My favourite plays from each game in the win streak

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 03: OG Anunoby #3 and Pascal Siakam #43 celebrate a three pointer from Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors late in overtime of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on February 3, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

It was a really, really fun week of hoops. Let’s revel in it a little bit.

Some of these plays are emblematic of the game they represent as a whole, and some others are just really fun offensive wrinkles or standout plays.

Raptors 127, Bulls 120 OT

Okay, so this sequence is what sealed the win against the Bulls in overtime for the Raptors. The first play is a spread pick n’ roll with both corners filled, where Vucevic is hedging, VanVleet passes a bit too far behind Boucher, and Javonte Green does a hell of a job to climb back into the play to break it up. Dosunmu wants to jumpstart transition really bad, and forces a pass to Lavine, which Trent Jr. jumps for a steal (well done, mate). The Raptors reset and hold the ball for a set play: Spain Leak (a variation of the Spain pick n’ roll, which the Russ-PG Thunder used to use all the time). Lavine stops the ball, Dosunmu pursues for too long, and Vucevic is dropping and unable to split the difference between Boucher and Trent Jr. A miscommunication, and one the Raptors were really happy to take advantage of.

Raptors 106, Hawks 100

Fixing the hot hand. Already 3 games into his 30+ stretch, Trent Jr. went 3-11 in the first half against the Hawks, largely on shots that he created off the bounce. With Siakam playing only 4 minutes in the first quarter due to foul trouble and VanVleet and Anunoby combining to go 2-9 from the field, the Raptors leaned as hard as they could on Trent Jr.’s shot creation and he did his best to inject the offense with life off of his pull-up (he took 9 in the first half). Good recognition by the Raptors to take the load off of him while still leveraging his shooting talent. Running some set plays to turn him loose and get the groove going. Five of his next six attempts from downtown were set shots, and 3 of those came while centering him as the primary option in a set action.

He ran to the corner in transition for one make, spaced to the corner in the halfcourt for another, and came off a pin-in for the third. Below, you’ll find the Raptors running him off staggered down screens for one look, and the ‘Spain Leak’ look that they like to free him up with for another. He shot 7-11 in the second half, with 7 made threes.

Raptors 125, Hawks 114

This one is a bit simpler, but it ties into the Raptors game plan as a whole. Part of defending Trae Young (I broke it down here) is tiring him out on the defensive end. That means that VanVleet bears the responsibility of locking him up on one end, and brutalizing him on the other. I love this play (spread pick n’ roll) in particular because it combines one of VanVleet’s most impressive progressions from this year – hunting and hitting middies – with him force-feeding Young his own medicine. Putting a defender in jail is one of Young’s favourite techniques in the ‘pnr’ and VanVleet unleashing it on him was fantastic.

Raptors 110, Heat 106

Coach Nurse has often talked about dynamic playmaking from his players. He wants a read and react system that rewards good reads against moving defenses. These plays are involving the Raptors best players in situations where they thrive, and VanVleet in a position to deliver the ball to the best option. It’s also an example of how important it is to occupy the strong-side and weak-side with activity in any offense.

The Raptors are running a Fred/Pascal pick n’ roll and anticipating a switch and an opportunity to post Siakam up – that’s why they pair it with a flare screen for Trent Jr., because if the Heat overload down to Siakam, Trent Jr. will be wide open to shoot, or Robinson will have to recover over and Trent Jr. can pass to Anunoby. That didn’t happen of course, the Heat went under on the ‘FVV’ screen (LOL) and Barnes casually slides over to set a screen for him – and we get a bucket. The second play is an empty-side post-up for the Raptors highest usage post player, Anunoby. That’s right, Anunoby scores the most points, has the most assists, and receives more post touches than anyone else on the Raptors. Anunoby overwhelms Herro, Butler has to provide help, and Barnes sets a pin-in for Trent Jr. for a wide open triple. Plays are all about giving players good options, and they do that here.

Raptors 124, Heat 120 3OT

This game had wow factor, so let’s go with the play that popped the most. The incredible double block from Siakam after Butler had him dead to rights, twice. This one is really, really simple. Barnes is Adebayo’s primary, Anunoby is Butler’s. They look like they’re trying to ice the action, but Barnes ends up trying to go under and beat Butler to his spot in the middle. Adebayo puts him in an arm bar, Butler gets the runway of his life, and Siakam says: “showtime”. He meets Butler at the summit, absorbs his contact and blocks him while he careens out of bounds. Butler corrals the ball, and like a hero swiping someone from out in front of a moving vehicle, Siakam glides back in for another block. Just incredible.

Hope y’all enjoyed this, and maybe you can recognize some of the set actions while you’re watching.

Have a blessed day.


1 Comment

  1. […] They played with intellect and composure in the week from hell. They got the Louis Zatzman co-sign and deep dive. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby are #1, #2, and #3 in minutes per game in the NBA. If there were any type of cosmic power above, the Raptors would have no doubt met the payment for whatever toll this almighty lesson of humility would cost. […]

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