Raptors Experiment New Schemes, Fall Short Against the Rockets
Close but no cigar.
In just over a year, Nick Nurse has earned the reputation of being one of the more “janky” and innovative minds in the league. He infamously called for the box-and-one defense in the NBA Finals and has constantly looked to roll the dice when experimenting with new concepts. On Thursday night with the Houston Rockets back in town, Nurse looked to try a new trick.
Donning a new defensive scheme in order to slow down the most prolific scorer in the game, the Raptors looked to full-on blitz Harden, force the ball out of his hands and moreover, force other players beat them.
“Somebody was going to get open. We were banking on them not making those shots,” said Pascal Siakam, essentially summing up the defensive game plan on the night. “If it is a situation where we really need it for a couple of possessions, not a whole game, we can use it. I think it’s good that we are trying different things and are open-minded, trying to do new things that most people don’t do.”
To an extent, the plan worked in terms of slowing down Harden, who only took 11 shots on the night, his lowest total on the season. At times, the Raptors were able to cut down the Houston juggernaut offence, but at other points, the role players of the calibre of Ben McLemore, PJ Tucker, and Danuel House Jr. burned them.
“You roll the dice sometimes, and sometimes you lose,” said Fred VanVleet. “It’s [defensive scheme] not very common in the league, but a guy like James [Harden] isn’t very common either.”
The Raptors ultimately fell to the Rockets by a score of 119-109, but for what is a long season, Nurse will occasionally use games for experimental purposes. You win some, you lose some, but no matter the outcome, you learn and gather more information about your team and the opposition.
“It was an interesting experiment to see if it would play, and I think it was pretty good, wasn’t great, but pretty good,” said Nick Nurse.
The 15-6 Raptors will now head to Philadelphia for a weekend date with the Sixers.