By: Rossy Pasternak
The Toronto Raptors love making things hard on themselves. Throughout the days leading up to game 6 in Indiana, the Raptors said they were treating the game as if it was game 7. If so, Raptors fans should not have high hopes for the actual game 7. DeMar DeRozan was back to his usual playoff self, missing shots and turning the ball over. Kyle Lowry continued his shooting struggles, although he played a pretty good all around game, finishing with a double-double. Dwayne Casey continued his questionable rotations and play-calling, which shouldn’t be a surprise either.
The Raptors actually started out really well, turnovers aside. They were up by four points going into the half, and were in a very good position to close out the series. Then, they forgot how to play basketball. On offence, Casey continued to call for high pick-and-roll action, which hasn’t worked all series. Every time the ball handler came around the screen, there were three Pacers attacking him. The Raptors ended up forcing a lot of bad shots and turning the ball over because of this pressure. On defence, the Raptors were late on their rotations all game, could not guard the three pointer at all, and allowed the Pacers to score easily in transition. A common theme in the three losses of the series is turnovers leading to points in transition. When the Raptors turn the ball over, they allow the Pacers to get into a rhythm, and it is all downhill from there.
Nevertheless, dwelling on the past is no way to win a game 7 at home. Without further ado, here are the keys to success for the Raptors in what is one of the biggest games in franchise history.
1. Control the ball
The Raptors turned the ball over 16 times in game 6, as well as 19 in the game 1 loss, and 17 in the game 4 loss. In their wins, the raptors have limited their turnovers to just 13, 11, and 7. When the Raptors are executing on offence, they are passing the ball around quickly and finding good shots. When they aren’t executing, they try to force passes and shots, and because of that, the Pacers get out in transition and force the issue on offence. If the Raptors can hold on to the ball, they should be able to pull out the W.
2. Get to the rim
The Raptors have excelled all year at getting to the rim and getting to the line. DeMar DeRozan especially is capable of doing so. The key for the Raptors is to have DeRozan engaged in off-ball screen action, where he is already moving towards the rim when he gets the ball. The Raptors did this in game 5, and DeRozan ended up with a playoff career-high 34 points. The Raps are usually very good from the line, and capitalize on their opportunities. If the Raptors get to the rim, and by extension, the line, they should be fine.
3. Close out on the 3-point line
The Raptors have been unable to stop Indiana from deep, allowing them to shoot 37% from deep throughout the series. The Pacers, on the other hand, have held the Raptors to 27.5% from deep, way down from their regular season mark. The Raptors have to close out on the Pacers, and force them to take the ball to the paint, where Bismack Biyombo or Jonas Valenciunas will be waiting. Paul George will get his, but you have to make sure that he isn’t creating open 3-point opportunities for his teammates. Force the Pacers to drive, and then trap them in the paint.
Even though the Raptors have no history of coming up big in big-time games, and even though they have been by far the worse team in this series, I still believe they can come out and win on home court. The ACC, and Jurassic Park, will be rocking on Sunday, and the Raptors will be hyped. If the Raptors can do all the three things that I outlined above, they should have no trouble taking down the over-performing Pacers.
Raptors, your season, and some of your futures, are on the line tomorrow night. Will you play desperate, and do everything it takes to win? Or will you fold under the pressure, just like last year, and just like during this series. It’s up to you.
Do you think the Raptors can pull this off? Comment below!
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