Game On: Pelicans @ Raptors

Published: February 10, 2014

Tonight at 6 PM central time, the Pelicans cross the border for their lone trip to Canada this season to take on the Raptors. To help me with the preview today, William Lou of Raptors Republic (the Raptors blog within ESPN’s TrueHoop Network) was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the team’s season so far. I also answered a few for him to help with the Raptors’ game preview.

1. How have the Raptors changed since the trade of Rudy Gay?

It’s all in the math. Gay swallowed up 30% possessions and spit them out at a TS% under 50%, which is simply atrocious. Since he’s been gone, the Raptors have been freed for the first time. Kyle Lowry has the ball in his hands more often, and not only is he a better shooter, but he’s simply a better facilitator, which means the right players are getting the ball at the right time. Terrence Ross has flourished in a 3-and-D role, and the Raptors love to run pin-downs — usually set by Amir Johnson — for him to spot-up from deep. Patrick Patterson has also performed well as a pick-and-pop big.

2. Thoughts on Greivis Vasquez in a Raptors uniform so far?

Vasquez is quite possibly the slowest point guard this side of Derek Fisher’s 38th birthday. Our own Blake Murphy spoke to Vasquez in practice, and Gravy didn’t really have any answers as to why he’s been playing so poorly. He’s not running the PnR nearly as much as he did in New Orleans, which is odd because he’s playing with two capable bigs in Patterson and/or Johnson most of the time, and he has a propensity to just chuck contested three-pointers at random. In short, this isn’t the same Vasquez that led the league in total assists last season.

3. What is the next move that Toronto needs to make to take its next step towards contention in the Eastern Conference?

Contention is tricky because they’re nowhere close to the level that Miami and Indiana are on, but this current roster certainly has the potential to advance to the second round of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. This team could really use another shot-creator on the wing — someone like last year’s JR Smith — but I doubt GM Masai Ujiri will cough up anything significant to bolster the team in the short-term.

Keys to Victory

  1. Don’t allow second chance opportunities. Toronto is in the top third in the NBA in offensive rebound rate, but have attempted the third fewest shots at the rim in the NBA. On a per-game basis, they pull down about 12 offensive rebounds per game and attempt about 24 shots per game at the rim. Logic dictates that a relatively high percentage of those shots at the rim come as a result of those extended possessions, and their 15.6 second chance points per game (3rd highest in the league) supports this theory. Box out and hold the Raptors to one shot per possession, and the Pelicans’ chances of winning will increase.
  2. Disciplined interior defense. The Raptors are in the bottom third of the NBA with only 38 points in the paint per game but are in the top third in free throw rate and free throw attempts per game. Make Toronto work for these points by refraining from committing unnecessary fouls, and they’ll have a far tougher time scoring.
  3. Apply pressure to their defense. The Raptors boast the 7th best defensive rating in the NBA, but they are in the bottom third of the league in opponents’ free throw rate and score only 10 fast break points per game, 5th worst in the NBA. By consistently sending their attacking guards (Gordon and Evans in particular) into the paint, the Pelicans will have the greatest chance of breaking down a talented, athletic Raptors defense.

Enjoy the game!


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