Remember when Dwayne Casey wouldn’t play Jonas Valenciunas in the fourth quarter? Well, good thing he was on the court in the fourth last night, otherwise the Raptors would be going to the American Airlines Centre down 2-0 and facing impossible odds. J.V had the most success when he was setting high screens for Lowry or DeRozan. Hassan Whiteside would leak off J.V to help on the driver, and Valenciunas did a great job catching the ball and going up strong, and even hitting a jumper on a pick-and-pop. Not only was J.V a force on offence, but he also was very active defensively, altering shots and wracking up 3 steals. “Big Science” wasn’t the only fourth year player to make a difference, as Terrence Ross stepped up big time, delivering timely baskets. Ross’ evolution since the Brooklyn series just a few years back to now is amazing to witness. He is looking to create his shot a lot more, and knows where and when to pick his spots. If the two Raptors stars continue their dramatic struggles, they will need more of these contributions from their bench.
Speaking of bench players, James Johnson made an appearance on the hardwood for the first time in a long time. In to cover “Iso” Joe Johnson, James used his big body and defensive prowess to slow a Miami run. It was interesting to see Dwayne Casey be desperate enough to put J.J in. I personally like the move, as he was built to guard Joe Johnson. He has the physicality, the speed, and the determination to stay with all the way to the basket and he’s the only Raptor who has that combination of skills.
Another player who stepped up his game in a major way was DeMarre Carroll, who finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Carroll seemed truly comfortable on the court for the first time since returning from injury. He was driving to the basket and making plays for himself, instead of standing on the wing waiting for open three point opportunities. If Carroll is active on offence, the ball will move much quicker for the Raptors on offence.
Dwayne Casey has developed a reputation for being a terrible play-caller coming out of timeouts. He added to his resume with the final play in regulation, when he had Kyle Lowry dribble out the clock and take a step-back from almost half-court. There’s no excuse for that play, especially considering the fact that Casey had the whole timeout to draw up a play, and instead he went iso for the worst shooter in postseason history in the last 50 years! Casey has to improve on his out-of-timeout play calling in order for these Raptors to take the next step.
Game 3 is a crucial game for both teams. The winner of this game will have the advantage, as the winer of game 3 is 120-28 in the quarterfinals in NBA history.
Here are the keys to winning game 3 for the Raptors:
1) Dwayne Casey has to improve on mid-game/halftime adjustments and play calling:
Coach Casey has to improve his mid-game and halftime adjustments. After every timeout the Heat called, they went on a run. They also dictated the pace of the game after halftime, mostly due to the adjustments Erik Spoelsta made at halftime. “Spo” decided to mostly go to iso plays with Joe Johnson and D-Wade, which slowed down the pace and didn’t allow the Raptors to get out in transition. If the Raps want to do some damage down in Miami, Casey is going to have to be able to adjust on the fly, which he hasn’t been able to do thus far in the playoffs.
2) Finish the first half strong/come out of the half with momentum:
The Raptors have had decent sized leads in the first half, but they seem to always let Miami gain momentum going into the half, and by the time the third quarter starts – Miami is suddenly the more confident team even though they’re down. Take last night for example: Miami came out in the third on a tear, lead by Joe Johnson who scored 10+ points in less than four minutes. If the Raps want to be taken seriously and even win this thing, they have to be able to close the first half strong, and then use that momentum to come out in the third even stronger. Of course, some of the blame can be put on Casey’s inability to adjust at the half, but at the same time – he’s not the one who’s on the floor.
If they can do that and get in the drivers seat, then the next step is to close the game. The one thing the Raptors have never been able to do is close. Even in the regular season, they are either fighting back from being down 10, or fighting to keep their diminishing lead. Every fourth quarter is extremely stressful to watch, because even if they have a solid lead, everyone know’s that the Raptors will find a way to let the other team back in it. This has to change. It’s the playoffs, there’s no time to screw around. There are no excuses for the Raps to lose a game when leading in the fourth or even before half.
3) Feed the post:
As seen in game one and two, J.V is the x-factor for the Raptors. He has completely outplayed Whiteside on both ends of the floor, and he should be rewarded for his great play. I don’t understand why the Raptors are so hesitant to throw the ball down into the post to J.V. He’s literally the reason the Raps won game two, and I think the Raps offence needs to include more touches for the big-man. This Miami team is very physical and the Raps need to start causing some trouble down low. J.V needs to get the ball more and bang some bodies low in the post. As well, with J.V taking the ball hard to the rack every time – it creates more opportunities for Whiteside to get into foul trouble. J.V is very athletic for his size and late in the fourth last game, Whiteside had a tough time dealing with him (especially with his thigh injury). If J.V gets more touches and continues to take advantage of those touches, the Raps will have a much easier time getting points on the board.
Will the Raps be able to do damage down in South Beach? Will Casey make the necessary adjustments? Comment your thoughts below!
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