Butch Carter: Raptors lost their defensive identity
Old 05-05-2014, 02:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Regularly throughout the NBA playoffs, we’ll be checking in with former Raptors head coach Butch Carter for an insider’s perspective on the X’s and O’s that lead to W’s and L’s. Today, Carter breaks down the key adjustments on both sidelines that allowed the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Toronto Raptors and advance to the second round.

The Toronto Raptors came into the playoffs as one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. But you have to look at where they finished the first round. The Raptors lost the series because they lost their sense of defensive identity.

During the year, Toronto held opponents to 45 percent shooting, tying the Memphis Grizzlies for ninth in the league. Yet from Game 5’s near-collapse to the final buzzer yesterday, the Brooklyn Nets shot 49.5 percent from the floor, including 63.2 percent in the second half of Game 5 alone. The importance of those ten quarters can’t be overstated and, ultimately, I think Brooklyn’s adjustments over that span were simply better than Toronto’s.

A big problem for the Raptors in the series was a lack of defensive communication. When you watch the best teams in defensive transition, you’ll notice a lot of pointing and talking, making sure everyone is aware of who they’re guarding. But the Raps complicated that process because their two best offensive players—Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan—couldn’t guard their opposing positions. That forced their teammates to cross each other on the way back down the floor in order to get to their defensive assignments, which made great communication even more crucial in order to get stops. It reared its ugly head in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Watching video of that quarter, I didn’t see guys pointing and yelling out who their man was.
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Watch the clip above and you’ll see that kid Amir Johnson gives great hustle, but had there been more talking he’d had to do a helluva lot less work. They could have avoided that whole play entirely.

The fact that the Raptors were always caught having to cross coming back on defence was a tremendous burden and from halftime in Game 5 all the way through to the end of the series, Brooklyn outscored Toronto in transition. You could see it in the 2-on-1 and 3-on-1 opportunities the Nets had throughout.

The Raptors’ most successful game was the 87-79 win in Game 4. They limited Joe Johnson to seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in that game by forcing him to catch the ball where he wasn’t comfortable. Jason Kidd made the mistake in that game of going away from Johnson—and staying away.But in the following games, Kidd made the adjustments necessary to create open shots for his team.

The scheme Brooklyn began using on offence had two options, a primary and a secondary plan. It started by getting the ball to Joe Johnson in the low post to activate the double team from the Raptors. The reason for that is the Raptors were extremely poor at covering the weak-side corner out of the double team—as we saw with Marcus Thornton yesterday, for example.

The second part of the Nets’ offensive gameplan came after the primary option had been well established. After Johnson had sacrificed himself for his teammates to get that done, they started feeding him the basketball on the wing—15 to 18 feet from the basket—in order to create a one-on-one isolation with DeRozan. Not only was Johnson more effective scoring against DeMar, he caught the ball four feet closer to the basket than whether he had other Raptors guarding him.
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I believe there are two types of defenders—circles and rectangles. The names refer to the shape (invisible, of course) of the space the take up and force their man to get around on the defensive end. Rectangles are good defenders and it normally requires three dribbles to get around them. Circles don’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of their man and block his progress. They allow him to get around the corner or go right through them in a direct line. Jason Kidd identified DeMar as a circle defender, and exploiting that through Johnson became the primary point of his offensive strategy. It hurt the Raptors so much in Game 1, and Kidd stayed consistent in that strategy through to game seven.

It’s why I believe the Raptors hurt themselves by not holding a number of shootarounds between games in the series, where they could have walked through their plan to counteract that matchup in detail. Rest is important, but so is strategy.

That’s where human nature comes into play. Toronto relied on heavy minutes from their two stars, and Dwane Casey is a coach trying to make sure he has a job next year and that he can bring Kyle back to Toronto with him. From that standpoint, he made a decision with his practice and shootaround schedule based on rest. But it wasn’t a lack of rest that ultimately killed them; it was a lack of defensive consistency.
Loss of defensive identity cost Raps dearly - Sportsnet.ca
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Old 05-05-2014, 02:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 05-05-2014, 02:34 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Or he could just give credit to the Nets for running their offense through JJ for which Casey had no one in the stable healthy enough or big enough to defend. Or credit the refs for giving wonky calls at critical times. Or credit the 2 HoF's on the Nets that are proven players that made stuff happen from broken plays. Or credit Casey for resting his banged up and hurting players as much as possible to give the team a chance to win.

If all the Raptors were healthy - different series IMO.

