Another playoff win! What a time to be alive for Raptors fans. It hasn't been easy, with the last two games both going to overtime. Let's see how they pulled out the win.
James Johnson, Difference Maker?
Hey, look who it is! The Joe Johnson stopper finally gets his chance. And he capitalized.
James Johnson subbed into the game with the starters in place of Powell four minutes into the 3rd quarter. The lineup immediately went on a +5 run in 2 minutes.
Some will point out that Joe Johnson only took one shot against James Johnson. And that's true. But here are the Heat possessions that occurred from the start of the 3rd Q to directly before James was subbed into the game.
Johnson Made Jumper
Johnson Made Bank Shot
Johnson Made Jumper
Johnson Made Bank Shot (And-1)
Notice a pattern? He was dominating the game. Over that stretch the score went from a 48-41 Raptors lead to a 52-50 Raptors lead.
Then James Johnson subbed in, and the following 2 minute stretch looked like this for the Heat.
Wade Missed Jumper
Johnson Missed Jumper
Deng Missed Jumper
That's a pretty obvious impact. At this stage of the game, Johnson had an insane +125 net rating (in, obviously, an extremely small sample). And then something odd happened. Valanciunas was subbed out with 6 full minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, and the Heat of course went on a run. For the first few possessions, James Johnson remained on Joe Johnson, and Joe Johnson was kept off the scoresheet for those minutes, then was subbed out.
At this stage, James Johnson's usefulness was at an end. The Heat predictably went on a run at this stage (Biyombo and Johnson on the court together is a recipe for offensive disaster), leaving Johnson with an eventual net rating of +25 in 5 minutes played.
Good call by the coach to use him to cool off Joe Johnson, though he should probably sit as soon as Joe Johnson does.
The New Guys: DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph
Tremendous game from the big free agent signings this past summer.
Carroll put up a great stat line -- 21 points on 13 FGA's, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and an assist, and ended up at +4 on the night (in a 4 point win). And spent most of the night chasing either Joe Johnson or Dwyane Wade around the court.
Joseph continued his fantastic play in these playoffs. He was a +10 on the night (second only to Jonas Valanciunas -- we'll get to him), and potted 8 points on 7 shots (6 of them contested, largely because he was tasked with trying to save units with Biyombo in them) and 4 assists in 25 minutes. He also had a good defensive night -- in spite of foul trouble, he ended up with the best on-court DRTG on the team (well, besides Johnson, who only played 5 minutes) while guarding Wade most of his time out there.
Jonas Valanciunas, the Man
Ah, the man of the hour. Another tremendous game, and he saved the Raptors down the stretch and in overtime.
For the night, he ended up with 15 points on 9 shots, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot in 38 minutes played. He was a team best +17 on the night.
He was especially effective near the end of the game. He played the entire 4th quarter (essentially) and posted 9 points on 5 shots, with 5 rebounds and 2 steals in that quarter. He followed that up with 2 points (on his lone shot), 2 rebounds, a steal and a block in the overtime period.
Now, to the title of the piece.
Kyle Lowry shot 7 for 22 on the night. DeMar DeRozan shot 9 for 24. Both were disasters from the free throw line (a combined 5/14 on FTA's). Those three pieces of information are big reasons why this game went to overtime in spite of JV being +17 on the night. At what point, if the shooting struggles are going to continue, especially for Kyle Lowry (as DeMar has had the occasional decent to good shooting night), does the team look to get Valanciunas more than 9 shots in a game (1 came in overtime, so really 8).
He scored in the post. He scored on put backs. He scored as the roll man. He scored with a jumper on a pick and pop.
He's scored effectively in the post all year (0.9 points per possession on almost 200 post ups). He's scored well on put backs all year (1.01 PPP). He's scored incredibly well as the roll man all year (1.27 PPP on 101 possessions). He's scored capably on jumpers all year (best mid-range FG% on the team at 46% on 88 attempts - that's 0.92 PPP).
As a reference for those point per possession values, that range roughly from 0.9 to 1.3 PPP, here are Lowry and DeRozan's points per possession used in these playoffs.
DeMar DeRozan: 167 points on 184 FGA's, 23 trips to the line, and 21 turnovers means a 0.73 PPP.
Kyle Lowry: 122 points on 133 FGA's, 20 trips to the line, and 27 turnovers means a 0.68 PPP.
There is one obvious avenue to winning games right now. And it is not to ride or die with Lowry or DeRozan.
All stats per NBA.com.