Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Game Preview & Thread: Knicks @ Raptors

Months of suffering may finally be coming to an end; there are only four games left in the 2013-14 New York Knicks season. The Knicks have roughly a 2.4 percent chance of making the postseason. The Knicks obviously need this one, so to get a better idea of what the Knicks are up against tonight I brought in William Lou of Raptors Republic and Adam Francis of Raptors HQ.

Enjoy!

The Raptors have won seven of their last eight games coming into tonight. What’s been the key to their late-season surge?

William: When you factor in the relative ease of their schedule (Bucks, Sixers, Celtics x2, Magic), their recent success is right in line with their post-Gay performance. The Raptors did pick up a pair of impressive victories against the Pacers and Rockets without two of their most important players in Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, but the Rockets were short three-fifths of their starting staff, and the Pacers apparently suck now.

That being said, in the absence of Lowry and Johnson, Greivis Vasquez and Jonas Valanciunas have stepped up their output on offense. Vasquez led the league in total assists last year with the Hornets (RIP), so his play isn’t a surprise, but Jonas is playing the best basketball of his career. Over the last 8 games, Valanciunas is averaging 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game on 66.7% shooting from the field. Granted, some of those numbers are inflated by a recent outing against the Sixers — where he set a career high in points with 26, while chipping in 12 rebounds — but he’s managed to maximize his production by simplifying the game: outwork, outrun, sprint, set legal screens, step to, and box-out.

Adam: I think the schedule in all honesty has a lot to do with the recent success as the Raptors haven’t been great in many of these latter games, especially on the defensive end. Toronto has beaten the Celtics (twice), the Bucks, the Magic and the 76ers during that span – not exactly Murderer’s Row – a short-handed Rockets’ squad, and the Pacers, who are in a slight nosedive. Against some of the league’s upper tier clubs, I fear the results would look a lot different.

That being said, the club has fought through injuries of their own and have a mental tenacity that’s been absent from this franchise in recent seasons. Even if the club gets down early, as has been the case in many of these recent contests, they almost always roar back late in games, something echoed by their fourth-quarter point differential mark, best in the league.

The Raptors are 10th in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season. What makes this team so good on both ends of the floor?

William: Toronto loves to use horns, followed by a pick-and-roll to set up their offense. Their sets usually start with Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas lining up on the elbows. Amir steps up to screen-and-roll with Lowry, while Jonas dives, and sets up a down-screen near the baseline. From there, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross usually weave in-and-out, curling around screens before spotting up along the perimeter. Ross’ favorite spot on the floor is the left-corner (where he shoots 47.1% on the season), and DeRozan likes to do his damage from the mid-range. If all that fails, Lowry and DeRozan reset, and try to attack from the perimeter. As a whole, the Raptors’ offense thrives in the half-court, and they struggle if goaded into playing a less structured, more up-tempo style.

Defensively, the Raptors don’t do anything particularly special. For the most part, they play a conservative style, they rarely use the big to trap in pick-and-roll situations, they run shooters off the three-point line, and they try to contest every shot at the rim. Amir Johnson is the lynchpin that makes the defense function, as he is a mini Tyson Chandler (circa 2012) of sorts. His length and mobility allows him to hedge hard on the perimeter, while also being able to recover and contest shots at the rim.

Adam: On offense, the club has a nice balance now with its starting group, able to score fairly efficiently in close thanks to guys like Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, stretch the floor thanks to the emergence of Terrence Ross, and even play in between thanks to Kyle Lowery’s forays into the paint, and DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range abilities. The Raptors do a nice job getting to the free-throw line (DeMar DeRozan is sixth in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game) and have excellent offensive rebounding at a number of positions, giving the club second-chance opportunities. All in all, their effectiveness on O I would say is thanks mostly to this nice balance of options.

Defensively, Dwane Casey has always had solid systems in place but this season, he’s got the personnel who are not only able to really execute on it, but also willing to do so, something that wasn’t always the case in the past. (See Bargnani, Andrea.) Now more than ever, Casey’s got length and athleticism at a number of spots, has more rim protection than he’s had during his Raptors’ tenure, and has a club that rarely gives up second-chance opportunities. (10th best rebounding rate in the league.)

Also. THE RAPTORS HAVE TYLER HANSBROUGH.

The Raptors starting starting five of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas has been incredibly dominant this season — +/- of +64 — while their original starting five that had Rudy Gay instead of Ross was -43. What changed?

