We often hear “the game was better in the old days” talk, especially from former players on American TV. They’d like to take you back to the days of hard-nosed, defensive-minded basketball, with fewer three-pointers, more hard fouls, no easy buckets, and so on.
Fun Game or Nah?
If you didn’t watch the game, the final score would indicate this was a defensive battle. And the Raptors are second in defensive rating, and the Heat 12th. Both teams have scrappy, try-hard defenders. Both employ various defensive schemes.
It should have been fun to see these great defensive teams go at it, right?
But I don’t think last night’s game was much fun. At all. There were too many missed shots, and too many instances of poor decision-making on offense that make you think, “that wasn’t good defense, that was just bad offense.” The two teams combined for six (6!!!) fast break points.
I really, really hope these two teams don’t meet in the playoffs.
Avert Thine Eyes
Perhaps skip over the following image of the Raptors’s three-point shot chart if you don’t want to be turned to stone:
Ugh. To my earlier point — defensive battles are great. There is nothing great about that many misses. According to NBA.com, 18 of those 42 attempts were wide open (closest defender 6+ feet away) and the Raptors only hit three of them.
Zone Busters Needed
Miami employed its 2-3 zone almost the entire game, and it worked, clearly. 76 points? 6-for-42 from downtown?
It was a bit shocking to see how poorly the Raptors played against the zone. As a team that employs a fair bit of zone themselves, you’d think they’d be better prepared for it. But the Raptors consistently failed to the execute the zone busting basics — quick cuts into open areas, quick passes out.
The personnel on the floor, obviously, was a factor. Marc Gasol is one of the best passing bigs in the game. Norman Powell and Matt Thomas can shoot when the ball comes to them. Pascal Siakam’s creativity can befuddle any defense.
So while it is somewhat concerning that the Raptors didn’t play better against the zone, I’m confident that a full-strength Raptors squad can handle it.
Goran Dragic, Please Retire
Does Goran Dragic infuriate all 29 teams he doesn’t play for, or just the Raptors? He’s been a stone cold Raptor killer for years, and it looked like he was up to his old tricks again last night, scoring 13 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown in the second quarter.
Fortunately for Toronto, he didn’t score again — but he did bang knees with Kyle Lowry that briefly sent Lowry to the locker room and briefly made every Raptors fan say “Good God, not another injury!?”
Thankfully Lowry returned straight away and looked fine. But I would be perfectly happy to never see Goran Dragic on the other side ever again.
(Of course, I’d love to see him in a Raptors uniform!)
Stanley Johnson Sighting!
How odd was it to see Stanley Johnson start the second quarter? Johnson’s minutes have mainly been of the garbage time variety, and with Oshae Brissett playing well the past three games, it didn’t seem like Johnson would move up in the rotation. Yet there he was!
It was an odd choice to say the least. Johnson isn’t a three-point threat or a particularly good passer, skills you’d like on offesne against the Heat zone. He’s a decent defender, with good size, valuable against Miami to be sure — but Brissett brings the same things to the table, I’d think?
Perhaps this is just Nick Nurse playing mad scientist again, and giving different guys a chance to show him something. He gave Brissett a chance, and Brissett played well. Now it’s Johnson’s turn to have an opportunity.
Unfortunately he didn’t show much, missing his only shot attempt and not even grabbing a single rebound in six minutes. He did not play in the second half.
Let’s all follow Fred VanVleet’s advice, yes?
Flush it on to the next— Fred VanVleet (@FredVanVleet) January 3, 2020