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Why starting Luis Scola in Game 2 was a mistake by Dwane Casey

Here's a lesson in lineup structure and interior design all in one post.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

At the cottage, you can get away with having less than stellar decor. The furniture at your weekend getaway spot is supposed to be ratty, old and second-hand. You really aren't there very often, after all. When you are, you're typically not sitting inside anyway, and it's not like the rest of the people on your lake have their own places decked out with luxurious sectionals fresh of The Brick's showroom floor.

It would be weird then, if you decided to take -- for example -- a brand new recliner that matches your home living room set and transport it up north, only to replace it with that torn up, scarcely used chair at the cottage that you're pretty sure your company had sex on once. [Editor's note: Where is this going, Sean?]

What's the trade off there? You might be boosting the overall appeal of your cottage sitting area, but it comes at the expense of the room you spend the most time in over the course of a year.

Well, last night the Raptors committed that exact interior design faux pas when they swapped Patrick Patterson out of the starting lineup for a dusty Luis Scola.

Let's preface all of what's about to come by acknowledging that any adjustment the Raptors make in this series is probably a moot point. Cleveland is vastly superior to Toronto in terms of overall talent, and there's absolutely no chance Dwane Casey is going to pull off a checkmate with any alteration he makes in this series.

That said, sliding Patterson back to the bench in Game 2 was a curious decision.

The impetus for the move seemed to be a desire on Casey's part to balance out the production of the starting five with the contributions provided by the bench. With the Jonas Valanciunas injury severely hurting Toronto's big-man depth, and the recent shooting issues being endured by Cory Joseph, the bench's offering had been negligible for a few games leading in to Thursday night. Both Patterson and Bismack Biyombo were key members of the Raptors' outstanding second unit this season; with Biyombo entrenched as the starter sans Valanciunas, Patterson was the only guy Casey could move to beef up the reserves.

Conceptually, there's some logic to the idea. Considering that the Cavs starters are probably going to outgun any unit the Raptors start games with, it's not an awful plan to try and take advantage of the precious few LeBron-less minutes throughout the game by having a formidable second unit on the floor. Additionally, saving Patterson for later in the first quarter better lined him up with the Cavs' five-out dinosaur extinction lineup.

On top of all that, with Patterson's shot labouring and his full-season minutes total surpassing anything he's reached in the past, it made some sense to try to ease the load on Patterson -- fewer minutes wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if he could more explosive and efficient in his time on the court.

Of course, all of those perceived positives from moving Patterson to the bench don't account for the nuclear bomb that Scola is to the effectiveness of the starting five.

Even without Valanciunas, the Raptors have started games well with Patterson at the four coming out of the gate. The five-man unit of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patterson and Biyombo is the most used combo for the Raptors in these playoffs -- in 97 minutes it has posted a rather nice 109.7 / 101.5 / +8.2 efficiency slash line. After a regular season where first quarters were typically doom, starts have become a strong point for Toronto since Patterson replaced Scola early in round one.

It should have been no surprise then, that the Raptors trailed 20-14 when Patterson first subbed in to the game in place of the bringer of veteran presents. In the opening six-plus minutes, the Raptors' offense was agonizing to watch, thanks in large part to the lack of a primary screener for Toronto to use in the pick-and-roll.

Early in Game 1, the Cavaliers attacked Lowry in a way similar to how they approached Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the Warriors in last year's finals. Cleveland hedged hard or trapped against the Lowry-Patterson pick-and-roll. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love enveloping Lowry, he continuously fired the ball to an open Patterson to keep the offense moving. Patterson achieved mixed results in those four-on-three situations -- he hit a three early, missed a couple others, and initiated some nice ball movement. On the whole, he wasn't exactly Green, but he represented himself well.

Cleveland never really got the opportunity to trap Lowry early in Game 2, though, because without a screener capable of being a secondary offensive creator on the floor, the Raptors simply didn't run much pick-and-roll in the early going. DeRozan and Lowry were reduced to a lot of simplistic one-on-one play, and the offense didn't really work to cross the wires of the Cavs defense at all.

When Patterson entered the game with 5:39 left in the quarter, the Raptors instantly went on a 9-2 run. He sprung DeRozan free for multiple jumpers with refreshingly solid screens, and injected some ball-whipping into the offense.

Small sample alert, but with Patterson on the floor in the first quarter, the Raptors had an assist ratio of 21.4 percent compared to 11.0 percent with Scola manning the power forward spot (that includes some time where the two shared the floor as well). It's a tiny stretch of play, but that disparity speaks to how stagnant the offense was with Scola as the starter and without a multi-talented screen-setter on the floor. James Johnson might have even been a better option to start at power forward seeing as he can make some things happen when with the ball in his hands.

This doesn't even make mention of the defense -- it was bad all night on a team level, but the Raptors' issues were exacerbated with Scola on the court. Again, in a small sample, we caught a glimpse of a trend that was also true in the regular season. Toronto surrendered three-pointers at a 60 percent clip with Scola on the court in Game 2, compared to the 33 percent mark allowed with Patterson on the floor. Kevin Love is an assassin from long distance when the Cavaliers are pinging the ball around the perimeter, and Scola simply isn't mobile enough to defend him out to the three-point line. Love scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting in the opening frame, including one three-pointer where he was completely unmanned.

Not having Patterson start also limited Toronto's options for guarding LeBron James. DeMarre Carroll has been lost trying to slow down the freight train that is The King, but with a Scola-Biyombo front court flanking him, the Raptors had no option but to roll with him as the primary LeBron stopper. Patterson flashed moments throughout the season of an ability to hang with daunting wing opponents -- including a few instances where he shut down James on switches during the season series. By not having all of his best defensive options on the floor to begin the game, Casey put himself at the mercy of James more than he had to.

Look, any hole the Raptors try to caulk in this series is going to lead to leakage somewhere else -- such is the nature of being over-matched talent-wise. But Casey's decision to replace Patterson in the starting lineup depleted one of the strongest parts of the team. The switch certainly achieved the desired effect for the bench -- Toronto's reserves scored 41 points. That's good in a vacuum, but when your starters only contribute 48 points on widespread poor shooting because the offense is suffocated by a lack of a available play-makers, the scoring off the bench loses its punch. Patterson finished the game with just 29 minutes played to Scola's 14. Given all the goodness Patterson provides on both ends, that's just not enough run for him.

Toronto doesn't have a ton of moves left to make, but it simply can't afford to hemorrhage points at a time in the game where it used to be at its best. It was worth a try to see how it would look, but after a 108-89 loss, it might be time for Casey to move the fancy recliner that is Patterson back home, and make due with the dingy furnishings at the cottage.

Have a happy Victoria Day Weekend, everybody.