The boys from The Basketball Jones said in today’s episode that Raptors fans should be prepared to witness lots more collapses like last night’s debacle where the Raptors blew a third-quarter, 16-point lead, and I’m inclined to agree with them. In the first 30 minutes of the game, the Raptors played over their heads while the Kings played like hot garbage. Then Tyreke Evans started to heat up, his teammates gained confidence in front of their home crowd and the Raptors crumbled under the pressure. While the final margin of victory was just three points, the actual difference in talent between the two teams is much larger than that.
For the second time in three games, the Raptors had the ball while trailing by three points with the shot clock turned off at the end of the fourth quarter. Just as in the first game, the execution of that crucial possession was puzzling.
For obvious reasons, the Kings left the lane wide open — which is presumably why Linas Kleiza tried to drive to the basket. Theoretically, he could have scored there and then the Raptors could hope that whoever ended up taking the Kings’ next free throws ended up missing one or both of them. What I would like to know is if Jay Triano thinks this is a more high-percentage play in terms of trying to get into overtime than trying to tie it up in one possession with a contested three.
Let’s pull some arbitrary numbers out of thin air. What are the odds of the Raptors making a game-tying three-pointer in this type of possession. Maybe somewhere between 25 to 30 percent? Now, let’s estimate the odds of scoring a two-pointer in this situation. Although it’s a high-pressure, short-clock situation where the probability of scoring is lower, the Kings were leaving the lane fairly open so you could argue that the odds of the Raptors scoring a two-pointer would be around 50 percent.
After the Raptors make that two-pointer, what are the odds that the Kings are going to miss one of their free throws? Let’s say the Raptors foul a 70 percent free throw shooter on the Kings. Based on my extremely limited understanding of probability calculations (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49), that means there would be roughly a 49 percent chance of the opposing player making both free throws, which means there would be a 51 percent chance he would miss at least one.
Of course, in that scenario, the Raptors still have to score one more time in the remaining time – probably between three and five seconds — and what are the odds of a team scoring a basket when they have fewer than five seconds to do so? I would argue that the odds are likely about the same as the odds of making that initial contested three — and that’s only after coming out on the lucky side of the first two-pointer and then the subsequent free throws.
Obviously, I don’t have the exact math here but doesn’t it seem like just shooting the three in that situation is the more sensible option? Is there a math major out there who wants to prove me wrong in the comments? I suppose there’s also the possibility that Triano actually wanted the Raptors to try to get off a three-pointer and Kleiza “went rogue”, but I don’t really want to ponder that.
Aside from the questionable logic of Kleiza’s drive, another major contributor to the Raptors’ collapse last night was Andrea Bargnani’s inability (or unwillingness) to box out. DeMarcus Cousins out-maneuvered Bargnani twice in the fourth quarter for offensive rebounds and he turned the first rebound into a layup and converted two free throws off of Bargnani’s foul after the second one. Here’s his second offensive board of the quarter, where both Bargnani and Kleiza failed to box out the big man with 2:14 on the clock and the Kings up by three.
As you can see, rather than execute a proper box-out, Bargnani tries to hold off the bigger, stronger Cousins with his arm — with predictable results. This is the problem with the argument that Reggie Evans’ nose for rebounds cancels out Bargnani’s aversion to them. Evans can’t help Bargnani box out in these situations, which is why he probably shouldn’t even be on the floor near the end of the fourth quarter in close games. Giving your opponent extra possessions in these situations is lethal.
It wasn’t all rainclouds and sad faces last night. DeMar DeRozan matched his career highs in both points (24) and free throw attempts (14) and it definitely appears he’s poised to take it up a notch this season. Here’s an encouraging clip of DeRozan making a help-side block and then burying a mid-range jumper off the break.
Triano set a goal for DeRozan to average eight free throw attempts per game this season and he’s averaging 7.3 attempts after three games. Of course, it remains to be seen if he can keep this up, but here’s the list of the 10 people who averaged at least 7.3 free throw attempts last season: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Corey Maggette, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Martin. That would not be shoddy company to keep.