One of the noticeable changes in last night's win over the Clippers was the Raptors icing pick-and-rolls on defense. Okay, first: the term ice was popularized by former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau who used to scream the word from the sidelines to instruct his team to defend pick-and-rolls by forcing the ball-handler towards the baseball instead of moving towards the middle of the court.
This strategy helped the Bulls to a top-ten defense for most of Thibodeau's tenure there. In fact, NBA.com's John Schuhmann recently wrote a terrific piece on this whole concept, and has some interesting numbers, including: the Bulls leading the league in having the lowest percentage of pick-and-rolls allowed to the middle (33.3 percent). The league leader in allowing pick-and-rolls towards the middle? You guessed it. The Toronto Raptors, at 67.6 percent.
The overall numbers also show that offensive efficiency decreases on pick and rolls that don't end up in the middle of the court. The Raptors were a mess on the defensive end last season so a change in personnel and scheme was necessary. The Raptors moving to icing pick-and-rolls more makes sense especially when you consider they hired Andy Greer as an assistant coach, and he is a Thibodeau/ Jeff Van Gundy disciple.
In theory, forcing pick-and-rolls to the baseline seems to be an optimal move, but the Raptors also need the personnel to do so. The preseason will be a good time to pay attention to this particular scheme change to see if it sticks, and whether it will help fix some of the defensive woes that plagued the team last season.