The Toronto Raptors lost by a single point to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday in Game 7. That reality couldn’t possibly hurt more, especially since the teams played 11 games this season with a final score of 1,070-1,070. The entire series was unbelievably close.

With a series that close, it could have swung on any number of bounces, calls or plays. Yesterday was more about the feels, but today it’s worth looking back at some of those coin tosses that didn’t go the Raptors way. It’s a bit masochistic, sure, but we’d be doing ourselves a disservice not to try and learn something from such a heartbreaking defeat.

The series was full of lessons. Dwane Casey, in particular, hopefully grew as a coach. DeMar DeRozan was provided with a list of what he needs to work on this offseason. Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas took a master’s course in veteran savvy. The list goes on, but here are some takeaways from Game 7.

The Final Play
I mean, it was garbage, right? The play appeared to be to get the ball to Kyle Lowry, with the instructions to “make something happen, Kyle.” The Nets were prepared for this, because the action really didn’t require them to do much but blitz once they knew what was happening.

Now, there was contact at several points during the play. I get that. But no referee is going to swing an entire series on a borderline call, especially when the ball handler is driving out of control. Just let that go.

The play call, however, was probably not what the Raptors wanted. The always-awesome Coach Nick broke down exactly why in a BBall Breakdown video, illustrating that Casey actually botched the timeout – he drew up a play for the wrong side of the floor.

Here’s how the Raptors initially lined up, and what the action appears to have been designed to be:

lowry finalplay

Here, Lowry would be going around Patterson’s screen on his right. That would not only make the drive easier and any eventual layup a better proposition, but it would have made safety valve number one (Terrence Ross) a far easier pass.

That’s not the only issue with the final play, though. It’s no surprise that Lowry ends up in heavy traffic for the final shot because there’s not enough time to pass:
lowry finalplay2However, he should have had a bit more space a second before this, as the placement of Ross was either designed poorly or executed improperly:

lowry finalplay3 lowry finalplay4

Had Ross been stationed in the corner, Alan Anderson either couldn’t triple or Ross would have been wide open for a corner three – still not the best look when you only need a two, but an open shot is preferable to one in heavy traffic.

Amir Johnson’s Fouls
Amir Johnson fouled out in just 22 minutes, having played perhaps the game of his life (20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 10 rebounds) to that point. This isn’t the Johnson of a few years ago, where early foul-outs were commonplace, though, as it’s an area of his game he’s gotten far better with over the years.
amirfoulsIn this series, he had fouled out once (Game 5) and was averaging just shy of five fouls per 36, so getting into some foul trouble wasn’t entirely surprising. What was surprising, however, were the calls that went against him in the second half (I recall people complaining about the first-half fouls, too, but upon further review at least two of them were clear fouls, while the other was a foul but possibly should have been on John Salmons). Here’s the first:

The Raptors broadcast showed a better look at it on replay but I only have the ESPN copy to GIF from, which doesn’t. Basically, Johnson grabs Paul Pierce’s arm a bit as he begins his move, which is technically a foul. Given what the officials had established as acceptable contact to this point in the game, though, this was the tickiest of ticky-tack fouls. Until…

Yeah, we feel you, Amir. Again, we don’t have the benefit of a close-up ESPN replay (#staywoke), but basically, Deron Williams and Johnson got tangled and the referee decided Johnson was the aggressor. And finally, because Joe Johnson hadn’t done enough damage yet…

There’s a chance I’m being a homer here, but what this looks like to me is Joe Johnson landing cleanly (no foul) and then stepping on Amir Johnson’s foot, which causes the fall. It doesn’t look to me like Amir undercut him or took away his landing space, and he certainly didn’t bump him with the body as he began his dribble.

The Refereeing
This will seem silly having just pointed out how bad the second-half fouls on Johnson were, but please, if you’re one of those people doing so, stop blaming the referees. It was fun to joke about but far too many people seem to actually believe there was a conspiracy (and Tim Donaghy, really? That’s who we’re going to trust, the guy who has every incentive to say what he said since it gets him more air time?). The refereeing in this series was bad, full stop. I will repeat what I did several times in the series: when the officiating is bad all around, it is nearly impossible to discern bias. Every Raptor fan will surely remember a half-dozen bad calls, but guess what? Had the Raptors won, every Nets fan would be able to remember a half-dozen bad calls, too.

Defensive Rebounding
The Raptors chose a really bad time to just stop worrying about their own glass. In Game 7, the Raptors finally got the turnovers under control with a series-low of nine, only to hand back those additional possessions by surrendering 16 offensive rebounds, the sixth most they allowed in any game all season long. And this, to one of the worst offensive rebounding outfits in the entire league.

Stat Season Since Jan 1 Game 1-6 Game 7
Tor O-Reb % 27.2% 26.9% 26.6% 27.8%
Tor D-Reb % 74.9% 74.8% 79.4% 65.6%
Brk O-Reb % 21.7% 21.0% 20.6% 36.4%
Brk D-Reb % 72.3% 71.6% 73.4% 71.2%
Lg Avg Oreb% 25.5% 25.4% 25.8%

Amir Johnson fouling out certainly didn’t help, nor did Jonas Valanciunas having one of the worst games imaginable (seriously, in a one-point game, the Raptors were outscored by 23 points in his 27 minutes, which I would have thought was impossible). Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche each grabbed five apiece even though neither ranked among the league’s top-65 in offensive rebound rate (said differently, neither would be a top-two offensive rebounder on a neutral team). Valanciunas and Chuck Hayes are great defensive rebounders but combined for just five in 36 minutes, and the trio of Lowry-DeRozan-Ross – normally all above-average on their own glass for their position – combined for just nine boards on the defensive end in 116 minutes.

The Raptors weren’t out-muscled, though. A couple, sure, and there were a couple of unlucky long rebounds, but the Raptors also lost track of players crashing and were caught ball-watching several times. Have a look:
oreb1 oreb2 oreb3 oreb4 oreb5 oreb6 oreb7A lot of little mistakes throughout the game that added up. I was going to do more (for example: why doubling the post just isn’t an acceptable option against a team that passes as well as Brooklyn, which means one Raptors wing is going to have to learn some post defense), but Synergy and video appear to be down right now.

Quite a few lessons to take away from this one, and enough to leave you frustrated since just a single one of these plays ending differently could have been the difference.

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  • bobjoe

    The most annoying thing about some of the ref complaints are from the new fans who literally don’t know the rules. I don’t know how many times I have to explain it’s not a defensive foul when the offensive player is initiating all the contact on a wild drive, or that it’s a legitimate block if you get all ball first. There is difficulty in calling a charge/block when a player is still sliding over while the other is already in the air, particularly without the aid of review. Hell, explaining traveling calls can be infuriating.

    It’s great to have new fans, but not when they’re so salty about a game they might not have played for more than a couple of years at primary school.

    It’s great to have new fans to the sport, but they need to realize just how difficult a game it is to ref. Watching non-Raptor games may illuminate this.

    It’s turrible to hear fans calling for the heads of refs or accuse of some inherit bias in this wonderful sport. When charlatans agree with one another, and hold up the accusations of a fraudster as proof, Toronto looks like a bunch of sore losers who can’t analyze their own issues and faults.

    • Heyjoe

      So care to explain why the refs gave DWill’s 6th foul to KG?

      • The Red Fury

        That was a bailout foul. KL is lucky that was called at all. KG put his arms around KL but no contact, then Dwill grabbed the ball and fell on Lowry. Lowry is lucky we didn’t lose that possession. He was out of control and got bailed out.

        • sampson3121

          you’re a fucking asshole, kyle was backing up and to the side when Williams grabbed at the ball three times and fell on top of him.loser!!

          • The Red Fury

            Not at all. He ran into KG and whistle was already called before DWill fell on him. Watch your language. This site is for discussion. Not swearing.

            • sampson3121

              sorry your wrong!!

              • The Red Fury

                I can tell by your attitude you must be a certified basketball referee. Full of insight and deep thought.

                • sampson3121

                  want deep thought, you’re an ignorant ass!
                  oh! and you’re wrong.

    • consmap

      “It’s turrible to hear fans…”
      Barkley, is that you? Thanks for supporting the Raps man. 🙂

  • feylines

    Getting really sick of reading the latest half-baked officiating conspiracy theories in the comments section of any raptors article. We (raptors fans) look like idiots and are starting to get a reputation among the U.S. media.

    • plaid coast

      i think the logical among us can see that the world does not revolve around raptors basketball, and that just because you don’t like something that’s happening, does not mean that the Evil Powers are out to get you.

      however, i also really don’t think it matters all that much what people are saying “in the comments section”. if you’re sick of reading about it, stop reading? and don’t worry, no one thinks you’re an idiot. the US media does not give a fuck about raptors fans.

      • sampson3121

        you just proved them right with your last comment.

    • robertparish00

      I don’t know about that…what type of reputation does Jason Kidd have with the US media…he complained $25 000 worth about the crap officiating. Does he look like an idiot? You can understand all the conspiracy theories because there was really bad officiating in the series.

      • Heyjoe

        Pretty sure Jason Kidd’s rep can be summed up as being a player that flopped and now a coach the flops (Hit me!).

    • WhiteVegas

      I live in the US, watch ESPN all then time, They aren’t talking about us at all.

      • bobjoe

        they get talked about as much as other small markets. I know Toronto is large, but to US advertisers it’s a small market since they don’t have a particularly large following in the US (relative to other small market teams).

        They gushed about how great the fan support was and how nice it is to see such passion from the fans.

    • sampson3121

      why did KG get the foul instead of Williams, who would have fouled out?
      that’s not a mistake, that’s called giving the win to the other team.

  • dribbles

    Tim Donaghy is full of crap, and there is no conspiracy, but that doesn’t change the fact that the way referees operate in the NBA necessarily works against teams like the Raptors. Is anyone going to dispute that those ticky tack fouls called on Amir would never be called on a player like KG? How many games were key players on the Raps like Lowry and Amir in foul trouble with so many questionable calls? If Deron Williams were Vasquez, you don’t think the refs might have given the proper 6th foul (I’m not saying that changed the outcome of the game).

    We can say the Raps didn’t lose because of the refs and broadly speaking that’s true. I can’t tell you the Raps deserved to win this series based on their play, but at the same time if Amir gets to play 35 minutes instead of 22, who the hell knows? He was beasting in that game 7, and he had ticky tack BS fouls called against him.

    This double standard of star vs. non star calls continues to be a black mark on the league, and in a game 7 especially, nobody should be getting those kinds of whistles.

    • Niagara_dude

      Well put, it was the time of the calls that killed the Raptors, getting JV in foul trouble in game 6 with ticky tack fouls went to his head and the young guy lost confidence going into game 7.The refs saw Amir come out in game 7 with more energy on the court then anyone and started racking-up fouls to get him under control.I will go as far to say that if Amir is on the court for that last play they score because he is the best on the team setting screens and holding his man back.There is no explanation for Deron Williams not to get his 6th foul late in the fourth, that is why I did not want to play this team.

  • ad

    This analysis illustrates what a poor coach casey is. He was outcoached by a rookie head coach! His dumb rotations, inability to draw up inbound plays, lack of offesnive sets have been longstanding themes throughout the season. I get the team exceeded expecatations but couldnt MU see the glaring flaws?? Other than the team playing hard, I dont know one other positive thing I can say about him. D wasnt good as well and thats supposed to be his specialty. This team needed a better coach and were stuck with casey now.

    • plaid coast

      well he got a bulldog, a bunch of scrubs, and a bunch of kids to set a franchise record number of wins in a season after LOSING 12 of their first 18 games. he’s also a nice guy, and everyone likes him. furthermore, that play was only one play in a long game and if you watched it then you probably remember that he actually drew up some really great plays before that coming out of time outs.

  • DL1119

    I still can’t wrap my head around DWill’s foul being “transferred” to Garnett.

    • bobjoe

      It’s more common than you’d think. Guys will argue to take credit, or ask their teammates to do it.
      I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens (particularly with vets) and refs are concerned about keeping the game going.

      • Brian

        Isn’t that kind of unacceptable though? In order for a ref to call a foul he has to see the foul right? So if he sees the foul it’s reasonable to assume he should know who committed the foul.

        The NBA is doing a disservice to all of it’s fans by not standing up and doing something about things like this, aren’t they? The refereeing is sub-par, even compared to the other 3 major North American sports, which is saying something because they all have their own issues.

        A couple of notes
        1) I’m just posting as a reply to you since you mentioned the “it’s common” thing, I’m not trying to say you’re part of the problem or something 🙂
        2) I’m not of the belief that there was ANY sort of conspiracy against the Raptors or for the Nets.

        • bobjoe

          In order for a ref to call a foul he has to see the foul right?

          You know how hard that is, and what it’s like when a vet comes up to the ref and says it was himself and not the other guy?

          The NBA is doing a disservice to all of it’s fans by not standing up and doing something about things like this, aren’t they? The refereeing is sub-par, even compared to the other 3 major North American sports, which is saying something because they all have their own issues.

          It’s a really difficult sport man. What other sport has possessions like the NBA, or is a partial-contact sport?

          • Brian

            I’m not saying it’s easy, and maybe I am being too hard on them. Every sport has nuances that make it difficult in it’s own way, contact or no contact. In baseball for example I’m amazed at how accurate most home plate umpires are at calling balls and strikes, I think they are somewhere around 90% (or more) correct, which when you’re talking about 100 MPH fastballs and 90 MPH sliders nibbling on the corners of the plate is pretty impressive.

  • The Red Fury

    Great article. There are so many people out there complaining about refs with very low basketball IQ. It needs to stop. Raps got outplayed for most of the game. How come no one is bringing up that Technical that KG got for basically doing nothing? This game was called even for both sides.

    • Heyjoe

      How come now one is bringing up the technical that KG got reversed because the refs pants get tight when they look at him?

      You can say I have low basketball IQ for complaining about garbage officiating but I will assure you that my basketball IQ isn’t terrible considering I played the game for about 15 years and I’ve watched ball for about 25.

      • The Red Fury

        In game 7 KG got a technical foul reversed? when?

        And just because you have played for many years does not mean you understand the rules. There are plenty of NBA players that travel on that first step all the time and get called for it. These are professionals making millions who still do not understand the rules. This is why players get played to play, and refs get paid to officiate. I am not saying that applies to you as I do not know you personally. But that foul on KG not going against Dwill is not the reason Raps lost the game. Raps were lucky to get that bailout call. And I thought the game was officiated very evenly. Raps were outplayed.

        • Heyjoe

          Don’t think it was game 7 but KG definitely got a reversal on a tech. This isn’t just about game 7, the entire series the refs were garbage and made some very very questionable calls in favor of the nets (Vasquez foul when Dwill panics out of bounds, one example of many).

          The foul being “transferred to KG” had a huge impact on teh outcome of the game. I”m not going to say Toronto would have won, because it’s all speculation. But it’s quit obvious that if Dwill was fouled out he wouldn’t have been the one guarding Lowry on the last play, for one thing, again though it’s all speculation as to what could have or would have happened if Dwill fouled out.

          • The Red Fury

            Well we disagree on the refs being garbage the entire series. There are always questionable calls and I saw a number of them in favour of the raps as well. JV exploited on defense, TRoss not being himself for 6 of 7 games, and Casey not making necessary adjustments on JJ cost us the series. Experience played a factor and next year they will take it to the 2nd round. Book it. Love this team.

  • morganc

    Man, the fact that DC called the final play for the wrong end of the floor is pretty bad…

  • WhiteVegas

    Has anyone actually read the Donnaghy book? Everyone is so quick to dismiss everything they “think” he said, without actually knowing what he said. In the book, he details how the NBA prefers close games and game 7’s. This NBA playoffs had a record amount of both of those. As you even pointed out in your article, change one call from Amir to Joe Johnson and the Raptors probably win that game. One freaking call. It’s pretty damn easy for the refs to influence the games in subtle ways. Now, one game in and of itself is not proof of anything. I’m looking at the big picture, where there were a record amount of game 7’s, and all the teams that won those game 7’s are the teams the NBA would likely prefer in the 2nd round. Again, not proof of anything yet, but there’s a little too much smoke to say there’s no way there could be a fire.

  • Joey Drummond

    One note on that last play; take another look, and watch the way Patterson aggressively slips the screen off DWill and slides into the post. I really think the play was drawn for him. Patterson had terrific post position, and had Lowry been able to threat a pass down to him, Patterson would have had an easy hook shot over the smaller Pierce. Who knows, but the more I watch the play and watch Patterson, the more I feel like it was the intended option. If we assume, for argument’s sake (our only ‘sake’ left at this point), that this was indeed the first option, maybe Lowry felt like once he was doubled that he didn’t have room to thread the pass down to Patterson, and instead took it in himself. The entire floor spacing seemed designed to give one player deep post position, and Patterson was perfect to that point from the floor and the FT line.

    Kind of cathartic to discuss, but man, I just can’t let it go. Watching the Wizards-Pacers last night really makes me angry that the Raps ain’t still playing.

    On a separate note, I tweeted back before the trade deadline that with the East being so historically weak, that the Raps should consider trading Salmons’ expiring, TRoss, and a 2nd rounder for Thaddeus Young (the trade numbers work). Imagine Joe Johnson trying to muscle Thad Young. Hindsight 20-20, sure, but the east is getting better and this year would have been a great year to try and make some noise, plus Thad Young is great, versatile player – he’d be a strong 3 in a big line-up with Jonas and Amir, and he’d also look good at the 4 with Amir at the 5, if the Raps went smaller. I love TRoss, but sometimes you have to give value to get value.

  • Brian

    Since we’re discussing officials, I thought this was a great read and figured I’d share it here.

    • The Red Fury

      This was fantastic. Bookmarked it!

  • Fenny Famous

    What the hell happened to JV in that last game?

  • sampson3121

    evidence the refs wanted the Nets to win….Williams should have fouled out, and they gave the foul instead to KG.
    Kyle takes a charge and is called for blocking.
    next play Demar get’s called for charging.
    all this in the last 8 mins of play….what was the finale score? 104 to 103? oh!
    what a shame that refs and the league control the out come of games like that.

    • The Red Fury

      Kyle did not take a charge. He slid under the player while he was already elevating into the air which is illegal defence. This is why he was called for block. On other end, net player was very set when Demar charged him. Please educate yourself on the rules of the game.

  • Niagara_dude

    Karma is a bitch and the Nets will regret thinking that tanking would give them a easy series against a young Raptor team.They will now suffer, very tired and beaten down after playing the Raptors to play a well rested Heat team.Hey Kidd maybe winning that last game would have put you in a more winnable bracket.KARMA TIME KIDD ENJOY!

    • (͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

      word, they could be facing Indiana, but now they’re all worn down and facing Miami.

  • Niagara_dude

    The Nets will regret tanking so they could play the Raptors (was not as easy as Kidd thought).This team is old and tired after playing Raptors for seven tough games and now they will be rewarded by playing a well rested Miami 3 games in 5 nights.Good luck with that Kidd, it is what you wanted and played for.

  • Truth Teller

    It always looks better on the otherside. I agree that if the Raptors won, then the Nets fans would get to argue how they were screwed over. JV got some ticky tacky calls, but he put himself in bad situations. There is no conspiracy against the Raptors. The NBA would not risk something as small as that to ruin the reputation of the league.

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