Restart Reviews: Thunder/Rockets, Game 1

August 18: Houston Rockets 123, Oklahoma City Thunder 108; Houston leads, 1-0

Theoretically, this was the perfect game for Oklahoma City to win. The Thunder were missing Lu Dort, their best perimeter defender, but the Rockets were missing Russell Westbrook. Considering it’s Lu Dort vs. Russell Freaking Westbrook, you would think Houston lost that trade. It sounds obvious, but Oklahoma City needed to run up the score in the first 2-3 games before Westbrook returns.

As you can guess from the score above, they did not.

It’s a pretty simple game to evaluate: for whatever reason, Houston came out hyper-attentive on defense and happily willing to make the extra pass. It’s the most fun they’ve looked as a full roster since the 2018 Western Conference Finals. They stayed strong on defense for most of the game, which is great, but critically, they hit a ton of wide-open threes. That hasn’t happened often, as we discussed last week when they played the Pacers and lost.

If you hit 20 threes in a game, you should win, full stop. Houston did, and it was never in doubt after the first few minutes or so.

First, we should talk about the defense, the side of the ball that has most often evaded these Rockets. Oklahoma City’s offense is not all that special, but they’re capable of hitting a bunch of mid-range shots and have the capability to hit plenty of other shots, too. They never had that chance against Houston until it was too late. Houston forced a ton of bad long mid-range shots and made the shorter mid-range looks tougher than usual. Pretty much everyone on the OKC roster struggled to hit these looks they adore so much, as we’ll explore later.

Houston went full-throttle until it was safe to let off the gas, i.e. the fourth quarter. It was funny to see them do this, because the most full-throttle member of the roster was on the bench in a Yeezy Brand-esque tee cheering his team on. Russell Westbrook makes this defense better, especially in the playoffs, where his energy is boundless and he uses all that’s left of his athleticism to keep his guy in front of him. But: it might be time to have a discussion about Houston’s offense while Westbrook is on the bench.

With Westbrook on the court this season, the Rockets have scored 112.34 points per 100 possessions in his 2,049 minutes – a pretty solid rate, one that would rank 10th-best in the league across a full season. In all minutes without Westbrook, though, the Rockets are nearly three full points better: 115.25 per 100 in 1,427 non-RW minutes, or the second-best offense in basketball behind Dallas. If you limit this exclusively to games Westbrook played in, which eliminates 15 games from our sample, the Rockets scored 120.77 points per 100 possessions – easily the best rate in basketball. Lastly, there is this:

  • Rockets offense, both Harden and Westbrook on: 112.17 points per 100 possessions (#11 offense), 1,434 minutes
  • Harden on, Westbrook off: 119.79 per 100 (#1 offense), 1,082 minutes
  • Westbrook on, Harden off: 112.72 per 100 (#7 offense), 615 minutes
  • Neither on: 104.9 per 100 (#30 offense), 393 minutes

This is not a “gotcha!” thing or even anti-Russell Westbrook content; I think RW is one of the more uniquely fascinating basketball players of my lifetime. But if the Rockets are going to do this without Westbrook on the court, it’s at least something to consider.

Anyway, the game itself didn’t end up being about Russell Westbrook. It was about James Harden’s continued greatness, about this weird Rockets supporting cast, and about what happens when Houston finally does the little things right.

Harden, as usual, was marvelous: 37 points on 22 shots, 6-for-13 from three, and buckets from all over the court.

He is simply such a purely great scorer that even defenses as tough as OKC’s have a heck of a time slowing him down at all. Harden was in total control from start to finish in what I’d call one of his more unique box score lines: 11 rebounds and just three assists. However, he still had another great passing show where he was responsible for three secondary assists, or what we’d more commonly call the hockey assist. He continues to be so, so good at picking up points no matter where he is:

Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees both in life and in sports. I feel like we’ve somehow come around to underrating James Harden’s greatness. He’s a top-three regular season basketball player that remains top-five in the playoffs, a yearly MVP candidate that never wavers. Understandably, his game isn’t for everyone, and there’s plenty of times where I get exhausted watching him isolate for 22 seconds of the shot clock. But it can’t erase that a good chunk of those possessions somehow end in threes that Harden makes look a lot easier than they are.

