Falling Victim to a Scheme

7 mins read
Photo Source: Raptors.com

Scratching, clawing, and coming up short against the very short-handed Heat.

It’s okay, you can skim. No one is watching, just pick something you like.

  • The Heat’s inverted zone is particularly dangerous against this Raptors team. By inverted zone, I mean the Heat play their lengthy wings at the top and their guards at the bottom. It really restricts access to the middle of the floor and does a great job of funneling a lot of shot attempts above the break. The Heat may have been short-handed, but they still had the defenders to implement the zone the way they wanted to, and the Raptors had trouble breaking it all game. Ultimately, it culminated in a stretch of play that lasted over 5 minutes without a bucket in the fourth quarter as the Heat pulled away. The Raptors were 11-35 on above the break threes. 3-times as many attempts as anywhere else on the floor.
  • Baynes has now strung together a few decent defensive games in a row. The Raptors struggled on offense and Baynes was never going to be a full-fix on that end, but he provided meaningful minutes against Bam Adebayo. OG Anunoby was great in stretches, but it’s a lot to ask him to spend 30+ minutes on a big who’s as physically imposing as Adebayo. Baynes is rounding into form somewhat.
  • Siakam’s numbers are a bit inflated, and the Raptors missed his potency dearly in this one. The Raptors shot 47-percent at the rim in this one (the Heat shot 63-percent w/ 6 more makes) and while Siakam made up 6 of the 14 shots made in the paint, he didn’t attack often enough to affect the shell of the Miami zone. He’s 2-20 from downtown over his last 5 games, and every team has started to gap him defensively. He doesn’t have a way to punish defenses that are sitting low against him, and both he and the Raptors are missing a huge facet of their offense. He isn’t a sub-25-percent 3-point shooter so it should come around, but it’s an absolute slog right now. The fall after he got fouled (and no call) is just horrible luck. At least he was able to return to the game, but repeated injuries (groin) are never a good thing.

With (bottom) and without (top) Siakam’s shots included.

  • The Raptors are still having trouble playing consistent defense. The Raptors have incorporated more switching into their scheme to simplify things, but they’re still getting beat a little bit too often. The switching put a pin in the dangerous DHO actions the Heat run with Adebayo at the helm, but Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic were able to get downhill regularly with simple pick n’ rolls. The Heat possess better pick n’ roll players than the Hornets, and better ancillary options than the Mavericks. Luka Doncic was able to break down the Raptors defense, but his supporting cast wasn’t able to hit the open shots afforded to them. The Hornets had trouble beating the Raptors off-the-dribble with any of their primary actions, but were successful when flowing into second-side-action. The Heat were getting looks directly out of their primary action, and their shooters were hitting their shots. It’s really tough to keep up with a team that slings 18 threes in at 45-percent, especially when you’re not scoring well yourself.
  • OG Anunoby has turned the corner. The shooting is there. The occasional foray into the paint via dribble-drive is there, and he’s an absolute menace defensively. He’s hitting contested jumpers, switching out on defense and dominating, and finishing through contact at the rim. He looks fantastic.
  • Lowry started the game out gangbusters, but fatigue set in quickly. The legs weren’t in his jumper and he built a brickhouse. He still did an admirable job of pushing, though. VanVleet was tireless in his push to create offense for the Raptors, though. I lament VanVleet’s ability to create looks at the rim for teammates or himself – and it’s a valid concern – but the Heat were loaded up and he worked every second he was on-ball in an attempt to create anything for his team. The pull-up from mid-range continues to look excellent.

Couple of Quotes

“While we’re happy to get the other guy out of there, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Whoever it is, whatever politicians are in those positions have to do more than they’ve been doing. Hopefully we can go in a better direction.” – Fred VanVleet on Inauguration Day. 

No matter your political proclivities “Politicians should be doing more” should resonate.

This is a tough one to lose. Do we have rose-tinted glasses on? How meaningful is the win against Dallas, who were missing 4 of their top-7 players, when the Heat sans Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley, Tyler Herro, and Meyers Leonard come in and handle the Raptors? It’s not that the Raptors are finding opportunities to string together a winning streak, teams are falling apart in front of them. They have to take advantage. If they don’t, it’s fair to question just how high this team sits in the wider NBA hierarchy. The Heat are still competitive without the aforementioned group of players, but if the Raptors are supposed to ascend past “treadmill team” these are games they should win.

A rematch with Miami awaits. After that, the Pacers and Nate Bjorkgren. The Raptors continue to keep fans and analysts alike guessing about what kind of team they are.

Have a blessed day.


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