In Game Six, Head Coach Jason Kidd started Alan Anderson so his Nets could throw more effective double-teams at Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It worked and Toronto never made up the first quarter deficit. The Raptors cannot afford a bad start in Game Seven, so if the Nets go back to their Game Six strategy, Head Coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t wait to see if both Lowry and DeRozan can beat the defense on their own.
The Raptors most effective counter move to other team’s taking the ball out of their best players’ hands has been to insert Greivis Vasquez as a second point guard. Vasquez led the NBA in total assists last season and is a solid outside shooter and respectable ball handler. In single coverage, he will find the open man and he is definitely not afraid to shoot. Double teams fired out to cover Lowry and DeRozan will be a lot harder to manage with Vasquez in the game.
Vasquez is averaging 11.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 27.3 minutes over the past six games. His team is +45 points with him on the court in this series. The big guard is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and hitting 38.5 percent from three-point range. He can hit the big shots in the critical moments. The Nets have to guard him.
Worried about playing Vasquez too many minutes? Not in a Game Seven and really not anytime. Vasquez played 40 minutes twice in April before the playoffs started. He can handle it.
That’s the sales pitch, but there is another reason for getting a more veteran player into the starting lineup.
The Toronto Raptors have been starting and playing two sophomores big minutes in their first round playoff series with the Nets and while Casey says both Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have been making the expected mistakes, Valanciunas has put up some monster numbers while Ross has struggled at both ends of the court.
In his first six playoff games, Ross is averaging 21.2 minutes, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1.2 turnovers, 2.3 fouls, 25.7 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent shooting from deep. The Raptors are -22 points while he is on the court in this series and it’s only that good because of Toronto’s big start in Game Five. He’s learning and this experience will help both Ross and the Raptors in the future, but this is Game Seven and if he comes off the bench for just this one game, the Raptors chances of moving on to the second round of the playoffs will go up.
While Casey can hope Ross can spread the floor for Lowry and DeRozan, it hasn’t worked so far in this series and Ross is still developing his playmaking skills. Some of the ugliest passes of the series have come when Ross tried to create off the drive. The Nets aren’t ignoring Ross, but they aren’t taking him as a serious threat either, Toronto has almost been playing a man short offensively at times. Ross isn’t even a good decoy when the Nets know he isn’t hitting shots and that’s a big part of the reason those Nets double-teams have been so effective.
Casey won’t throw his sophomores under the bus and he shouldn’t. Valanciunas and Ross are a big part of the Raptors future. However, this team has a chance to do something this franchise has never done before – win a seven game playoff series. Wouldn’t it be okay to put player development on the back burner for just one game this season?
Does An Early Start Hurt The Raptors In Game Seven
“At the beginning of the year we talked about being resilient, being the ‘Freddy Krueger’, always keep playing, keep coming, not giving in,” Casey said. “We have developed that personality and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be behind, but whatever happens, we know we have some fight and grit left in the tank to compete.”
This Is The Best Raptors Team In Franchise History
Objectively, the 2013-14 Raptors have their best regular season record, best road record, best record against the Western Conference facing the toughest Western Conference schedule and have won by the biggest margin of victory over the season of any Raptors team. However, in some ways, that isn’t the half of it.