The Wizards’ welcome of the Raptors in Game 3 at home in Washington was something of a rude awakening for Toronto’s squad. If it proved one thing it’s that this series isn’t over yet, as the Wizards won in a blowout, inching the series back to 2-1.
Coach Scott Brooks made excellent adjustments for the Wizards, effectively countering the things that went well for the Raptors, and boosting his team’s offensive capability. Dwane Casey and his coaching staff were in shambles throughout the game, unable to offer any useful counters.
Let’s look at what worked and what didn’t work, and predict the changes that these coaches might do in the next game.
For the Wizards
Strategy: Bench Broskis - Ice C.J. Miles and dare the bench players to shoot (plus: load up the paint)
Having found success in Game 2, Brooks doubled down on this strategy. To add a new wrinkle to this strategy, the Wizards loaded up the paint on the dribble penetration/probing by the Raptors ball handlers.
Outcome: C.J. Miles was unable to get open, and was well-defended when he did get a chance to shoot around the arc. Miles ended up shooting 1-for-5 from the perimeter. Delon Wright’s reluctance or hesitance to pull the trigger cost the Raptors the spacing, as the Wizards eventually clogged up the paint. Even with Kyle Lowry + Broskis, the Wizards stayed disciplined with their defensive strategy.
Will We See It Again: Most definitely.
Strategy: John Wall Iso/Post-Up vs. Lowry
One thing that worked in the past two games for Wall and Brooks was to ISO Wall when Lowry was on him. Fortunately for Toronto, this strategy was not used that much, but unfortunately for the Raps, the Wizards milked this matchup on the offensive end.
Outcome: Wall pretty much got what he wanted. Whether it was a straight-up drive, a post up for a turnaround hook shot, or an assist to Marcin Gortat on a short pass once he got doubled by Jonas Valanciunas, Wall was unstoppable. He got into a great rhythm that even his midrange shots started to go in.
Will We See It Again: You betcha.
Strategy: Take advantage of the “Drop Coverage”
The “Drop Coverage” is a pick-and-roll defense where the defender guarding the screener would drop down waiting for the drive and still be in a position to contest should the ball handler make a short pass to the screener when they roll. JV, Jakob Poeltl, and Lucas Nogueira use this technique because of their quickness disadvantage against your typical ballhandlers.
Outcome: Brooks took advantage of the Raptors centres’ drop coverage, and milked it to perfection. Bradley Beal and Wall’s midrange game off the drop coverage were on point. It was frustrating to see OG Anunoby or Kyle play hide and seek with Wall or Bradley when they danced around Gortat’s screen, and the Raps’ centres, most especially when JV just sagged back and didn’t do much of anything.
Will We See It Again: Sigh. You betcha again.
Strategy: Cherry picking
Vivek Ranadive was right — why can’t we have one person just stay back in the backcourt and wait for outlet passes for easy baskets?
Well, Scott Brooks did not really do it, but he did the closest thing to it. Brooks know that they are at their best in transition, and while they made the Raptors turn it over for a total of 31 turnovers in two games, they only managed 33 points off turnovers.
Outcome: The Wizards forced 19 turnovers and got 28 points off it. However, this is a misleading stat, as the strategy not only applied on turnovers — the Wizards basically had the person closest to their side of the ball leak out as soon as the Raptors missed their shot, as can be seen below, courtesy of Norman Powell’s brick.
Will We See It Again: Yes — unless the Raptors wake up in transition.
Strategy: Pass to the Help Defender’s Man
One of the more underrated reasons why the Raptors won the first two games was the effective rotation of the Raptors bigs under the basket. Wizards shot 52 percent in Game 1 and 58 percent in Game 2 in close range. Brooks must have seen that while the Raptors’ rotations under the basket have been good on the initial attack, the rest of the Raptors, especially DeMar DeRozan, don’t always make the necessary rotation and get caught as a spectator.
Outcome: Wall and Beal feasted on attacking the help defender’s man as soon as they attracted any of the Raptors bigs, and this strategy helped Gortat’s resurgence, along with the rest of the Wizards.
Will We See It Again: Once again, of cousre.
