We’re going to have plenty of content for you about the Raptors and Sixers. But there’s no need to wait too long. Here are a couple of things to watch for in this upcoming series. The Raptors run and trap and cause mayhem. They were the scariest animal in the original Jurassic Park movie for a reason. But have no fear. The Sixers are rumored to have some ninja powers.
Here is some stuff to think about before the huge game.
1) The Raptors are lethal in transition
The Raps can run after turnovers for layups, free throws, and open corner 3s. They can simply run after misses or even makes and just watch you scramble to get back, then hunt the mismatch you stumble into. (Think: someone misses and they push it up and see that in all of the confusion JJ Redick wound up guarding a much bigger Pascal Siakam or Serge Ibaka.) And they can run and take a shot and crash the boards by hammering those mismatches on rebounds too. They’re a beautiful passing team that takes full advantage of the transition game.
This regular season, this Raptors team was tops in transition with 132.1 points per 100 plays in transition. Only 4 other teams create more transition opportunities (shot selection gold) for themselves than the Dinos per Cleaningtheglass.com.
Because they have a top 5 rated defense, they’re able to create so many of these opportunities. Most of the time they’ll run off a turnover (68%) but the rest of the time they’ll run simply off a miss per CTG.
The big problem here for the Sixers is that they were the 27th ranked team in terms of the frequency of transition points allowed (16.1%) per CTG. Smart teams know you can run on Philly and they really look to push the tempo. With Joel Embiid limited by a sore knee look for Toronto Head Coach Nick Nurse to try and set an absolutely frenetic pace during the first couple of games in Canada.
Here’s a video we’ve used before, and around 46 seconds picks up with Danny Green pushing even after a make to prey on the Sixers sluggish and confused transition d.
The pressure is on:
Ben Falk, founder of Cleaningtheglass.com wrote this about a huge put back by Pascal Siakam that came after a transition shot in a win over the San Antonio Spurs back in February:
Siakam’s putback happens because he crashes, and because when he crashes he has a big size mismatch. He has a size mismatch because he and Kawhi ran the floor, meaning someone on the Spurs had to get back to take him so they didn’t give up a transition layup.
Even when they don’t actually give the ball to the guy with a mismatch created by their transition game, that player may simply know to crash the boards cause he has a mouse in the house.
So the Sixers have to get back, and if they’re going to send extra glass-crashers on offense, they better win or it’s going to be a track meet.
2) Using Aikido against their elite half court defense
As mentioned, the Raptors can be highly aggressive. They forced the 9th best turnover rate in their opponents. They often move like a swarm to protect the paint and rotate like a choreographed ballet to find open shooters. They have a top four half-court defense per CTG. How do you combat this style? Like a skilled Aikido master, the Sixers would be wise to use this dinosaur aggression against their opponent:
Of course, some of the ways that the Raps will defend the Sixers will be different. For example, they don’t have hot shooting ball-handlers like Patty Mills who you will see force defenders out 35 feet to pick him up. But the Sixers, as you may know, utilize the space that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons generate with dribble hand-offs. This can cause similar actions, as defenses scramble to take away shots from shooters or slashers.
The three keys for the Sixers in using the Raps aggression against them:
1) Find ways to spring guys going downhill when the Raptors play out too far on potential shooters.
2) Make good and quick passes out of the post when they double Joel Embiid.
3) Drive into the paint knowing Toronto will sell out to help, and drive to make the pass — not to score. Sometimes it’s the first pass and sometimes it’s the second that does the trick. Have a look: