Monday, January 11, 2010

A Deeper Look At The Raptors' Third Quarter Meltdowns

How sickening was that?

After coming off a string of games that could safely be considered their best basketball of the season, the Raptors have now lost 2 in a row. The latest coming at the hands of the lowly Indiana Pacers after building a 23 point lead. I'm convinced it's become routine now, those third quarter meltdowns the Raps have gone through countless times this season. If there was a stat for most amount of leads of 10+ given up, I'd bet that the Raptors are at least in the top 5 of the league. Whether it has to do with fatigue, talent, or mental aspects, we're just not able to consistently pull it out. I noted yesterday that it's the elite teams in the NBA that are able to establish leads and keep the opposition at bay; regardless of how extensive the runs are.

The root of the problem lies in the third quarter. Here are the 3rd quarter point totals in the last 10 Raptor losses (outscored bolded).

TOR: 19 IND: 26
TOR: 30 BOS: 34
TOR: 19 BOS: 20
TOR: 25 ORL: 26
TOR: 24 MIA: 31
TOR: 23 ATL: 28
TOR: 29 MIL: 26
TOR: 30 ATL: 39
TOR: 23 WAS: 17
TOR: 27 PHX: 34

In the last 10 losses, the Raptors have lost the battle of the 3rd quarter 8 times. They are averaging 24.9 points per game in the 3rd quarter of these particular losses. Scoring is not the problem here. The Raptors basically put up 25 points in the 3rd frame, which fits nicely with their average of 103 points per game - that's good for 3rd best in the league. However, it's the defense that's killing them. On average, they are giving up a whopping 28.1 points per game in the 3rd quarter. That would be good for a total of 112.4 points per game if they played on that pace the entire way through (good enough for last in the NBA).

The other interesting part is that this reality is relevant in the games we WIN as well! (outscored bolded)

TOR: 34 PHI: 25
TOR: 28 ORL: 19
TOR: 19 SA: 21
TOR: 29 CHA: 24
TOR: 14 DET: 28
TOR: 20 DET: 14
TOR: 25 NO: 22
TOR: 24 NJ: 27
TOR: 20 HOU: 21
TOR: 21 MIN: 28

In our last 10 wins, we've been outscored in the 3rd quarter half of the time. Not surprisingly, all but one of the teams that we've beaten (San Antonio) are in the bottom half of the league in field goal percentage. Are we playing defense? Or just lucking out?

I'm sure our coaching staff is already well aware of this trend, but I think it's gotten to a point where we have to do something differently. Whether it's a change in the rotations in the 3rd quarter, or a shift in the game plan to keep the game manageable; something must be done to change our fortunes in the 3rd. Because what happens in that quarter sets the tone for the rest of the second half. If the Raps can find a way to step on an opponent's throat right after halftime, it greatly reduces the chance of any comeback for the rest of the game.

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