Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Spurs’ locker room when they went into the half trailing the lowly Raptors by 11 points last night. You think he tore a few new orifices in there? I think he probably did. Anyway, that was a different Spurs team in the third quarter. They both exposed the Raptors’ sorry interior defence as they asserted their own defensive superiority with an effective combination of zone defence and double-teams.
What was different about these double-teams is that they were on DeMar DeRozan, and I don’t think I’ve seen another NBA team apply repeated double teams on him before last night. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich obviously saw that DeRozan had 20 points at the half while Andrea Bargnani was having his second crappy game in a row, and then Pop instructed his players to double-team DeRozan and collapse into the paint when he tried to drive. As you’ll see in this sequence of third-quarter plays, this strategy worked very well. On the last two Raptors possessions in the video (the last one of which is actually a Bargnani miss), I included the subsequent Spurs possessions where, in contrast, they scored quite easily in the paint.
And that’s how the lead was lost. Most of us knew that was coming, of course. If you actually thought the Raptors were going to hang onto that lead, you haven’t been paying attention to this team — or the Spurs for that matter.
After the game, DeRozan said he was “tired of losing”, obviously referring to the Raptors’ 13-29 record and the fact that they’ve lost five in a row. It’s nice that he cares, but he and and several of his teammates are going to have to start really digging in on defence if this team is going to avoid residing among the dregs of the NBA basement at the end of the season.
Once again, the Raptors have one of the worst team defences in the league, with a 26th-ranked Defensive Rating of 111.1 points allowed per 100 possessions. They were dead last in 2009-10, and the marginal improvement can mostly be attributed to Ed Davis and the additional minutes given to Amir Johnson. DeRozan, Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza are all in the Raptors’ top five for minutes played and they’ve all been poor defenders this season. Bargnani, Calderon and Kleiza are probably lost causes either due to lack of ability or lack of willingness to give a crap — I don’t think I need to point out which fault applies to which player. DeRozan theoretically should have the ability to be a decent-to-good defender, but he hasn’t shown that yet in his NBA career.
Aside from his lacking defence, what the Spurs did to DeRozan in the third quarter last night emphasizes the need for him to extend his shooting range so he can become a more complete offensive weapon. The Spurs were able to effectively shut down the Raptors by playing zone and doubling DeRozan when he drove because they knew they didn’t have to worry about him hurting them from deep.
While DeRozan’s improvement at getting to the free throw line this season has been impressive and his .471 FG% looks decent for a wing player, he’s shooting a so-so 76.2 percent from the free throw line and because he can’t make treys, his True Shooting Percentage of .535 reveals him to actually be a pretty inefficient scorer for the number of shots he takes — he’s 36th in True Shooting Percentage out of the 51 NBA players who have taken at least 495 field goal attempts.
If DeRozan’s tired of losing, he needs to understand that losing isn’t something that just happens to him. He can’t make the Raptors winners on his own but if he wants to be known around the league as much more than a pretty good dunker on a crappy team, he has a lot of work to do to raise his game to a level that will actually help his team win games in ways that go beyond the number under “PTS” on his boxscore.