The Toronto Raptors have received quality minutes from every starter in their ultra-tight playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, save one. Terrence Ross’s play so far has been a disaster. He has twice as many turnovers (6) as baskets, more fouls (8) than rebounds (6). TRoss is listed as starting in tonight’s critical Game 4, but one has to wonder whether he’s simply overwhelmed by, and can’t cope with, the glaring spotlight and opposition intensity which playoff basketball engenders. Should he sit down?
Maybe he should, but who starts if he doesn’t? The easy answer: Landry Fields, who is probably our best defender at the small-forward spot other than TRoss. Fields has sufficient height to contest every shot by Raps killer Joe Johnson, and the footwork to stay in front of him most of the time he drives. Landry is also a sound rebounder, using his smarts to get into prime position to pull down a goodly number of boards. So why did he rack such up an obscene number of DNP-CD (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision) during the season just ended? Offensively, Landry is truly offensive. Whatever elbow/arm injury has held him back during his time in Toronto appears to be still bothering him. Despite TRoss’s miserable scoring to date, he’s at least a threat to find himself at any moment, a claim Landry can’t make.
I’d be happy to see Nando De Colo given a chance to cover Johnson. Nando is as fundamentally sound a player as we’ve got. While he’s a little small, and accustomed to playing guard, I suspect he’d be quite capable of getting in Johnson’s face, and staying there. Nando can also score the ball, perhaps better than either TRoss or Fields. John Salmons also gets a mention, but he’d be my last choice. I’ve watched him play D since he arrived from Sacramento, and if he’s a lock-down defender, it’s news to me. There are two essential components to defending a high-scoring individual – deny him the ball in the first place, and force him to take tough shots when he does get it. Salmons doesn’t excel at either.
If I’m coach Dwane Casey, I’d have taken Terrence aside during morning shoot-around, and told him “You’ve got the first half to impress me. Stay away from the reach-in fouls, re-establish your offensive presence, and you keep your spot. Otherwise, I have to think short-term. Someone else will get your minutes – we can’t go back to Toronto down 3-1.”
Terrence Ross is a critical component of the Raps’ future, which should include lots of playoff trips. He needs the experience of post-season success under his belt, so let’s hope this problem solves itself. C’mon Terrence – get us 11 points and 5 boards while slowing down Joe Johnson, and all will be forgiven.