Title: Raptors can’t stop the Cavaliers from shooting the 3. But they can make it more difficult
Date: May 3, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Cleveland’s inevitable 3-point barrage against the Raptors and why it’s an unfortunate reality of the series.
Against most opponents, a defence is going to have to “pick its poison,” as the saying goes. Against some offences, this amounts to a choice between options that irritate the skin or are harmful only if swallowed. Against a transcendent offence like that of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the decision is something more akin to choosing between a steady IV drip of ricin and a plague of poison dart frogs.
The Raptors really have three options at their behest when it comes to guarding the effervescent Cavaliers’ attack: Play every match-up straight up, staying at home on shooters and forcing Cleveland’s stars to beat you; sell out to stop the primary threats and scramble back out onto shooters; find a half-measure middle-ground, pray, and probably cry a little bit.
In Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals last year, the Raptors chose option 1, daring LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love to take advantage where they could in order to protect themselves from a 3-point barrage. The Cavaliers responded by scoring 116.3 points per-100 possessions, outscoring the Raptors by 50 points in total, and shooting 14-of-41 on threes with 106 points in the paint. From there, the Raptors adjusted to something closer to option 2, which help cut off the paint (138 points), slow the offence a tad (114.5 points per-100 possessions), and close the overall margin (minus-43) over the final four games.