guard me…

  • Foreel

    Good thing we rarely have 2 bad games in a row. Haha!

  • BIQ

    Play Novak when T-Ross is on the floor with PPat, Vasq, and either Lowry or Valanciunas/Amir. Salmons out unless T-ross or DD in foul trouble. Hayes should really be last resort orDNP. More Novak less Salmons. T-ross in for DD. Hbrow, PP, @PF JV, Amir Center rotation.

  • coachftw

    This is why I miss Matt Bonner…

  • Truth Teller

    Someone tell Amir Johnson to stop taking 3s. Thats a waste of a possession.

  • BramptonCanadianProspects

    who can we grab for salmons, novak and hansbrough in the offseason?