Title: Raptors win weird after Nick Nurse’s search through rotation finds small-ball spark
Date: December 20, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I broke down Nick Nurse’s assortment of moves that saw the Raptors pull out a weird one against Indiana.
Almost nothing worked for the Toronto Raptors through the first three quarters on Wednesday. Down three key bodies in Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, maybe nothing was supposed to. They were, after all, up against an Indiana Pacers team looking to reestablish themselves after a lengthy win streak was snapped unexpectedly against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and these Pacers would present Toronto a tough challenge even at full strength. The Raptors have struggled without Lowry, and their options to replace not just one but two centres are, while delightfully punny, somewhat limited.
And so the Raptors found themselves down 10 heading into the fourth quarter of a home game in which they were favoured. Head coach Nick Nurse was searching.
Starting Greg Monroe at centre resulted in some nice work on the offensive glass and a few nice pick-and-roll possessions on offence. It had also left the Raptors’ rim woefully unprotected and offered Victor Oladipo far too much leeway to pull up or attack the rim. The Raptors were minus-nine in Monroe’s 22 minutes despite him scoring 13 points, and Monroe now owns by far the worst net rating on the team at minus-17.6. He’s a luxury as a third centre, but that doesn’t mean his utility isn’t somewhat limited. He’s a solid rebounder, passer and post scorer, but he’ll give a lot of that back if he’s playing against high-end opposing bigs. There just aren’t many offences left that will feature a player to go down and try to bang with a Monroe type, and as a result there aren’t a ton of guard-big pick-and-roll combos where Monroe won’t be extended. There weren’t many options here and Monroe was largely responsible for keeping Toronto on the board early, he just wasn’t much of an option late.