Raptors surviving dangerous offensive game with glacial half-court pace against Warriors

Title: Raptors surviving dangerous offensive game with glacial half-court pace against Warriors
Date: June 7, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors’ slow pace in their half court offense and why that’s a dangerous game as the NBA Finals extend.

There is something inherently dramatic about a basket being made late against the shot clock. The tension builds over the course of a possession as the ball swings around and defences switch and scramble trying to extinguish one shot to the next. When the clock passes a certain point, a possession can take on new meaning, each successive second of the battle within the battle growing in weight. It’s what makes a shot-clock violation the gold standard of a defensive possession and a clock-beating heave a destroyer of energy.

Through three games of the NBA Finals, the Raptors have subsisted on the latter, and while it’s been incredibly effective in keeping the Warriors’ runs at bay, it’s a tough way to live over the length of a series. For most of the postseason, the Raptors have talked about wanting to play with pace, and for the most part, the Finals have played out at a pace that, broadly, should suit them. Pace itself is not necessarily good or bad, though, and how the Raptors and Warriors are arriving at the tempo of the series shows areas of concerns for Toronto.

It would be one thing if the pace were brisk because Toronto’s elite transition game was flowing well. It was the league’s best transition team by volume and per possession during the regular season, but it’s an area Toronto has struggled to get going at times because it has faced strong transition defences in the postseason. The Raptors went from using 20.2 percent of their possessions in transition and scoring 1.192 points on each in the regular season to 18 and 1.102, respectively, in the playoffs, per data from Synergy Sports. Essentially, the Raptors are finding themselves able to run less frequently and are scoring less effectively even when they do.

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