# Raptors might be one of worst defenses in playoff history

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The Toronto Raptors give up 105 points a game. That’s kind of a lot. But hey, no big deal, teams are giving up 100 on average this season anyway! And besides, there are a ton of teams that have given up 105 points a game and made the playoffs. So you know, there’s not much shame in their defense really.

But that’s the old way of looking at things. It’s a new day! We have computers, the internet, music on download Netflix, and something called efficiency ratings. And they tell a much more accurate view of how offenses and defenses perform.

(If you’re even remotely comfortable with modern stats, feel free to skip on down.)

See, a while back, some folks decided that one of the problems with evaluating teams is that their performances are impacted by the pace of the game, which can fluctuate by game and by team.

The solution was to develop a formula for estimating the number of possessions in a game using box score metrics in a complicated formula (which I’ll spare you as to not give you an embolism). Then you evaluate the point scored divided by those possessions and you have points per possession. Multiply that by 100, and you’ve got a rough estimate (most games feature at or around 100 possessions) you can use as a baseline comparison.

Long story short, the Raptors suck more than we thought.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Raptors are currently at a defensive rating of 113.1. Since the ’77-78 season (when Basketball Reference starts tracking offensive and defensive efficiencies), there have been thirteen teams with a defensive rating of 113 or higher, including the Raps. Of those 13 teams, only one team, the 81-82 Nuggets, made the playoffs. So if the Raps somehow manage to sneak in they’ll be only the second team since ’77 to play defense as badly as they do and make the postseason. Meanwhile, that Nuggets team had an offensive rating of 114.3 compared to 111.1 for the Raptors.

On the one hand maybe it’s a good indication that advanced metrics are sometimes flawed and don’t tell the whole story. On the other hand, have you seen the flipping Raptors? They are far and away an abomination to the art of basketball defense. Can’t trap, can’t rebound can’t steal, can’t disrupt, can’t stop anything.

Toronto’s clinging to their playoff lives in the eighth seed. And if they don’t step up their defense in a big way, they’re going to saddle up as the second worst defense in the modern age to make the playoffs.

## Report: Knicks grumbling about Jeff Hornacek’s lineups and rotations

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Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has seemingly steered clear of the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony feud. Hornacek has even avoided Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, overly interfering.

But Hornacek hasn’t sidestepped every fissure in New York.

Veteran Knicks are reportedly frustrated with the defensive scheme, though some of that resentment could be pinned on assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Derrick Rose has reportedly been increasingly frustrated with Hornacek. And apparently he’s not the only one.

Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday’s loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks’ recent lineups.

“Every day is something new. So just got to be ready I guess. You never know when you’re going to play,” he said.

Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.

“Yeah, when you come in here you don’t really know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of no consistency and it’s really tough right now,” he said. “Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time.”

Jennings isn’t the only player expressing dissatisfaction beyond anonymous leaks.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Rose and Hornacek yelled at each other after Rose – who called on Hornacek to coach defense harder – got beat by Dennis Schroder on this play:

Berman reports Kyle O'Quinn also glared at Hornacek after being subbed out during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks.

After the game, Courtney Lee – whom Hornacek removed the starting lineup – posted and deleted photos of Dumb & Dumber on Instagram. Lee then followed with this caption:

I posted a pic of dumb n dumber cuz that was my mood, no jab at no1. It’s dumb that we have a talented team and we’re in position to win games n keep losing by 1 possession. We’ll figure it out collectively as a team but that was my mood after the game. Has nothing to with any change, rotation, system, players, coaches, so let that be clear.

Are we reading too much into vague social media postings and distant body language? That is a real risk.

But Hornacek still appears to have issues with these Knicks. The debate should be a matter of the depth of the problems, not whether they exist.

This is what happens when teams lose 11 of 13. Players get frustrated and grumble.

The coach also often adjusts the rotation, which Hornacek has done, including starting Ron Baker. Jennings and co. haven’t earned stability in their roles. When they had that, they were losing.

The question now: Can Hornacek reclaim the players’ trust, which would help the team break its skid? Or does the griping – and, partially as a result, the losing – continue in a season-destroying snowball?

## PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson rift just adds to Knicks stagnation

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Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a chilly talk, and Anthony told Jackson the star forward wants to stay in New York. Which, based on the mind games we’re seeing, is not what Jackson wants — although you get the feeling Jackson wants to move Anthony to bring in more stop-gap, win now pieces rather than try to build a future around Kristaps Porzingis.

Which all speaks to why the Knicks have made the playoffs just three times in 13 years. What is the Knicks long-term plan?

I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra. Well, except the long-term plan because nobody knows what that is.

## Rajon Rondo strangely runs behind Rick Carlisle during play (video)

This would be ignored – still odd, but ignored – if it weren’t for their history.

But Rajon Rondo running behind Rick Carlisle during the Mavericks’ win over the Bulls raised a couple eyebrows in curiosity and drew a few chuckles. What was Rondo doing?

At least Carlisle explained why he didn’t call timeout before Wesley Matthewsgame-winning 3-pointer. The Dallas coach had Rondo in mind.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

## Mike D’Antoni: “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach”

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It’s not exactly Seven Seconds or Less Part 2 in Houston, but it may be closer to Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate vision.

The Rockets are 32-12 with the third-best offense in the NBA (Toronto and Golden State), and it’s an analytics wet dream of threes and shots at the rim. It’s all come together because James Harden bought in. Steve Nash ran the offense brilliantly but differently — Harden is as good or better with his style (which gets him to the line more often).

The brilliant Howard Beck at Bleacher Report got everyone to talk about the Rockets rapid rise and how it all came together. It’s must read. Plus there are some brilliant quotes, starting with Harden about D’Antoni pitching the move to point guard:

“I thought he was crazy,” says Harden, who earned his stardom at shooting guard….

Or as D’Antoni put it, “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach.”

“People always ask, ‘You traded for him; did you know he was this good?'” (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says. “I’m like, ‘F–k no!’ I mean, we thought he was extremely good and better than other teams probably did.”

But not top-five good or, say, top-three, which Morey would make the case for today.

Harden is MVP-level good. What’s more, the Rockets are knocking on the door of contender good. The pedestrian defense isn’t there yet (18th in the NBA for the season, 15th for the month of January), questions about depth and if young key cogs like Clint Capela can grow into the roles the Rockets need them to, and there are the health concerns considering the histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.

But the Rockets are dangerous right now and could reach the Western Conference Finals this season if healthy and things break right (their style and athleticism would be a tough test for the Spurs).  And the story of how it all came together is fascinating.