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Analysis: Where did Toronto’s scoring go in Game 2?

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After a strong opening game, there was really no excuse for the Raptors’ offense to dry up as much as it did in Game 2. How did it happen? We investigate.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no other way to say it: Game 2 was disappointing for Toronto. The Raptors’ defense from Game 1 held up just the same — but if you don’t score on the Warriors, you don’t beat the Warriors. And the Raptors just could not score.

Here’s what went down in Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

More Scoring Please

The Raptors put up a 109 DRTG in Game 2, which is actually a slight improvement on their Game 1 result of 112 points allowed per 100 possessions. But their offense from Game 1, a fantastic 122 ORTG, was nowhere in sight.

The Raptors scored just 103 points per 100 possessions in Game 2 instead. They would have needed an ORTG of 109 or better to beat the Warriors in this one, assuming the other end stayed the same. Obviously, they didn’t get it.

In the regular season, the Warriors played 42 games in which their opponent put up an ORTG of less than 109. They were 37-5 in those games. You just can’t beat the Warriors with that kind of offense. Even with the Raptors defense as good as it is, they absolutely have to make a better effort to create better offense and hit shots.

The Raptors’ defensive efforts have held the Warriors below their average ORTG (about 115 in regular season and playoffs) for both of the first two games. But it simply will not be enough to defend against this team.

Why the Drought?

So, where did all the scoring go?

Well, Pascal Siakam dropping off doesn’t help. After his 32 point night (on 17 shots), Pascal put up even more shots (18) but ended with only 12 points, a truly abysmal shooting night. He missed all his threes, and shot 5-of-15 inside the arc. Overall his scoring in Game 1 worked out to an individual scoring rate of 188 points per 100 used possessions. In Game 2, that dropped to 71 points per 100 used possessions. Somewhere Draymond Green is grinning.

In any case, that is mitigated somewhat by Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry rebounding from a poor Game 1 — combined, they scored 88 points per 100 used possessions as a pair. In Game 2 that jumped up to 112 points per 100 used possessions. That mostly washes out the effect of Siakam’s struggles.

Unfortunately, if the Raptors keep having these “well, that likely won’t happen again” nights from one of their stars, the offense will likely continue to struggle sometimes. And as we noted, that probably means a loss against the Warriors.

Still, that wasn’t actually the big difference between Games 1 and 2. Which means we return to a familiar refrain from these playoffs: will Toronto’s role players hit shots?

Because they didn’t in Game 2.

Fred VanVleet scored 17 points. He took 17 individual possessions to do so.

Danny Green? 8 points on 8 possessions.

Norman Powell: 7 points on 8 possessions.

Marc Gasol: 6 points on 9 possessions.

Serge Ibaka: 7 points on 4 possessions.

Only Ibaka managed a >100 individual ORTG on his used possessions, and he did so on such low volume that it didn’t matter. Overall the supporting case managed 45 points on 46 possessions, a 98 ORTG. That came on the back of a 6-for-19 night from three-point range for that group.

Why the Struggles to Shoot?

As ever, sometimes you just miss shots. And sometimes you are not getting good shots. There is a difference to note there.

One way to evaluate this is to monitor who is initiating the offense for the Raptors. Toronto has had great success this season when running their offense through their stars first, and letting the role players run around off-the-ball to get their shots with their feet set and an open look off a pass.

Let’s contrast the first two games in terms of who generated the most potential assists for the Raptors. That is, we remove the luck factor in terms of who had their teammates hit shots off their passes, and we just look at whose passes led to shot attempts. This is a good proxy for how much playmaking was being done by each player.

Player | Game 1 Potential Assists
Lowry: 13
Siakam: 12
Leonard: 8
VanVleet: 6

No one else above two potential assists, and only seven other potential assists spread across the rest of the roster. So, that’s roughly 70-75 percent of the playmaking coming from the star players, with about 15 percent coming from the backup PG, leaving only 15 percent coming from other sources.

Now, Game 2.

Player | Game 2 Potential Assists
VanVleet: 12
Leonard: 10
Siakam: 10
Gasol: 8
Lowry: 7
Green: 4
Powell: 3

No one else with potential assists.

So, good news, the stars were still involved to some degree. Bad news, not nearly enough. Lowry seeing his potential assists drop by half lines up nicely with what I observed in Game 2 — Lowry was not involved enough in the offense. Some of this comes down to more limited minutes from foul trouble, but even when he was on the court this was a problem.

Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet leading the team in playmaking? If ever you wanted a recipe for a disastrous offense for Toronto, there’s your answer. Want to take a guess how many of those 12 potential assists turned into points for the Raptors? Two. And yes, some of that is shot making, which was, as noted, awful in this one. But it’s not just that. VanVleet should never be running the offense when one of the stars is on the court — never mind when multiple stars are on the court.

All in all, Toronto’s stars were responsible for only 50 percent of the playmaking in this game. That’s a dramatic drop off. Even including VanVleet’s ill-advised running of the show, that still leaves almost 30 percent of the offense initiated with players beyond the three stars and backup PG. Now, there is a discussion to be had on how to use Gasol, and whether he should be in a playmaking role like that. But ultimately the team’s strength on offense lies in the ball being in Lowry, Kawhi, or Siakam’s hands first.

The Warriors took that away in Game 2, and if the Raptors don’t find a way to get it going again, this series will start to look real bleak moving forward. Even with a great defensive effort, you have to score against the Warriors. You just have to.

All stats per NBA.com