This game’s spotlight was shared by a few members of the Rockets supporting cast. This weird bunch of players fits together only because they were forced to. Houston’s full-on insistence on small ball has made them the worst rebounding team in the league, and even in a blowout, they still surrendered several offensive rebounds to the Thunder:

But does it really matter when you finally make the uncontested threes fans have been asking them to make for the entire season?

The non-Harden Rockets, from a box score perspective, made 14 of their 39 three-point attempts (35.9%). Admittedly, that number doesn’t look all that impressive, but think about it this way: they made enough threes to force OKC to consistently cover them, which opened up the rest of the court for easy buckets like this one.

Thanks to the efforts of guys like P.J. Tucker (3-for-8), Ben McLemore (4-for-7), and Jeff Green (3-for-7), the Rockets finally started punishing their opponents somewhat for leaving them so open from three. Because of that, it opened up drives to the rim that OKC wasn’t able to stop consistently. The Rockets went 17-for-22 at the rim, one of their most efficient efforts of the season and tied for their fourth-best output against a playoff team. It wasn’t all Harden, either: Jeff Green went 3-for-3, Eric Gordon 4-for-7, Danuel House 3-for-4. When the Rockets have nights like this, you finally understand why so many (AKA, the guy writing this post) believed they could get the 1 seed in the West last summer.

For Oklahoma City, this is obviously a very disappointing result. Thunder fans had every right to anticipate a victory, especially with no Westbrook and especially with how frustrating the Rockets viewing experience can be. They knew they’d have a defined edge on the boards, and across the full season, it was the Thunder who possessed the better offensive turnover rate. Theoretically, you could survive a less-than-ideal shooting day if you won those two things.

As mentioned earlier, the Thunder won the boards, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Chris Paul, in particular, had a couple of really uncharacteristic turnovers that seemed to sum up the whole night:

To add to that, the league’s best mid-range shooting offense suddenly couldn’t buy a bucket from their favorite spot. Oklahoma City shot 7-for-21 from mid-range, including a horrific 3-for-13 output on shorter mid-range twos (5-14 feet, roughly). This was driven largely by Houston’s defense, who made a bunch of these mid-range misses very tough:

And generally made it hard for OKC to convert the type of shots they loved converting over the course of the last ten months:

Obviously, if the Thunder are going to have this poor of a night from their most-beneficial spot on the court, this series is going to be a lot shorter than most expected. FiveThirtyEight gives Houston roughly a 34% chance of sweeping OKC; while I think that’s pretty aggressive (personally, I’d have that more in the 20% range), it should be alarming to anyone hoping the Thunder wins this series, especially when Westbrook is out. If they can’t hit these shots now, I don’t think it’s going to be easier at all when RW returns to the court. Better wake up before it’s too late.

Restart Reviews: Pacers/Rockets

August 12: Indiana Pacers 108, Houston Rockets 104

On a pretty boring day for basketball – alternately, a pretty average one for the last few pre-playoff days – this was the most interesting game with the most at stake. The Pacers could’ve finished anywhere from the 4 to the 6 seed in the East; the Rockets, meanwhile, could go anywhere from the 3 to the 5 in the West. Despite that, we still couldn’t get a full-strength game out of both of these teams. Indiana sat Malcolm Brogdon and First-Team All-Bubble T.J. Warren; Houston sat Russell Westbrook. It was close to full-strength, but also not.

And yet: it was still fairly entertaining. Houston started out on fire, jumped to a 23-9 lead, and promptly never hit another three again. Indiana led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter before a late, dangerous Rockets comeback nearly forced an overtime the undermanned Pacers probably did not want. So: Indiana won, locked up a 4/5 matchup with Miami, gets to avoid Boston (though will not avoid Milwaukee in the second round), and did it all while giving two of their three best players the day off. Nice!

Houston’s loss will be a bit tougher to rationalize, especially because they got a fantastic performance from James Harden. As much as Harden gets blamed for a variety of Houston’s problems, this one couldn’t be pushed on him:

Harden was an absolute force everywhere on the court, scoring 45 points on 21 shots. He also posted 17 rebounds (16 of them defensive!), nine assists, and three steals. Harden was the one and only reason Houston came anywhere close to a win in a game where they were otherwise dominated. As seen above, he had a great game from three (7-for-14) and couldn’t be stopped from two, either (6-for-7).

When Harden has games like this, it’s hard to see why the Rockets could lose. My only complaint, if I had one, would be that he didn’t shoot enough or use enough possessions…and then I looked to see he had a 38% Usage Rate, nearly enough for two players in one.

