Game 3 didn’t exactly go the way the team wanted. Imagine losing when both Kawhi and Siakam drop 20+points because the rest of your roster can’t make anything. The overreaction would be to say something like: “Not even Kobe and Shaq could win with these cats!” or “These are the playoff Raptors”. The team walked into the maw of the beast and promptly got their asses kicked. We lost our first away game against a team with a great atmosphere at their arena. As a result, the naysayers are all over the internet and the annual Raptors slander has begun. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for the rest of the roster, because the playoffs are a whole different animal. I don’t think that the Raptors are necessarily favorites anymore and that is an objective fact. But I do believe that this situation is fixable, as winning 3 of 4 is doable with what should be great roster. Remember that we are only down 1. This version of the future, where we get out of the 2nd round may yet come to pass. However, to achieve that result, there is one thing that is required first and foremost.
Let’s shelve Fred VanVleet.
Maybe just for the duration of the series. Maybe for the rest of the playoffs run, however long they may be. To the eye-test it is simple to discern what has been the problem: he’s too small. Kyle Lowry is at least able to hold his own in the post, and take charges. If you look at Kyle Lowry, you see how a small guard should defend. VanVleet isn’t as strong as Lowry, he isn’t known as a defender and of course, his shot has abandoned him. It is hard to believe his fall from grace, considering he was a 6MOY candidate just last year. Every single player on the Sixers roster is bigger than Fred VanVleet. To be honest, I can’t really fathom why he’s out there if his shot’s not falling. He is too small to provide any defense, dies on any screen set by Joel Embiid, and gets his shot tossed. I can almost see Embiid trolling the team next game if Fred VanVleet plays like this again.
Fred VanVleet is not having a good playoffs run. Nick Nurse must be ruthless if we are to win this series. Being ruthless might mean starting Lin or McCaw. Anything is better than watching people shoot over our bench, and watching the team get out-rebounded and outscored because the Raptors had a liability on the floor.
From a statistical standpoint it’s even more damning for Fred VanVleet. In the playoffs, FVV is shooting an abysmal 31.1% from the field, and 21.7 % from 3 point range. Contributing a measly 5 points a game. When the contribution of a player isn’t there then usually coaches do the obvious thing and bench them. This isn’t just a slump: we’ve had a sample of 8 games to see this, but Fred’s struggles have been overlooked because the team was winning. One consistent theme throughout this season has been the utter ineptitude of our bench and their lack of ability to keep a lead.
However, these losses have brought to light the ineptitude with which FVV has been playing all of these playoffs. This really was the hardest road for FVV: every single team that the Raptors have played has been lengthy, rangy and athletic. Not really any small ball going around, what with Joel Embiid on the floor. FVV had a damning -10 in the loss to Philadelphia in Game 3, and I fear it will be even worse if the team continues to play him. The key is getting contributions from the bench in whatever form. Last night Nurse took FVV out, and put in McCaw. While that’s a start, I’d like to see Lin add a scoring punch to the bench as well. It is time
This situation is still salvageable: the Raptors are only down 1, to an opponent that they knew was going to be difficult. What needs to happen now is simple: Nurse must be simple and ruthless. Cull anything that could be a mismatch for Philadelphia. Fred VanVleet is the primary offender, and it starts by making him sit.
Let’s Go Raptors.