William: The difference is the switch from Rudy Gay to Terrence Ross. Gay is tremendously talented, gifted with size, athleticism and quickness, but he simply couldn’t fit into the Raptors’ schemes. All the horns, and spot-ups described earlier didn’t take place when Gay was in Toronto. Rather, the Raptors would just hand the ball to Gay, and run isolation sets. For all his talents, Gay is no Carmelo Anthony. In his 18 games as a Raptor, Gay posted a true-shooting percentage of 46.8, and he used up 30.8% of Toronto’s possessions while he was on the court.

The Rudy Gay trade freed up swaths of possessions, and more importantly, it put the ball into the hands of Kyle Lowry. Rather than non-stop isolation, Lowry initiated pick-and-rolls, and as the trigger man, he was able to leverage his playmaking abilities into good looks for his teammates, and a career year for himself (just in time for free-agency!).

Adam: Simply put, Rudy Gay. Gay never meshed well with the bulk of the remaining quartet’s skillsets, especially on offence, rendering some redundant, and relegating others to much lesser roles than were likely deserved. The result was a fairly inefficient offense -not to mention one that was EXTREMELY painful to watch- often having possessions deteriorate into Rudy Gay going one-on-five up against an expiring shot clock.

The removal of Gay had a two pronged effect in that it not only got the ball moving again on offense, but also allowed players to fit more into their natural roles at both ends of the court. The team began creating easier and more efficient scoring opportunities, and I think as a result, overall offensive confidence was given a big shot in the arm, something you’ve seen in the individual games of players like Terrence Ross (Mr. 51 points) and DeMar DeRozan (All-Star!)

Which player plays a more pivotal role for the Raptors success : Lowry or DeRozan? Why?

William: In the abstract, Lowry is definitely a better player than DeRozan. He’s just as good of a scorer, a better passer, three-point shooter, rebounder, and most importantly, he’s a better defender. There’s a reason why Lowry ranks 8th in total Win Shares, ahead of the likes of Joakim Noah, Paul George, and even Carmelo Anthony.

However, the Raptors are incredibly thin at the wing, and they would struggle mightily to replicate DeRozan’s scoring output. DeRozan’s back-ups are 34-year-old John Salmons and the jumpshot-less Landry Fields, which in part explains why DeRozan has played the fourth most minutes in the NBA this season. Altogether, I’d say their contributions to this team are relatively equivalent, wherein Lowry is the better player, but DeRozan plays at a position of greater need.

Adam: In my opinion, it’s Kyle Lowry. While DeRozan has had a terrific year and has taken another big step forward in development, Lowry is the more complete basketball player, and the heart and soul of the club. On many an occasion he’s either willed his team to victory, or dragged them back from the dead kicking and screaming. Whether it’s providing a spark offensively, or taking a charge on D in a key moment, Lowry is the engine that makes this club go.

Who ultimately wins tonight and why?

William: I’m pegging the Raptors for an 8 point victory. I’m worried about Carmelo, as the Raptors have no one to guard him (expect John Salmons guarding Melo in the second quarter, and have yourselves a hearty chuckle, Knicks fans), but Toronto is the better team, and I expect Lowry to demolish his matchup with Raymond Felton. The Knicks also don’t defend the three-point line very effectively, so Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson should find themselves open more times than not.

Adam: While I’m tempted to say that the Raptors win this one based on both teams’ overall body of work, I actually think based on Toronto’s play of late, this could be a loss for the Raps. As noted, the Dinos’ defence has been suspect lately, and against a Knicks team that sits only a hair behind Toronto in terms of offensive efficiency on the season, this could be trouble.

So I think whichever team decides play a bit more defense than the other gets this W and tonight, my gut says it’s the Knicks, who are desperately trying to grab a final playoff spot in the East.

79 comments on “Game Preview & Thread: Knicks @ Raptors

  1. Kahnzy

    I imagine this thread is what a typical Hawks thread looks like. Where is everyone? Where’s the faith? Or, at least, the burning desire to watch the last bubbles of air from a sinking ship?

  2. Brian Cronin

    Winning in Toronto would sure make the chances of them beating Toronto at home look better.

  3. maxwell_3g

    im here. but this game is almost impossible to watch with the damn raptors things under the hoops. i have OCD, and the fact that this is 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional at the same time bothers me to no end

  4. Hubert

    Aw, Breen is covering the hawks nets game like it matters. How cute.

