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The Problem With Pace

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We’re in a rough stretch at the moment.  Life as a Toronto Raptors fan has always had its ups and downs, with the ups paling in comparison to the incredible downs.  That might be what makes this current down stretch so difficult to accept.  Just a few months ago the Raptors looked like a completely different team than they do now.

Fans are reacting in the exact way that one would expect after years of torture: begging for a tank, calling for firings (both Casey and Masai…don’t ask me why Masai), calls for the hiring of people like Mark Jackson, etc.  The Stockholm Syndrome runs deep within all long-term Raptor faithful.  The deep passion for a team that has so many times let us down, but that we are perpetually faithful to despite so much evidence to the contrary.

I don’t know what’s more foolish, to ask for Masai’s job, or to think that someone like Mark Jackson could be the solution for a team that often appears to need more creativity.

The absurdity of the current situation is that it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with the Raptors.  Why the sudden downfall?  Why is it that after months of competing against some of the top teams in the NBA, Toronto suddenly can’t even take advantage of a Pelicans’ team that was missing both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday?

2015 has been an absolute mess, and the majority of the attention to date has been about the Raptors struggle on the defensive side of the ball.  They allow straight line drives to almost anyone, no matter how slow or uncoordinated, and regularly lose track of key offensive players (Kyle Korver being left wide open in order to cover Thabo Sefelosha).

These defensive issues, coupled with the turnover increase leading to fastbreak points, have been a serious handicap for Toronto, but the offensive side has been equally problematic in recent weeks.

Since January 1, the Raptors are scoring 6.7 fewer points per game than they had earlier in the season.  This number becomes even more drastic when looking at scoring based on per 100 possessions.  Prior to January 1, Toronto was scoring at a rate of 111.7 points per 100 possessions, while they are now scoring just 101.9 points per 100 possessions…a difference of 9.8 points.

It’s not just that they are scoring less; the efficiency has also taken a serious hit since the turn of the New Year. Granted, the negative turn started gradually before this date, but when looking at stats I wanted to just focus on the immediate problem at hand.

The more things seem to go wrong for Toronto, the faster they seem to play.  Since January 1, Toronto is using an average of 98.86 possessions per game, good for the 5th fastest pace in the NBA.  Prior to January 1, their average was just 95.37 possessions per game, the 12th slowest pace during the same period.

Toronto’s style and effectiveness have dwindled over the past few weeks as their pace has quickened.

Possessions Shots Hit Shots Missed % of Shots from 3 FTA/Game
Prior to Jan. 1 95.37 44.06 51.31 28.9 25.9
After Jan. 1 98.86 44.98 53.88 32.6 21.9

 

More shots, more forced shots from deep, fewer free throws.

Their struggling offense plays a big part on their defensive woes.  The less efficient the offense (more missed shots, fewer free throws, faster pace, etc.) means the less opportunity the Raptors have to get set in their defensive rotations.

At least part of the reason for Toronto’s newly struggling offense is coaching.  The Raptors run a rather simple scheme that relies heavily on screens from the wing, and based on recent play I can’t help but feel that other coaches have caught on to what the Raptors are trying to do.

But even bigger than coaching might be pace.  The Raptors have been rushing and pace is one of the biggest statistical changes the Raptors are facing.  Toronto just doesn’t seem equipped to play at such a fast pace, and needs to show some patience in their game.

 

*Note: all stats are from prior to last night’s game against in Milwaukee

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