Raptors News

Shootaround news & notes: Raptors looking to take home-court back

Raptors Republic is not traveling with the Toronto Raptors for the first round of the playoffs, which means we weren’t at shootaround on Thursday. Luckily, the team practiced in Toronto yesterday, and so most of what needed to be said was already covered. Some on the beat were kind enough to pass along what was said at the morning session, anyway, so a thank you to them, and now a shift in format, with a quick smattering of quotes.

On potential Bucks adjustments

The Raptors moved the ball much better against Milwaukee’s traps in Game 2, and it led to a steady diet of high-quality 3-point attempts. The Raptors shooters knocked those down, and the Bucks now face a tough question for Game 3: Let them keep firing, or adjust a hyper-aggressive system they’ve stuck with through its weaknesses in order to limit Toronto’s long-range shooting.

“If they try to do that, something else will open,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You give something or take away something, it’s on us to figure out what it is we can get, or what it is we can take away. That’s the beauty of the game, it’s always like chess or whatever you want to play. It’s still a game at the end of the day that’s on you to figure out the options you can attack.”

The idea of Milwaukee loosening up on ball-handlers probably won’t come to fruition. They’ve already had difficulty keeping DeRozan and Kyle Lowry off of the free-throw line, and given the inconsistency of threes in general and the Raptors’ shooters in particular, it seems likely that Jason Kidd will live with non-All-Stars trying to beat them. And again, we’ve said this, but the Bucks defense seems, logically, like one that can be learned over the course of the series, and DeRozan would seem to agree.

“After Game 1 you become more conscious of it. You understand how to attack it, how to be more aggressive,” he said of Milwaukee’s length. “Try to limit his space of being able to block shots, little things like that. Just be more aggressive and kind of read it.”

Playing up on the road

In each of their two series victories last year, the Raptors coughed up home court in the first game but went on to win Game 3 and take it back. Head coach Dwane Casey is a believer that it’s a sign of experience, and it sounds as if he expects that to be an edge on Thursday.

“On the road, that’s where it shows up,” Casey said of experience. “You don’t get rattled, you keep your composure, you play to your identity. You don’t come out and try to do something you don’t normally do. That’s where experience shows up. Every experienced team I’ve been around, on the road is where it shows up.”

Now, that’s a bit of a slightly flawed argument in this series since the inexperienced Bucks also won on the road, but it’s good to have belief in your guys. The Raptors also owned a 23-18 mark on the road during the regular season, tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks, meanwhile, had that same record at home.

Gerald Henderson Award

Somewhat predictably, Tony Snell would be the winner of the Gerald Henderson Award for the series so far. As a former Chicago Bull and established inexplicable Raptor killer, Snell fits the bill. That he’s a strong 3-point shooter the Raptors keep losing as play comes back the other way exacerbates that issue.

“They found him in transition,” Casey said. “We gave up 26 transition points, and we’ve got to cut that down and do a better job of getting back to find him. He had two threes in transition. Half-court play, we’ve got to be better in getting back to him. He’s a good shooter, we know that. We know what it takes to guard him. We’ve just got to have attention to detail to make sure we get to him and close out quicker.”

That Kidd opted not to play Snell down the stretch in Game 2 was one of his more curious decisions. Snell should factor in more Thursday if his jumper is falling again.

Open Gym

Can we show some love for the consistent excellence (and super-quick turnaround time) of the Open Gym series? How 29 other teams haven’t ripped this concept off and given their fans this sort of intimate look inside the franchise is beyond me. The latest playoff mini-episode is terrific, as usual.

Other Notes

  • The NBA released the Last Two Minute Report for Game 1, and the Bucks got away with a pair of infractions. On Giannis Antetokounmpo’s late post-up on Kyle Lowry, the NBA deemed Antetokounmpo should have been whistled for an offensive foul for extending his arm into Lowry. Late in that same possession, Khris Middleton should have been called for a traveling violation for lifting his pivot foot at the start of his dribble. No harm done, I suppose.
  • Here’s a random link I don’t pass on to make people mad but just to share: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both rank among the league’s worst offenders in terms of getting back after a play, whether due to falling on a drive or complaining to the referees or what have you. The excellent Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight took a look, and while the list is star-dominated, DeRozan (seventh) and Lowry (eighth) ranking so high is at least notable in a series where all the talk has been about transition defense.
  • The Bucks have just an awesome shirt giveaway and aesthetic for the game tonight. Just, seriously good work here.

  • If any Raptor fans are going to be in Milwaukee, hit Kat up on Twitter. As always, the Raptors want to play up how awesome the fan base is and how well they travel, and you’ll probably get some Twitter/IG/pre-game love if you’re representing out there.

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