As observers of this series have come to learn -- if there's one way in which the Pacers can carve up an opponent, it's with lightning-quick scores in transition. Indiana's collection of mostly sub-par shooters and offensively limited big men has handcuffed the team in the half court. Teams can afford to hone in on Paul George because no one else he shares the floor with is particularly fearsome.
Changing the direction of play and sprinting down the throats of their opponent was of the few ways the Pacers were able to prop an otherwise miserable offense this season:
|% of Possessions
|Points / Possession
|Pick & Roll - Ball Handler
|Pick & Roll - Roll Man
So far in this series, the Raptors have been able to stifle Indiana in the half court, as you might expect from a borderline top-10 defensive team. But as Dwane Casey pointed out in his media availability after shootaround on Tuesday, it's when the Pacers play true to their mascot that the Raptors are getting into trouble.
"We gotta get back," said Casey. "We haven’t done a good job of getting back and their whole thrust is pushing the ball down our throat.
"One way to do that is take care of the basketball," said Casey, suggesting that key marker differentiating the Raptors wins and losses in the series is the turnover column. "Our defense should start with our offense and making sure we get a good a good shot, not giving up live ball turnovers where you’re really putting yourself at a disadvantage."
He's not wrong. It's simplistic to boil the game down to one stat, but the difference in the Raptors play when they've been able to limit the possessions Indiana has to work with has been stark. Games 2 and 3 saw the Raptors turn the ball over 24 times combined, compared to a disgusting 36 times in their losses in Games 1 and 4. For a team that just barely scrapes by on offense, those extra 12 possessions are precious for Indiana. If the Pacers are starting some of those with a head start on the Raptors defenders, they can be game-altering.
Maybe it's a matter of removing a heavy-footed Luis Scola from the starting lineup (or the rotation, altogether), or perhaps it boils down to avoiding risky passes and steering clear of situations in which Indiana's defenders are skilled at poking balls free (cough, one-on-one situations against George). Either way, the Raptors have a mathematical advantage over the Pacers when the possession totals are even thanks to their shooting prowess and vastly more potent offense. Maintaining that edge is the simplest way for the Raptors to get a handle on this series.
Some other notes from the morning of Game 5:
Dwane Casey on how the Raptors can prevent those aforementioned turnovers:
Simple passes. We were driving the baseline the other day and jumping up and turning around and hoping somebody was open. That’s not good ball movement. You drive the baseline, you gotta see, you gotta make eye contact with somebody and make sure they’re there and not just jump up and throw it in the third or fourth row. Those kind of plays are plays are the plays we can control. It was nothing that the defense did, it was us just making bonehead mistakes and not making fundamental passes. Again that was uncharacteristic of us, we do that very few times but Game 4 was a bad time to have that problem.
Casey on the importance of a good start after such a let down of an opening stretch in Game 4:
It’s huge. They came out the first five minutes (of Game 4) and just ambushed us. I mean they just outworked out us. Loose balls, quicker to the spot. We didn’t fight for space, they forced out past the three-point line to get open – we allowed them to walk right to their sweet spot to catch the ball ... So the first five minutes you set the tone, but again you can’t just stop there. You gotta continue that same intensity, that same thrust, that same focus for 48 minutes. This is the playoffs, and every possession’s important. You can’t have ‘oh crap’ moments.
DeRozan on whether or not he'll be able to act more as a facilitator tonight:
That's fine. That's one thing me and Kyle (Lowry) definitely talk about. You know getting guys involved and getting them going early, I think that'll loosen up a lot of things to be able to get easier shots and kind of take the pressure off us. It's fine. At the end of the day whatever we need to do to win that's all that matters.
Patrick Patterson on whether or not he'll be ready to start if called upon tonight:
Are you ready for Game 5?