Connect with us

Uncategorized

After looking lost, Raptors find their old defensive identity just in time

Published

on


Though it looked like the same old record of late would play once again, the Toronto Raptors instead seemed to rediscover themselves against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night.

The last time the Raptors played, on Sunday against the world-beating Golden State Warriors, they couldn’t do anything to stop the three-point line. Toronto conceded the corners again and again, allowing the Dubs to get uncorked to the tune of an astounding 22-of-45 mark from deep.

Two days later, against a not-nearly-as-great Grizzlies team, it looked as if the Raptors were going to get drilled in the opposite manner, as they gave up 42 points in the paint and 60.5 per cent shooting to the Grizzlies at half time — but then they finally found their old defensive identity.

Advertisement

The Raptors stormed back in the second half and came away with a 126-113 victory, improving their record on this current road trip to 2-3 with one more game left to play Friday night in Indianapolis.

Black Friday Sale
From November 22-29th, Sportsnet NOW is having a 20% off sale on Standard and Premium annual plans.

The Raptors entered Wednesday’s affair as one of the better teams in the league at defending the paint, conceding just 42.3 points per game on the inside. However, like much else of the team’s defence of late, that completely cratered in the first half against the Grizzlies, who enjoyed a 71-59 halftime lead.

Granted, the Raptors did have a pretty good excuse for not being able to defend the paint as well as they normally have. The Grizzlies entered the game averaging 53.1 points in the paint per game – good for second-best in the league – and Toronto was, once again, shorthanded as OG Anunoby missed his fourth straight game with that left hip pointer injury and the problematic swelling in Khem Birch’s right knee returned, forcing him to miss Wednesday’s game.

Still, even with how good the Grizzlies are in the paint and with the Raptors shorthanded, Wednesday’s dismal defensive performance in that first half was indicative of a larger trend that’s plagued the Raptors of late.

Advertisement

To begin the season, Toronto’s high-risk, high-reward defence looked to be working out beautifully. The team was creating turnovers, getting out in transition and were rock-solid defensively, owning a 102.4 defensive rating over their first nine games where they went 6-3. Since then, however, while the Raptors have still managed to create turnovers and get out and run, the team went 2-7 and saw their defensive rating take a nosedive, entering Wednesday’s game at just 116.6.

The defensive identity that was supposed to be the Raptors’ calling card has seemingly been either all but abandoned or simply couldn’t be executed and, in the first half of Wednesday’s game, it was again trending that way.

Stream 250+ marquee NBA matchups from around the league, including over 40 Raptors games. Plus, get news, highlights, analysis, select NBA Playoff matchups and the NBA Draft.

From easy backdoor cuts to just outright incredible attacks of the rim from Grizzlies star Ja Morant (who finished the game with 23 points, nine assists and a nasty dunk on Toronto’s Chris Boucher) the Raptors offered very little in the way of resistance to Memphis’ concerted attack of the paint.

Thankfully for Toronto, however, the Grizzlies are probably the worst defensive team in the league and, in the third quarter, Memphis began to show its real stripes. Toronto was getting essentially anything it wanted at-will, opening the period on a 17-5 run and finishing the frame trailing just 92-91.

In the quarter, Precious Achiuwa scored all 17 of his points and played more freely than in his previous games so far with the Raptors.

Advertisement

“He just got on a tear like we haven’t really seen,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse.

Come the fourth quarter, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet picked up where Achiuwa left off. Trent scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the period, including a triple with 5:44 left in the frame that sparked a 13-2 run. During that stretch, VanVleet scored a driving layup, dropped a dime to Pascal Siakam – who was alright himself with 17 points and seven assists – and drilled a dagger three to put the game out of reach.

“He really got in a rhythm there. He kinda, no big secret, we were running the same play over and over and he found about every way to get him,” said Nurse of VanVleet’s run. “He was really orchestrating there.”

But as strong as Achiuwa and Trent were in those third and fourth quarters, respectively, it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for some rock-solid defence played by the Raptors, who looked like their old selves from earlier in the season, holding the Grizzlies to just 41 per cent shooting from the floor, highlighted by an incredible block by Yuta Watanabe (who made his season debut after missing all of the regular season beforehand with a left calf strain) on Canadian Dillon Brooks in the fourth quarter.

“We just played hard, played like we cared. We’re a young team. Sometimes it’s hard to stress the urgency and what it takes to win in this league every night,” said VanVleet, who had 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists Wednesday evening. “You can’t go out there and go through the motions or you’re gonna have a team put 71 on you in the first half and then you’ll be fighting uphill. Luckily, we were able to turn it around, but it’s not really the way we want to live going forward.”

Advertisement

Added Nurse: “I think it’s just overall energy that translates from one end to the other. There was plenty of screws to be turned after that first-half defence. … I always talk about this, when your defensive execution [is good] and you start doing the schemes, and you start playing help defence, it always turns into playing better execution and helps offence, if that makes any sense.”

