Will Toronto get Jonas Valanciunas the ball more in Game 3?

Getty Images
5 Comments

Through two overtime games against the Miami Heat — a series tied 1-1 as it heads to Florida for Game 3 Saturday — there has been one consistent offensive player for the Toronto Raptors:

Jonas Valanciunas.

Yet he got only nine shots in Game 2, even though it was his play — particularly in the fourth quarter and overtime — that won Toronto the game. He was 3-of-4 on post ups and can use his big body to overpower Hassan Whiteside (not the greatest post defender ever) or anyone else the Heat throw at him. But again, just four attempts at something that was working.

During the regular season, the Raptors’ fifth-best offense in the NBA was fueled by the play of guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, arguably the second best guard duo in the NBA during the season. But in this series they are combined 28-of-81, 34.6 percent. DeRozan hasn’t taken a three (which makes him easier to defend, teams can lay off him) and Lowry is 2-of-14 from deep.

The playoffs are about adjustments — not just the ones the coaches draw up on whiteboards, but also the ones players make. Will they sacrifice parts of their game, particularly shots, to do what is best for the team? That question hits the Raptors as they head into Game 3. To win this series eventually Lowry and DeRozan need to shoot better, but also they need to give up some shots to Valanciunas. Here is what Raptors said about this idea, via ESPN.

“Do I want the ball more?” Valanciunas replied to reporters in diplomatic fashion. “No, I’m good.”

“They’re our guys,” Casey said of Lowry and DeRozan. “They’re our go-to players. They’re our two All-Stars. They’ve carried us the entire year. Both of them are going through a tough shooting slump right now, and it’s hard to say just stop shooting and start looking for everybody else.

“They’re accountable for their shots; they take accountability for some of the tough shots that they take. But again, we have to live with some of their tough shots as the game goes on because we need them to be there, to have the threat of scoring as much as anything else. And again, it’s not like we haven’t seen those things change from game to game for certain players, and I’m confident that it will for those two.”

If those two cold Raptors shooters don’t warm up in Miami, this series could be over sooner rather than later. But getting there might involve working inside-out more, and giving the big man in the paint more touches. Adjust or go home.