Analyzing the Raptors’ historically poor shooting performance against the Heat’s zone coverage

Title: Analyzing the Raptors’ historically poor shooting performance against the Heat’s zone coverage
Date: January 3, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis:  In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I analyzed the Raptors’ near-historic struggles to shoot against the Heat’s zone defense.

The reductive solution to a zone defence is to knock down shots. Zones, as Nick Nurse has said often over his year-and-a-half as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, are as much about disrupting an offence’s rhythm as anything else. They are, generally speaking, a short-term wrinkle to throw an opponent off and change the flow of a game. Once the offence starts solving a zone, it’s time to move on to the next approach.

Even if they’re still considered somewhat of a throwback (or “janky”) defensive approach, there’s little reason to move off of a zone until it stops being effective. With how much shooting and playmaking talent there is in the NBA, this is usually a matter of possessions; even the league’s most zone-heavy defence only plays it 10 percent of the time, and that number is inflated because those Washington Wizards can’t play regular defence. In almost every instance, a change in lineup, approach or shot-making will free a team from having to deal with a zone. If you don’t like it, shoot better, to paraphrase a Blue Jays great.

On rare occasions, an offence simply can’t do that. There is “it’s a make or miss league,” and then there’s shooting 6-of-42 from three almost entirely against a zone defence that takes the rim completely off limits. On those rare occasions, things get ugly.

Like, for example, the Raptors’ 84-76 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday. It was a shaky enough performance that the Raptors are employing the “flush it” mentality.

Check it out on The Athletic.

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