There’s a good chance that the Raptors wouldn’t have given themselves a chance to tighten things up in that second half had it not been for some second-quarter heroics from rookie phenom Scottie Barnes, who shook off a couple ineffective games with a 17-point, nine-rebound outburst that saw him go off for 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the second quarter alone.

Like the return of the Raptors’ defence, seeing Barnes return to form was a welcome sight.

“I think he had a couple nights where he just didn’t quite have it. That’s OK. We’ve all been there. As a rookie, we’re certainly asking him to do a lot. We need him to produce in order for us to be good,” said VanVleet of Barnes. “He turned it around tonight, so that was good to see. The effort and the intensity and the attention to detail, those things have got to be non-negotiable. Whatever else comes after that, we’ve got to take it in stride. I’m just trying to support him the best I can and I thought he was great tonight from the jump.”

For the past nine games the Raptors have looked lost, and decidedly unlike themselves – or the versions of themselves that most expect them to be. Their problems of late nearly reared their ugly heads again, but it looks like they found themselves just in the nick of time and what was shaping up to be a disastrous road trip now could end rather well for them.

Advertisement



Source link

Uncategorized

Kenny Pickett Set Unique NFL History In His Debut

Published

on


(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have turned another page in their storied history when rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett took over for Mitchell Trubisky during their Week 4 game against the New York Jets.

While the former Pitt Panther threw three interceptions, he also had ten completions for 120 yards.

Advertisement

Pickett also had two rushing touchdowns.

It remains to be seen if the Steelers will have Pickett start in Week 5.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin did not give a definite answer on who their starter will be versus Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, but recent reports indicate it is the rookie’s job for good.

Steelers players like wide receiver Diontae Johnson expressed their endorsement for the only quarterback taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Regardless of how the situation unfolds, Pickett had a historic performance during his professional debut.

Advertisement

ESPN Stats and Info tweeted, “Zero of Kenny Pickett’s 13 pass attempts against the Jets on Sunday hit the ground. 10 went to Steeler’s receivers, while 3 found the hands of Jets’ defenders. That’s the most pass attempts in a game in NFL history without any hitting the ground.”

Save for the three picks, a case can be made for Pickett having a perfect game of completing all 13 pass attempts.

Advertisement

But he will have to work on his ball placement because some of his interceptions were thrown high.

 

The Clamor For Pickett Intensifies

The Steelers might benefit from a change behind center because Trubisky has struggled in the Steelers’ first four games.

The former North Carolina standout completed just 59.5 percent of his passes for 653 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

His highest output was 207 yards against the Cleveland Browns.

Advertisement

The team hoped that Trubisky could become a solid bridge quarterback until Pickett is ready.

But with the way things are going, they will have to go with the rookie to save their season after losing three of their first four games.

The post Kenny Pickett Set Unique NFL History In His Debut appeared first on The Cold Wire.





Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Uncategorized

NFL Power Rankings: Eagles, Cowboys move up; Steelers, Colts in trouble

Published

on




Four games into the 2022 season, what do we know? We rank all 32 teams through the volatile first quarter of the campaign.



Source link

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Bobby Wagner Became A Security Guard Monday Night

Published

on


(Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images)

 

The Los Angeles Rams had a frustrating Week 4 Monday Night Football game against the San Francisco 49ers.

They failed to score a touchdown, and quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception.

Advertisement

In contrast, the 49ers scored 24 points, which included a touchdown run by Jeff Wilson Jr. and a 57-yard reception for a score by Deebo Samuel.

The Rams defense also had a poor showing after tallying zero sacks, while San Francisco finished with seven.

San Francisco safety Talanoa Hufanga also scored a 52-yard pick-six to bury the Rams further.

Despite the defeat, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner led the way for Los Angeles with ten total tackles.

It would have been 11 if the tackling of fans counted.

Advertisement

NFL Unlimited shared the video of a spectator who disrupted the game.

The flare-carrying man ran to the playing field as stadium security tried to chase him.

The disturbance ended when Wagner laid out his frustration on that person.

That incident only enhanced the tension Wagner felt because none of their defensive schemes worked.

Advertisement

 

Tough Ordeal For Players And Security

While football players are big and muscular, they are at risk when an intruder takes the field, especially if he is yielding a concealed weapon.

Meanwhile, stadium security also feels deflated every time a spectator breaches their ranks.

It’s a problem that is difficult to solve because some individuals find pride in being able to stop the game.

Likewise, it is a perfect platform to attract the attention of a huge audience.

Advertisement

Luckily, no one was harmed, except for the fan, who might face some charges.

The game ended peacefully, but the Rams will feel restless after losing to their division rivals.

The Rams can go back to their winning ways by defeating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5.

The post Bobby Wagner Became A Security Guard Monday Night appeared first on The Cold Wire.





Source link

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Trending