I’m going to admit that whenever I heard people say “we lost that game because of coaching…” or “man, Casey was out-coached today…”, I never really understood how that was possible. How could a guy that’s not even playing cause the team to lose? Well that thinking was very naïve as game 3 of this series proved that “coaching losses” do exist.
I had the opportunity to attend this game and in the first 3 quarters, this team was exhilarating, they were fun to watch. I, along with 19,000+ fans finally had something to cheer for in this series. Changes were made with the starting line-up, again some of which were forced due to injury. Norman Powell replaced Demarre Carroll once again and JV was reunited with his starting spot. Meanwhile, Corey Joseph took over for the injured Kyle Lowry in the point guard position and was entrusted with facilitating the team. Despite missing our main man Kyle, we were playing beautiful defense through the first half. We chased the notorious 3-shooting Cavs away from the perimeter and we were able to keep the rain of 3’s to a minimum. Despite what the stats say about Corey Joseph, he played the best basketball I’ve seen from him in a while. He was able to silence Kyrie Irving to just 33% from the field and 20% from the 3 point line. Good perimeter defense was also evident as they had Kevin Love only attempting 1 three. At the half, the Raptors actually had a 52-49 lead over the Cavaliers.
Things continued to look up for the Raptors. At the end of the third quarter, they were only trailing by two. DeMar finally showed up to the series and his mid-range game was back to Kobe caliber. He was attacking the basket in the usual stank-face wearing DeMar fashion. He was splitting the defense and attacking straight down the middle like he was on a mission, it sure was a sight to see. DeMar finished the night with 37 points (no bigs), shot 52% from the field and was perfect from the line. Honourable mention also goes out to JV who played lights out through the 3 quarters. Chants were going around the arena, “feed the big” as this offensive scheme was working. JV was quick on his feet and imposed his will against Tristan Thompson without his (ever so painful to watch) pump fakes. JV was decisive and when JV is quick, great things happen. He contributed 19 points, shot 80% from the field and had 8 rebounds by the end of the night. Everything was looking good and I actually started to believe that we had a real chance at winning this game.
I was very wrong.
Things started to go downhill right when Kyle Korver hit his first three 30 seconds into the fourth. This was the moment when you as fan start to think “oh dear God, they found their 3. No…no…no…” Korver finished the night with only 14 points but was 66.7% from the three (4/6). From there, threes just seemed to drop for the Cavs with guys like Channing Frye, Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert making their shots. As a coach, when you start to see the Cavs go on even the slightest run, you call a time out right? Or maybe make a substitution? As a coach, you NEED to be doing something, anything, to stop the flow of the other team, right? RIGHT?! So why didn’t that happen? There were so many coaching decisions that were extremely questionable so let’s list them out shall we?
Coach Casey put too much trust in Serge Ibaka who fell in love with his failing jump shot.
Coach Casey forgot about JV and his efforts, stunting JV’s success…yet again.
Coach Casey did not use his time out effectively – you’re going to wait for a 12-1 run before you call a time out?
Coach Casey did not use his guys effectively - why is DeMar on the bench while the Cavs’ best player, LeBron, is on the court?
Coach Casey needs to learn how to adapt to a team during the game and not after – why was no substitution made to go big as it was working in the first half?
Another popular chant that was heard during the fourth quarter was, “Fire Casey” or “Hire Stackhouse”. It seemed a little much, but fans have the right to be frustrated. When fans can make better coaching decisions than the actual coach, that should be enough reasons for concern.
The team played their heart out for most of the game. You saw this with how much energy they were playing with and with how aggressive the guys were going. But something shifted in the fourth quarter and the team looked lost, going back to that scared style of play. Like DeMar said, they played great basketball…for 36 minutes. The ball stopped moving and guys were forcing shots. Meghan Mcpeak of TSN Radio 1050 made a good point after the game that scientifically, the velocity of a ball in the air moves faster than a human being but yet the Raptors believed the opposite. Offense was stagnant as the typical Raptor iso style of play reared its ugly head. Shots were not dropping because of the shot selection our boys were making but it also didn’t help that Coach Casey pulled the highest point producing players out of the game in the most crucial moments. This was a must win game but Coach Casey didn't seem to get the memo.
The Raptors play game 4 in a couple of hours and not to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel like this will be the last game of the season. I want them so badly to prove me wrong but with the patterns of this series, I just don’t see the Cavs allowing the Raptors to force a game 5 or even a game 6. The Cavs are not ones who choke and so when they have the opportunity to close a series out, you sure as hell better believe that they’re going to cease any opportunity to do so. All I can hope for now is that the Raptors’ home crowd sends this team off in a manner that would have LeBron praising us again.