Title: Raptors Tactical: Dwane Casey out-executes his former team in return with Pistons
Date: November 15, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I broke down Pistons out-executing the Raptors down the stretch in the Dwane Casey Revenge Game.
It has not been a banner week for the Toronto Raptors. Two nights after being summarily dispatched by the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to the E’Twaune Moore Floater Game and a shaky defensive night, the Raptors choked away a 19-point second-half lead against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday thanks to a poor offensive one. As the Pistons’ comeback was unfolding, it at least promised something I’d been hoping for during the team’s 12-1 start: Actual crunch-time minutes to evaluate new head coach Nick Nurse in a high-leverage spot and see how a team succeeding despite playing beneath its own lofty standards might handle a close-out.
It did not go well.
All told, the Pistons outscored Toronto 46-25 from the middle of the third quarter onward, and the Raptors looked equal parts scattered, rote and fatigued. There was miscommunication, there was a heavy reliance on isolation offence and there was the matter of four rotation players missing by the fourth quarter. (Serge Ibaka is expected back Friday, while Norman Powell and C.J. Miles remain longer-term considerations. Danny Green was still being evaluated after leaving the game with back tightness after getting caught hard on a screen.) Those caveats are not excuses, as the Raptors should have enough talent, even thinned out, to pull out a game in which they had a 19-point cushion, and their execution down the stretch was flawed.
These things happen, of course. As Nurse was quick to point out after Monday’s loss, they are at least learning opportunities in defeat. That goes for him as well as the players, and the consistent talking point from inside the locker room after Wednesday’s game was that the Raptors are still figuring out their communication and on-court chemistry. They’ve breezed through the season so far on the enormity of their talent, and on Wednesday an over-reliance on talent rather than cohesiveness and system bit them a bit. This is why there are 82 games, probably. That and money.