Unfortunately, Harden is but one player. With Westbrook, the Rockets may have won this game, but it wouldn’t have fixed what was a total, complete failure by the rest of the roster offensively. Indiana was held under a point per possession and didn’t get a ton of great looks, so it wasn’t a defensive issue. Aside from Robert Covington being somewhat of an exception, the Rockets looked pretty dreadful. All non-Harden Pocket Rockets went 9-for-41 from three:

They picked up just six offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 12 and Myles Turner’s seven. (More on that later). They had six more turnovers, and Eric Gordon in particular had a brutal first outing back:

It wasn’t just Gordon, though he did go 1-for-9 from three. Houston, as a whole, missed an insane amount of uncontested looks. NBA’s Player Tracking metrics aren’t perfect, but they provide a useful starting point for data collection. Per their data, Houston took 61 uncontested/open/wide-open attempts in this game. They made just 22 of them:

And it certainly wasn’t because of Harden, who made eight of his 13. So: the non-Harden Rockets went 14-for-48 on open shots. (If you’re curious, no, 2020 Russell Westbrook probably wouldn’t improve that.) Houston’s greatest foe, as has been the case for a while now, continues to be themselves.

On Indiana’s side of things, it’s hard to take a ton from this one, simply because they didn’t play their full lineup. That said, they had five different double-digit scorers, all of whom got there by different means. For instance, Victor Oladipo did get to 16 points…on the back of a 7-for-26 shooting performance.

On the other hand, Doug McDermott continues to prove his status as Indiana’s most important bench piece. Who knows why he chose today to have his best game in the bubble, but he also scored 16 points…on 6-for-7 shooting and a perfect 3-for-3 outing from downtown.

The real winner in this one is Myles Turner, a player that didn’t have a great season but had a great game when it counted. His prowess on the offensive boards in this one likely pushed Indiana over the top to the win:

Turner had seven offensive rebounds, or one more than every Houston Rocket had combined. It’s very funny to see this, because if you’ve watched Myles Turner play, offensive rebounding is far from his strong suit. Among centers, his OREB% hovering around 5% ranked in the tenth percentile this season and in the 13th percentile last year, per dunksandthrees.com. Part of this is due to sharing a court with Domantas Sabonis, Indiana’s All-Star forward that is simply a better player, but it’s a weakness that dates back to his days with Rick Barnes at Texas. Turner’s never been very good at rebounding, and had Sabonis been available, taller teams may have simply played him off the floor at times.

The good news for Turner, of course, is that there is no Sabonis. It is all Myles, all the time, and games like this show that he’s capable of overcoming long-held issues that have slowed his development:

He’s a player that’s hard to not root for.

Lastly, as we’ve mentioned, Harden dropped 45 points, but the rest of the Rockets put up just 59 points on 65 shots. They missed a lot of open shots, to be sure, but Houston was made a bit more skittish in this one than usual because of the Pacers’ active hands on defense. The rebounds are one thing, but forcing 20 turnovers is another.

This all combined to lead to one of Houston’s worst shot volume games of the entire season. Indiana shot a little bit worse than Houston and made seven fewer free throws, but they got roughly 11 more shot equivalents than the Rockets did in a four-point game. The fact the Pacers are able to consistently play hard and do the little things that lead to wins make me wonder if I’ve personally underrated their postseason chances a bit. I can’t really foresee this team escaping their second-round date with Milwaukee, and that’s if they get through a likely coin-flip series against Miami. But: any team that plays this hard this often is worth your attention and time.

Restart Reviews: Bucks/Mavericks; Rockets/Kings

Welcome to a new series on Stats By Will titled Restart Reviews, where I’ll be discussing games from the previous day or two and going in-depth on its result. This week, to celebrate the final few days of the regular season restart, I’ll be putting up a new post every day dissecting a game from the previous night. This is the last of the multi-game posts for now. I hope you enjoy.

August 8: Dallas Mavericks 136, Milwaukee Bucks 132 (OT)

This is the first time any of these games have felt somewhat normal. As would have likely been the case in a non-pandemic world back in late March/early April, both teams are either pretty much locked into their seeding or totally locked in regardless of the outcome of this game. Nothing was really at stake, beyond both hoping to put on a good show. Thankfully, they did, and it was the showier team coming out on top.

