Last night, we heard some interesting praise from Rick Carlisle for his former assistant Dwane Casey and the Raptors last night. This morning, the reality of a tough loss sinks in with some lessons to be learned.
As Doug Smith of the Toronto Star points out, the Raptors were in a bit of a celebratory mood after that run that put them ahead 68-61 late-third and perhaps didn’t really respond to the inevitable counter-punch from the Mavs. As Anthony Carter mentioned post-game, “we’ve got to act like we’ve been there.”
Getting a little more specific, turnovers remain a big issue. Both teams committed eight in the first half, while the Raptors were at a 9-2 disadvantage in that department in the second two quarters. The Mavs scored 12 points in the second half off giveaways versus zero for the Raptors, pretty much the difference in points right there.
An equally glaring issue for Toronto at the moment appears to be free throw differential and while many fans in our nightly chat on twitter seem quick to point the finger at the officiating, the problem seems to be two-fold.
|Raptors FTA||Opponent FTA|
|Game 1 @ Cavs||13||28|
|Game 2 vs. Pacers||13||22|
|Game 3 @ Mavs||18||38|
As Casey continues to implement a defence-first mentality, he’s encouraging hard play and what he frequently describes as “flesh-to-flesh” contact. With better anticipation, rotations and close outs, you would expect some of those opposing fouls calls to decrease. But at the moment, we’re seeing plays like below, which are contributing to the Raptors’ foul rate of just over 23 per game — good for sixth in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the Raptors have clearly been struggling getting to the free throw line, although 18 trips on Friday night represents their season-high to date. It’s early, but the Raptors now sit last in the league in free throw attempts per game (14.7), while the Knicks (Monday’s opponent) are averaging just over 33 trips to the stripe per contest.
It should improve as players get a little more comfortable with the offence, but that willingness to drive, seek contact and get to the line for easy points has to be more prevalent. When the Raptors do get to the line, it’s not as though they’ve been automatic either, connecting on just under 73 per cent from the line (20th in the league as of this morning).
That aggressive mentality Casey is seeking will be put to the test beginning Sunday, where they’ll face two of the best rim protectors in the league in Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler.