Questions Aplenty As Raps Lay Another Egg

Cavs 103, Raps 92 – Box
Can we PLEASE just talk about Steph Curry instead? PLEASE?

No? Okay. Arsenalist said no. Raptors it is. And what a terrible performance it was. For the record, Steph Curry had all of the swishes, and also put to rest any concerns about his ankles by taking Raymond Felton’s as his own. What a game.

But sadly, we’re a Raptors site. Let’s start with the obvious: Any ridiculous hope any of us were holding out that the Raptors could still make the playoffs should be put to rest. Coming into the week four games out, Washington and Cleveland (especially without Kyrie Irving) had to be circled as “must-wins” on the calendar. Instead, the Raptors laid a pair of eggs while the Bucks won a pair of tough roadies, stretching their lead to a nearly insurmountable six games with just 24 to play.

So that’s out of the way.

As for Wednesday’s game, it was atrocious on a few levels, bad on some others, and had two bright spots. Let’s start with those before I lose my cool on Dwane Casey in the negatives.

Jonas Valanciunas is going to be an excellent NBA player. The guy does so many smart things already (or perhaps, “right” things) and all that’s really missing is a bit more IQ at each end, which will come from experience. Right now, Jonas has “set the screen, dive so hard with my hands up” down pat. The unfortunate part is that he rarely receives a pass there. He has also already learned that if he doesn’t receive said pass, his job isn’t done – multiple times he went from the roll into setting a baseline screen to free up a wing. And when he isn’t involved in the initial action of the play, he can usually be found moving or trying to establish on the block – twice he recognized a switch and tried to post Speights but wasn’t fed the rock. It’s in the team’s best interest to get him the ball more, both as a reward for his hard work and to help him develop his offensive game. The fact that he played 24 good minutes and got just four touches is maddening, especially since he had three offensive boards to extend possessions.

jonas open1

DeMar DeRozan had maybe his most efficient scoring game as a pro. DeRozan did some things, especially in the third quarter, that were harmful to the overall flow of the team. He took a few contested jumpers when he was “feeling it,” and also dished to teammates late in the clock (effectively passing the missed attempt tally from his box score line to someone else’s). But when you score 34 points on 19 shots, you get a gold star from me. DeRozan had previously scored more points three times, but took 21, 27 and 33 shots to reach 37, 36 and 37 points, respectively. On Wednesday he went 10-of-17 on twos, missed a pair of threes and went 14-of-15 at the line. He scored 34 points on 29 possessions (he had scored 37 on 29 on New Year’s Eve 2010, so perhaps this was his second most efficient outing). His shot chart, below, doesn’t do his game justice since he had so many damn free throw attempts. You don’t like to see that many mid-range jumpers, sue, but if free throw attempts were marked where the foul took place, the paint would be flooded in that image.
derozan chart feb27
Now, I promised some bad stuff so LET’S TALK SOME BAD STUFF.

Dwane Casey…go home, you’re drunk.

Casey’s rotations have been frustrating for many fans this year, but it may have hit a boiling point for me on Wednesday. Let’s look at a few different elements.

Using the bench as if this is hockey. Casey tends to sub in a handful of bench players in short order, playing extended periods of time with very few starters on the floor. This would make sense if the team had two even sets, but they most certainly do not, with probably their five best players all starting. Instead, Casey went with lineups that included two or fewer starters for nine and a half minutes. In those nine and a half minutes the Raptors were outscored by 19 (!!) points. Units with four or more starters played 33.5 minutes and outscored the Cavaliers by 18, and units with three starters played five minutes and were outscored by 10. Obviously, you can’t play all of your starters all game, but it’s pretty easy to create a substitution pattern that gets your bench guys a combined 56 minutes (what they got tonight, which is probably a reasonable total) without forcing them all to play together.


Setting Bargnani up to fail. This isn’t more #SupportAndrea crap. This is just straight up common sense. If you have an asset that is struggling, it probably makes the most sense to try and put him in situations where he can succeed. Instead, of Bargnani’s 16 minutes, six came when Bargnani was the only big on the floor. After seven years, we KNOW these configurations don’t work. On defense, Bargnani needs a strong help defender to make up for the fact that he only holds any value in man situations and can’t be the help guy. On offense, Bargnani playing to the outside means that when he’s the only big, the paint is left unattended and offensive rebounds are merely a rumour. Guess how these configurations did? 10 minutes with Bargnani paired with Valanciunas or Johnson? Outscored the Cavs. Six minutes where Bargs was the lone big? Outscored by 16. C’mon Casey – at least deploy the guy in ways that can help him (and the team). For the record, just so you don’t think this is a one game thing: on the year, when Bargnani is the lone big (60 minutes), the Raptors are outscored by about 17 points per 100 possessions. When he’s accompanied by another big? 765 minutes, outscored by just four points per 100 possessions.

bargs noboard

Jonas’s minutes. The kid is earning them. Since returning from injury, he’s played 30 minutes just twice in 12 games, averaging just 19 minutes a game. If the opponent doesn’t have a line-up that makes sense to go small against (like the Knicks), keep the kid in the game.

Okay, enough about Casey. I think I’ve made my point, and I’m sure people will chime in in the comments (they already have in the comments of my Quick Reaction). Actually you know what? One more:

Not stopping a run. Raptors lead 21-7 eight minutes into the game. Bargnani comes in for Johnson. A few seconds later, Fields enters for Valanciunas. Seconds later, Anderson comes in for DeRozan and then Lucas for Lowry. The score is closed to 25-20 by the end of the frame (that’s a 13-4 run). No timeouts were called (except at 23-9 when there was no issue yet), and for the sake of fairness, Valanciunas had picked up his second foul. But that 13-4 run was stretched all the way to a 20-8 run before Casey called a timeout (two minutes into the second). That’s a 20-8 run over six minutes with only the quarter break to try and settle things down.

Again. Raptors trail 73-71 eight minutes into the third quarter. Aaron Gray checks in for Jonas and shortly after, Bassy checks in for Lowry. Anderson subs in for Gay after a few misses on both sides. Cleveland goes on a 7-0 run over this four minute period, but Casey has the quarter break to work things out. DeRozan is back in for Gray, and Lowry and Bargs will check in during this span (for Telfair and Amir). Just inside the nine-minute mark, Casey finally calls a timeout, stuck 15. That’s a 13-0 run over seven minutes with only the quarter break to try and settle things down.

And you know what? That’s 1,300 words, so let’s call it a post-game at that. Jonas good, DeMar good, Casey bad. It wasn’t all Casey’s fault, of course, as Gay’s shot selection was poor late in the game and, you know, it’s also on the bench players to DO SOMETHING when in the game. Casey may have mismanaged the rotations and failed to stop runs, but all of the bench players still played horrible basketball, and that’s out of his control.

I’m sure I missed some stuff, so check that quick react and discuss in the comments. I know this might seem like a slam piece on Casey, and perhaps it is, but for the most part I have stuck with the players when I do my articles and these post-games, so I was due for a rant. Casey isn’t a bad coach, but he needs help with player rotations.There’s nothing wrong with having a blind spot, just address it.

I’m off to Boston for four days. Everyone be kind to Arse as he runs the site solo for the weekend!

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