Posts Tagged ‘James Harden

Raptors at Rockets Points Per Game: Raptors show great fight; set record for offensive futility; something needs to be done about offence; Ross a positive

- November 12th, 2013

Rudy Gay made history, DeMar DeRozan’s struggles continued, the Raptors showed laudable fight and Terrence Ross’ early play is a rare positive for this team. That’s the Coles Notes version of Monday’s bizarre double-overtime loss in Houston.

- First off, you have to commend the Raptors for playing some tough, gritty defence against the Rockets. This game really shouldn’t have gone to overtime or double-OT at all. It should have been an easy Houston win with the way the offence was staggering. Also must point out another strong game by sophomore Terrence Ross. The light appears to be coming on for Ross. He’s starting to defend the way the team thought he could when they drafted him. The thinking was he could be a very good perimeter defender and we are seeing signs of that. He’s come back to earth after a torrid start from downtown (2-for-7 over his past two games), but is still shooting 41.7% from outside.

- Toronto was down 80-66 in the fourth, but using mostly zones and taking advantage of Houston’s terrible free throw shooting, got right back into the contest.

- Another solid game from Jonas Valanciunas, who battled hard against both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik would be another positive takeaway.

- The negatives are a lot longer. So long, that I won’t even get into all of them. That’s losses in 4-of-5 now for the Raptors. The offence is in shambles. As I said on Twitter, “no movement, horrible passes, not enough Valanciunas, terrible shot selection.” And I said that before the fourth quarter and beyond. When Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan apparently believed every shot was a good one and passing was best left to lesser players. How is it possible that DeRozan, who went 2-for-12 from the field in the first half and 4-for-13 from there was a mere footnote to Gay’s historically brutal 11-for-37 evening? Yes, Gay remains one of the most clutch shooters in the league (as his game-tying three attests), but the problem is the other 46.5 minutes of games. He and DeRozan over-dribble, nobody else moves around, plays get broken and bad shots galore get hoisted. Rinse and repeat. Your Raptors offence.

- Surely Masai Ujiri knows (and I’m sure he knew before) that this combo isn’t going to work. We said it when Gay was acquired and a few good games doesn’t change it. These two players simply can’t work effectively together. They don’t play off of each other at all. Shoot too many low-percentage long two-point attempts and one of them is only a threat from a couple of areas outside the three-point line, the other doesn’t shoot enough threes (Gay). Add defensive liabilities to the mix and it’s not exactly pretty. Another Twitter line I’ll repeat here: “Two (poor) mid-range jump shooters who rarely pass and refuse to vary their game. You can get away with one, not two.”

- Some real statistical marvels from this one. How do you only get 10 assists on 38 makes and how do you attempt 30 more shots than your opponent and still lose? Back to Gay, he’s the second player to take that many shots and not get to 30 points. Damon Stoudamire, in his second year as a Raptor, had the previous futility record, also shooting 11-for-37, but going for 31 points because of more made free throws. And Michael Jordan also scored 29 once, but on 39 shot attempts (all according to basketballreference.com). The 10 assists on 38 scores was the worst by any team since 1985-86, according to Blazersedge.

- The Raptors didn’t just miss bad shots, the team – Gay and DeRozan specifically, missed many normally eminently makeable inside looks. Something is going on with both of them as they’ve never struggled this much inside. Never struggled anywhere close to this much, in fact. DeRozan’s shot 36% or lower four games in a row now and a lot of that is from not being able to hit shots inside he has finished over the course of his career. He is doing a better job of attacking the rim of late, but the referees are back to not showing him any love. Of course, having Howard and/or Asik waiting inside makes finishing far harder for any player.

-  Asik, the second straight Turkish big man  Valanciunas has had to contend with, presented quite a different challenge than Enes Kanter. Kanter is an offensive force, but a terrible defender, Asik is pretty much the exact opposite. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and extremely tough to score on down low. He forced Valanciunas into a turnover early than blocked a shot, though it was called a foul. But Valanciunas was able to do some good things against Asik or Howard and he did a nice job defending Howard on a couple of plays, before the big man broke loose in the first half.

- The trend would continue, but we’ll highlight how it impacted things early: Just two assists against four turnovers early. Little ball movement and the missed shots and bad passes allowed the Rockets to get out and run and build up the lead.

- Ross did a particularly good job for most of the night on Houston superstar James Harden. Harden is one of the toughest covers in the league, he’s herky-jerky, deceptively quick with his first step and basically, a new-age Manu Ginobili. But Ross has a huge athleticism advantage over Harden and that allowed him to recover quickly. But most of the time, he didn’t have to, because he was doing a great job keeping Harden in front of him.

