Thursday, May 30, 2019

Warriors Raptors Matchup

The NBA Playoffs starts tonight with the Golden State Warriors defending the title against the Toronto Raptors in a match up that almost all have Golden State favored. Because I believe the odds are correct I'll highlight the Raptors weakness's that will stand out against the Champs.

The match up will be a first in some time for the Raptors as they can be seen as a new team from previous years where they made the playoffs but fell short when favored to win. Against the Sixers they started to look like that team who would fold under pressure when plan A or Plan B doesn't work. But they surprised me by digging deep and taking it to 7 games and winning when they needed to.

Against the Bucks though they showed quite a few weakness's that will get exposed in this series.

The Raptors do not have a complex offensive scheme. I would compare it to any of the higher level college run offense's in that they care more about how many players touch the ball more than match up advantages or disadvantages. They want to run a slow offense that limits possessions, walking the ball up the court and trying to catch a defensive player getting caught helping the weak side of the ball.

There is some pick and roll but because their bigs are extremely slow they are limited to pick and fade with the big man setting up at the 3 point line. Against the Bucks this worked because their bigs can't extend to help at the 3 point line. This scenario against the Warriors will force quite a few bad shots and turnovers due to bad passes.

Sure, the Raptors can run when given a turnover but that's about it. Their walk it up style will make the possession numbers heavily favor the Warriors meaning Golden State could shoot 8 percent below what the Raptors do and still win.

On the Defensive side, the Raptors do show a good switch defense at the corners but at the top of the key they get lost. This problem will mean drives to the lane which will be wide open. Once the corners come to help, 3 shooters at the corners will go to work.

The Raptors also believe in collapsing at the rim to stop layup drives. Every Warrior player can drive as a point guard and then make the right pass out of a collapsing defense. Expect the Raptors to be chasing the ball quite a bit in the first half until they give up on that game plan.

The Raptors shot a relatively good percentage against the Bucks but had trouble getting past 100 points. That doesn't point to a strong defense by the Bucks. It means the Raptors are turnover prone, slow paced and deliberate on possessions.

Finally, the Raptors set up as a Eastern Conference team that favors size at the 4 and 5 have a massive problem. Too many bigs who can't switch or come out to defend the 3. Any advantage Gasol will have shooting a 3 on offense will be a liability on defense.

I've got the warriors winning in 5 only because Golden State tends to get bored and need to feel like they are against it sometimes so they lose big on 1 game.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Houston's Defensive Plan Against Golden State

With all of the hype going around about Kevin Durant's MVP performance throughout the NBA playoffs its easy to miss the obviousness of Houston's game plan and why it hasn't worked so far, nor will it work to win the series. 

It's so obvious it's embarrassing that I am the first to point it out.

In the Warriors first series against the Clippers the plan was to prevent Durant from getting any kind of rhythm thus making others around him carry the load. Mainly Draymond Green and Andre Iquodala once Demarcus Cousins got hurt.

The thought process wasn't terrible because neither Green or Iguodala are known as scorers. Rather they are more inclined to distribute, play strong defense and rebound. 

The problem was that with that game plan it meant they would accept Curry and Thompson scoring which as we now know, was a bad idea.

So, here comes Houston with the new and improved game plan learned from the mistakes of the previous series.

They have chosen to limit scoring from Curry and Thompson using ball pressure and tight man to man defense. On switches, the Rockets wont use a lineup that avoids mismatches because they believe Capella's presence is needed on the defensive side and for offensive rebounds. My belief is that it's more about the offensive rebounds because Houston doesn't shoot high percentage shots leaving the need for an offensive rebounder. 

With all the obvious weakness's in Houston's defense it wouldn't surprise me if Mike D'Antoni came into the series hoping to keep pace with the Warriors and win close games at the end. When a team has so many weakness's it becomes hard to hide players or keep another offense from targeting them.

Add to their problems on defense is the belief that by allowing Durant to score two pointers, Houston could outscore them with the 35 3's they shoot per game. IF it was any other team maybe this would have a chance. But it isn't any other team.

The Warriors don't use the entire 24 second clock and believe in having more offensive possessions per game than their opponents. 

They add to offensive success by shooting high percentage shots that come from a team concept of moving the ball to find the open player. 

When a team chooses to accept letting a player move freely on offense, get to his spots, create opportunities for other players it will always fail as opposed to using team defense with every player needing to communicate and dictate an opponents drive. 

This isn't the Houston Rockets make up and is why they will never make it to the NBA Finals with James Harden or Chris Paul on the team. They are great players. They aren't what's needed to win a Championship.

The proof is in how Houston closed the gap to the Warriors when Harden came out for his injury. It was a different team that played as a unit. Not 5 individuals.