By: Rossy Pasternak
The Raptors love making things hard for themselves. Going into game four, and being a Toronto sports fan, I was fully expecting the Raptors to come out flat and get blown out. The Raptors did in fact start slow, going into half-time down 9 points. Surprisingly though, they bucked the trend of this series, and had a great third quarter. The Raptors actually dictated the play and took it to the Heat for 18 out of the 24 minutes in the second half. Those other six minutes just happened to be the most important, as the Dwayne Wade showed why he has been to multiple NBA Finals. Wade and the Heat took full advantage of playing small-ball, driving to the paint and crashing the offensive glass. Toronto matched Miami’s small-ball lineup with their own, which was a very questionable decision. The Raptors couldn’t stop Miami in the paint, and even when the Heat missed, they couldn’t grab a rebound. Much of that has to do with Dwane Casey not playing Bismack Biyombo in those minutes, or in OT.
Going small definitely has it’s benefits, such as spacing the floor and playing at a faster pace, but it sacrifices a lot on the defensive side. Toronto had success throughout the game by using their size to disrupt the Heat’s offence. At the end of the regular time and in OT, the Raptors were unable to do that because of the small lineup. When your defence needs to be on point, you need to have a big-time rim protector like Biyombo in the game, and Casey didn’t. Just add that to the list of questionable decisions Dwane Casey has made during these playoffs.
One thing Casey is getting a lot of criticism for is calling another iso play at the end of regulation. In fact, the play was not for that iso, but the Raptors actually ran a pin-down screen for Ross and DeRozan on opposite sides. The Heat defended both of these plays perfectly, so Joseph had no choice but to find his own shot. Joseph actually had a pretty good look, but didn’t hit.
DeRozan put up yet another classic DeRozan playoff performance. He shot 4-17 for the game, and went 1-4 from the line, continuing his free-throw struggles…more like DeFrozen, am I right? Dwayne Casey smartly benched DeMar for most of the second half, and it paid off. DeRozan has an injured thumb, but he still should be able to drive to the basket and finish there, especially with no Whiteside in the middle. DeRozan even missed a wide-open layup, something I haven’t seen him do since his rookie season, and something a player of his calibre should never do.
The Raptors are back home, and look to take a 3-2 series lead on Wednesday. Here are the keys for them to make it happen:
1. Go Big or Go Home
The Raptors have won all season long by having an intimidating presence in the middle of the floor, whether it be Biyombo or JV – especially defensively. The Raptors also excel offensively when they play big, grabbing offensive rebounds for extra possessions and easy put-backs. The Raptors are the #2 seed in the East, and they got here by playing a big, tough brand of basketball. To win this series, they are going to have to make Miami adjust to them, not the other way around.
2. Drive the Basket
The Raptors didn’t take advantage of Whiteside’s absence, getting out-scored 54-38 in the paint. The Raptors have to do more off-ball in order to get open. I would hope that Casey sees this and inserts some off-ball action into the offence. If the Raptors can find open looks through cuts and off-ball screens, it will open up their pick-and-roll game, which will blow the game wide open.
3. Protect Home Court
The Raptors were great at home this season, and they will be relying on the ruckus fans to provide them with a boost. Jurassic Park will be lit, as always, and inside the ACC will be the just as loud and crazy. Toronto fans are some of the best in the NBA, and the players feed off the support. Toronto must win at home in game 5, or face a tough elimination game on the road at American Airlines Center.
Do you think the Raps can make use of their home court advantage, and take a 3-2 series lead? Comment below!
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