A night where the backcourt evaporated

The Raptors went big, found success, but still found limitations within it.

When basketball started, centers were in the middle of the court, forwards were near the opposing basket, and the guards, guarded their own basket. Basketball used to operate more like frisbee, with no dribbling, so you can see where the logic followed. The etymology is pretty fun, and it helps us understand that Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. dishonored the origins of their positional monikers.

Coming into last night's game, Trent Jr. (32.4) and VanVleet (36.9) combined to average 69.3 minutes on the court each game. A lot of time! In last night's game? They combined for 46 minutes which, for those keeping track at home, is a whopping 23 minutes less than their average. The duo is very valuable to the Raptors for many reasons. Chief among them? Shooting, and the spacing that comes along with it. And slightly less chief among them? Point of attack defense, which the Raptors have struggled with all season long. The league as a whole has struggled more at the point of attack, so there's some slippage to be expected for the Raptors too, I suppose. What isn't to be expected, is the continued failings of their 3-point shots. For the Raptors, who rank 30th in the NBA in effective-field-goal-percentage, the offensive boom has ignored them completely.

On a night where the Raptors starting backcourt combined for 3-of-17 shooting, and surrendered driving lanes to the opposing guards repeatedly? Their Venn diagram of struggles was a circle.

"A lot of slips on ball screens, being able to drive those gaps, holding people off on their back and getting deep in the paint either for little floaters or Dejounte was getting a little mid-range shot or they would hit the roll. They were just getting options when they got into the deep paint. There were finding ways to score the ball. I felt like we should have guarded the ball better. I feel like that would have helped us."

Scottie Barnes on the success of the Hawks guards

The Raptors played a style that would've worked against many teams in the NBA. They had a backline that dissuaded some drives, they funneled the ball into the mid-range, and the Hawks did a great deal of work from there. 49-percent of the Hawks total shots came in the mid-range. 33-percent of them in the cozy 4-14 short mid-range area, and 16-percent from there to the 3-point line. They shot 45-percent in the former, and 67-percent (!) in the latter.

The Hawks love to set those step-up screens and turn the middle of the court into a playground for their star guards. Sure, the higher step-up screen means the Raptors have more time to rotate and wall off the rim, but if Young and Murray are going to bring their shot-making bags that isn't going to work.

So, a plan was devised to get back into the game defensively. And, it worked.

21 thoughts on “A night where the backcourt evaporated”

Leave a Comment