Game 1 went very poorly for the Raptors. Let's take a few quick looks at what went wrong.
What really went wrong?
It seemed like Paul George couldn't be stopped. And, yes, that was an issue. But for the game the Raptors had a defensive rating of 104. That's only slightly above their season long DRTG (102.7). Defence was not really the problem. And that's good, because nothing was going to stop George from scoring like that if he got hot. Personally I would have had Carroll on George every minute I could have, and kept DeRozan away from that assignment, but overall that's not what really bit the Raptors.
The offence, however, completely died. A 94 ORTG (a full 13 points below their in-season ORTG of 107) is a disaster. What happened?
Lowry and DeRozan
First off, these two were awful. A combined 25 points is bad enough, but they used 46 possessions to get those 25 points (32 FGA's, 7 trips to the line, 9 combined turnovers, with 2 offensive boards). That's a level of inefficiency that is practically impossible for a team to overcome.
Both players relied a lot on isolating and snaked a lot of the few picks they did use rather than letting their screener roll to the basket. Hopefully they can find a way to use their teammates more, particularly as pick options.
Credit to the rest of the Raptors for trying though -- Valanciunas, in spite of his trouble finishing put-backs around the rim, still graded out very positive (12 points on 5 used possessions - 14 FGA's, 2 trips to the line, and 11 offensive rebounds in 21 minutes).
Meanwhile, Joseph posted 18 points on 11 possessions, and Patterson managed 9 points on 3 possessions.
What was going on with those rotations?
There was the obvious problem that we've all seen coming, with Luis Scola staying with that starting lineup. But it was not the biggest problem in this game.
That award goes to the all-bench unit Casey trotted out in the first half. Lowry and DeRozan racked up heavy minutes for 82 games because Casey smartly wouldn't take both off the floor at once, creating two of the most potent lineups in the league in the Lowry-plus-bench and DeRozan-plus-bench lineups. Those two lineups posted net ratings of +16 and +14 points per 100 possessions for the season. We saw 4 minutes of the Lowry-plus-bench lineup and none of the DeMar-plus-bench lineup at all.
Instead we got to see this lineup:
Cory Joseph - Terrence Ross - DeMarre Carroll - Patrick Patterson - Bismack Biyombo
We saw that lineup for 5 full minutes, the second most used lineup on the night behind the starters.
We've seen this lineup before. Early in the season, before Casey started using Lowry and DeRozan as life preservers for the bench unit, we saw it a lot. In total, we got treated to 41 minutes of it over 9 games. In which they were outscored 78 to 54.
You want a finger to point for the offence looking so bad? Start here. That sort of lineup just destroys all offensive rhythm for a team, and forces guys to take tough shots, and if they miss it can mess with their confidence for the rest of the game. Combine it with 15 minutes of the starting lineup posting a 71.6 ORTG and you've got a recipe for disaster.
One last quick note here. Jonas Valanciunas spent the majority of the night in foul trouble, partly due to a couple dubious calls. But that can happen on any given night.
It just emphasizes the importance of getting players minutes in lineups where they can be effective -- throwing away 15 of JV's 21 (as it turned out) available minutes in that terrible starting lineup is very problematic. They were lucky enough to be on the floor for Paul George's slow start -- he went 1 for 4 with two turnovers early on, in roughly the same situations where he killed the Raptors later on.
And even with his initial struggles, that starting lineup allowed the Pacers to stick around with a tie game by the time of the first subs (11-11 score 8 minutes into the game). The subs would immediately go on a 7-0 run and eventually end the quarter up 5, as George would remain cold until the second half (where he would heat up against that same starting unit).
There will be times when George is unstoppable, and times when he is ice cold. If the Raptors want to win this series, they need to be executing offensively to build leads when he is cold, and to survive when he is hot. They won't be able to do so with the same starting lineup that has struggled all year, or with bench lineups that feature neither of their primary scorers.
Is there anything I missed? Any easy fixes to these issues? How confident are you the Raptors can play to their potential and win this series?