Offensively, the Raptors put Pascal Siakam on the offensive on Friday. After totaling 37 points and four assists in the first two games, the All-Star had 26 and five on Friday. Fred VanVleet remained on fire, scoring 22 points and draining 6 of his 10 3-point attempts.
But the Raps are above all a defensive team. Game 3 was another example of how they could turn the screws at that end of the floor, and this afternoon in Orlando, Allen was at the center of that screw shoot.
12 – Restricted area attempts for nets in play 3.
The Nets’ 16 restricted area attempts in Game 2 were a low season. And then they got four fewer in Game 3, with just seven restricted area attempts in the first three quarters.
Brooklyn was a top 10 shooting team in all zones (Restricted Zone, other paint strokes, midrange and 3-pointers) this season. But they were at least good at reaching the most important of those areas. The Nets ranked third for the percentage of their shots in the restricted area (36%).
They weren’t so good at accessing the basket for this series. (Spencer Dinwiddie’s absence hurts in that regard.) And those layups and dunks have become rarer with each game.
Part of the shooting cast for Game 3 was designed by the Nets. Playing without seven guys who didn’t even make the trip to Orlando and Joe Harris (who left for personal reasons after Game 2), Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn knew his team were outmatched against the reigning champions. So he went for a win by variance.
“It was part of our game plan to shoot 50 3,” Vaughn said. “We thought it would give us a chance to be in the game, if we made a good percentage. “
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was on the same page.
“We had talked about them shooting 50-55 3 today,” he said. “I think it’s smart enough for them to sort of go out there and do it. They have smaller lineups and guys who can pull it and let it fly. ”
And the Raptors employ a defense that will let you do that: In the regular season, 44% of their opponents’ shots, the league’s highest rate, were from beyond the arc.
Sadly, the Nets placed 26th in a 3-point percentage (34.3%) in the regular season and were missing their best shot. They reached their goal, attempting 51 3 (their third highest total of the season) on Friday. But they only made 16 (31%) of the 51.
And surely the Nets would have liked a few more layups or dunks, especially from Allen, who shot 72% in the restricted area in the regular season. Allen was fouled twice in the paint, but didn’t have a single basket attempt in the box.
The 6-foot-11 Nets center set up over 30 ball screens in Game 3. But not once did he get a clean bearing at the rim. These two trips to the line are the result of a campaign of isolation by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and an after-time game to have him catch the ball in the painting after getting a screen.
In Wednesday’s Game 2, the Raptors focused their pick-and-roll defense on LeVert, with their screen-level bigs to corral the Nets’ main ball handler and plenty of room for Allen to roll and receive. a pass:
While none of the other three defenders met Allen in the painting, he has come to the brim. And if the Raptors were spinning at the roller, he would kick the ball to the open shooter, collecting five assists (all over 3s).
With the young center of the Nets proving he was a pretty skillful playmaker and with LeVert shooting 0 for 6 from 3 points in the first two games, the Raptors turned things around for Game 3. They gave at LeVert more space and Allen Less.
On the Nets’ second possession on Friday, Marc Gasol was out of the 3-point line, but was retreating to prevent Allen from getting behind him.
Harris’s lack of ground spacing and offensive production certainly hurt Brooklyn. And the weak Nets defenders did their part to keep Allen from reaching the edge. But even though Harris was there, the Raptors’ Game 3 scheme required less off-ball help and allowed the other three defenders to stay closer to home on the Nets shooters.
If Brooklyn was going to take 50 3s, they were going to come from LeVert off the dribble or more tightly guarded shooters of the ball. Not only did Allen not get any roll shots to the rim, but none of his three assists were from pick-and-roll action.
“We adjusted some blankets there,” Nurse said. “We have changed a lot so as not to let him take the ball. ”
The quality of the Raptors’ defense – which ranked second in the regular season and now second in the playoffs – goes far beyond their initial pick-and-roll game plan execution. Vaughn said his team’s lack of layups in this series was “a by-product of their ability to put in multiple efforts.”
And maybe the adjustment wasn’t necessary. The Raptors could have won Game 3 by simply improving their execution of Game 2’s game plan. Heck, they won Game 2 despite all of Allen’s damage in the paint. But this team dreams of another long run in this playoffs, you need to be able to win in different ways, and even against an overwhelmed opponent, every game is an opportunity to expand and refine your skills.
The “drop” cover might not work well against the league’s top pull-up shooting team in the next round (aka the Atlantic Division Finals), but that’s conversation for another day. And while the Celtics usually call for Game 2 game plan, you can’t give a good team a single glance.
“We’ve changed some things,” VanVleet said, regarding preventing Allen from getting his catch on Friday. “I think Caris relaxed a bit more than before because of the regime change we made. [We] try to make them look different and not make them look the same every game.
“We gave Caris a little more. We gave Allen a little less. Obviously, we know they missed Joe tonight. We were able to stay home on some of the other guys. It’s a chess match. You have to keep doing. adjustments throughout the series. ”
The Nets might as well try variance again in Game 4 on Sunday (6:30 a.m. ET, TNT), so expect 50 more 3-point attempts. They might see more opportunities for LeVert against the drop system when they watch the Game 3 movie, but they can’t be sure the Raptors won’t change the pattern again. Maybe the champions will just change for the fun of it.
The Raptors will make the first playoff series in franchise history. And more important than making history is getting the first round done so they can rest and start planning the game for a likely series against the Celtics, a much tougher opponent than the rambling Nets.
The nurse admitted on Friday that from night to night he doesn’t know who will be the eighth man in his rotation. (That was Terence Davis on Friday.) Either way, he’s going to rely heavily on his top seven, a group with championship experience that’s finally healthy.
“They are going to play a lot of minutes for us,” he said. “I think taking care of business will help us. ”
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John Schuhmann is a writer for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archives here, and follow him on Twitter.
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