Any body can say anything hindsight, if KL makes that shot Butchy would be saying something different. Analysts...hindsight commentary that always makes them look smarter than what they really are. In reality, Carter as a HC had a .442 winning % - I'd rather get the insight of a winner.
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:03 PM   #4 (permalink)
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it was a quandary over the last six weeks. The team needed rest. Or really they needed the mobility of Lowry and Amir to have any hope of maintaining the defensive identity. But they needed to keep Lowry and Amir in games to not entirely collapse. They chose to grind it out and did ok by that. Lowry was not going to be able to do much in practice sessions. And without him in there they were not going to accomplish much. If Lowry goes back to being a rectangle then it brings that identity back in a hurry.
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Fact of the matter is that Casey made very, very few noticeable (read: successful) adjustments during the series and was out-coached by a rookie coach, plain and simple.

Some easy things he could have changed:

- More Landry on Joe Johnson
- Ross should have been replaced by Vasquez in the starting line-up after the first three games
- Clearly they should have run shoot-arounds even if it was just to practice some Xs and Os plays, which we lacked almost the whole series
- The offense ran properly for no more than nine minutes at a time (with the exception of quarters 1-3 in game 5) and we struggled on 75% of our buckets this series
- Out of timeouts/halves we were still abysmal as we were all year

Casey is a great motivator, but without a more detailed system, without some go-to offensive sets, we'll never be really successful with him here, and despite all his good I can't help but think that if we had had any other NBA head coach for the duration of this series, we would have won it.
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DocHoliday99 View Post
Any body can say anything hindsight, if KL makes that shot Butchy would be saying something different. Analysts...hindsight commentary that always makes them look smarter than what they really are. In reality, Carter as a HC had a .442 winning % - I'd rather get the insight of a winner.
yeah, well - most people on this forum have a 0% winning percentage, with that logic we should be closing down shop

ultimately, we couldn't handle JJ and, as it's always the case in the playoffs, you can't afford to have a weakness because you will get exposed over and over and over. In the regular season is different, teams don't obsessively try to exploit weaknesses. Coaches are probably more interested in developing a style of play, rotations, developing players - winning is important, but not as critical.

That's why it's so important to have two-way players in your lineup, it's extremely difficult to get by with one-dimensional players, unless they are truly game changers on the other end.

Right now, we have ross, demar and JV who are still fairly one-dimensional (defense only for ross and offense only for demar and JV). All 3 have potential to develop the other side of the game, which is why I'm optimistic about the team going forward.

And, of course, having your only two-way players hop on one leg throughout the series didn't help either ...
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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one other reason for optimism - this starting lineup is full of young players and only had one year of experience. It's rare to see that kind of combination perform well defensively and it bodes well for the future. Give these 5 guys 1-2 seasons to perfect their communication and improve their weaknesses and you will have a top 5 defense easily.
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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yeah, well - most people on this forum have a 0% winning percentage, with that logic we should be closing down shop

ultimately, we couldn't handle JJ and, as it's always the case in the playoffs, you can't afford to have a weakness because you will get exposed over and over and over. In the regular season is different, teams don't obsessively try to exploit weaknesses. Coaches are probably more interested in developing a style of play, rotations, developing players - winning is important, but not as critical.

That's why it's so important to have two-way players in your lineup, it's extremely difficult to get by with one-dimensional players, unless they are truly game changers on the other end.

Right now, we have ross, demar and JV who are still fairly one-dimensional (defense only for ross and offense only for demar and JV). All 3 have potential to develop the other side of the game, which is why I'm optimistic about the team going forward.

And, of course, having your only two-way players hop on one leg throughout the series didn't help either ...
I'm not a paid analyst though, I'm just full of opinions
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Old 05-05-2014, 03:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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JJ didn't have much of a game in game 6, and that was Toronto's worst loss. Joe and Deron played some of their best basketball, and Lowry and Demar still had more overall impact offensively, against a very impressive Nets defense.

The Nets got a lot of consistent production from their bench. When Deron became really hard to contain that changed everything. A fully mobile Lowry makes that go away, and takes a lot more of their bench production away as a result. Pinning everything on Joe getting hot for stretches reduces the series to the point where the truth, and the Truth, gets lost.
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
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JJ didn't have much of a game in game 6, and that was Toronto's worst loss. Joe and Deron played some of their best basketball, and Lowry and Demar still had more overall impact offensively, against a very impressive Nets defense.

The Nets got a lot of consistent production from their bench. When Deron became really hard to contain that changed everything. A fully mobile Lowry makes that go away, and takes a lot more of their bench production away as a result. Pinning everything on Joe getting hot for stretches reduces the series to the point where the truth, and the Truth, gets lost.
You disagree then that JJ was the biggest issue throughout the series and particularly in game 7? Why was Casey scrambling to find a solution for defending him then? Why put Patrick Patterson on JJ if DeMar is working out just dandy?

Did you see the way the Nets ran their offense? They KNEW the Raps had to double if DD was defending JJ. JJ would get the ball and either a) get a layup against DD, or b) the Raps would send a double, and thus the Nets' entire offense got to operate against a scrambling defense. And guess what? When Ross got switched onto him, or Lowry, the defense was better. Still not great, but when the defense gets better when your hobbled 6 foot PG is guarding their biggest wing instead of your biggest wing doing it, you've got a really big problem.
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I thought Vasquez did the best job, but then he got burned 3 possessions in a row with fouls. Johnson was just to strong for him. I think Lowry got matched up on him one time...and we doubled. So I'm not sure how Lowry did better. Patterson got abused as well, but he wasn't on Johnson because Demar couldn't guard him, he was on Johnson because Demar, Ross, Lowry, Vasquez, and Salmons couldn't guard him. I thought Demar could have fought harder though, I was a bit disappointing in his effort.

But the far more troubling plays in game 7 were the missed box-outs. Stops weren't easy to come by and there were three times where we got a stop only to give Brooklyn the offensive rebound which they converted to a basket. Two were Andray on JV, and one was KG on Patterson. They simply didn't boxout and were caught watching the ball. Those were the types of plays that had us in a hole in the 4th q. Not Demar's d on Johnson. There was actually pretty bad defense all around. Thorton got started flying by Lowry at the top of the key one on one. A complete blow-by.

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Old 05-05-2014, 04:52 PM   #12 (permalink)
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You disagree then that JJ was the biggest issue throughout the series and particularly in game 7? Why was Casey scrambling to find a solution for defending him then? Why put Patrick Patterson on JJ if DeMar is working out just dandy?

Did you see the way the Nets ran their offense? They KNEW the Raps had to double if DD was defending JJ. JJ would get the ball and either a) get a layup against DD, or b) the Raps would send a double, and thus the Nets' entire offense got to operate against a scrambling defense. And guess what? When Ross got switched onto him, or Lowry, the defense was better. Still not great, but when the defense gets better when your hobbled 6 foot PG is guarding their biggest wing instead of your biggest wing doing it, you've got a really big problem.
Rudy Gay was useful for these situations
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:58 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Guarding JJ was an issue to the extent that it was good to get the ball out of Deron's hands right away, and if JJ could have been stopped in that scenario, then the defense would have had an easier day of it. But Deron was the big issue. I agree with bjjs that the second chance points in the last two games were just a backbreaker. The team's defensive identity was built upon solid perimeter resistance. With Lowry unable to provide that at the point of attack, it really opened up all kinds of other problems due to overhelping. If Deron is contained then passes to JJ become more difficult. The rhythm of the whole nets offense gets thrown off, and bigs can concentrate on finishing off defensive possessions. Help becomes more effective with less needing to be communicated and executed. You make Lowry back into a rectangle and everyone ends up looking better. Instead of being half a step behind before anything happens, they can dictate much more and react a half step ahead.
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Old 05-05-2014, 05:06 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Metallikid View Post
Fact of the matter is that Casey made very, very few noticeable (read: successful) adjustments during the series and was out-coached by a rookie coach, plain and simple.

Some easy things he could have changed:

- More Landry on Joe Johnson
- Ross should have been replaced by Vasquez in the starting line-up after the first three games
- Clearly they should have run shoot-arounds even if it was just to practice some Xs and Os plays, which we lacked almost the whole series
- The offense ran properly for no more than nine minutes at a time (with the exception of quarters 1-3 in game 5) and we struggled on 75% of our buckets this series
- Out of timeouts/halves we were still abysmal as we were all year

Casey is a great motivator, but without a more detailed system, without some go-to offensive sets, we'll never be really successful with him here, and despite all his good I can't help but think that if we had had any other NBA head coach for the duration of this series, we would have won it.
I agree with everything accept the benching of Ross. You still start him but cut his minutes down...Which Casey did. There was way too much Salmons for me. Casey should have only played 4 wings. DeRozan, Ross, GV & Fields only to slow down JJ.

I would have liked to see Tyler get some burn when the fouls got bad. & also Nando should have gotten some minutes IMO especially when Ross was getting benched.

Last edited by halphbreedballer; 05-05-2014 at 05:17 PM.
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Old 05-05-2014, 05:18 PM   #15 (permalink)
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At one point in the game I thought "who the fuck is guarding Thornton and how is he killing us so badly with 12 points and 5 boards". This explains it ... nobody was. Basically you can add these points to JJ bottom line because MT is not a great player otherwise. If Ross could have hit the same type of open 3 this series would not have been close.
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Old 05-05-2014, 06:22 PM   #16 (permalink)
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You disagree then that JJ was the biggest issue throughout the series and particularly in game 7? Why was Casey scrambling to find a solution for defending him then? Why put Patrick Patterson on JJ if DeMar is working out just dandy?

Did you see the way the Nets ran their offense? They KNEW the Raps had to double if DD was defending JJ. JJ would get the ball and either a) get a layup against DD, or b) the Raps would send a double, and thus the Nets' entire offense got to operate against a scrambling defense. And guess what? When Ross got switched onto him, or Lowry, the defense was better. Still not great, but when the defense gets better when your hobbled 6 foot PG is guarding their biggest wing instead of your biggest wing doing it, you've got a really big problem.
Plus a thousand. LeBron presents us with the exactly same kind of a problem, only larger.

In short - we have problems defending versatile big wings in the post as neither Demar nor Ross have the size or the strength to do so. Iso Joe was the single boring machine used to break through the walls of our defensive castle - bad pun intended as the Nets ended up featuring the most boring offence imaginable and STILL WON because our coaching staff couldn't find the way to negate that.

Fields should have started in place of Ross pretty much since Game 2 and should have stayed on the floor for as long as JJ was there.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:17 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I really don't understand why demar's fans need to defend him to death, he clearly sucked on defense in the series. Was he the reason for the loss? No - that's an insane claim, we were two points away from a win.

that being said he was the weakest link defensively and that's inexcusable. I've seen him play good defense at the 3 spot this year, I know he can do it. He may not have the lateral quickness to defend 2s, but he can and absolutely must defend 3s.

We were unlucky that we couldn't hide demar because ross is also not strong enough (yet) to defend a power wing like JJ + with lowry's injury, we had to move ross on deron (where he did a fantastic job, not sure why people complain about TR's defense in this series). Against a team like the wizards, demar would have been much better.

That being said, if the eye is on the big prize and given our lack of star power, we absolutely must have 5 guys on the court that are pluses on both ends.

I'm not convinced that demar can return a good defender next season, but I'm convinced he could. It's up to him really.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:22 PM   #18 (permalink)
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and all the talk about starting fields, that's also crazy talk. Yes, he can defend JJ - but we'd just shift our problem from one end to the other. We had enough trouble scoring as it was, with fields playing heavy minutes, it would have been really ugly. Bottom line is, you have your starting 5 and they have to be able to defend their position at the very least.

also, nobody in the starting 5 is irreplaceable. If we can upgrade any position, you do it. That's different from saying that we have to trade demar or amir or whatever. We made a decision to shun the draft, that leaves us with, in essence, only one avenue for improvement. I'm 100% sure that we will not be able to sign a significant upgrade to any of our starters through free agency, so we have to get him via trade. It doesn't have to happen now, we can wait until the time is right. We just have to be ready for it, accumulate assets and good contracts that can be used as pieces to construct a trade. I guarantee that in the next 3 years, there will be at least one major free agent available for trade.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:32 PM   #19 (permalink)
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My own intention is not to defend him to death. I watched the games and found that the biggest weakness was in containing Deron. The dude was completely gimpy at one point and still wasn't being contained.

Demar was not a complete bust either. With a minute left in game six, in the worst game for Toronto defensively, and playing 40 minutes, DeMar had a +\- of 0. Kyle was minus 20-something. Demar was particularly bad in first quarters and in a couple of games in particular. Kyle's lack of mobility needed workarounds throughout the series, outside of game 2 where Deron went back to his passive self. Is that defending DeMar to the death or just stating the truth?

I wonder why non-fans of DeMar feel they need to overstate his deficiencies over and over with no regard for grey areas or any understanding of how he contributed positively. I completely agree that he can get stronger, and how we could use a nice stopper at that position. We could also use much better doubling and help. And mostly we could use much better containment at the point of attack, which is a very easy fix, but let's whine and bitch about DeMar and those that defend him to the death. Oh boo hoo. This from people who thought Bargnani just needed to play with a traditional C. Yep - that was clearly the case.
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Old 05-05-2014, 07:44 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Demar is/was not a great defender. T Ross was supposed to insulate DD but he couldn't play defense well either (by that I mean he couldn't do it without fouling). But its not just those 2. Lowry was not great and got blown by enough for some really easy baskets. JV looked lost sometimes. Amir went from amazing to terrible and back again. We played with too much foul trouble all the time to use a foul wisely and hammer someone on a drive. I get that JJ, their best player is against DD, so its easy to single out DD and Ross, or even Amir against PP some games, but the bad D was truly a team effort for most of the series.

We have 2 SGs playing SF and SG. One of them has to play D on the other SF. We know its not going to be DD because he just doesn't seem to have them reaction time. We pretty much have to have T Ross do it next year too, we just need help on the bench for LBJ, JJ, Melo etc. Just like we need help for JV against Bosh, Howard, Cousins etc.

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