Portland Trail Blazers v Toronto Raptors (1/7/20)

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Watch with me as I break down some of the Portland Trail Blazers’ most compelling games this year. Get on League Pass or scour your D-V-R and follow along.

With no games on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to go and look back at the Portland Trail Blazers season. If the 2019-20 campaign eventually resumes, this exercise will aid our collective knowledge and understanding of the team as they finish out their schedule. If the season is ultimately cancelled, this will serve as a way for us to pass the time without any live games.

So without further ado, time to watch the third game on the list, which is their 38th game of the year, on the road against the Toronto Raptors.

1st Quarter Analysis: Raptors win the low-scoring period, 24-15 

12:00 left in 1st (offensive possession): Carmelo Anthony tries to back down OG Anunoby but is unable to move him. He goes into a one legged fade but OG is right there for the block.

11:35 left in 1st (defensive possession): Hassan Whiteside is unable to navigate a screen set by Kyle Lowry. Serge Ibaka drills the open three.

11:19 left in 1st (offensive possession): Beautiful offensive set from Portland with C.J. McCollum getting a double cross screen with defender top blocking (positioned between the ball handler and the man he’s guarding). C.J. curls and Damian Lillard throws a lob pass over the defender which gives McCollum a free lane to the hoop.

10:45 left in 1st (offensive possession): Melo with a decisive move attacking the close-out by Anunoby. He hits a step-back mid-range jumper.

10:27 left in 1st (defensive possession): Whiteside leaves his feet trying to contest an Ibaka 15 footer. Ibaka pump fakes, and gets an easy dunk. At Hassan’s size, just putting a hand up is sufficient in terms of contesting a jump-shot.

9:55 left in 1st (offensive possession): Beautiful basketball from the Blazers. Lillard and Whiteside run pick-and-roll and get a switch. They post up Whiteside on Patrick McCaw and draw a double team. They pass it around and get a wide open corner three for Bazemore (miss). He has to hit those types of shots (he missed an open corner three on the previous possession as well).

9:18 left in 1st (offensive possession): Lillard-Whiteside run pick-and-roll at the top of the key. Dame with a simple pocket pass to Hassan for an easy two. Lowry, not respecting Bazemore as a shooter, abandons him in the strong-side corner and nearly makes a play on the roll.

8:35 left in 1st (offensive possession): Dame tries to attack Anunoby (who is a terrific, versatile defender), but has difficulty getting to his shot and has the ball poked away at one point. He eventually gets off a tough push shot at the shot clock buzzer and misses.

8:05 left in 1st (offensive possession): Good recognition by C.J. to attack early in the shot clock before the defense is fully set. It’s crucial to get a few of these semi-transition opportunities against a solid half-court defense.

7:57 left in 1st (defensive possession): Whiteside doesn’t sprint back on defense and get into the full court shell spot (free throw line area). This allows Lowry to get into the paint and spin past Bazemore for an easy two.

7:38 left in 1st (offensive possession): Lowry not respecting Bazemore as a shooter allows him to blow up a Lillard-Whiteside dribble-handoff. Whiteside doesn’t expect a defender to be there on the catch, and travels.

7:14 left in 1st (defensive possession): The Raptors run an inbound play that tries to free Lowry for a three. Lillard shows great recognition to leave his man (McCaw) and get to Lowry to prevent the shot.

6:40 left in 1st (defensive possession): Whiteside doesn’t box out Ibaka and concedes an offensive rebound.

6:22 left in 1st (offensive possession): Lillard and Whiteside run a pick-and-roll. The ball is swung to Carmelo, who makes a nice pass to Hassan rolling to the rim. Lowry (again leaving Bazemore in the corner) anticipates the play and strips Whiteside as he went up for the shot.

6:12 left in 1st (offensive possession): Another isolation for Melo against Anunoby. He’s unable to create any separation and misses. The Blazers should be trying to get a switch and then attacking with Melo against an inferior defender.

5:48 left in 1st (offensive possession): C.J. with spectacular footwork to free himself for a short floater, but unable to convert.

5:38 left in 1st (defensive possession): Good strong defensive board from Whiteside.

4:15 left in 1st (offensive possession): Bazemore is single-handedly killing the Blazers offense in this first quarter. His lack of gravity (the amount of attention a shooter generates from the defense) stops a Lillard drive. Kent gets the ball and drives to his strong-hand, but is cut-off by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He changes directions but can’t finish with his right hand over the contest from Ibaka.