    I just hope Woodson gives us one more moment

  5. maxwell_3g

    our interior defense is so pathetic. just a mindset of fouling hard and protecting the rim would give us 10 more wins off the rip

  6. Kahnzy

    Did Clyde just suggest that STAT came back in for Aldrich because we need better defense on Valanciunas? Clyde, man…I expect better than that from you.

  7. Thomas B.

    I disagree with Clyde about the Knicks having “Swiss cheese” defense. I think the defense is more like feta cheese. Feta is soft and crumbles easily under pressure.

  8. maxwell_3g

    lol @ #10.

    by the way, its tough for me not to just watch the indy/ miami game. i know im in the minority here, but i dont really mind Indy and I like Lance. I HATE Miami. I dont want Miami to get the first round bye against ATL. but i also fear toronto winning the 3rd seed, giving a 2nd seeded Miami a second round bye. I want Miami to have to go through 2 of the 3 (Indy, BK, Chicago) before the finals. if they have to play 2 of those three, im not sure they are getting there. If there is a Basketball God, they wont

  9. Kahnzy

    @12

    I like Miami as a team (mostly, Wade is the quintessential douche bag). But I HATE their fans. A more entitled, bandwagon group of fans who, as a collective whole, know jack and didly about basketball you won’t find.

  10. maxwell_3g

    I am NOT an amare fan. but…….what are the chances of amare playing reasonably well next year, and then signing for the minimum after that as an acknowledgement of the albatross his contract has been. he would not be bad as a vet minimum player of the bench to provide scoring for the second unit. McDyess 2.0 with more skill?

  11. maxwell_3g

    at #13. i live in ATL, but grew up in CT (East Hartford). When adult males in ATL tell me that they are Heat fans I just laugh. basically, by being a grown man and rooting for the Heat, you are joining the hordes of 12 year old boys and chicks who dont know anything about sports but try to be a fan of something to seem down and hopefully find a man. thats not a good group to be in. as you can tell, I hate Heat fans too.
    IU despise Wade, but cant stand Lebron’s whiny ass or Bosh either. Im OK with Cole, Anderson, and Battier’s cheating ass, but thats about it

  12. maxwell_3g

    anybody notice the Moz’s stat line last night (23 pts, 29 boards). and hes also developing a three point shot. and we just threw him in for shits and giggles. imagine him as a stretch 5!!!

  13. Thomas B.

    I think this game will tell us what this team has been all season: a disjointed mess on both sides of the court. Maybe they will show me some guts and win this game, but I can’t see that happening without a 42 point game from Melo.

  14. maxwell_3g

    In defense of The Pipe….. if your team is going to suck all season long, is there a more entertaining, unpredictable, hilarious player to play a prominent role than the Earl II??

  15. Kahnzy

    In defense of The Pipe….. if your team is going to suck all season long, is there a more entertaining, unpredictable, hilarious player to play a prominent role than the Earl II??

    Swaggy P?

  16. EB

    In defense of The Pipe….. if your team is going to suck all season long, is there a more entertaining, unpredictable, hilarious player to play a prominent role than the Earl II??

    Well now that we know we don’t have a chance.

  17. Thomas B.

    Wait, we picked up somebody on a 10 day contract? Who is the #21 that is so aggressive and effective on offense?

  18. Hubert

    Yelling at Hardaway for getting screened when it was entirely the rest of the team’s fault? We’re entering the Woodson zone.

  19. maxwell_3g

    has swaggy p ever been suspended for untying other players shoes??? has swaggy p ever tweeted a big booty for the world to see? has swaggy p ever insinuated that he would give the pipe to a teenage fan? I think not

  20. maxwell_3g

    seriously, wtf has happened to roy hibbert? 20 minutes, 1 point, 1 assist, o rebounds tonight. that aint gonna get er done

  21. Kahnzy

    has swaggy p ever been suspended for untying other players shoes??? has swaggy p ever tweeted a big booty for the world to see? has swaggy p ever insinuated that he would give the pipe to a teenage fan? I think not

    Fair enough. Point to you, sir.

  22. coyle022

    STAT! great to see Woodson benching Felton and Chandler down the stretch. He usually closes with the felton-jr-shump-melo-chandler unit and runs Melo ISO’s every possession

  23. maxwell_3g

    the fire in my heart has sparked. the flames have taken hold on the kindling. The fire in my heart burns. SHUMP MF’n SHUMP!!!!

  24. maxwell_3g

    what do you guys think of frank vogel as a coach, with an assist from phil in implementing the triangle. if this train wreck continues in Indy, he may be available

  25. Kahnzy

    what do you guys think of frank vogel as a coach, with an assist from phil in implementing the triangle. if this train wreck continues in Indy, he may be available

    Personally, I find him to be overrated. Defensively he seems good, but offensively that team is more out of sync than we are. And they have been all year, it’s nothing new. If it’s not to be Phil himself, I think I’d prefer taking a chance on someone new (like Kerr), rather than a known, mediocre, commodity.

  26. Thomas B.

    what do you guys think of frank vogel as a coach, with an assist from phil in implementing the triangle. if this train wreck continues in Indy, he may be available

    Better than Woodson, but would rather have Kerr or Jackson..not Stu Jackson.

  27. Kahnzy

    Of course, we still need to hope for Indiana to get that #1 seed. I’d feel much better facing them than the Heat.

  28. maxwell_3g

    this is very frustrating to watch. we clearly could have been a playoff quality team in the East with any game plan or leadership this year. and yet, we gave away game after game. and now, the hawks will serve as a first round bye to the Heat in the first round

  29. er

    Did anyone just see a fucking charge get overturned in the nets hawks game? Since when does replay overturn judgement calls?

  30. lavor postell

    If you want to just laugh really hard you should check out Hibbert’s line tonight. Not going to post it so I can hold the suspense.

  31. Brian Cronin

    Does that pretty much cinch the season? Of course. But really, all we knew is that the Knicks had to go 4-0 and the Hawks had to go 1-3. Both of those results are still in play with three games to go. The Hawks just have to lose to the worst team in the NBA. That’s not impossible. It’s crazy. It’s absurd. But it is not impossible.

  32. Kahnzy

    If you want to just laugh really hard you should check out Hibbert’s line tonight. Not going to post it so I can hold the suspense.

    Wow. That’s Bargnani level bad.

  33. BigBlueAL

    Knicks will be done by the Nets game. Either they lose to the Bulls or the Hawks win 1 of their 2 home games before then (vs Heat and Bobcats). The Hawks have won 4 of their last 5 games. They arent losing their last 3 games.

  34. BigBlueAL

    I dunno whats worse, the Knicks defense or Yankees offense. Jesus Christ the Yankees have become boring as hell to watch. I miss the time when a 4-1 deficit wasnt an automatic loss for the Yankees. Actually for the past couple of seasons a 3-1 deficit is too much to overcome.

  35. maxwell_3g

    i’m not blaming BK at all. woodson, and our players, pissed away this season. simple as that. we are a better team than the hawks, but have not proven it over an 82 game season, so…..here we are

  36. lavor postell

    Hahaha seriously we’ll have an entire offseason to talk about how the Knicks suck, but this Indiana collapse is something else.

    Hibbert: 34 minutes, 2-7 fg, 5 points, 1 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, -16
    Hill: 33, minutes, 0-0 fg, 0 points, 0 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 blocks, -16

    Hill seems to have fallen off a cliff whereas Hibbert just seems to not give a shit anymore.

  37. hoolahoop

    This just in:
    According to ESPN, The New York Knicks have expressed interest in signing veteran free agent Lamar Odom, according to sources close to the situation.

  38. lavor postell

    This just in:
    According to ESPN, The New York Knicks have expressed interest in signing veteran free agent Lamar Odom, according to sources close to the situation.

    Championship.

  39. BigBlueAL

    I want to feel happy about this win tonight, it certainly was a great effort by the Knicks. But the Hawks winning all has done is gotten me pissed off again about how bad the Knicks have been this season and the ridiculousness that they will miss the playoffs this season in this horrible conference. No reason whatsoever they shouldnt be the 3 seed this season. So freaking stupid.

  40. lavor postell

    Wow Corey Brewer scored 51 points on 30 shots. We should probably trade Shump, Bargnani and a 2018 pick for him and a handshake agreement to sign any siblings he may have.

  41. Z-man

    Took my kids to the Nyets game tonite (free 7th row tix). I hate Garentt and Pierce even more now, I could swear he purposely bricked two critical FTs just to F the Knicks.

  42. d-mar

    It really is absurd that in a year that the Eastern Conference was pretty much a joke, the Knicks aren’t even going to be in the top 8. And the Toronto Raptors, who got rid of Rudy Gay in the hope of sucking more, are going to win the Atlantic division. Oh, and the Atlanta Hawks, who lost their best player for most of the season and whose GM publicly stated that the playoffs don’t mean anything to them, are going to finish with a better record than us.

    Woodson’s only hope for another head coaching job is if this season is redacted from his resume.