I want to start with the Bucks, because this result probably means a tad less to them than it does to Dallas. No loss is totally meaningless, but considering Milwaukee has their postseason destiny locked in, they didn’t need a win here. That said, they could’ve used something better than what they got, especially on a night where Brook Lopez was blistering the nets from downtown:

Lopez, Giannis, and Khris Middleton combined for an astounding 89 points on 65 shots, one of the trio’s best games of the entire season. The Mavericks had very little hope of stopping any of the three, and Kristaps Porzingis was pretty much the only player to slow down Giannis and Lopez for any serious amount of time.

It didn’t really matter much, because the bench was just about no help at all offensively in this one. The Bucks experimented with a lot of different lineups to pass the time, and no one lineup cracked even seven minutes together in a 53-minute game. It gave four different bench players the opportunity to grab 20+ minutes of action, and only Pat Connaughton (8 points on 7 shots) really came out looking okay:

All told, these four players picked up 22 points in 95 minutes of action, which is…not enough.

To Milwaukee’s credit, they did a great job limiting Porzingis on offense, as he picked up 26 points on roughly 27 shot equivalents. They forced him into several tough mid-range misses that he hasn’t normally taken in the bubble. In general, Milwaukee did their usual thing in forcing a good amount of short mid-range attempts as opposed to shots at the rim. Milwaukee outshot Dallas by about six percent and had nine more free throw attempts, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the Mavs. That’s because Milwaukee had a surprisingly bad night on the boards, surrendering five offensive rebounds to Dorian Finney-Smith alone:

Luka’s passing will be discussed momentarily and was worthy of great respect, but the Mavericks don’t win this game if Dorian Finney-Smith doesn’t hit so many open shots. This was the DFS game: 6-for-12 on threes, 4-for-6 at the rim, and those five important offensive rebounds. The Mavericks’ only points on those rebounds were Luka’s two points above, but it was still super important to get second chances. Finney-Smith kept getting amazing shots because of Luka:

All you can ask Finney-Smith to do is for him to take advantage of these opportunities, and he did. Tim Hardaway, Jr. couldn’t, Trey Burke couldn’t, and Seth Curry couldn’t. Without Finney-Smith, this would simply be yet another Bucks win.

Obviously, though, this was all reliant on Luka putting together a passing masterwork. It’s obviously nice that Luka scored 36 points of his own on roughly 29 shot equivalents, but…well, you’re not really surprised by that, are you? It’s kind of commonplace for him at this point. As usual, he did a great job pushing the pace where needed, and he helped Dallas take advantage of transition possessions that ended up being a separating factor.

But that’s not the story anyone is here to read about. No, it’s his passing, which continues to evolve in hilarious and exciting ways. Luka passed guys into wide-open threes:

He found Porzingis some wide-open shots on a night where he didn’t get many:

And, most of all, he did this, a thing that I already know James Harden does but we are not here to talk about James Harden until 500 words from now:

Luka kept passing guys open. He did this in half-court, in transition, at the rim, in the corner, above the break, in mid-range, everywhere. It happened all game long against the best defense in the NBA, and he often made a super-talented roster look foolish. The most amazing thing Luka does and has done is have games like this, where we don’t really care that a point guard had 36 points and 14 rebounds. No, we’re here to talk about how amazing a passer he is.

At this point, it’s hard to say that any point guard in the NBA is definitely better at passing; genuinely, I think it might only be LeBron. There are no better rebounding point guards, as he surpassed Russell Westbrook this season. James Harden is the only definitively better scorer; you could put Doncic on a level with Trae Young and Damian Lillard and basically call it interchangeable. By any real measure, Luka has become one of the ten best players in the NBA at 21 years old, and he hasn’t figured out defense yet. If he ever becomes even a league-average defender…well, the sky might be the limit.

August 9: Houston Rockets 129, Sacramento Kings 112

I feel a little bit of regret in even writing about this game, because one team’s season officially ended before this game even began. With Portland’s defeat of Philadelphia earlier in the evening, the Kings (along with the profoundly disappointing New Orleans Pelicans) were officially eliminated from the playoffs. That game ended a little before halftime, and whether the players knew it or not, it certainly looked like the Kings knew their season was over in the third quarter, where they got outscored 32-15.

