Toronto Raptors Show Evidence of Defense

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst INovember 16, 2009

BOSTON - JANUARY 12:  Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors reacts during a game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Banknorth Garden on January 12, 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Raptors defeated the Celtics 95-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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If one were to look at the Toronto Raptors’ roster and projected stats for this team, it would be easy to conclude that these Raptors would score a lot of points.

In nearly every interview with Jay Triano he has stated that they are working on team defense because no one is concerned about this team’s ability to score.

And in the first nine games of the season, scoring has never been an issue.  An average of about 108 points per game has the Raptors fourth in scoring in the NBA.

But defense has been a concern.  Giving up an average 106 points per game and averaging 125 points per game surrendered in the team’s four losses would seem to indicate the Raptors defense is suspect.  At the very least, defensive effort has been wildly inconsistent.

Inconsistent that is until the last two games the Raptors won.

Most recently against the Clippers, the Raptors held the Clips to zero baskets made in the final eight minutes and 18 seconds of the game and pulled out a 104-89 win.

Sure the Clippers are a weak team, but holding any team under 90 points represents a great defensive effort.  Holding a team to a couple of made free throws for over eight minutes when on the road is outstanding.

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In the game before the Raptors faced the 4-3 Bulls at the ACC.  The Bulls have been a very good defensive team this season.  Winning games by holding most teams to under 90 points.

So how did the Raptors handle the Bulls?

The Raptors held the Bulls to zero baskets made in the final nine minutes and 21 seconds of the game and pulled out a 99-89 win.

Scoring droughts during the course of an NBA game are not uncommon.  Creating scoring droughts extending for over half of the fourth quarter to end a game is impressive.  Doing it two games in a row is something any defensive powerhouse would take immense pride in.

And in the Toronto Raptors five wins this season, they could easily be mistaken for a very good defensive team.  The Raptors have held their opponents under 100 points in each of the five wins surrendering a stingy 91.6 points per game.

Looking for answers to this Jekyll and Hyde approach to defense isn’t easy.  But the road losses to Dallas and San Antonio were not a surprise.  A disappointment maybe, but hardly a surprise.

But there has been one common thread during games where the Raptors seem to surrendering too many points.  The duo point guard line-up of Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack is on the floor.

As recently identified in the True Hoop Article: What’s Working For The Raptors , when Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack on the floor together, the Raptors are surrendering 136.8 points per 100 possessions.  Now that’s unbelievably bad!  It’s historically bad!

Now the guys at True Hoop were not the first to notice this.  After the Memphis game, the question was raised Can Jarrett Jack Play Shooting Guard?

The answer has now been settled.  Jarrett Jack cannot play shooting guard for the Raptors!  The duo point guard line-up isn’t working!

A quick summary of the Raptors attempts to play Jack at shooting guard to close out games is as follows:

  1. Vs. Cleveland over the final six minutes, Jack goes 0-1 and Cleveland out scores Toronto 13-10.
  2. Vs. Memphis over the final five minutes, Jack goes 0-1 and Memphis out scores Toronto 17-13.
  3. Vs. Orlando over the final five minutes, Jack goes 0-1 and Orlando out scores Toronto 13-9.
  4. Vs. Detroit over the final eight and a half minutes, Jack goes 0-3 but Toronto out scores Detroit 20-13.

The Calderon and Jack duo started the fourth quarter in Dallas and played two minutes in the front half of the fourth quarter against the Bulls but with little impact.

The one consistent thing about Jack when he plays with Calderon is he looks lost and ineffective.

It appears Jay Triano has conceded for the moment that the best way to finish games is to play his most effective people at the end.  Against Chicago that was Antoine Wright.  Versus the Clippers it was Marco Belinelli.

The Raptors next three games are on the road against Phoenix, Denver, and Utah.  Three very tough playoff caliber teams.  To have a chance at stealing one of these games will likely require the Raptors team that holds opponents to under 100 points to show up.

But these new end-of-game line-ups do seem to give the Raptors a better chance.  At least better than playing the line-up that has surrendered 136.8 points per 100 possessions.