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Looking into Dwane Casey and the Raptors’ Clutch Repair

The Raptors boast a top five offense, but in clutch time it’s in the bottom five. What gives?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I have a jerk friend, let’s call him “Jon H”, who has been needling me about the Raptors since the beginning: “Your mascot is Barney”, “Kobe Bryant scored 81”, “They’ll never win the East”, “Popeye Jones”, and so on. Well, this year I’ve placed a wager with Jon H that the Raptors will make the East final. So now, to silence jerk friends everywhere, I need Dwane Casey to fix his team’s clutch problem.

In the last minute of their games when the scoring margin is not greater than 5, a.k.a. “Clutch Time”, the Raptors shoot 28%. That ranks them 26th in the Association for field goal percentage. The top ten teams in the category average better than 50% in the final sixty seconds. Imagine playing the Spurs in the final minute of a tight playoff game. The Spurs make 57% of their shots and the Raptors miss 72% of theirs: so, who’s your money on? Looking at the Raptors offensive body of work, it doesn’t seem to be a lack of scoring punch, so what gives?

I think play selection is the biggest issue. Currently, the go-to play is known to everyone in the building — get the ball to DeMar DeRozan or maybe Kyle Lowry and let them “go to work”. But as we know, ISO ball is ineffective, especially in crunch time. When the field goal attempt is assisted the Raptors clutch FG% more than doubles!

The Raptors have registered 32 attempts in the final minute and 25 of those attempts are generated by Demar (17) and Kyle (8). On rare occasions when the designed play is for some other player, like the final C.J. Miles shot against the Golden State Warriors, it’s not surprising that a rarely run play falls apart. Even though the C.J. play didn’t work, the Raptors need to run more plays like it so they can sharpen their execution and broaden their options before playoff time.

Using the Spurs as an example again, they distribute plays almost evenly among three players. Adding one more player like C.J. to the mix can only help late game execution. It’s not that I mind DeMar or Kyle taking most of the final shots, it’s mostly how they take them. Dwane, if you’re reading this, let’s design and execute last minute plays that allow more catch and shoot, more movement, and more equitable ball distribution… you know, like the other 47 minutes. Really, this is just the last vestige of the old Raptors that continues to show itself. And it needs to go.

In the playoffs defense will be fierce and the Raptors will enjoy fewer blowouts. To excel, the Raptors need to have that extra gear for the final minute, but it’s tough to change gears when your “clutch” is broken.

All stats from