Title: Under Pressure: Evaluating the Raptors’ clutch performance
Date: March 23, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I took a deep look at the Raptors’ performance in clutch situations so far this season, where it’s encouraging, and where it needs to improve.
The Raptors have most of the quality data they’re going to get at this point.
No, the season isn’t over. They have nine games remaining, three of which come against teams that will likely still be fighting for their playoff lives when they meet. Those will be reasonably meaningful first-round tune-ups. The Oklahoma City Thunder, however, offered the last two games on the docket against teams with a net rating above zero and, really, the last opportunity to play the type of opponent – talented, antithetical to the Raptors’ base defence, and most notably, hungry – that can simulate the later rounds of the postseason.
There is also the matter of a Kyle Lowry return and, at long last, maybe getting some additional reps in with their full rotation contingent. That essentially hasn’t happened this year, and while there are plenty of benefits you can pull from playing shorthanded so often, so few trial runs for Nick Nurse to manage a playoff-style rotation and the limited sample they can evaluate the resultant specifics are real costs. The cost is not enormous. The Raptors have been able to get additional information about lineups and situations that may or may not have worked, at the expense of information on lineups and situations they can be pretty sure will work. It’s not as if adding Lowry back into the game plan from Wednesday and Friday could possibly detract from how the team played; he is good and pliable, a connector and a performance-raiser for those around him.
If there’s a residual concern as the schedule turns new-puppy-soft for the final three weeks, it’s that too large a share of the Raptors’ crunch-time reps have come with non-representative groups on the floor.