  43. Brian Cronin

    Took my kids to the Nyets game tonite (free 7th row tix). I hate Garentt and Pierce even more now, I could swear he purposely bricked two critical FTs just to F the Knicks.

    Ouch, that must have been a brutal game to watch. It was painful for me to watch on television, I can’t imagine in person. Sorry! Well, seventh row is still pretty freakin’ sweet, though. So not that sorry. ;)

  44. Donnie Walsh

    Between Brewer’s 51 pts and Mozgov’s 29 rebounds, the throw-ins to the Carmelo Anthony trade have had quite a 24 hours… (Somewhere in China, Sheldon Williams is probably posting a quintuple-double right now…)

  45. Brian Cronin

    Speaking of Sheldon Williams, I wonder what the “record” is for the shortest time spent in the NBA by a top five pick whose career didn’t end due to outside the court stuff (like Jay Williams’ career ending from injury). Sheldon Williams’ career lasted six seasons. That’s pretty damn short.

  46. Brian Cronin

    Four seasons for Nikoloz Tskitishvili! I guess I should maybe make it just American players, because foreign players sometimes get signed based on little to no knowledge of their game, so they might have a bit of an advantage in this game.

  47. Brian Cronin

    Okay, this game was more difficult than I figured, having to sort through all of the various players and their reasons for leaving the NBA. Ultimately, I decided to eliminate the drafts from the first decade of the NBA, as the NBA just wasn’t a polished enough game at the time. Players would routinely play just one season, even if they were drafted high. There wasn’t enough money to be made playing basketball. In addition, scouting was so poor at the time that teams often didn’t know what they were getting. So I figure I’ll just count from 1960 on. And the winner there was, of course, a Knick. Paul Hogue, second overall pick in the 1962 draft, played barely two seasons in the NBA. Hogue was college teammates with Oscar Robertson and very likely got a lot of extra attention as a result. To be fair to the Knicks, both Dave DeBusschere and Jerry Lucas had been taken already via territorial picks.

    If we’re counting territorial picks, then Bill Buntin, a star player for Michigan who the Pistons took with their territorial pick in 1965 and played only one year for them, would be the “Winner.”

    Now in the modern NBA era (i.e. post-ABA merger), James Ray would be the winner. He played three years in the NBA after being taken fifth overall in the 1980 NBA Draft.

    Adam Morrison, of course, also deserves an honorable mention on the list. He played only three years, as well, but he missed an entire season due to injury, so that shouldn’t count I don’t think. But it’s worth mentioning just how much of a bust he was.

  48. Z-man

    “Ouch, that must have been a brutal game to watch. It was painful for me to watch on television, I can’t imagine in person. Sorry! Well, seventh row is still pretty freakin’ sweet, though. So not that sorry. ;)”

    Yeah, what made it worse was that we were one seat away from the sections with the free food!
    Not only were the Nets disinterested, the building had absolutely no juice. The fan base looked very blue-collar, but never got that excited even during the comeback.

    Plus, the sleeved jerseys were as ugly as I’ve ever seen, almost as bad as the tie-dye look from what, the 80′s? Truly amateurish.

    The highlight (lowlight) of the night was watching Paul Millsap dominate the paint like Charles Barkley used to. He was truly awesome.

  49. Brian Cronin

    Joe Alexander was drafted #8 and played in 67 games.

    Oh yeah, if you extend past the top five picks, it gets nuts. Some #6 picks during the modern era were total flameouts.

  50. lavor postell

    I remember a Patrick O’Bryant that was drafted by the Warriors from Bucknell and played for 48 seconds.

    @Z-man

    I thought Barclays was beyond boring when I was there. MSG’s gotten pretty corporate and priced out a lot of the blue collar fans and diehards, but I still think the atmosphere in general is among the best in the league along with Golden State and OKC (which I think is WAAAAAY overrated). Barclays is brutal because most of the crowd are attempting to become Nets fans and blare top-20 music during every other possession instead of utilizing the Brooklyn connection via music other than occasionally playing Biggie saying “Where Brooklyn At?” Between the crowd, the PA guy, the awful music and the fucking Brooklyn Knight it’s definitely one of the worse stadiums I’ve ever been too.

    Boston was weird for me (I’m Indian) because I felt like I stuck out in a heavily Caucasian dominated crowd. Honestly it doesn’t surprise me that Boston sports in general have got a poor rep when it comes to attracting and retaining black athletes. Sorry didn’t mean to make it a racial thing, it was just something I felt when I was there, but maybe I was just being way too self-conscious.

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