The Kings’ bubble successes go like this: beat the Pelicans in an offensive explosion; took the Mavericks to overtime. This is yet another lost, disappointing year for the Kings, a team with zero playoff bids since 2006 and no real consistent movement towards a bid that’ll break said streak. This game was sort of its own seasonal microcosm. Throughout the season, the Kings would sometimes manage to string a couple of wins in a row, but they pretty much never put a complete game together. Something would be off most games, whether it was the offense or the defense. In this one, the Kings were at least acceptable on defense until the fourth quarter, but the offense missed a ton of threes and couldn’t hit much of anything in the midrange:

Couple this with 18 turnovers – 16 coming in the first three quarters – and you understand why they barely cracked a point per possession despite going 18-for-23 at the rim pre-garbage time.

If you want some small positives before we explore these weird Rockets, here they are. De’Aaron Fox is still a fabulous player to watch, especially when he finds different ways to get to the rim. I love watching him change speeds, and I wish he was on a better team.

Likewise, Buddy Hield is still a terrible defender, but he hits a lot of threes and would be a very fun offensive player to have on your team.

This ends the Kings section, and hopefully any discussion of this moribund franchise until midway through the 2020-21 season.

These Pocket Rockets continue to be an oddly entrancing watch. This was a good win to pick up standings-wise, as it moves Houston a full game up on Oklahoma City for the 5 seed and 1.5 games up on Utah for the 6. They’re out of playing Denver in the first round, but it places them in a second-round battle with the Lakers, a team they went 2-1 against this season. I don’t think they can beat the Lakers in a series, but I absolutely think they’re the most challenging possible matchup of the 3-6 seeds.

This is because, on any given night, they can shoot their way to a victory. No team in the West comes close to the amount of wide-open threes, both corner and above-the-break, that Houston produces. On the season, only the Bucks produced more wide-open threes; in the bubble, Houston has produced three more wide-open (meaning no defender within six feet) threes than any other franchise in Orlando. It is all about consistently hitting open shots like P.J. Tucker’s here, which they didn’t do a great job of last night:

If they ever find a way to somewhat consistently hit these – and, overall, become a better three-point shooting team – their ceiling elevates and they become a lot scarier. They’re producing 25 threes per game with no defender within six feet in the bubble. How could that uncertainty not terrify you if you’re the opponent?

Likewise, Houston seems to be slowly figuring things out a little bit on defense. They still gave up a lot of points at the rim, but they’re starting to force more mid-range attempts and contested threes than they did pre-pandemic, and I’ve noticed they’ve been getting better at forcing unwanted errors like this one:

If Houston really does figure defense out somewhat – even elevating themselves to, like, the tenth-best defense in the league – that also makes them a much more serious contender for a deep run. We’ll see if they ever get it nailed down.

I had to save the most important thing for last here: the Austin Rivers 41-point game.

Rivers had the game of his life on a night where Russell Westbrook wasn’t available, probably for load management purposes. Rivers dropped an amazing 41 points in 33 minutes of action, going 14-for-20 from the field (6-for-11 from three, 8-for-9 at the rim). He couldn’t be stopped! While he did grab 18 points in the fourth quarter against a very uninterested Sacramento team, it still counts as the best game of his career. He needed this, and I’m thinking Houston did, too.

Restart Reviews: Raptors/Heat; Nuggets/Thunder; Rockets/Blazers

Welcome to a new series on Stats By Will titled Restart Reviews, where I’ll be discussing games from the previous day or two and going in-depth on its result. The goal is to post these three times a week, with this week’s edition(s) likely featuring multiple games in each. There will be GIFs, stats, and all of the general moods and feelings you likely expect by clicking on this site. I hope you enjoy.

To skip ahead to a different game, click below:

August 3: Toronto Raptors 107, Miami Heat 103

The Eastern Conference has been considered a one-team race for most of the last…seven? months, and it’s not difficult to see why. The Milwaukee Bucks crushed competition for most of the season, had easily the best margin of victory in the league, and will be the East’s #1 seed when the playoffs start. (An embarrassing loss to a putrid Brooklyn team yesterday will not change this.) However, there seems to be growing momentum to declare this a two-team race for the Finals, and I’d like to sign on to the Toronto Raptors having a serious chance to pull off the repeat.

Off the back of a hilarious and insane 36-point Fred VanVleet performance, the Raptors survived a game where they didn’t get many shots up and allowed several wide-open threes in the fourth quarter to the Heat. It wasn’t easy, but it’s just the latest statement by this incredibly fun Toronto team: they’re a legitimate title contender, and not just a dark-horse one. For this particular statement, they had a great day from downtown and owned the game defensively.

