Is it time for Casey to change his lineup?

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Inside Stuff: Amir – The Heart and Soul of Toronto

BROOKLYN — Before Game 3 of his team’s first round series with the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was asked about having to abandon something that’s worked all season because you’re getting beat in a playoff series.

“That’s called adjustments,” Casey said. “You got to make adjustments and maybe throw out some things. We’ve already thrown out a couple of sets that we had in mind for the playoffs because it just didn’t work. There’s some defensive schemes that we looked at that didn’t work out. So we had to change. You have to, more or less, gamble a little bit and roll the dice and change some things, because you don’t have a season to work things out or a chance to look at the big picture.”

In the big picture, the Raptors need Terrence Ross, their second-year starting small forward with 50-point-game potential. In this series, they need something else.

Ross has shot 3-for-16 (2-for-11 from 3-point range) in the series, but his ineffectiveness has gone beyond that, because he hasn’t helped defensively either. For the most part, he’s been guarding Shaun Livingston, who hasn’t done too much damage. But as long as he’s out there, there’s a chance he’ll get switched onto Joe Johnson or Deron Williams, which is bad news. The Raptors’ defense has allowed a brutal 117 points per 100 possessions in Ross’ 63 minutes on the floor in the series.

The defense has been better with Landry Fields on the floor, but Fields is basically a zero offensively at this point in his career. And John Salmons hasn’t been able to make an impact either.

The Raptors are down 2-1, but they’ve had chances in each of their two losses. The Nets have outscored them 291-285 in the series.

“We just got to get more productivity out of one more position,” Casey said after Game 3. “[We’re] searching a little bit in those three positions to give us a defensive stopper or add some offense out of that one spot.”

So where does Casey go in Game 4 on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, TNT)? He said Friday that he likes the added “physicality” that Fields and Salmons bring to the table, but his best option may be to sacrifice the defense and play neither.

In the regular season and in this series, the Raptors have been at their best with Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson on the floor. But neither has cracked the 30-minute mark in any of the three games.

That’s tough to do when you don’t enter the game until late in the first quarter. Casey has been quicker to bring in his subs in the third quarter, but he’s still not optimizing his roster.

The Raptors haven’t gotten off to terrible starts. Their starting lineup was a minus-1 in the first quarter of Game 1, a plus-1 in the first quarter of Game 2, and a plus-0 in the first quarter of Game 3. But it’s been outscored (by 16 total points) in each of the three third quarters and is a minus-17 in 39 total minutes.

Vasquez, meanwhile, is a plus-31 and Patterson is a plus-13. The Raptors might be making a defensive sacrifice by playing a three-guard lineup of Vasquez, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but it can’t be worse than it has with Ross on the floor, and it would be the best move for their offense. They’ve scored 115.5 points per 100 possessions in 32 minutes with the three guards on the floor together.

A change (or two) to the starting lineup would give the Raptors their best chance at a strong start on Sunday and, more importantly, get Vasquez and/or Patterson on the floor longer. There’s no reason they shouldn’t each get at least 30 minutes of playing time in Game 4.

“We’re still going to look at that,” Casey said of a lineup change at practice on Saturday. “It’s not panic time, but we do have to look at that position and get more productivity out of that spot.”

Time is running out. A loss on Sunday would put the Raptors down 3-1 against a veteran club that knows it has matchup advantages. At this point, Casey can’t worry about the big picture.


  1. You're a Bandwagon says:

    Honestly, I think the line up is perfectly fine. They don’t have a whole balanced variety of players to chose from; the heart and soul of Toronto lies in Demar Derozen, Kyle Lowry. Amir Johnson, Patrick Patternson, Grevis Vasquez and Jonas Valenciunas. They all have great potentional but need to know how to control their power. And Kyle Lowry can’t hold up an entire team on his own; the Raptors are still young and need more experience in order to really kill and for each player to have all the skills; shoot a three, play well offensively, and best of all play well DEFENSEVLY. But since it’s their first time in…(how many years?) in the finals; there’s a lot of pressure. And it doesn’t help that BROOKLYN is trying to clash with such a young and powerful group of players.

  2. mee(a)t says:

    i think Valacunious (god i don’t know how to spell his name) should get more touches. He can bully KG in the paint.

  3. TheKush says:

    This is a series I think the Raptors MUST move the ball and stretch the floor! I would find a way to get Novak into the mix. Novak has played in New York he’s used to that type of pressure you would be ideal. I think Lowry and DeRozan have played great Raptors in general have done what they could against a team that they don’t match up well against. The nets are built for the playoffs the Raptors are built for the regular season. The issue is Demarr doesn’t have space because there aren’t enough reliable shooters that COMMAND respect on the court. I think this is a Novak series and I think when he starts making shots more raptors will be open which will stretch the nets out.

  4. asddsa says:

    no change of line up can take the toronto to another round. that’s it toronto, you’re finished! raps fan’s, your turn to comment XD

  5. asddsa says:

    no change of line up can take the toronto to the next round. that’s it, toronto is finished! raps fans, your turn to comment XD

  6. okc2014 says:

    I’ve always been leery when teams make major changes in the playoffs. I think the Raptors are good just like they are. I still say Raptors can win but experience often beats youth.

  7. jdub455 says:

    I don’t think so… lowry just has to push the ball harder and run run run… they shld also pound them inside every time pierce plays the 4 to tire him cause his killing them during crunch time…

    • Paul says:

      With who? Pierce guards Amir Johnson most of the time, and Johnson isn’t good enough of an offensive player to do anything.