Key adjustments for Raptors in Game 3 vs. 76ers

Amit Mann and Jackson Frank discuss adjustments the Toronto Raptors could make ahead of a crucial Game 3 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Are you surprised how much I guess, they're doubling James in this series? Because I look at those two games at the end of the regular season and they were playing it pretty straight up for the most part. And it seems like they're hedging, they're containing, they're contesting, they're stuttering and recovering. And I'm just like, at times, they're getting a little bit too aggressive, and James is making them pay, and that's to his credit. But I've personally been surprised by how aggressive they've been when it comes to doubling him when they already are doing this to Joel Embiid.

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah, I mean, I think this might be the my third part of the day discussing this series, but my--

AMIT MANN: So you're a pro then.

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah, might as well. So apologies for listening to all these. You're going to hear some similar talking points, but hopefully, I can frame them in different ways to keep you off guard. But the biggest adjustment that I've offered that Toronto could make that could be the most beneficial is just playing hard and more straight up because he doesn't have that same level of explosiveness that he had in the last year or maybe two years ago, three years ago.

Like, I think you can trust an OG, or a Precious, or even a Pascal, a Scottie if he available to just play straight. You don't need to help with the nail or from the strong side corner. I mean, the strong side corner has been a total lapse in judgment, not just lapse in decision making. I would say from Toronto's defenders this series so far, especially in the second quarter of game 2.

AMIT MANN: I think we saw a little bit of it in the second half, granted I'm sure like, the 76ers took their foot off the gas pedal just a little bit. But even when it came to guarding Joel Embiid, like, they weren't nearly as aggressive with their doubling. They were doing a lot more just being positionally sound and practicing better defensive habits. So they weren't over doubling, they weren't overcommitting, and they weren't creating so many gaps in their defense.

Which I mean, like a person like Danny Green you mentioned earlier. He's been terrific for them. He's going to relocate, he's going to get a wide open lane, and he's going to hit a shot. Like, that's where Danny Green is now. I'm sure he's had some ups and downs with the Philadelphia 76ers. But for the time being, it seems like at least against the Toronto Raptors that he's enjoying life at the moment, and he's hitting his shots for the most part.

So Toronto Raptors, I mean, they're a pretty smart savvy team. And I think Nick Nurse to a degree, I mean, you look at the series and it's 2-0 right now. But I think the Raptors will look at this like, hey, they won their games in their barn, and we're going to head back to ours. And I think there's a little bit of let's see what they're capable of doing or thinking that Thad Young, Gary Trent Jr, we don't know the status of Scottie Barnes, but maybe those guys, they're going to be healthier come tomorrow, and that they'll give at least serviceable minutes.

Gary Trent Jr. played nine minutes. Thad Young had a pretty quiet game. He only played a few, but you get those two back in your rotation like in playing 20 plus, maybe they're going to be in better shape. And then I think that's where we're going to see like the defense that they played in the second half, much more conservative and much more about let's let our length take over and let's really see if they can hit shots over us. And maybe we'll see that coming come game 3.

But at the moment, Yeah, it's a bit of a tough task at this time because Joel Embiid, you mentioned that step through moving and that's what was in my mind when I woke up this morning. And I was like, man, that's a move that you don't see very often.

The foul discrepancy has been a huge talking point between Nick Nurse and the Raptors, coaching staff, and so forth, and I understand it. I'll get your opinion on this too. I understand it to a degree, but I still feel like because of how aggressive they've been and this is why I don't get why they're playing this way for like the first 3/2 of this series so far, is that you're kind of putting yourself to a point where you're constantly scrambling.

You can pivot now to their offense and things that they could probably do better is that I think we're going to see a lot more OG Anunoby in pick and roll situations as a rim runner on pick and rolls, as a popper because I think they need to get Joel Embiid away from the basket. And they're just not doing a good enough job of that. Granted no, no Gary Trent Jr. is a problem there.

Fred VanVleet being up and down. He played every single second of the first half last night. And we're wondering, hey, why did he go one of 9 in the second quarter. Well, there you go. But there isn't many options right because you can't put into an event in because he's a rookie, and Malachi Flynn did get some minutes although he didn't make a shot, but Yeah, things that the Raptors could potentially do differently in game 3 in Scotiabank Arena.

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah, I liked-- I did like them coming out of the gates in game two running a lot more pick and roll. They recognize that Joel was going to be on OG, and they said, OK, we're going to force Joel, like is he going to defend VanVleet on the probe on the drive or is he going to go rotate back to OG on the pop? And that gave him some issues that's part of why the Raptors got off to a nice 13-2 or 13-4 start. I can't recall exactly what, but this nice little sizable advantage to open the game.

The issue was like VanVleet has to work so hard to create those pick and rolls because he doesn't-- like, he just doesn't have that final gear that you maybe want and maybe like prime Lowry had. People compare them all the time. Lowry just had another extra gear in his prime getting downhill and stuff. And so--

AMIT MANN: My goodness.

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah, he should donate it to Fred. I guess Kyle has his own--

AMIT MANN: Hey, man, he's taking a lot of things from Kyle Lowry. But Yes, yes.

JACKSON FRANK: But that sort of thing, it was just so hard for him to create. And by the time they got to the second quarter, he'd worked so hard to keep the Sixers or the Raptors in front by 1 after one quarter that he just-- I mean, there was not play in the third quarter I think where he missed back to back 3's from like the exact same spot, and it was like-- he was like, you can tell these legs. And it was kind of a time where the game was teetering. Would it be close or not?