The story of this one will be VanVleet’s wild 36-point performance, though this was aided by 13 free throws. VanVleet has essentially always been a good value and a pretty consistent player, but he’s never had quite this level of a scoring performance. He did good work on defense, making it a memorable and great two-way performance for the beloved Wichita State product.

On the whole, this was kind of a strange offensive game for the Raptors. They did several things they don’t usually do, like commit a bunch of silly turnovers:

They had an awful game inside the perimeter, making just 10 of 23 attempts at the rim:

But: they took advantage of their few transition opportunities, and the non-VanVleet players shot 9-for-20 from three. It was a great day from downtown, and any time you can push the pace in an effective manner like the Raptors did, it’s a good day. This was also a quietly very good Pascal Siakam outing. Siakam scored 10 of his 22 in the first and wasn’t the driver of the offense in the second half, but he hit four of his seven threes:

And he also did a great job defensively when called upon. Stats.NBA.com notes that he held his Miami opponents to just 2-for-9 from the field on two-pointers, a very good rate.

For the Heat, this is a tough loss to take for a myriad of reasons. They took a lot of threes they’d normally love to take, but simply didn’t hit them. They had the advantage of a really good rim protection game, holding Toronto to just 10-of-23, but gave up 32 threes – many of them unguarded – in return. Lastly, and most damaging, they are no longer a likely contender for the 3 seed. This probably locks Miami into the 4-6 range, and at this point, it would be hard to blame them for hoping to fall to 6 simply so they can go two rounds without having to play the Bucks.

However, if Miami even wants to get to a second or third round, they’ve simply got to get much more from Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn on a nightly basis. Robinson may sit as the best value in basketball at just $1.4 million and is a phenomenal shooter, but when he’s off like he was in this game, he doesn’t offer much more to keep him on the court:

Likewise, pretty good rookie Kendrick Nunn went 0-for-7 from the field and committed four fouls, which kept him glued to the bench. If Nunn, a 35.8% three-point shooter on the season (the league average is 35.7%), can’t hit these, teams like the Bucks and Raptors will rightfully take their chances in sagging off from him on the perimeter.

Nunn even posted a steal and two blocks in his 16 minutes, but it still wasn’t enough to get him on the court for more than a minute in the final quarter. (Robinson didn’t play at all, giving up his time entirely to Tyler Herro.) Those two performances didn’t single-handedly lose it for the Heat, but they helped sink the boat. It’s a shame, because the Heat may have wasted one of the few vintage Goran Dragic performances the guy has left in him.

Dragic scratched and clawed his way to an amazing 25-point outing, going 5-for-5 at the rim and being a supercharger for the Miami offense that felt so moribund for the first 30 minutes of this game. With Dragic on the court, the Heat outscored the Raptors by 13 points in his 15 second-half minutes; without him, they were outscored by 13 in his 9 minutes on the bench. Every single second he played mattered, and he flashed some of his old defensive skills, too. It was like watching 2013-15 Dragic again, remembering all of the joy he’s still able to provide when on fire.

Likewise, it was an even more rare Great Outing for Kelly Olynyk:

Olynyk made four of his 11 three-point attempts and helped keep the offense moving, especially in the otherwise-ugly first half where he was the Heat’s leading scorer. Olynyk won’t get more than 18-20 minutes a night in most playoff games, but it’s nights like these why he gets that many minutes to begin with.

Two final notes:

1. On the individual front, Jimmy Butler had a phenomenal defensive game. He wasn’t much for the other side of the ball, but any time you force opponents to shoot 0-for-8 against you and pick up two steals and two blocks, you’re doing something right. It’s not in this GIF, but he was also the only player to slow VanVleet down for any meaningful amount of time.

2. Miami had an alright defensive game, but they’ve got to be much more consistent in terms of contesting outside shots. When they contested hard, the Raptors’ offense struggled mightily, converting just 5-of-22 attempts. When they left the Raps more open, it was kind of ugly: 24-for-45 from the field, including 7-for-11 for Siakam and 7-for-12 for VanVleet, mostly on threes. Their playoff ceiling depends on being a tad bit better on this end of the floor.

NEXT PAGE: Nuggets/Thunder