I was quite distraught after last night’s game. An amazing comeback all for naught, and the disappointment could easily have been avoided if it weren’t for two familiar patterns. I broke this down quickly in the video below. What follows underneath is my rough transcript of the video. The video has more but it’s close enough where if for whatever reason you can’t watch the video, reading the transcript will give you the gist of it.
One quick note – I’ll be at the live podcast event on Feb 7 at Rivoli in Toronto. Buy tickets and come talk ball with fellow hardcores – hope to meet you all in-person. Many RR staff will be there (former and present).
This is the game-winning play where the Bucks have Giannis in a very traditional high-screen with Brook Lopez, a play they run about 20 times a game.
All the high screen has done as yielded a switch of Barnes on Giannis and OG on Lopez, which is not exactly the worst matchup for the Raptors as Barnes’ length is at play and that’s about the best you can do for when checking Giannis. So far everything is going according to plan as in these situations you generally fight through the screens instead of trying to chase switches. It’s just quicker to get back into coverage that way.
The problem comes right here as all five Raptors collapse in the paint. The Raptors have sent strong side and weak side help, giving Giannis plenty of options to pick from. In my view, this is only a case where strong side help needs to be sent and weak side defenders can just stick to where they are because:
- A weak side player like Fred or OG is not actually able to pressure the ball since Giannis is facing the other side of the court, so unless they successfully poke the ball from the back or something it’s not doing much.
- They’re better off playing the passing lanes instead of being redundant in some wierd aggressive double. To force a pass you don’t need to send four additional guys, just one guy from the right angle. The Raptors don’t seem to understand this.
Look at Fred in this frame, he’s doing absolutely nothing but making the decision easier for Giannis, who barely even has to think about what he needs to do because the Raptors have made the decision for him.
The Bucks have several options here, they could swing it and still get a clean look from Lopez, but why do that when Allen is wide open.
This has been a long-time problem for the Raptors and they don’t seem to learn, or use that length or strength to their advantage.
I do want to give credit to Scottie Barnes on this play who has maintained excellent posture in his defense with his hands up and avoiding a foul.
This is the ensuing play and I’d like you to focus on four things.
First, the Raptors run a decoy for Gary by having Barnes set a pretty ineffective screen, and the Bucks don’t buy it at all. So already the main fake on this play is already dealt with by the Bucks before the ball is even inbounded.
Second, I’m not even sure why the Raptors are running a high screen to invite a taller guy on Fred. He’s guarded by Jevon Carter who is 6’1″ yet they seek a matchup which gets Bobby Portis at 6’10” on him. This would work if Fred’s plan was to drive the ball against a slower Portis, but he doesn’t do that and moves away from the rim which plays into Portis’ advantage. This is a net negative switch for the Raptors and a highly questionable decision.
Thid, notice how little the Bucks help in contrast to the Raptors. The Raptors also have run a high screen, except when Fred moved away from the rim, it gave the Bucks even less reason to send an extra defender and potentially leave someone else open, especially again since Portis is so much taller.
Fourth, Raptors also don’t run any sort of action away from the ball and are completely static. OG, Scottie, Gary and Siakam are literally just standing there watching the play.and the Bucks already have a taller defender on him, so they don’t need to do anything at all.
This is quite a poor shot and one that the Bucks will happily live with. Unlike the three which tied the game earlier where there was some movement and the Raptors put a creative offensive player in Gary in a scoring position, here we do nothing and just hope for Fred to bail us out with low percentage shot.
Very poor play. An entertaining game, but ultimately poor execution down the stretch costs the Raptors. This team just hasn’t figured out how to win.