PHILADELPHIA—Somewhere a logical middle ground exists with the Raptors and their use of Marc Gasol. They have found it before and need to find it again.
Gasol is one of the best passing big men in the NBA, and his abilities as a facilitator in Toronto’s offence have been a major reason behind the team’s success since he was acquired in February.
But he has also shown the ability to be a scorer if need be, and now that need is upon him. He’s got to make at least a few subtle adjustments.
“I always think that really good teams, offensively anyway, usually need a lead guy, and then obviously a second guy,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said here Thursday before the Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers played Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. “But the third guy is also important, too — that there’s a third guy you can go to and score.
“Now, we’ve got Kawhi (Leonard), Pascal (Siakam) and Kyle (Lowry) can be that guy. But I think Marc needs to inch his way into that discussion. He’s just too talented of a scorer to not put up a few more points.”
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There is little doubt the Raptors could use some more offence from Gasol as the series with the Sixers unfolds, but the question has to be asked: At what cost?
Toronto thrives on ball movement on offence in a halfcourt game, with quick read-and-react and ball-swinging decisions that see the ball get in the paint and kicked back out. They like to score in transition, or at least in early offence, off running situations where they can take advantage of Siakam’s speed and Danny Green’s floor-spacing three-point shooting.
To think they will abandon that for a steady stream of Gasol post-ups against smaller opponents would be counter-productive and bog them down in a slow-paced game that doesn’t suit their personnel, and would be a stark change from what the Raptors are used to doing.
“It’s finding open space, trying to find those gaps without getting in the way of too many guys, and not stopping the ball movement and all the good things we do,” Gasol said. “We’re going to find ways to exploit that a little bit. We know once the ball gets there and gets into the paint, a lot of the time Joel (Embiid) is coming. When we get there, either I make a play for myself or for somebody else.”
Gasol as facilitator in the post as opposed the elbow would be one way make the Sixers pay for using the six-foot-eight Tobias Harris on the seven-foot Gasol. It would allow Gasol to perhaps attract a second defender and get the ball moving, rather than load up on his field-goal attempts.
“I don’t look so much at the number,” Gasol said after taking six shots in about 35 minutes of playing time in Game 2. “I just saw the opportunities on film to take more. I can’t tell you 10, 15, 20 shots. I can’t give you a number of how many shots I would like to take. I just saw a number of opportunities to get the ball deeper and put a lot of pressure on the defence.”
It’s the pressure, rather than the points, that should free up the offence.
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“That’s kind of what we’ve talked about,” Gasol said. “Without kind of getting into anybody else’s space or our tempo, within our team concept finding places to attack them. It’s a two-way street. We don’t have that habit of finding that position, but hopefully we’ll do a better job.”
And if Gasol finds more shots without forcing the issue or dramatically changing the way the offence is structured, that’s fine. But the coaches aren’t going to tell him to, because they know it’s hard to change habits.
“It’s harder to get unselfish guys to shoot more than it is to get high-volume guys to (shoot less), I think,” Nurse said.
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps
Published at Thu, 02 May 2019 21:37:06 +0000