The Toronto Raptors – Brooklyn Nets playoff series is tied at one game each, and the Nets have outscored the Raps by 2 points. This thing is so tight it squeaks. If the Raps are going to grab 3 more wins before the Nets do, they will need to fuss over every detail.
Turnovers have been rife so far from the Raps, averaging 20 per game, or more than double that of the Nets. I’ve never liked the Turnover stat because of its imprecision. All steals are counted as turnovers, but not all turnovers are steals; “Turnovers” are a mulligan stew of 3-seconds-in-the-key, travelling, dribbling the ball off your foot out of bounds, and on and on – plus having the ball stolen. Drilling further into the data, I note with dismay the Raps’ total of 6 steals, compared with the Nets’ 23 thefts. That’s a series-changing disparity of 17, which Raps coach Dwane Casey must be dismayed about. The non-steal turnovers I mentally place in the category of “excrement happens”, often without the opponents’ involvement. Can we berate Jonas Valanciunas if he positions himself in the paint expecting Kyle Lowry (say) to put up a shot, but he doesn’t, and JV gets called? Obviously we want those kinds of turnovers minimized, but are sins of commission, and will never entirely disappear. A rough equivalent from another sport, namely baseball, would be swinging and missing for Strike 3. You’re out, and that’s no fun, but at least you took a hack.
Steals are another matter entirely, and I view them as sins of omission. Why was our man’s pass picked off, or his dribble tapped away as he slipped by a defender safely (or so he thought)? Are the youthful Raps underestimating the savvy of the veteran Nets? Andrei Kirilenko was on the bench all of Game 1, then played himself back into the rotation with 4 steals in 19+ minutes in Game 2. We’ll be seeing more of him, just as we will Alan Anderson, who leads the Nets with 5 steals.
The Raps need a sharp lesson in ball protection, or this series will slip out of our grasp, just as the ball has been.