Title: THE RAPTORS NEED OUTSIDE HELP, BUT FACE A DILEMMA AS TRADE DEADLINE NEARS
Date: February 2, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about the risk the Toronto Raptors run of getting stuck in the middle, needing an addition that isn’t presenting itself on the market.
The Boston Celtics more or less ignored Lucas Nogueira’s screen. Late in the fourth quarter, they decided they would only pay attention to Kyle Lowry in the high pick-and-roll. The Toronto Raptors point guard was already up to 32 points and had hit some deep threes off the bounce. And so as Nogueira screened, Marcus Smart and Al Horford converged on Lowry, first trying to trap him going left, and then giving chase in tandem as a quick pass and hand-off worked as a re-screen. It was as close to a hard double-team as you’re likely to see, and Lowry was left to fling a late-clock heave over the 6’10” Horford and an outstretched arm.
That the play resulted in a fresh shot clock for the Raptors via a team rebound is not nearly as important as the message Boston sent. Game on the line, they were only worried about Lowry, and they’d live with whatever 4-on-3 situation resulted if Lowry could thread an impossible pass through the trap. With DeMar DeRozan still on the shelf, the Raptors, while spirited, just haven’t had enough offensive creators.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been the refrain even with DeRozan healthy over the last two years. As games grind down and opponents can scout in more detail, defences can get aggressive in loading up on Lowry and DeRozan, and while they remain very good players, the team has long felt a third playmaker short of legitimate contention. (And if that playmaker could play defence, too, given that’s a bigger weakness for the team overall, all the better.)