April 30, 2019, 11:49 pm
Game 2 was an arduous one. It was the kind of game that the Raptors have yet to be involved in this postseason, and the sort that the Sixers would love to play given their flaky shooting and shaky depth. As the game dragged on that script flipped, with Toronto’s bench getting outscored handily and their shooters largely disappearing.
Perhaps nobody caught more flak for their rough night than Danny Green, who ended up going 1-for-8 and missing a wide-open (truly wide-open) 3-pointer with the chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
Missing looks like that doomed the Raptors in Game 2, as they went a paltry 9-for-29 overall on shots the NBA classifies as wide-open (the nearest defender being six-plus feet away) and 7-for-24 on wide-open threes. for the series they’re just 12-for-38 on wide-open threes as a team.
To rub more salt in the wound, the Raptors managed to generate 54 uncontested shots in Game 2, compared to 37 contested attempts. The fact that they only managed to hit those good looks at 35.2 percent pretty much tells the story, and Nick Nurse was largely justified in not being overly concerned with the team’s play. The Raptors spent a lot of the first half pounding the air out of the ball whenever a mismatch presented itself but still produced shots that should be expected to drop more frequently, whether the ball was moving or not.
So no, it’s not just a Green issue, but when the league’s second-most accurate 3-point shooter in the regular season (45.5 percent) goes 31.6 percent from deep in the playoffs it sticks out as a problem. The Raptors don’t live and die on high-variance shots like the Nets did, but they should not be losing the 3-point battle against Philadelphia. Green, understandably, is a key character there.
Green has been mired in a short but nasty slump, now 1-for-9 on catch-and-shoot looks against the Sixers (and 10-for-31 through seven playoff games) after hitting 47.4 percent of those same shots throughout the regular season.
There really isn’t much the Raptors can do about this aspect of Green’s game. Shooters hit ruts, and those who have a steady diet of threes are subject to more variance than most. They have to believe that Green will start knocking his shots down (1-for-6 on uncontested attempts on Monday) and keep feeding him when the opportunities arise.
Defensively, there isn’t much to get too worked up about Green’s contributions, either. He spent the bulk of his defensive time on Tobias Harris and limited the larger forward to only five points on 21 possessions (though the team scored 21). He also did a decent job on Jimmy Butler, who shot 3-of-8 in the 20 possessions where Green was his primary defender (the team again scored 21).
Butler did come away with 13 points thanks to six free throws, though, and this is where the NBA’s matchup data gets a bit tricky – they define matchups based on which player spent the most time guarding the other on a possession, which doesn’t account for who a player was supposed to be covering, or any actions that resulted in switches. Green was credited without any defensive fouls and just one shooting foul while “guarding” Butler, though his questionable foul to give Butler a 4-point play (and a fifth on the ensuing technical) certainly stands out.
Although Green will simply have to shoot his way out of this funk, the Raptors can keep him involved in the flow by increasing his use as a screener.
Green has predictably been guarded by J.J. Redick more often than not (about 43 percent of the time per the NBA’s matchup data), and he drew Redick’s coverage on a shade under 50 percent of his possessions in Game 2. There’s gold in those hills, especially considering the Raptors haven’t made it a priority to hunt Redick on defense just yet.
The Sixers will be trying to stick Ben Simmons on Kawhi Leonard as frequently as possible and found some success using Joel Embiid on Pascal Siakam. The Raptors have the personnel to force switches by virtue of their shooting ability but will need to get creative after Philadelphia found a workable defensive scheme in Game 2.
Leonard has only seen Redick as his primary defender on three possessions through two games, which can definitely be dragged upwards regardless of Philadelphia’s effort to stick to one or two key matchups. The Raptors have scored five points in that brief stint, without Leonard having attempted a shot from the field. There’s plenty of room for more in those moments, not to mention what might result from the chaos that would follow.
If Green, and to a lesser extent Kyle Lowry, can start causing some havoc and forcing switches, it will present the Sixers with some tough choices. Despite Game 2’s performance both of those players are simply too dangerous as shooters to help off of, and more screen actions involving Green could start to open things up for everyone. Creating a switch may be easier said than done, but there are serious advantages to be gained if Green can get the job done.
Pre-rotate and the Raptors have a mismatch somewhere, and odds are they’ll be more decisive in attacking those after Saturday’s issues. Stick to your guns and you risk Leonard ending up with Redick in space. Double from there and now Green, Lowry, Siakam and Marc Gasol are looking at a 4-on-3.
And that’s only Leonard-Green direct actions. The doors really open up if Lowry and Siakam can start to shake free and get into the paint like they did in Game 1.
Attacking Redick would also provide a benefit on the other end, at least theoretically. If the Raptors can effectively play Redick off the floor because of his defensive shortcomings, it would open up the zone defense as a viable option for Nick Nurse. It made a cameo in Game 2 but Brett Brown subbed Redick back in to squash that idea before it gained any traction. The Raptors are likely comfortable challenging James Ennis or Jimmy Butler to play zone-buster, or at least far more so than they are with Redick.
If you’re the Sixers, you can feel good having stolen a road win on a night where Joel Embiid scored 12 points, Ben Simmons had six points, five assists and four turnovers and the team committed 19 turnovers while going under 40 percent from the field. On the flip side, you could be a little bit worried that the Raptors were awful on a bevy of open looks and were still able to take this one down to the wire despite chasing their tails for the first half.
If you’re the Raptors, you can feel good knowing that the offense still created a ton of great shots after some early missteps and that forcing turnovers and defending weren’t core issues. On the flip side, you’re probably kicking yourself for wasting such a solid defensive performance knowing that Embiid won’t be held down forever and getting away from your core offensive principles in the first half.
Games this ugly almost always leave plenty on the table for optimists and pessimists alike, with either side taking away what they’d like from the proceedings. And while “shoot better” is the easy cure for Toronto’s performance in Game 2, it’s not good enough as a diagnosis.
The series is too short to bank on regression to the mean, even as probable as that might be. Shots are more likely to drop moving forward, yes, but there’s still more work to be done to cut that margin for error. Green can be a big part of that, getting buckets or otherwise.
1 – The Raptors will need more from the bench. There’s really no other way around it. Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka weren’t able to make up for their woeful offensive output on the other end tonight. Five points just isn’t enough. “Play better” is fairly reductive, but they need to play better. Ibaka butchered a couple easy shots at the rim that just have to go in. Missing OG Anunoby is killer in this matchup.
2 – Philadelphia stole some minutes with Amir Johnson late, and it’s clear that the Sixers aren’t at all comfortable with Boban Marjanovic in any matchup. Greg Monroe got the call and played extremely well but Boban got one short stint after Moose’s sprained ankle. It was a big-time performance in a random spot there for Monroe, and if he’s forced to miss time the Sixers might have to turn to Jonah Bolden. They won the depth battle on Saturday but it’s not exactly a stable position to be dealing from.
3 – A lot was made of the rebounding differential on the broadcast. The Sixers had a 53-36 edge overall but with offensive boards tied at nine apiece, there’s really not much for the Raptors to sweat. Teams corral a lot of defensive rebounds when you don’t make any shots, as the Sixers outrebounded the Raptors 33-13 (27 defensive boards) in the first half when Toronto shot 15-for-46. In the second half it was the Raptors who won the rebounding battle, 23-20. Much ado about nothing, though Philly should maintain the overall advantage given how the Raptors want to control the transition game and how the roster is constructed.
4 – James Ennis has been a nice answer to the Mike Scott question so far and he’s generally made the Raptors pay for putting him on the back burner. He’s hit some timely shots and snuck in for key rebounds, and it’s going to be there for him all series. Adjustments are coming after tonight but the Raptors have other fires to snuff out before trying to “control” Ennis.
5 – The Sixers tried their hardest to stick Ben Simmons to Kawhi defensively and did a pretty good job, though Leonard was still able to get his numbers. They showed some doubles early in the first quarter and challenging Leonard to make plays is probably your best bet to contain him, but if he cracks that nut and can get Marc Gasol the ball in 4-on-3 situations, we might see the doubles stop quickly. That feeds into the talk of using the guards as screeners more often, too.