- Why was there no play drawn up at the end of the game? That’s what everybody was asking at the end of the fourth quarter.  Gay’s had great success over the years beating teams with final second plays in the right corner of the floor. Yet, he just dribbled for a while and hoisted up a bad shot. Dwane Casey said afterward that there actually was a play drawn up, but Gay rejected it and freelanced (he didn’t say it in those words, he said they wanted Gay to attack the basket, that was the play, but he didn’t. Maybe because of fatigue or good defence). And that’s a huge problem with Gay and, to a lesser extent, DeRozan. They try to do it on their own. Don’t accept screens at times, break plays, go into iso-mode. It’s not a strategy that has proven successful over the years in the NBA. It’s difficult to call out captains getting paid so much money, but at some point, if this coaching staff wants to stick around, it probably needs to happen. The Gay three came about after (surprise) no movement.

- Like most people, I’m not certain the Howard-Asik combo is going to work long-term. But we’ll leave that for the Houston writers to scribe about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockets at Raptors points per game: Move the ball, play some D, success will follow; Calderon NBA’s most professional player; Sabonis, the all-time great, in the house

- December 17th, 2012

Funny what having everybody on the same page and everybody trying hard does for a team. The Raptors have been locked in, have had a focus to playing defence and a commitment to playing team basketball at both ends over the past three games, and have been rewarded with two victories (and a big lead against Brooklyn that they couldn’t hold).

There’s a clear difference between the sorry outfit we saw in November (and parts of December). A key has been getting off to better starts. Regular readers know I vouched for an Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas starting frontcourt and they are doing what I expected. Even though the numbers didn’t exactly jump out after the first quarter either on Friday or Sunday, it was clear, the duo were major reasons why the Raptors played well from the jump. Once Valanciunas gets stronger and puts on some more meat they’ll be even more effective, but even right now, they out-rebound opponents, get easy buckets above the rim and alter and block shots, making life more difficult for opponents.

Some thoughts on Sunday’s game:

Alan Anderson has emerged as an X-factor for the team. He might be the best perimeter defender on the squad (though Terrence Ross gets better in that regard every day), he has confidence and swagger and is extremely shifty while also having a good enough three-point shot to keep opponents honest. He’s a really nice glue player to have on the roster and played extremely well.

Jose Calderon said he doesn’t worry about who is starting or how much he is playing and just wants to be the most professional player in the league. Great quote. He’s the consummate pro. He would prefer to start elsewhere, but is going to do whatever he can to help the team play well.

That said, not about to start a point guard controversy. Kyle Lowry is a better all-around player and a better fit for a Dwane Casey-led team. Lowry just needs to settle in, stop forcing things and gamble a bit less on defence upon his return. He’ll be fine. If Calderon can be moved for value, great, if not, a lot of teams would kill to have a Lowry-Calderon combo, it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world.

I thought the Raptors stuck around to set good screens a little better on Sunday and it helped give players like Calderon, DeRozan and Anderson more room.

John Lucas’ shot seems to be back and he’s getting teammates involved too. This is by far the best he has played since starring in the pre-season.

As Casey said after the game, Toronto’s pressure and aggressiveness eventually threw Houston off from three-point range. We saw it in the third quarter and it also was very apparent down the stretch, when the Raptors forced Houston into three air balls late.

Casey sat Davis for the fourth even though he turned the game around in the third with 13 points and … it was the right call. If he wasn’t going to go big (normal?) with two 6-10 or bigger players, going with Amir Johnson over Davis as the lone big makes more sense. Davis has become one of Toronto’s best help/team defenders, but Johnson remains the best on the team in that regard. He is a bit quicker and more instinctual in terms of reading and reacting for switches and did a nice job helping on James Harden.

“Amir did a heck of a job and he was in the flow of the game. Down the stretch. I thought that Amir would be better for switching onto Harden,” Casey confirmed. Playing Davis and Johnson might have worked, we’ll never know, but if you were going to play only one, Johnson made sense this time.

Johnson was amusing afterwards when asked about how talking more on defence has helped the team. He basically said not only do they tell each other where to be or what is happening, they also just yell out random stuff at times to try to throw off and confuse opponents.

Aside from the first time I was around MJ, I haven’t been star-struck in this job before, but shaking hands and scrumming Arvydas Sabonis was pretty damn cool. There aren’t many living basketball legends, but he is one of them. Probably one of the 20 most talented players ever and I didn’t even see him before his injuries. Just from 1992 (on NBC and since then, on tape) and from when he finally came over to the NBA with Portland. Even then, when he was a shadow of his former self, you could see just how absurdly talented the man was. He’s also the biggest man I’ve ever met, bigger even than Shaq. Spoke pretty well of Jonas, but made it clear he expects a lot more from him in the future and believes Jonas will meet the challenge.