Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors will have a whole lot of adjustments and game planning ahead of them after a disappointing Game 1 loss.
The Toronto Raptors got their second loss in Orlando since entering the bubble and it comes against the only team that were able to beat them before, the Boston Celtics. Just like the first contest, the game wasn’t particularly close.
The Celtics take full advantage of their help defense by hunting corner 3’s
If you are not certain what help defense is, here is the definition if you search it up on google from SportingCharts:
“A basketball defense fundamental in which a defensive player who is two passes away from the ball adjusts his defense to help another teammate defend the ball handler.”
The Toronto Raptors have made this work all season long — they gave up the most open threes out of everyone in the league and it isn’t close — and the players work it to perfection. The obvious negative of using this system is that it’ll always leave an open man if a side defender does help, and if a team is good enough they’ll hunt for corner threes like the Celtics did yesterday.
The Celtics shot 10/15 (66.67 percent) from corner threes — Marcus Smart alone went 5/7 in that area — and most of them were open looks. Sending for secondary help is something the Raptors must keep away from or limit in this series. After all, the Celtics don’t have a Giannis or Embiid-like player that dominates in the paint. The Celtics are a perimeter heavy team and the Raptors defenders should stick to their assignments.
Of course, the Celtics shot it at an incredible rate that won’t happen again, but the Celtics will continue to hunt for those corner threes if available because who won’t want one of the most efficient shots in the game.
Marc Gasol is a liability on defense against the Celtics
Watching Marc Gasol out there was something very hard to do. A former defensive player of the year was never in the right place at the right time yesterday. In pick and roll situations Gasol would go way too far out of the arc to prevent Kemba from shooting but Kemba is a quick enough decision-maker and player to see that leaves either the paint wide open or a corner three wide open because the weakside defense came to cover the paint.
The Celtics abused that throughout the game when Marc Gasol was on and it led to too many freebies. Ibaka played off the pick and roll much better staying in front of the ball handler and giving him much fewer options to work with.
Looking forward to Game 2, it wouldn’t be surprising if Nurse opts to Ibaka. Especially considering that they don’t use Gasol’s greatest strength on offense which is his post offense. Something that could come in handy against a smaller center like Theis.
The Toronto Raptors stale offense and Siakam’s post-up game
The Toronto Raptors offense in the halfcourt is way too predictable and the dump it to Siakam in the post thing just isn’t working. Every time Siakam has posted up, there are 2-3 Raptors players open because of all the Celtics players closing in but the Celtics know that Siakam is not a great playmaker and he is also not a good enough post player to be doubled.
So running post-ups for Siakam is exactly something the Celtics want to face, mainly because Jaylen Brown can hold his own against Siakam. Siakam should go back to facing up his defender from on top of the key and driving in and finishing around the rim, and also looking to cut in and take advantage of the Raptors great playmakers. All things we haven’t seen too much of recently.
It is not fair to say to completely eliminate his post-game, it can still be a weapon used against smaller guys if he does have the mismatch. It should just not be his only offensive choice given that his success came from driving and dealing with his defender faceup.
For Nurse, he also has a lot of offensive choices he can go for if he really wanted to. As previously mentioned, there is no better time to exploit Marc Gasol on the post so he can find open shooters, cutters, or score on the much smaller Theis. Gasol is more than just a big who can stretch the floor and there is probably no better matchup where Gasol can be used in the post.
Another area that Nurse can improve his halfcourt offense is by using Matt Thomas as an offensive weapon. The Toronto Raptors need scoring and Matt Thomas proves that he’s that man for the job time and time again when he does play. Perhaps throwing a curveball and try to utilize Matt Thomas in a JJ Redick way with dribble hand-offs is definitely something that can work here.
As for the Raptors backcourt, they’ll have to create on their own like they always had. Game 1 was a bad start, but we should all have faith in Lowry and VanVleet to come back and create for themselves with more confidence.
What I pointed out is mainly the big pointers on how they lost yesterday and what they should fix, there are many more underlying issues but these are the ones that Nurse should take a look at first. For now, we just have to be optimistic that Nick Nurse comes prepared for Game 2 and that he can show the league why he won Coach of the Year.