Breaking It Down

Breakdown: Raptors d. Wizards, Nov. 24

Raptors 125, Wizards 107


  • The Raptors played well in spurts, and finally shot the ball well from 3 to comfortably defeat the Wizards at home.
  • In the first half, the Raptors picked the Wizards apart in the ball screen. Eventually the Wizards adjusted and found success, but the Raptors were able to again find success. I’ll break that down below.
  • Defensively, the Raptors had some lackadaisical moments in transition D, losing sight of the ball in the half court, and giving up offensive boards that let the Wizards get back into the game in the 3rd quarter.
  • However, their coaching staff did a masterful job again of splitting up JV and Serge to best use their strengths against the Wizards bigs, which limited the Wizards success in the ball screen.
  • Kawhi was very good in this game both as a scorer and as a decision maker.


  • The most notable area of the game on the offensive side tonight was how the Raptors were able to get easy looks out of the ball screen.
  • In the first half, and specifically the end of the first quarter, Washington was a mess in the ball screen and the Raptors scored in a variety of different ways. At the beginning of the second half, Washington adjusted and forced JV to be the decision maker when he caught the ball on the roll which slowed down the Raptors. Eventually the Raptors countered by letting the ball handler be the decision maker and  using JV as a decoy to collapse the defense on his roll, which they found success with. Let’s look at this broken down:

Wizards Ball Screen D in the 1st Half 

The wizards were very unorganized and undisciplined in their ball screen defense in the first half. On this play, Satoranski, who is covering Lowry, takes a horrible route and allows Lowry to get free in the paint. This causes the nail defender to help, which leaves a 2 on 1 on the offside, leading to an OG 3.

In this clip, Morris completely locks in on Lowry and loses sight of the roll. Beal compensates by attempting to rotate to Serge, but Morris also recovers to Serge, and no one picks up OG for the dunk.

Beal decides that on this play, but not any others, he’s going to go under the ball screen, and VanVleet makes him pay

Again, the Wizards are just not on the same page. Morris switches the ball screen, but Satoransky doesn’t protect the roller and therefore the offside low man, Oubre, has to help at the basket and the Raptors get a wide open 3 in the corner. This situation was either A. Morris wasn’t supposed to switch or B. Satoransky, Morris and Oubre were in the right spots, but Beal wasn’t ready to X out (leave his man to cover Oubre’s man) on the skip to the corner. I tend to lean towards thinking it was scenario A.

Wizards Adjustment in the 3rd Quarter

The Wizards decided that they were going to collapse very hard on the roll to start the 3rd quarter, and the Raptors took some time before they countered it effectively. In this clip, you’ll see how loaded up the Wizards are and they make it very difficult for JV to make a quick pass once he receives the ball on the roll. He is able to fight through it on this possession but Green misses an open shot.

Again, they are funnelling the ball to the roll and collapsing hard. Another empty possession which led to a turnover and transition the other way.

The Wizards continued to bait the Raptors into hitting JV on the roll and were very loaded up won his catchl. JV just doesn’t react quick enough and the Wizards force him into a difficult pass which again is turned over.

The Raptors Adjustment

Part of the issue the Raptors had early in the 3rd was Lowry not recognizing the collapse on JV and not seeing the advantage the Wizards were giving on perimeter kick outs. So, the adjustment the Raptors made was how they read the ball screen and who was using the ball screen. They simply stopped letting JV be the decision maker on the roll, used Kawhi instead of Lowry, and let Kawhi make the read.

Kawhi was able to use his size and height to then recognize the collapse on the roll and  attacked the offside 2-for-1 defender. Notice here how Wall is covering 2 Raptors, and Kawhi chooses who to go to. Also, it helps that Wall didn’t try very hard.

This time its VanVleet who is the decision maker, and makes the same read as Kawhi in the previous play. The difference is OG spaces to the dunkers spot instead of the 3, forcing the 2-for-1 defender to make an even more difficult decision between OG and CJ on the 3. Unfortunately OG couldn’t finish the dunk.

Defense – How the Raptors use JV and Serge Defending the Ball Screen

  • Credit needs to be given to the Raptors coaching staff for how effectively they managed JV and Serge on the defensive end, and more specifically, how they managed their strengths and weakness defending the ball screen.
  • In this game, the coaching staff always had JV on the floor when Bryant was on the floor for the Wizards, and the same for Serge and Morris.
  • By doing this, JV was never put in an unfavourable situation where he had to close out to a popping shooter on the 3 (Bryant is an 11% 3 pt shooter) and was able to drop on every ball screen and protect the rim effectively:

Watch JV defend this possession – he is constantly retreating and clogging the paint on the initial ball screen and subsequently on the DHO.

Notice JV here – he is able to drop towards the rim with no concern of having to sprint out to the 3. He is a much better defender at the basket than he is closing out to shooters.

Again, JV can allow the ball handler to get deep and contest the floater from 8 feet, not worrying about Bryant popping.

  • When Bryant wasn’t in the game and the Wizards had Morris (34% 3pt shooter) setting ball screens, the Raptors countered with Ibaka who, because of his athletic abilities, can stay higher on his drop of the ball screen allowing him to closeout to Morris on the pop.

Ibaka drops on the ball screen, but because of his length and athleticism can contest the pop to Morris. He is much more suited to cover these types of offensive players than JV.

Notice in this clip how Serge can discourage the initial drive on the ball screen, as well as discourage Morris to shoot the 3 on the pop.

Lastly, Serge gives the Raptors the luxury of being able to effectively switch onto guards in late shot clock situations.


  • The Raptors continue to try and give OG more opportunities offensively to expand his skill set. Tonight they ran their equivalent of the Kyle-Kawhi ball screen with VanVleet and OG to try and isolate OG on a smaller guard. It didn’t turn out well, but its encouraging to see that the Raptors have the foresight of giving OG offensive touches that will allow him to build experience, hopefully becoming more than just a 3 point shooter.
  • One area the Raptors can potentially be exposed on the defensive end is by diving the offensive player who’s defender is at the nail. I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it happened 3 times in this game and is worth keeping an eye on:

There are 3 clips merged into 1 here, and in each clip you’ll notice the nail defender lose sight of his man and get beaten on a back door cut. The Raptors have found success defending the nail this way and recovering to the shooter on the 3, but teams are starting to counter this by diving the shooter.

  • And another great pass from Delon:


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