Strategy: Wall-Beal-Lawson Minutes and Ball Handling distribution
In Game 1, Brooks ran Bradley Beal to the ground while having no intention of getting him regular touches. In Game 2, Brooks treated Beal with an early substitution for Ty Lawson, and while Beal came back in later, Lawson was primarily handling the ball.
In Game 3, Scott Brooks finally found balance, and he started the game by getting Bradley Beal looks not just to shoot, but also to play-make.
Outcome: The Wizards had a more balanced attack coming from their two main superstars, Wall played with less burden on his shoulders, and Beal was rejuvenated.
Will We See It Again: Most likely, depending on John Wall.
Strategy: Set the Tone in Physicality
The Raptors got their way in Game 2 with very little resistance, but the Wizards made sure to play Game 3 far tougher and more physically.
The Wizards set the tone from the beginning, using Markieff Marcus as a bully, specifically targeting OG Anunoby whenever Beal used him to get an off-ball screen, as seen below.
It wasn’t just Morris, as pretty much everyone who set a screen did something extra, from grabbing the jersey/arm by the defender like Gortat and Kelly Oubre Jr., to just straight up making sure that the defender chasing would feel some sort of impedance when they passed by them.
Outcome: OG wasn’t effective on Beal, and I don’t think it was because Morris got into his head. That said, the adjustment on the off-ball screen physicality was enough to get Beal more daylight over OG. On the offensive end, the Raptors didn’t have a good flow; there was a lot of grabbing, and the Wizards ensured that the Raptors couldn’t get to their spots like it was a practice drill.
Will We See It Again: For sure. The book is out on the Raps, a bit.
In short, everything that Scott Brooks and the Wizards did in Game 3 went as planned, so I don’t think they’ll make any changes to their strategy for Game 4.
For the Raptors
Strategy: Penetrate and Kick
The Raptors started off hot, as Lowry and DeRozan were able to get in the paint. They could then kick the ball out for swing passes to three-pointer shooters, or go back inside for the backdoor cut.
Outcome: Mixed Results
After the initial burst, the Raptors found little success on this strategy, and here’s a few reasons why:
- Serge Ibaka was ineffective;
- Delon wasn’t shooting the three;
- Brooks dropped the blitz and as a result Lowry was able to get in the paint but didn’t use JV’s screen (and roll) to cause panic.
Will We See It Again: Definitely. However, expect for them to use JV more on pick-and-roll action to get this started.
Strategy: OG on Wall
As I have mentioned above, Wall feasted on Kyle Lowry. While Wall went 4-of-7 when Lowry was defending him, it’s worth noting that the Wizards scored 38 points altogether when Lowry was covering him, as Wall was effective playmaking once he got inside and attracted help defenders.
Outcome: Mixed results.
Wall managed to go 5-of-7 against OG, but those were primarily midrange jumpers, and they came after he’d already caught fire going at Lowry. What’s key here is that OG provided better defense (he even got the steal on Wall), and Wall was not able to post him up.
Will We See It Again: We should, as Lowry showed that he defended Beal much better in the previous games. Also, the drop coverage should work better with OG on Wall and Lowry on Beal.
Strategy: Lorenzo Brown and the Ultra-Small Ball
The Raptors definitely miss Fred VanVleet here. Dwane Casey used Lorenzo Brown to eat up some of the minutes that Fred VanVleet would typically get, and it backfired big time.
Lorenzo Brown-Kyle Lowry-C.J. Miles-Pascal Siakam-Delon Wright is a lineup we should never see again. It doesn’t have any credible perimeter shooting outside of Miles, and the defense is just not cutting it for them as they are too small. Unfortunately, aside from VanVleet, someone like Malachi Richardson or even Malcolm Miller would have been a better counter to how the Wizards are defending them. And that’s not happening either for obvious reasons (inactivity and ineligibility).
Dwane Casey has a lot of changes to make, and the team must stick with their offensive philosophy to come out on top in Game 4. As you’d guess, a Steady Freddy sighting would probably be the extra push the Raps need now.
I even warned Casey, but he didn’t listen.
Keys: jv+Ibaka's 2-way play (esp Ibaka's O); bench broskis' O; contain Beal; limit TOVs = less transition pts for wiz. #WeTheNorth #NorthOverEverything— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) April 20, 2018
Now, on to Game 4.