3:40 left in 1st (defensive possession): Whiteside switches on to Matt Thomas (one of the more prolific three-point shooters in the league) and just leaves him open in the corner. Thomas misses, but Hassan needs to understand the scouting report. .

3:28 left in 1st (offensive possession): Hollis-Jefferson shades Bazemore to his weak-hand. And instead of trying to finish with the right, Kent attempts a ludicrous reverse that has no chance.

3:21 left in 1st (defensive possession): Anfernee Simons gets away with a push on Ibaka’s layup attempt. When a player is airborne, the slightest nudge can put them off-balance.

2:52 left in 1st (offensive possession): Lillard gets an elbow to the head from Chris Boucher on a drive, no call. Leads to a 5-4 the other way and a Matt Thomas three.

2:30 left in 1st (offensive possession): Simons opts for a difficult push shot instead of attacking the rim. He tends to shy away from contact near the basket, which is going to lower his free throw opportunities and his efficiency.

1:37 left in 1st (offensive possession): Simons misses a point-blank layup, not sure if it slipped out of his hands, but it’s hard to miss the rim entirely from that close.

1:10 left in 1st (offensive possession): Mario Hezonja, Simons, and Anthony Tolliver were unable to properly space the floor on this possession. Multiple players standing too close to each other on the perimeter allows a single defender to guard multiple guys. Boucher, who’s guarding Tolliver, is able to block Simons’ three-point attempt.

4th Quarter Analysis: Blazers handily win the final chapter, 32-21

10:42 left in 4th (offensive possession): Another example of C.J. attacking in semi-transition. Beautiful cross-over to get to the hoop and finish off-the-glass.

9:48 left in 4th (defensive possession): A great defensive sequence by the Blazers until Tolliver helps off the strong-side corner and gives up a three to Chris Boucher. As a help defender, if you opt to get in the ball handler’s path to shut off the drive and force a pass, you need to take a charge. Forcing the pass without the ability to recover to contest the ensuing shot is poor defensive decision making.

9:20 left in 4th (offensive possession): McCollum is really struggling in this game. When he attacks the hoop his lack of verticality and physical strength hurts him. As he’s gathering the basketball, Stanley Johnson gets his hand on it, and C.J. struggles to regain sole possession. He then tries to put his body into Boucher to negate the shot-blocker, but he lacks the hang-time to finish after contact.

8:46 left in 4th (offensive possession): Whiteside doesn’t recognise that the shot clock is running down after catching a pass from Lillard. He passes it out instead of attempting a 10 foot shot. The buzzer sounds, shot clock violation.

8:00 left in 4th (defensive possession): Good pick-and-roll defense from Whiteside helping on the Terrence Davis III drive. He forces him to put extra loft on the layup attempt. The live rebound leads to a Simons triple in transition.

7:25 left in 4th (offensive possession): Gary Trent Jr. with a nice baseline drive against the closeout by Johnson. He draws the defense and throws a shovel pass to Whiteside for two.

6:57 left in 4th (offensive possession): Whiteside does a nice job flipping the screen to create space for Lillard, who drills a deep three.

6:31 left in 4th (offensive possession): Lillard gets doubled on the pick-and-roll and the Blazers aren’t able to create any openings. This is where having a big man that can handle and pass in space would be so valuable to this team.

6:10 left in 4th (offensive possession): Nice drive by Trent Jr. to get into the paint, he hesitates yet maintains his dribble, which causes a defensive breakdown. He makes a floater over the outstretched arm of Ibaka. You can see Lowry yelling at Davis for not switching as the ball nestles through the net.

5:50 left in 4th (defensive possession): The Blazers switch a Lowry-Ibaka pick-and-roll, which puts Lillard on Ibaka. Timing makes all the difference when deciding to play it conventionally or switch. When the shot clock is low, like on this possession, mismatches are not as valuable because the offensive player doesn’t have the time to exploit the advantage.

5:27 left in 4th (offensive possession): Whiteside with a great pass out of the short roll to find Anthony in the corner for a three.

4:53 left in 4th (offensive possession): Lillard takes a step-back three with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. While he’s capable of making that, he can get to that shot whenever he wants, and should make the defense work before resorting to it.

4:42 left in 4th (defensive possession): Whiteside again leaves his man in the strong-side corner wide open. As a big, the tendency is to protect the rim, but the points-per-play on a wide open corner three is just as profitable for the offense as a contested layup.

