The Raptors lost Game 2. They had their worst performance from downtown since January. One of the NBA’s resident marksmen, Danny Green went 1-6 on threes and five attempts were wide-open. He even missed the shot that would’ve given the Raptors the lead and thrown this series into a frenzy. The 76ers threw a wrench at the Raptors offensive game-plan, and these things really stacked on top of one another. I mean, there are problems, but just a bit of late game shooting would’ve actually put the Raptors up two games to zero. Green does this stuff for a living:
I mentioned last night that Danny Green always seems to come up big with timely 3s in crunch time. Here are some of those from this season, including a huge one last night. pic.twitter.com/OO4Ak8Pf9S
— Lior Kozai (@Lior_Kz) March 3, 2019
Even though the Raptors endured a strange amount of missed shots, that wasn’t really the reason they lost the game. The good shots they created and missed were just fine. The game was lost in other areas, some of them are trends, others are brand new. Regardless, they were problematic for the Raptors, and more often their offense than defense.
Ga(sol)tta be more aggressive
*Gatta, like a Chicago accent? No?
It was painfully clear what the 76ers were trying to do defensively. Even though they suggested they wouldn’t change anything prior to tipoff, they changed everything. Ben Simmons took the Leonard matchup and did very well with it, and the 76ers dedicated themselves to their base drop package in the pick n’ roll and out of DHO’s. This left Gasol with tons of space above-the-break, and the ball. More often than not that resulted in Gasol passing up an open look and handing the ball off to one of VanVleet/Lowry/Siakam. This never really created an advantage at the rim as Embiid was hanging back. When Gasol turns those shots down, he’s turning down the only opportunity the Raptors have to change the type of defense Embiid has to play.
Even though he misses, this is the shot to take going forward. He should be hoisting it up and trusting in his jumper (he’s 10-21 in the playoffs so far). Generally, he would swing it to the closest available perimeter player, and that player would then try to iso against the set 76ers defense with Embiid lurking in the paint. It was tough.
Secondly for Gasol, he should take advantage of Tobias Harris when he gets the switch in the post. They shade heavily towards him, and are very quick to double if he gets too deep. What offense doesn’t like when really good passers get doubled? Doubling Gasol should be a death sentence for the 76ers because of his passing chops. Put the 76ers in more positions where they have to shake and move on defense. That starts with Gasol’s aggression in some play-types.
With Embiid being a game-time decision with an illness, and the 76ers relying less on his offense as a result, the disparity between the Gasol-Ibaka checking Embiid minutes weren’t as big a contrast as in Game 1. However, it is beyond apparent that Nurse needs to make his first adjustment of the playoffs, and match Gasol with Embiid. It’s confusing as to why he’s neglected to do so, so far.
Serge Ibaka is a good player, and he’s better than 90-percent of bench bigs across the NBA. He can outplay Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic the same way Gasol can. He can work on the glass, he can stretch them out with his pick n’ pop game, and he can compete. He can win those matchups. He can’t guard Embiid the same way Gasol does. It’s really that simple. Embiid causes a boatload of problems for Ibaka defensively, and he’s yet to give Gasol a tough time on back to back possessions through two games. The move isn’t to trust Ibaka to matchup with Embiid, it’s to trust that Ibaka will win his matchups with the 76ers bench bigs, which looms large after they lost the bench battle by over 20-points in Game 2.
The Meek(s) shall inherit the earth
No minutes in a playoff game are inconsequential. Avoid playing players for tiny stretches. Avoid trying to shave 30 seconds off of a players eventual playtime by the end of the game. Jodie Meeks was a -4 in one minutes of play. It’s not even his fault, he tried his best, but he’s not as good as the players above him. This is the playoffs, you shorten the rotation and you play the players a bit longer sometimes.
The decision to maintain the status quo in the middle of the fourth quarter – leave Gasol and Leonard on the bench – after Brett Brown called a time-out is truly, truly puzzling. This was only compounded by Leonard getting off his seat to check in moments after Nurse elected to leave him on the bench. Was he genuinely trying to shave 42 seconds off of Leonard’s play-time? Do we think that 42 seconds makes or breaks his stamina by the final buzzer? The only thing we know for sure is that Nurse left Leonard/Gasol/Green on the bench after a timeout, and then subbed them in after surrendering a 4-0 run in the next half-minute. Sometimes you just have to play your best players heavy minutes.
In a very obtuse and pedantic way, I look at what’s written above and it seems like Nurse figured out how to give up 8-points in a minute and a half. It’s not that simple, but it’s not very far from the truth.
If the Raptors (Nurse, mostly) employ these changes, as well as, you know, hitting a decent amount of their shots (not the worst percentage in months) then I think they’ll be okay. All of what I’m saying comes with the caveat of acknowledging that Nurse knows far more about basketball than me, as does Gasol and the rest of everyone associated with the Raptors. The Raptors have likely discussed all of these things a million times over internally, I just think that these are some adjustments that need to be made, and I’m confident it’s the right thing to do.
Have a blessed day.