Before each game of the Magic/Raptors series, we are going to get the perspective of someone from the North.
What adjustments must the Raptors make in Game 2 for what is now a must-win game?
Despite seeing some open looks on the perimeter, the Raptors failed to capitalize, shooting just 33% from long range. Meanwhile, the Magic shot an otherworldly 48% from three. I anticipate this discrepancy in efficiency to even out somewhat naturally, but of course, other adjustments must be made.
Far too often, the Raptors guards looked shell-shocked when attempting to stifle D.J. Augustin from outside the arc. Kyle Lowry and Danny Green appeared flat-footed at times, and Fred VanVleet decided it was a good idea to duck underneath the screen on a D.J. three-point attempt for some reason.
Moreover, the Raptors were unable to contain Augustin on drives, leading either to successful kick-outs (although some of those made shots were defended well) or delicate, high-arching floaters over Gasol’s fingertips.
The Raptors did a great job at preventing Terrence Ross from bombing successfully from deep, hounding him on the perimeter. However, overactive defense on good shooters leads to more open shots for decent shooters like Aaron Gordon, who hit both of his three-point attempts.
Simply put, the Raptors defenders need to be tougher on shooters, including Augustin. Gasol should look to edge forward in the paint and prevent floaters while Lowry, Green and VanVleet must fight through screens and close out effectively to prevent open shots.
What did the Raptors do well against Nikola Vucevic to keep him so quiet in Game 1?
The Raptors packed the paint successfully, causing Vucevic to struggle around the rim. Often, his shot attempts were either met by staunch defender Marc Gasol, or a pair of Raptors big men. Of course, this need to stick around the rim meant that far too often, Gasol was unable to step up and guard floaters.
I expect the defensive game plan to remain similar, although there should be far more emphasis on preventing drives in the first place. If the Raptors’ guards can stick with Augustin around the three-point line, Gasol and Pascal Siakam can continue to double Vucevic effectively.
Kyle Lowry was scoreless in Game 1, but Magic coach Steve Clifford said he actually played “terrific.” How would you describe Lowry’s play in Game 1 and what do you expect from him in Game 2?
Don’t laugh at me, but Lowry’s team-leading plus/minus (+11) is telling. Yes, he put up a big fat goose egg in the scoring column. Yes, he looked increasingly scared to drive as the game progressed. Yes, it would have been nice if he had made his two free throw attempts.
But, as always, the team’s success was predicated on Lowry running the offense. He found open teammates effectively, his spacing allowed for Gasol to dish to cutters and he even took mostly good shots (though they all missed – sigh).
Next game, I expect Lowry to be more aggressive off the dribble. If his shot’s not falling, he needs to drive with purpose to the rim, looking to draw contact instead of being afraid of getting blocked. The law of averages tells me that his shot will fall at some point. For those of you who assume Lowry can’t bring it in the playoffs, take a gander at his numbers from last postseason: 17.4 PPG on 50.8% from the field, 44.4% from three.
Bonus question: How would you describe the mindset of the Raptors fanbase after suffering yet another disheartening Game 1 loss?
I felt deflated, as I’m sure many fans did. It was an unexpected loss, especially considering this year’s squad was supposed to be different. Immediately after the game, it felt like the same old choking Raptors squad. But, there’s an aura of confidence hovering in the air heading into game two, and I expect Torontonians to be optimistic (if not just to get their hearts broken yet again).
Thanks again to Dylan for chatting with us. Be sure to visit Raptors HQ for some great content about the Magic’s opponent, including a story on what the Raptors did wrong in Game 1.