And I was like, Oh man, I feel for Raptors fans. They're like, that was probably a bit of a frustrating 20 seconds. But I liked that. I think I wonder with like, if you're going to go to more OG, what's stopping the Sixers from just throwing Joel on OG because he did that late. And I think Joel stopped them on one drive.

And OG, as good as he was with some of his self-creation, I don't know how much of that is replicable. He had some pretty tough setbacks in a deep 3. Like at one point, when they were kind of mounting a little late run. So I'm not saying they shouldn't try to go more OG. I think especially the season was a roller like you said, and just kind of see what can happen there makes sense.

Like, do you use Pascal more? Like, it seems like so much of Pascal stuff has been in this ISO, and he's struggling to create Tobias. Like, put Tobias in ball. Tobias has been great and playing by the national. It's like, he still struggles navigating screens, so like you are playing into his in the Philadelphia 76ers hands when you just say, it's OK, Pascal. Create an ISO-- like, no, throw in a ball screen, use as a screener, like-- and I guess, I get like-- I guess not maybe not to like. Like, then see it like, can you attack Maxey? Like, he had Pascal nice play I think, in the second quarter or third quarter.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, he had a couple that worked out. Yeah.

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah. Because the forces switch, like do more of that. Don't put all the burden on Pascal to create against Tobias when Tobias has been pretty solid in these two games against him. Using his hands for strips and his physicality, the way airspace so. Make it easier for guys to set more screens, and I know that's kind of been a thing with Nurse and the Raptors do that fans want, Meeting more ball screens and less iso and whatnot.

AMIT MANN: Oh, you even paying attention to Raptors Twitter, haven't you?

JACKSON FRANK: Yeah, I have.

AMIT MANN: Now, you have.

JACKSON FRANK: But and so many of the people do great work it's easy to follow, but Yeah, those are the things that I would do is just get more ball screens, force Tobias in more actions. Iso is Tobias' best [INAUDIBLE] strength offensively. So if you force him through a screen, he's a lot less adept. So that's what I would do. And Yeah, I agree about the OG, see what you can do with him as a roller popper attacking off the catch.

But I wouldn't overindulge on him as an ISO creator, which is what they did I think a little too much at times in game 2, but it generally worked because OG really had it going, but doesn't have a going in that sense in game 3. Don't just kind of delude yourself into thinking game two, OG is the norm. He's just off at that point.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, he's a tricky one because although it looks awkward, sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn't. I mean, he had a post up on Harden. He had to blew by Tobias Harris late in the game. But granted that's kind of in garbage time, but he had a shot over Danny Green. So he's had his moments this season, and especially I mean, we haven't seen him healthy for quite some time.

But you know, when the season started, Pascal was out. He was having-- he was averaging 22 points a game or 21 or so. So he's got the ability, it's just is he going to be able to do it in high pressure situations? And he also had a few turnovers when he was more of the primary ball handler, and that's still something that he's working to develop. But I would love to see him at least, work some high-low. Like, do more Pascal and OG Anunoby I guess, actions because those are your two options right now to at least, stay to your identity to some degree.

And if Joel Embiid is going to be guarding one of them, well, he can't guard both of them. So that means the other person should, in theory, be at least, available to create in some capacity. And then Yeah, Tobias Harris in actions. Thybulle is not going to be available for the games in Toronto.

And I think you've got to find ways to get Fred VanVleet some rest. I mean, he was great in that first quarter. He had 15 points, and then as I mentioned earlier, there was that stretch actually that you talked about end of the first half. He missed a mid-range shot, then he missed back to back wide open 3's. And at that moment, that would have cut the deficit to 10 points. So that would have been a much better at least, point to be in heading into the second half.

And maybe that's where you put Pascal at point guard. Like, we're shifting around guys who are going to be playing 39, 42 minutes anyways. So that's why the health of the Raptors is really key because Gary Trent Jr. would be a person where you put out with Pascal, and when those non-NBA minutes. Whoever you want to put out there because those aren't minutes that the Raptors have been able to dominate, especially in that second game. That's actually when the 76ers made the run, right. And at least, that could help in some degree, even at those minutes because they really do need to capitalize on that.

And then I would like to see at least, Precious Achiuwa. I mean, we're kind of digging deep now because this is how desperate we are, but Precious Achiuwa and match ups against James Harden. He's had some success granted-- I mean, James like he's doing his part. But Precious, I mean, the eye sample that eye test is there is that he's able to get downhill, he's able to drive by him. If the lanes are there, like, I think you need to try and get Precious going. And if he's a bit combustible at times, he's able to reel off a couple of 3's in a row.

And Gary Trent-- sorry, not Gary Trent Jr, Chris Boucher is the other person that in the same vein of just at least, trying to get Joel Embiid away from the basket, he had a go screen late in the game where he was able to pop out and he hit a 3. That cut the lead to I think, 10 or so. More stuff like that. Like, we are really, really scratching right now because look, I'm approaching this like we're not going to be getting the best versions of Gary Trent and Thad. And if we do, that does change things.

But we really got to start digging deep for where the Raptors are going to be able to create more halfcourt offense. It's been good so far. But as we've talked about the defensive end is where things are really dicey at the moment and that's where they got to make the most of their adjustments.

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