6 – The other thing that the Sixers tried to work with, especially later in the game, was getting Embiid to check Pascal Siakam. It’s a bit of a bold choice (we’ll get into that in a second) but Siakam isn’t a consistent enough shooter to be comfortably taking jumpers or floaters over Embiid. He can certainly use his quickness to get to the rack but moving Embiid to the point of attack presents a major obstacle, and any help that can make Siakam hesitate for even a second will reintroduce Embiid as a lethal rim protector. Driving into length like that is a tough proposition, and Siakam isn’t a good enough screener or pick-and-pop threat to shake that coverage by forcing a switch every time down. Some DHO stuff, or again, more guard activity can ease the burden.
7 – Jodie Meeks got the 90-second spot but it might be time to give that job to Patrick McCaw. It’s not really fair to Meeks to make this call off one missed open three (considering everyone was laying bricks tonight), but if he’s not knocking those down then the Raptors have to look elsewhere. McCaw will at least be able to create a little havoc defensively. Or better yet, the Raptors can cut the four-reserve groups entirely. They’ve been consistently outplayed, and even if this foray lasted 90 seconds that’s still too much. Philadelphia played just one minute with fewer than three starters on the floor the entire game.
8 – Embiid on Siakam worked in that specific matchup, but Toronto also got some good vibes going with Marc Gasol guarded by Tobias Harris. Gasol against a smaller player should be money every time down, and if the Sixers start to throw another body at Gasol he’s got a quick pass to an advantageous setup. The Sixers managed to mostly execute the “anybody but Kawhi” plan, but there are some things that opened up for Toronto to pick at. Gasol was able to get to favorable spots with ease but took only one shot in the 35 possessions where Harris was his primary defender, though the team scored 39 points total in that time. That’s got to change, especially if Harris guards Gasol on over 50 percent of his possessions (52.2% in Game 2). If Gasol can toggle the switch between his traffic cop role with the Raptors and his old Grizzlies work, he’s going to be feasting.
9 – Incredible move by Embiid to get that last bucket, especially considering the circumstances between his knee and his illness. The Sixers want these games to get stuck in the mud, and Embiid was able to get Gasol moving in space in a chaotic moment. They’ve really been slowing the pace when Embiid is on the floor but if his body holds up it might be worth trying to speed things up every so often to get him moving to the bucket against a more scrambled version of the defense.
10 – Gasol and Embiid should be shadows for the rest of this series. Nick Nurse hasn’t felt compelled to mess with his typical rotations as of yet, but on nights where Ibaka isn’t doing anything but fouling the hook has to be quicker. As a follow-up, if Toronto doesn’t change its rotation patterns, Gasol has to get more touches against Philly’s bench players. Between the minutes against Harris and the Monroes of the world, Gasol’s still got more to give. As a follow-up to the follow-up, both starting units were entirely positive in terms plus-minus besides Redick (minus-5) and Siakam (even). As a five-man unit, Toronto’s starters went plus-13 in 30 minutes while the Sixers’ were minus-5 in 20. Let your best guys settle it.
August 21, 2019, 10:34 amCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.
Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.
Source: John Casey on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:33 pmTyronn LuePG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:28 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.
The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 6:11 pmJaylen AdamsPG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.
Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.
August 20, 2019, 4:55 pmJeff LedbetterG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.
Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:49 pmEric MikaC, Sacramento Kings
The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.
The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:44 pmJA MorantPG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."
Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.
Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 2:17 pmDerrick AlstonTeam, New York Knicks
The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.
Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:21 pmCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph is not expected to play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup.
Team Canada has been taking a beating the last few weeks with NBA guys continuing to pull out. This news won't have any effects on Joseph's role heading into the season, but it does create another dent in Team Canada's chances of making noise in the World Cup.
Source: Doug Smith: Raptors on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:08 pmMarcus Georges-HuntSG, Free Agent
Jay King of The Athletic is hearing that Marcus Georges-Hunt is in Boston working out with the Celtics for the next few days.
Georges-Hunt last played in the NBA for the Wolves in the 2017-18 season. Last season Georges-Hunt was waived from the Celtics in mid-October and played nine games for the Red Claws. Georges-Hunt is a longshot to make the team and carries no fantasy relevance regardless of the outcome.
Source: Jay King on Twitter