Raptor fans are up in arms about losses in Memphis and a seemingly undermanned Orlando team without Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus, but you had to know that this was going to happen. Hey go back and read the answer to the last question in this preview in the section on the Toronto Raptors. A slow start is expected and it will continue until this team figures it out defensively.
Fans look at the defence on Sunday against Orlando and want better. And they’re right, the team needs to do better, but it was not nearly as bad as it looked. I keep bringing this stat up and it is pertinent to Toronto’s fortunes as I have been tracking it for the past three seasons. When the Raptors hold the opponents under 45 per cent from the floor they have a .790 winning percentage but when the opposition hits at 45 per cent or better, their success rate is only .289.
And why is this important looking at Sunday? Well Sunday was one of the rare times, and it happens about once a month (say 6-7 times a season) where Toronto holds an opponent under the magic number — no pun intended — and loses the game. The difference was Orlando’s three-point shooting which was great. But that is to be expected from a team that was 7th in the NBA last season in three-point shooting percentage and hoisted over a third of their field goal attempts last season from behind the arc. Orlando’s 17 three-point field goals was a record for the most treys made by a Raptor opponent in a single game. Heck, Toronto shot 54 per cent and put up 116 points and still lost. On Sunday afternoon, Orlando shot 43.9 per cent. So what happened and should the Raptors have modified their defensive game plan and coverage?
There is merit to both sides of the defensive argument, both the one that says make changes because of Orlando’s style and the other side that says don’t change anything as the system has all the answers built in if you play it properly. I can clearly see Jay Triano’s point about not modifying his system.
Here’s why: I have spoken to many defensive-minded coaches, not the ones who pay lip service to defence, but guys who have had teams that have actually finished in the top five over the course of an entire NBA season in opponents’ field-goal percentage. They say that you have to stay committed to your system. These coaches play zone only selectively in the odd baseline or sideline out of bounds or maybe out of a timeout for a single possession to give the offence a different look or render a play call out of a timeout ineffective. When you start changing defences you send the wrong message to your team.
If you decide to take away what the other team does best, this would have changed the defence on Sunday. That being said, it is hard as a player to abandon what you have been taught. Your entire basketball life you have been instructed to sink to the level of the ball, help out, and then close out on a shooter who receives a kick-out pass in a punch and pitch situation. So why not stay with your system if it has the answers. Toronto is not blessed with great individual defenders and it is going to take more commitment and effort for them to be successful regardless of what defensive scheme they employ.
But what if you are trying to build your system early in the season? Do you confuse players by changing it? Not according to Triano, who has seen so many adjustments made to opponents in individual game plans that the defensive philosophy becomes a moving target. He is in essence saying if we do this right, it will be all encompassing. In theory if the players do what they are asked, he may be proven to be correct.
So the Raptors defence continues to be a work in progress and they need to pay attention to the system and refine it because the success of the defense will ultimately determine how well this team does this season.
Kevin Martin with 48 points for Sacramento in the win over Memphis… wow! And on the other side of the coin, what a surprise, Allen Iverson is complaining about coming off the bench. The word is the owner wanted Iverson to maybe help them sell a few tickets. It could turn out to be a headache for head coach Lionel Hollins. After seeing them in person, I think Memphis would be better without Iverson if he is going to start making demands. Don’t get me wrong, over the past 10-12 seasons, he may not practice but when the lights go on, nobody has played harder. I just don’t think he fits in in Memphis.
Today’s shout-out: Physical and health education teachers who are trying to teach kids about being physically fit, nutrition and knowing their bodies. Hopefully they succeed in teaching kids about living a healthy lifestyle that carries over in their adult life.