After another nail-biting finish in overtime, The Toronto Raptors were able to come out on top and take Game 2 to even the series. Now the Raptors take their talents to South Beach in hopes of continuing their momentum against the Miami Heat.
Game 2 was a story of yet another blown lead for the Raptors and a “here we go again” scenario. Just like Game 1, the Raptors weren’t able to close out the game in regulation. Despite another night of poor shooting from the all-stars the Raptors were able to squeak by the Heat with some clutch buckets from Kyle Lowry and relentless work from Jonas Valanciunas on the glass who leads the playoffs with 41 total offensive rebounds.
DeMarre Carroll has pointed out two keys for the Raptors in Game 2, which includes “passing more” and “getting the ball to JV”. It’s nice to know that the players are capable of seeing the obvious flaws in their offence.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
- Dominate the Paint
At this point, the best big man in this series is undoubtedly Valanciunas. When the Raptors establish their post presence early it gives the rest of the team more space to operate. But dominating the paint isn’t just about JV post-ups. It has to include penetration, drive and kicks and aggressively attacking the basket. The Heat have one of the best shot-blockers in the game in Hassan Whiteside, so we can’t expect them to over-help too much. But when we suck them in by putting the ball on the floor or getting it inside, it can open up so much more real estate for every Raptor on the floor.
- Be decisive offensively
As mentioned, Carroll pointed out the obvious in the fact that the ball has been too stagnant on offence for the Raptors. What that means is the beautiful movement of the ball we see when we watch the San Antonio Spurs needs to be seen from the Raptors. Every team in the NBA is at their best when they are two steps ahead of their opponents. For the Raptors, not only does the ball need to start moving, but they need to set-up their offence quicker and JV will need to kick the ball out when he sees the double team coming. Also, Lowry can’t be afraid to shoot and DeMar DeRozan needs to spend less than 3 seconds dribbling the ball.
- Smart Pressure Defence
In Game 2 the Raptors got 15 steals and forced 21 turnovers from the Miami Heat. Both teams were also an even 21 in the foul department. This means that the Raptors were able to get after it on the defensive end without fouling. Of course the defence wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by the Heat’s near 50% shooting from the field, but it helped their offence as they were able to get good fast-break opportunities, which was a big reason why they were able to get out into a once 15 point lead in the first place. It also helps when you have a deep bench of good defensive-minded players whom I urge Dwane Casey to use.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
There are a few guys on this team who have helped rather than tarnish their reputation in these playoffs and Valanciunas is one of them. Not only is he the playoff leader in total offensive boards, but he is also second in total rebounds by just 1 rebound and he’s the Raptors most efficient player on the floor. In fact, his player efficiency rating is higher than LeBron James.
Now sure, that last statement was probably a bit much, but the point is Valanciunas has been a big reason why the Raptors have gotten so far. Heck DeRozan even admitted that the Raptors probably wouldn’t have won Game 2 without him. What makes him such a big fan-favourite is that his entire game comes down to effort. He looks to get out on the fast break at every opportunity, he’s the first one to every loose ball and no matter how many times he’s passed to, he doesn’t stop working to get deep post position.
Few teams in this league have a legitimate big man in the middle, but you can include the Raptors as one of those teams that do.