4:32 left in 4th (offensive possession): Terry Stotts draws up the same set they used in the first (double cross screen for McCollum). This time they have Dame as the recipient of the pass and he makes a nice baseline drive and finds Whiteside for the deuce.

4:09 left in 4th (offensive possession): This play sums up McCollum’s night. The Blazers have a 2-on-1, Lillard throws a perfect pass for C.J. to finish and he bobbles it. He tries to recover, but it eventually leads to a turnover. The Raptors secure possession and find Oshae Brissett cherry-picking on the other end.

2:31 left in 4th (offensive possession): Lillard pulls-up from 30+ feet and drills a triple. He may have the best range in league history. You honestly can’t tell based on his shooting stroke if he’s shooting from 15 feet or 30 feet.

2:15 left in 4th (defensive possession): The Blazers defend the pick-and-roll with Lowry and Brissett pretty well. Unfortunately, the one gap in the conservative, drop-back pick-and-roll defensive system is in the mid-range, and Lowry confidently knocks it down against the back peddling Whiteside. My only nitpick would be Simons could have done a better job of at least providing a late shot contest, but it may not have mattered.

1:59 left in 4th (offensive possession): Lillard, who just hit a shot and has every right to take another, opts for the drive, draws the defense, and finds Carmelo for a huge three to make it a one possession game.

1:40 left in 4th (defensive possession): Whiteside falls for an Ibaka pump fake again, and concedes an easy two. Lowry searched out Whiteside in the pick-and-roll knowing the Blazers wouldn’t switch that action.

1:10 left in 4th (defensive possession): The Raptors set a high screen, Whiteside is not close enough to contest, and Lowry gets a wide open look from three but misses. After a long rebound, Stotts tells Whiteside to meet Lowry higher up on the floor on the ensuing pick-and-roll, which leads to a drive, and Whiteside is able to shut off the rim and block the shot.

0:42 left in 4th (offensive possession): Whiteside gets away with a moving screen that knocks Hollis-Jefferson to the floor. Lillard takes advantage and hits an impossible shot from near the Raptors logo. Tie game.

0:37 left in 4th (defensive possession): Whiteside with a terrific block on Hollis-Jefferson. He uses his left arm to get the ball from behind, and force a jump-ball.

0:32 left in 4th (defensive possession): After losing the jump, Whiteside is able to shut off the rim on a Lowry drive and force the miss.

13.6 left in 4th (offensive possession): Whatever Portland was trying to run out of the timeout is completely blown up when the Raptors deny Lillard the ball. McCollum is able to get open and catch the ball in the right corner. He makes a left hand drive and kicks it to Melo, who again shows no hesitation attacking the closeout of Anunoby. He then hits the game winner, his patented mid-range pull-up, a shot he’s hit countless times throughout his illustrious career.

3.3 left in 4th (defensive possession): Stotts goes with a small, switch-heavy lineup with Hezonja out there instead of Whiteside. Lillard and Hezonja switch the pick-and-roll action, with Mario sticking to Lowry as he attempts a tough, off-balance three going left. The shot hits off the back of the rim, Blazers win.

Other Notes:

Anfernee Simons had an important 4-0 run to end the 3rd and cut the Raptors lead to 9.

Chris Boucher played a great game in limited minutes, scoring 10 points in the 4th.

Usually Portland is the team most impacted by injuries/absences, but the Raptors were missing three starters (Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet) and a key reserve  ( Normal Powell ) in this one.

Next: What do Drexler, Roy and Lillard have in common?

Bazemore got ejected for two technical fouls at the 3:06 mark of the 3rd quarter. He missed a layup and demonstrably jumped up and down and said something to the official. It appeared to be legal defense from the Raptors. The reaction from Kent was likely frustration from his struggles throughout the night.

Carmelo not only hit the last shot, but had a great overall game (28 points, 7 rebounds, 10-17 FG, 5-8 from three). When he is knocking down shots and being decisive with the ball, Anthony is still a very effective offensive player. He schooled Hollis-Jefferson with a sick crossover and drilled a triple at the 5:05 mark of the second quarter.

Lillard scored his first point with 1:41 left in the first half. He ended up with 20.

Kyle Lowry is such a tremendous defensive player. He is always in the right position to help and he knows who he can leave without being punished.