Apr 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) battles with Toronto Raptors forward John Salmons (25) in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 115-113.Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Exorcising some defensive demons


Apr 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets forward-guard Alan Anderson (6) drives to the net against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Brooklyn 115-113. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Toronto Raptors were inadvertent and highly unwilling participants in an avalanche last night. The simultaneous collapse of both their offense and defense in the fourth quarter transformed an easy win into a near-disaster. Coach Dwane Casey has always professed to being not terribly worried about scoring points, but very interested in preventing them. Allowing the Brooklyn Nets to pour in 44 points in Q4 will provide coach with more negative material than he’d like to berate his team about.

Sportswriter: What do you think of your team’s execution?

Frustrated coach: I’m in favour of it.

What in the name of Bill Russell, the patron saint of defense, were the Raps doing allowing 3 four-point plays in one quarter? That’s too many for a month. There are two major issues here; one is the actual foul, and the other is losing the shooter in the first place. I know coach likes to preach the importance of closing out, or contesting, long shots, but our guys have to recognize when it’s too late! God bless Amir Johnson, but when Alan Anderson is open for a corner 3 with 9 seconds remaining, he’s got to be allowed to take it. Our Amir instead flung himself at Alan in a hopeless attempt at blocking the shot. He crashed knee-on-knee, simultaneously (a) fouling out (b) injuring both himself & Alan and (c) creating his second four-point play opportunity of the quarter (Greivis Vasquez was guilty of the other). Can you find a positive in all that? And who had the cover on Alan, a known streaky shooter? Why was he so alone in prime 3-point real estate?

Here’s an easy mantra: don’t try to block shots. For every one you do, there’s about nine that become and-1 chances. Put your hands up, and keep your feet on the ground. When was the last time a 3-point shot attempt was actually blocked? Can you remember one (if you do, please tell me in the Comments)? I can’t imagine a play less likely to succeed.

Let’s consider Joe Johnson. He’s been a scoring master forever. The Raps tried John Salmons on him when Johnson starting to heat up, but he kept on burying unlikely shots. Time to switch to zone, Coach. We couldn’t do any worse.

The Raps had a huge scare thrown into them, and know they can’t take anything for granted. When Dwane Casey starts on them during film review and practice today, he’ll have their undivided attention.

 

Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs Toronto Raptors