TORONTO — Before you do anything, watch the video above. Then come back here to find out why Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll had a very long, very friendly, and very animated argument about that play after Thursday night’s game.
Seen it? Carroll and Joseph have too. They lived it. They both know one of them is at fault for the defensive lapse that gifted Goran Dragic a wide-open, game-tying three that sent the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat into overtime.
And as they both showered following their 96-92 victory, they each made stern, impassioned arguments as to why the other guy was to blame for the breakdown.
"The breakdown was Cory Joseph," Carroll said, half-jokingly, shortly after the shower debate. "I just spent 10 minutes telling him about it. You need to go ask him right now what the breakdown was."
Okay, let’s do that.
"Yeah, DeMarre and I, we had a little discussion. I say I’m in the right and he says he’s in the right," Joseph said. "But by no means was I wrong."
Back to Carroll.
"Me and him are like brothers, so we’ve been arguing about it," Carroll said. "It got, like, feisty. He’s real feisty. He thinks it wasn’t his fault. But I know it wasn’t my fault."
Well, then — let’s try to figure out what exactly happened here.
There was 14.9 seconds on the clock, and Luol Deng was inbounding the ball. Carroll was on Joe Johnson; Joseph had Dragic.
While Dwyane Wade ran distraction in front of Deng and Dragic faked a pick on Norman Powell who was chasing Wade, Johnson pushed off on Carroll and headed for Deng. Meanwhile, Dragic abandoned his fake pick and ran straight into Carroll with his arms up, crashing into the Raptors guard who had fallen a step behind Johnson after the push-off.
Joseph made a snap decision and left Dragic to pursue Johnson as he broke free and took the ball from Deng near the top of the arc, looking to shoot. But Carroll didn’t pick up on Joseph’s switch and fought his way through Dragic’s interference in hot pursuit of Johnson.
That left Dragic to spin off Carroll and set up on the right side of the arc. Johnson took a quick dribble to draw Joseph even further in and then fired to Dragic, who had more time than he needed to collect the pass and nail the game-tying three while Carroll desperately lunged back towards him to contest the shot.
It was a tough, split-second decision for both Carroll and Joseph when it came to making, or not making that switch. But Raptors head coach Dwane Casey says he had players like Carroll and Joseph on the floor specifically because if they got switched the defensive difference would be negligible.
"They did a couple things with moving and misdirection that got us discombobulated," Casey said. "But we’ve got similar size guys in there and that’s why — to come together on the switches. Communication’s huge."
Carroll seems to be left in no-man’s land on the play, as he fights through Dragic’s screen to find Joseph shadowing Johnson. But Joseph was also very quick to abandon Dragic, and doesn’t appear to be verbally communicating the switch to his teammate.
"Of course, being the defensive stopper that he is, he thought that he could just conquer the world in one play," Joseph said of Carroll’s effort to stay with Johnson, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "In my opinion, Johnson was definitely coming off wide open. I had to come take him. DeMarre thought he could get back to him. But I felt like he was clearly beat."
And there’s your stalemate. Neither Raptor is willing to budge from their firm stance that the other guy is at fault.
A third opinion has yet to be sought. Partly because the two close friends are much too stubborn to make that move. But also because if they did ask the coaching staff who was truly to blame, they probably wouldn’t like the answer.
"I know what they’ll say: ‘You’ve got to talk more.’ They’ll just get on us because we didn’t communicate. And they’re right. It was both of our faults. We’ve got to learn from that," he added. "We can’t do that. That’s a boneheaded mistake."
"Yeah, it was just a miscommunication. Me and him are very close, so it’s all love. Thankfully it didn’t cost us huge," Joseph said, before quickly realizing that allowing the Heat to tie the game so easily in that situation is actually rather huge. "I mean, at least it didn’t cost us the game."
No, it didn’t. And the fact the Raptors eventually won is a big reason why Joseph and Carroll could carry on such a friendly, spirited debate about the play while they showered afterwards. If the Raptors had lost the game in overtime, or if that defensive breakdown had given Miami the lead, the tenor of the conversation would likely be quite different. It might not even happen at all.
But, the Raptors won, so all is well. That’s why Joseph was able to leave the locker room Thursday night with one last light-hearted barb for his teammate and close friend. The Raptors will review the game tape on Friday; and Joseph says he fully expects to be exonerated.
"We’ll definitely go to the film," Joseph says. "I think that once we see the film, he’ll understand that I was right."