Title: Raptor Recalibration, Game 3: Late-game execution, Leonard vs. Antetokounmpo, hoverboards and more
Date: May 20, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, my playoff day-after playoff column looked at a double-overtime Game 3 victory for the Raptors where every little thing at the margins mattered, although the general strangeness of the game hid some of that.
For the bulk of two days, it sounded as if Nick Nurse was set to change the Raptors’ starting lineup. He made the right call in maintaining the status quo, at least for that game.
Normally, the preamble here is saved for something kind of tangentially on the topic of the game, but I felt it was important to address off the top given the discussion in the comments (and my mentions) between Games 2 and 3. As I wrote about after Game 2, the idea that the mis-matched lineups had offered a solution was largely cosmetic. I would have been fine with a change, mind you. I was just also fine with trusting a larger body of information that suggests the starters can be a very good fivesome, preferring some rotational tweaks over an entire starting unit change.
That is not to say a starter tweak wouldn’t have provided results, either. Norman Powell, one of the two likely candidates to enter the starting lineup, was excellent, and Danny Green’s shot continued to be off the mark (he also had a poor defensive showing by his standards). Marc Gasol rewarded Nurse’s faith in a major way, though, and for the second time in the series, the starters won their minutes. That’s not going to solve the matchup here entirely, but it goes a long way to setting a tone and giving transitional units a chance to not have to play catch-up.
So yes, it was probably a bit cagey for Nurse to lay on the “lineup changes” so thick and then later qualify it with “I didn’t say starting lineup.” It was the right call, though, at least for Game 3. So credit for holding firm despite the “pile of words” out there.