|Brandon Knight's game-winner against the Raptors on Friday night was too easy. (Getty Images)|
After Kyle Lowry missed a chance to put the Toronto Raptors up 92-89 against the Detroit Pistons with 14 seconds left on Friday night, Brandon Knight made a game-winning layup against a faulty Raptors defensive possession.
Knight split a double team on a pick-and-roll, drove to the basket and made the winning shot with 7.9 seconds left. It was great recognition by Knight, whom Pistons coach Lawrence Frank described as fearless after the Pistons' 91-90 victory. Via the Detroit Free Press:
"One thing about Brandon is he is not afraid," Frank said. "He will put himself out there. Sometimes it's worked for us; sometimes it hasn't, but he ain't afraid, I'll tell you that much."
A big reason for the winning layup was the Raptors' poor help defense. It's a wonderful system that Toronto coach Dwane Casey crafted as an assistant coach for the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks championship team. However, the Raptors' inability to be in proper position at the end of the game showed poor execution.
This is a basic pick-and-roll play for the Pistons, and the Raptors are actually helped out on the weak side by the fact that the Pistons are poorly spaced in the left corner. Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler are within a couple feet of each other, giving the Raptors a chance to cover two players with one defender.
This should afford either DeMar DeRozan or Andrea Bargnani to be directly flirting with the help line. Bargnani isn't close to the paint at all and doesn't offer any illusion of getting over on the play. DeRozan is closer to the help line but is far too close to Stuckey, who is shooting 31.7 percent from the field and 21.2 percent from the 3-point line.
Greg Monroe slides up to Lowry's left side and sets the pick to initiate the play.
On the pick, the Raptors' weak-side help defenders still aren't even close to protecting the paint by jumping into the help line and then moving back out of the paint to avoid the 3-second violation.
Toronto's Amir Johnson hedges the screen with too much space between himself and Monroe. This allows Knight to avoid wasting time and space turning the corner and do a quick dribble between the "trap." As soon as this happens, either Bargnani or DeRozan should be instantly in the paint to cut him off or show a path of some resistance.
Seriously, there is so much space between Knight and the nearest rotating help defender. He is through the trap and closing in on the basket without much to deter him.
- As you can see here, Bargnani is still on the wrong side of the rim as Knight is planting for his jump. Ideally, he'd already be outside of the restricted area and trying to draw a charge or force a tougher pull-up jumper/floater.
- Dominic McGuire sort of drops down into help, but he had a responsibility to stay on the strong-side corner shooter. Anything that he can provide here would be defending a floater or jumper, assuming Bargnani is in proper help.
- DeRozan stayed out on a struggling shooter far too long. He never rotated over to take the spot that Bargnani was supposed to occupy.
There are some really basic defensive lapses here that must have driven Casey crazy. Everything was easily avoidable for Toronto, and you'd like to force someone into taking a pull-up jumper. If Johnson hedged better on the pick-and-roll, you might have forced Knight into a worse jumper from the perimeter.
|Brandon Knight's shooting chart for the 2012-13 season (NBA.com/stats)|
Forcing him into any of those perimeter spots, as long as he's kept away from the left corner, seemed like a better option. And you can probably blame part of this on the injury to Jonas Valanciunas in the game on Friday night. From the Toronto Sun:
"Once Jonas (Valanciunas) hurt his leg (kicked in calf, leg heavily bandaged afterwards), he was playing on one leg and just got five in a row on him, offensive boards and we had to get him out. He would have been a difference I thought if he was healthy. But it was the plays all before that,” Casey said.
A lot of things could have gone differently for the Raptors at the end of this game. They're now just 1-3 in one-possession games and are getting a reputation for falling apart at the end of games. This is all easily fixable for Casey and his squad; they just need to remain disciplined at the end of games and execute better on the defensive side.