Return to ball-hawking defence simple cure for Raptors in Game 2 against Magic
|Toronto Star 15 Apr 2019 at 14:52|
The biggest secret to the Raptors playing better defence for longer stretches in Game 2 of their NBA playoff series with the Orlando Magic is that there’s no secret to it all.
Do what they did in the third quarter of Saturday’s upset loss for four quarters on Tuesday night and there’s every chance the best-of-seven series will be tied 1-1.
It’s not rocket science and playing aggressive, ball-hawking, disruptive defence is not anathema to the Raptors, but it does have to be more common.
“Defence (doesn’t have) a lot of secrets in it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Monday. “It starts by getting it set up. It starts by keeping the ball in front of you. The next thing is great communication between you and your teammates, belief.
“That is what we were doing in the third quarter, and we were fragmented a little bit at the start of the game. We were fragmented a lot in the second quarter. Again, we weren’t doing things well enough. There wasn’t enough communication. There wasn’t enough sliding our feet, hands out, helping each other, playing team defence for some stretches.”
The third quarter was a clinic and allowed Toronto to climb back into the game after facing a 16-point deficit. The Raptors held Orlando to 5-for-18 shooting from the field (27.8 per cent) with only three three-point field-goal attempts and four points in the paint. Toronto forced four turnovers, scored six of their 14 fast-break points in the quarter and outrebounded the Magic 14-9. It was a clinic in many ways and what Toronto needs more of in Game 2 on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.
“When things aren’t going well and they are hitting shots — they shot pretty well from three, although I don’t think they shot well from the floor — you gotta stick to what you have been winning all year long on, which is your defence,” Raptors guard Danny Green said.
Tactically, Nurse is never going to give away trade secrets, so it’s a waste of time to try and figure out what subtle adjustments he might have the Raptors make. The coach did switch up assignments on hot-shooting Orlando guard D.J. Augustin in Game 1, putting Green on him and Kyle Lowry on shooting guard Evan Fournier for a lot of the third quarter. Expect to see a bit more of that in Game 2, along with some other momentary alterations.
“I think you’ll see everybody getting put on both of those matchups,” Nurse said. “It’s kind of that Augustin-Fournier-(Terrence) Ross combination. I think you’ll see all the way down to Kawhi (Leonard), Danny, Kyle, Fred (VanVleet), Norman (Powell) all involved in all three of those things, depending on the situation.”
One thing the Raptors were successful with on Saturday was applying a bit of ball pressure on Orlando’s guards. Not necessarily hounding them baseline to baseline on every play, but picking their spots and trying to make the Magic instigate their offence further from the basket. It creates more — and longer — passes, takes seconds off the shot clock and allows the Raptors to be at their aggressive best.
It can’t happen every possession, but as a disruptive idea Nurse is all for it.
“I think pickup points are sometimes used to make a statement of, ‘We’re coming to get you!’ You know, a little bit of ‘We’re coming to attack you a little bit,’” Nurse said.
“I like it. I have a European background where everyone picks up full court all the time, right? Point guards are up there all the time, hounding them back and forth. I like that a little bit, but then you have to settle in, depending on personnel … If you need to keep guys in front of you, you may have to back off, but there’s no reason why you can’t pick up and then back off at the same possession.”
It dovetails nicely with the overall theme of Saturday’s Game 1, one that has to change for Game 2. The Raptors were good in defeat, but they weren’t great and they weren’t even good enough for long enough stretches.
“It’s like I said: spurts,” Green said. “We’ve got to be consistent. Do it for 48 minutes.”