TORONTO – Since Nick Nurse took over as head coach, there are many aspects of the game that you can point to as “Toronto Raptors basketball”. But the most identifiable thing, probably, was the team’s defense.
In two games of the third season of Nurse in charge, however, it seems that Toronto is experiencing an identity crisis.
“We’re not even close to where we want to be defensively, but it takes a lot of work, it takes dedication to watch the movie, understand who we’re playing against and make adjustments in real time,” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry after the crash. from his team to the San Antonio Spurs, 119-114 on Saturday night. “I think we will watch a movie tomorrow and the next day and see what we did badly and what we did good and we will try to build the good side of things, instead of insisting on the bad things.”
The second defeat in so many games they played, we are still in the beginning of the Raptors’ season, of course, but the atypical slide we saw from them in defense is still worrying, however.
In two games, Toronto boasts a porous defensive rating of 111.5 and looks like a slow pace or two in rotations, providing more space for opponents to operate and make decisions with the ball.
As an example, well-known opponent DeMar DeRozan burned Toronto on Saturday for 27 points and eight assists, hitting 10 of 17 on the field and, surprisingly, hitting 3 in 4 in the three-point streak. DeRozan is obviously a great offensive player, but the Raptors didn’t offer much in terms of endurance. They allowed DeRozan to take his time throughout the game and dictate when, where and how he would attack.
This could have been helped by one of the basic principles of good defense: More communication.
As Toronto guard Fred VanVleet described it, the Raptors are simply not talking enough now.
“I will not give credit to anyone for communicating, including myself,” said VanVleet. “We have to do a much better job at this. So, to answer your question, everyone on the team needs to be better at that end of the track communicating, starting with me and I think that will help in our defense. I mean, there’s no one in the building, so there’s no excuse for not talking. It is very quiet outside. “
In general, the Raptors have been disappointing in defense to start the season, and they know it.
“It’s tough. It’s tough. I think we have to protect our people a little better,” said VanVleet. “Individually, we have to make a lot of efforts. Make more slides. Understand. It’s not rocket science. I don’t mean that it’s a question. I feel like the guys are trying to do that. We have to make more moves at a higher level.
“It’s easy to say in the attack when you say that the guys have to make moves, you have to complete the move. But it’s the same thing in defense: you have to do the extra rotation, you have to close, you have to make it the rebound. We’re trying. I think we have to play defensively at a higher level with every possession. I don’t think we’re doing this for a full game. We do it in spurts, but I think the teams are a little comfortable now, or the last two teams we played. ”
What is encouraging about Toronto’s defense, however, is that the runs VanVleet talks about were excellent.
The path to a strong defensive club still exists for the Raptors, thanks to the fact that they still have people like OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and, as Saturday’s proof, Chris Boucher.
Boucher recorded a record of seven career blocks on Saturday and, although his shooting disputes can cost cleaning the defensive glass, the energy he brings in defense, trying to hit everything in his neighborhood, is exactly what the Raptors need, right now. This willingness to put everything out in each defensive possession was part of the reason why the Raptors have become as strong a defense as they have in the past two seasons.
“If we can play in the right place, I think we can be a very good defensive team,” said Boucher. “We just have to go out there and prove it every time.”
And it really should be that simple.
Yes, this Raptors team has new faces to incorporate and didn’t have much time to prepare these new guys thanks to the short training camp and preseason. But the fact is that Toronto suffered some defeats to teams that they probably shouldn’t have lost, because the club’s defense is not yet ready.
“I think there are a lot of things involved in this, everyone making adjustments trying to find out,” said Lowry. “Your defense should be a little bit ahead of your attack now, and we’re kind of balanced now with everything, and it’s a totally new situation for everyone, but we’re 0-2 and I haven’t had this record for a long time [expletive] Time.”