Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Boiling Point

Make that 4 in a row in the "L" column. This mini 2 game road trip out West is something this team is better off sweeping under the rug. Nothing good came out of it. Both games turned into blowouts and only managed to further deflate the confidence we built up before the All-Star break.

You could see it in the Raptors' faces, a boiling point had been reached - again. In many ways, these last two games against Oklahoma City and Houston reminded me of what happened the first time we ran into Atlanta. The entire team was sporting a defeated type of demeanor on the court. They were lazy on defense, they weren't talking, and at times looked like they didn't care. Only until Antoine Wright let his emotions get the best of him, did Toronto finally start to show a little bit of life. But by then, it was much too late.

Yes, this team needs Chris Bosh back, and in a hurry. But the root of the problem is hidden in their defense. It has already regressed back to the horrific form we were accustomed to early in the season. During this 4 game losing streak, the Raptors are giving up a whopping 116 points per game. Without your all-star in the lineup, the only way you can win games is by settling down on defense, and the Raptors have not come even close to doing that.

Before I sign off for the day, let's break down one of the defensive sequences from last night's lost to the Rockets:

Here, the Rockets prepare to execute a pick and roll on the weak side of the floor. Houston uses Scola as the screener and Brooks as the ball handler.

Scola sets the screen and Brooks will make a read, taking whatever the defense gives him. The Raptors can either have the defender (Turkoglu in this case) do two things: 1) Go over the screen and force Brooks to drive to the rim where help/resistance will be provided. 2) Go under the screen and force Brooks to pass or take the open shot.

Turk goes over the screen, thus signalling that the Raptors are committed to forcing Brooks towards the rim where he will have a difficult shot or be cut off and forced to reset/pass the ball off to a teammate.

This is where the Raps show poor execution because there is no expected resistance. DeRozan is late with the help from the strong side. While Bargnani is caught in "No Man's Land". Bargs can't decide whether or not he wants to stay on Scola or cut off Brooks; unfortunately he isn't in position to do either. The Raptors commitment to going over the initial screen means that Brooks should be forced to drive to the rim only to want to pass it off to an open teammate from where the help came from. Bargnani could have slid over to Scola and one of Jack or Rasho could have been the resistance for Brooks; thus forcing a pass to the corner or towards Martin. Or Bargnani could have tried to stop Brooks himself forcing Houston to pass to Scola. You can't stop everything in a perfectly executed pick and roll, but you at least want to control where the offense gets their shot.

Oddly, the Raptors end up having the ENTIRE team converge on Brooks. This (unnecessary) overcommitment is meant to guarantee Brooks takes a tough shot or passes out to an open teammate farther away from the basket. Unfortunately neither happens. There is little to no resistance, mainly because both Rasho and Bargnani were late (should be outside the restricted semi-circle). On top of that, Brooks ends up making the runner near the bucket; even though that's what the Raptors' scheme wanted to prevent the most.

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