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NBA Playoffs, Numbers for Game 1: Another Terrible Start for Toronto

The Raptors were back to their old Game 1 ways. Again.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This is getting old fast. Let’s take a quick look at some things that went wrong in game 1. The offence was hit and miss, but the defence was bad all game.

The final numbers are skewed heavily by a 4th quarter where the Cavaliers didn’t care to play very hard, plus some garbage time at the end. But any way you slice it, a 112.9 defensive rating is not going to cut it. All the rest of the numbers in this piece will be for the first three quarters only, when the game was still in reach.

Still, let’s look at who the main culprits were.

Jonas Valanciunas is the obvious target — and with good reason. He made some solid defensive rotations, especially early, but the fact remains that the Cavaliers got whatever they wanted far more often than not with him on the court. His 136.9 defensive rating this game is truly awful. It’s true that he played basically all his minutes with LeBron James on the court, but such is life when playing the Cavaliers — you’re going to need to be able to defend with James out there. Immediately, if you are going to make a change in Game 2, JV’s name has to be near the top of the list.

Mind you, he wasn’t the only culprit. DeMar DeRozan was a ghastly -32 on the night (by far the team-worst) and had nearly as bad an on-court defensive rating (129.7 in almost 50% more minutes than Valanciunas). Even solid defenders like Serge Ibaka (122.8), Patrick Patterson (122.1) and Kyle Lowry (126.6) posted terrible defensive ratings, and all played plenty of minutes away from Valanciunas. So the fix might not be as easy as one player, unfortunately.

But the biggest issue? For my money, DeMarre Carroll. He had a team worst 142.6 defensive rating in his 15 minutes. That’s terrible. Valanciunas, in his 6 minutes away from Carroll, saw his defensive rating drop by nearly 25 points per 100 possessions.

Never mind looking specifically at LeBron James, the guy he’s supposed to be guarding out there as the starting SF. With Carroll on the court, James put up 15 points in 15 minutes, on 67% shooting, along with 7 boards and 2 assists without a turnover. With Tucker in Carroll’s place? 20 points in 25 minutes, on 50% shooting, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. James was a +15 in Carroll’s 15 minutes and a +1 in Tucker’s 25.

So, lots of guys who were terrible defensively. Not sure what sort of answers one can glean from that. Maybe put your best five players out there to start, and shrink the rotation as necessary to keep your biggest liabilities off the floor, regardless of matchups.

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