In the Round 2, Game #3 matchup between the Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers, it was so painful to watch my beloved Raptors being beat up so badly by the 76ers. Honestly, are the 76ers unbeatable? No! Are they a better team? Hell no! So, why did the 76ers able to beat us by such a big margin? A number of factors played a role in this, including our starters not named Kawhi were too scared to take any shots, it was like a hot potato where no one wants to take a shot. Our bench players were non-existent. We were also out coached. No offense to Philly’s coach Brett Brown, he isn’t the greatest coach but he has been making great adjustments, implementing great plays for his players, subbing in timely players for matchup problems against the Raptors.
Meanwhile, Raptors Nick Nurse is struggling to find any answers, the adjustments he is making aren’t doing anything. You can’t fault him for everything that went wrong but he did clearly have problems managing Kawhi minutes or when to take him in or take him out. Seriously, why are you putting both short chubby guards in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to start the 4th quarter? That’s how we were losing from 8 points to a big margin of 18 points.
During the Dwane Casey era, it had tried, tested & failed by implementing both point guards. Now, Nick Nurse is trying to do that as well, which was a disaster. Let’s use some common sense here, both guards are too small to penetrate into the paint. When their shots aren’t falling, they are also too short to grab rebounds. They are also too short to guard anyone against the relatively taller 76ers. So, what’s the point?
Anyhow, game #3 is done, there isn’t anything they can do. But what they can do is to regroup, bring fire in their eyes and be hungry, so some urgency to game #4. It’s a MUST WIN for the Raptors. If the Raptors fail to win game #4, their season is done.
If I am the Coach of the Raptors, what are some of the things I will implement to help the Raptors to be in a better position to win the game or win this series against the Philly 76ers?
- Don’t put both Kyle Lowry & Fred VanVleet together in this series. It didn’t work in the past, it won’t work in the playoffs, especially against the tall players from the 76ers. When their point guard is 6’10” in Ben Simmons, putting 6’0 Lowry or VanVleet won’t cut it. It doesn’t make sense. Let me put this bluntly, if Nick Nurse continues to employ the use of both Lowry and VanVleet in this series again, we will lose this series.
- Kawhi Leonard can’t do it alone, so the rest of the starters need to step up their game, take better shots and make them! In particular, with the success in game #1 by Pascal Siakam, Nick Nurse needs to draw better plays and free up Siakam so he can score more. It seems that Siakam is rattle by the tall guys such as Joel Embiid in defending him. I don’t blame him as he is still a work in progress and still relatively young with minimal playoff experience. However, Nick Nurse needs to help Siakam by injecting him with confidence. Motivate him to make him confident again. When Siakam is confident, we have a chance.
- The rest of the starters don’t need to take many shots but when they are clear, they need to make those shots. Kyle Lowry is a great floor general but they need him to score and carry some load off Kawhi’s shoulder. Right now, Lowry struggles with his shot and he isn’t doing a whole lot to get his offense going. He reminds me of Eric Snow back in the Allen Iverson‘s day where Snow doesn’t shoot, don’t do much but just bringing up the ball to Iverson. Lowry has better skills than Snow and needs to trust his skills set.
- Bring back the “Raptors Style” of basketball. The Raptors have players who can push the ball, run, and score in transition. But so far in this series, the Raptors are not pushing the ball, not many transition play. Instead, they are playing the same style of Philly’s ball. Don’t wait for everyone to setup defensively, go rattle the 76ers. Speed up the pace of the game.
- Ball Movement – Raptors are doing lots of ISO, pick n roll stuff and lack of ball movement. Pass the ball around quickly to find that open man. That’s what makes Raptors team successful and they should stick to it.
- Nick Nurse should bring in new players in the rotation. Nick Nurse talks about all the different new combinations of players that he uses in the starting lineup and the 2nd rotation during the regular season. So, why is he cutting down the use of the bench players now in the playoffs? I know in the playoffs, every team uses a shorter bench, but bro, be creative, be innovative, if the bench players of Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka aren’t doing well. In particular, Fred VanVleet is struggling with his shot and setting up his teammates, let’s shake things up. Bring in Jeremy Lin and Patrick McCaw. Throw the Philly defense off as they aren’t used to these players in the game in meaningful minutes. If Nick Nurse talks about all these new combinations he talks so much about during the regular season, use it in the playoffs as well.
- Don’t give that “But Jeremy Lin sucks”. Listen, if New York Knicks didn’t give Lin a chance back in 2012, do you think Linsanity would have occurred? Lin has been a good serviceable player when he played for the Charlotte Hornets; Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and etc. Why is that? Perhaps he still needs time to jell with the new teammates, and learning when to shoot and when to pass when the team has Lowry; VanVleet and Gasol to pass the ball around.Give Lin a chance. What do you have to lose when VanVleet struggles so badly anyways? McCaw brings in height, lengthy arms and some championship experience when he was with the Golden State Warriors. This is how I see it. Both Lin and McCaw are hungry and if they are given a chance to get on the court to compete, they will work extra hard.
- In the 4th quarter, if I am Nick Nurse, I will play as many minutes as I can from our starters. Don’t worry about load management, the season is on the line, use them! But here is something I would use. The 76ers are dominating our paint, go BIG instead of going small.To start the 4th quarter, I will start Marc Gasol; Serge Ibaka; Pascal Siakam; Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Throw the 76ers something they never seen before so far in this series. Use some size to grab rebounds or attack the rim with our big guys. Why is Nick Nurse has to interchange Gasol and Ibaka, why not use both at the same time? It’s the 4th quarter, get both big guys on the floor and see how it goes.
Overall, there is nothing to lose for the Raptors at this point, Nick Nurse should start to utilize his other players on the roster more, be creative, bring something different on the court, throw the Philly off with different combination. This is not the time to worry about Fred VanVleet’s feeling or other players feelings. The season is on the line, a true good coach will be gutsy, put the team first and not the name on the back of the jersey.
I still believe and have faith with my Raptors. But only if Nick Nurse is doing all the points that I have mentioned above. Otherwise, sticking to the same rotation, same groups of players and using both Lowry and VanVleet on the floor at the same time, then the season will be over.
Let’s go Raptors!
What are your thoughts? What do you think the Raptors should do to improve their chances of winning game #4 and the rest of the Round 2 series?