Basketball

Scott Stinson: Is the Raptors’ destiny merely a matter of who shoots the higher deep ball?

TORONTO – With about six minutes left within the second quarter of Wednesday night time’s sport in opposition to the Washington Wizards, Serge Ibaka collected an offensive rebound for the Raptors and threw the ball to Kyle Lowry on the perimeter. Lowry elevated and drilled an extended three-point shot, giving Toronto a five-point lead.

The Raptors had been lacking Kawhi Leonard, and so they had two new gamers within the lineup, Marc Gasol having one other teammate now on what was an impromptu Jeremy Lin Night time at Scotiabank Area, however the residence staff was largely dealing with a depleted Wizards staff that’s however a husk of the group that confronted them within the playoffs final season.

Then the Wiz bought scorching. Jeff Inexperienced hit a three-point shot after which, 20 seconds later, he hit one other. Within the remaining 30 seconds of the half, Bradley Beal after which Trevor Ariza each buried treys to offer Washington a six-point lead on the break of a sport that they trailed nearly the entire approach. The Wizards had began 1-for-10 from deep, then went 5-of-6 to flip the scoreline. They’d find yourself on an 8-for-11 run from distance that stretched into the third quarter and prolonged their result in a dozen factors in a sport that instantly threatened to ship the Raptors into the All-Star break on an embarrassing down word.

Toronto Raptors ahead Pascal Siakam (43) and Washington Wizards ahead Jeff Inexperienced (32) on Wednesday February 13, 2019. Veronica Henri/Toronto Solar/Postmedia Community

This had change into one thing of a sample in latest video games. The Atlanta Hawks torched the Raptors for 13 three-pointers within the first half final Thursday, on absurd 65 per cent taking pictures. It was a franchise file for three-pointers allowed in a half, and went an extended approach to explaining Toronto’s eight-point deficit on the break. Three days later, the Brooklyn Nets bombed 13 first-half threes to take a halftime lead of their very own.

The Raptors recovered to win all of these video games, and so they get to All-Star Weekend on a six-game profitable streak, with 43 victories and barely forward of final yr’s 59-win tempo. However what was with all these three-point barrages? Is that one thing for Toronto followers to fret about, or simply the bizarre vagaries of a high-variance shot?

“That’s us not taking part in laborious sufficient,” mentioned head coach Nick Nurse. “You possibly can’t settle for that as, ‘oh, they had been scorching.’ You’ve bought to make them un-hot. It’s dangerous transition defence, it’s dangerous speaking, communication,” he mentioned. Nurse mentioned they wanted to modify faster off screens, and get out to the road sooner when the ball goes into the paint, earlier than the inevitable kick out to the open man.

“You noticed once we do it, the pictures are little more durable and for some purpose after they’re more durable, they don’t go in,” Nurse mentioned. “Most of ‘em.”

Nick Nurse on Wednesday February 13, 2019. eronica Henri/Toronto Solar/Postmedia Community

Certainly. Atlanta shot 3-for-15 from three-point vary within the second half final week, and on Wednesday night time in Toronto, with the Raptors making an attempt to carry on to a slender lead, the Wizards hit simply one in all their six three-point makes an attempt within the remaining three minutes. It was, notably, a Danny Inexperienced three-pointer, with the Toronto guard holding his end on what he felt was a pure shot, that was the dagger that gave the house facet an insurmountable 10-point cushion with lower than two minutes to play.

All of that results in an fascinating query, because the Raptors end the ultimate two months and head right into a playoffs that might outline the franchise for years to return: for all the adjustments which have occurred with this staff over the previous yr, is their destiny merely a matter of who shoots the higher deep ball?

It doesn’t really feel like that must be the case, not when a lot upheaval has taken place. The Raptors of earlier playoff woes had a major scorer who typically struggled to attain within the second season, and so they had been notoriously dangerous at perimeter defence. They now have two glorious perimeter defenders in Leonard and Inexperienced, Leonard is the sort of two-way terror they’ve by no means earlier than had, and now Gasol has arrived as a passing large man that additionally offers them a dimension by no means earlier than seen in these components. There’s additionally the brand new coach, the emergence of Pascal Siakam and, these days, the return of OG Anunoby to the shape that made him untouchable in commerce talks. There was a lot change in an on-court tactical sense, and likewise, in the event you care about such issues, a lot change within the intangibles. Lowry is now the one Raptor left from the staff that misplaced within the first spherical to Brooklyn 5 years in the past.

However nonetheless, these threes. With the entire of the NBA having adopted the spread-the-floor mentality that depends on exterior taking pictures, a lot of what occurs over a playoff run will depend upon whether or not these pictures fall. Final yr’s NBA Finals matchup between Golden State and Cleveland, the one which appeared totally inevitable as soon as it was made, may have simply been a Houston-Boston championship collection. The Celtics went an insane 7-for-39 (18%) from deep of their Recreation 7 loss to the Cavaliers within the convention finals, and the Rockets slid below that with a 7-for-44 (16%) efficiency from past the arc of their Recreation 7 loss to the Warriors in the identical spherical.

It’s not nice for followers of predictability, this three-point revolution. And for the Raptors, on this season of upheaval, it means a lot will depend upon their conversion price of a shot that, league vast, goes in about 36 per cent of the time.

Toronto is taking pictures 37 per cent from three-point vary in its wins this season, and 29 per cent in its losses.

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