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Raptors v Warriors Finals Preview Chat: Coop and Apricot

Two basketball video analysts have a private chat about the upcoming Raptors-Warriors Finals, which was interesting enough to share with the world. Topics include: pick and roll defense, star health, big lineups and how Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry might get guarded.

NBA: All Star Game
Two guys about to be blitzed like crazy
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Smither is a Toronto Raptors analyst that I’ve admired for a while now. We had an informal chat about the matchup that was interesting enough that I wanted to share it.

You should also follow him on Twitter and YouTube. Here’s his latest video, on the Stack Pick and Roll (sometimes called Spain PNR) that made a huge impact on the Eastern Conference Finals:

The Chat

Eric Apricot: Anyway, I’d love to somehow cooperate with you for the Finals but I know I’ll be inconsolable for the Warriors losses. And you may not be in great shape for Raptors losses (if any). I’ll just sullenly retweet your triumphant breakdowns. Anyway, ENJOY!!! CONGRATS!!!

TOR defending pick and roll

Eric Apricot: I personally think switching is the correct D v the Stephen Curry high PNR and wonder how much TOR does that.

Coop: Tooooons of switching vs MIL. They pre switched/triple switched a lot starting in game 4ish, so that they’d have a big wing switch on to Giannis Antetokounmpo as much as possible. And then once MIL started the PNR low enough, they’d go over and drop a little bit.

Eric Apricot: Right, the trick being the emphasis on containing the roll. And avoiding the small switch on Giannis.

Coop: Yep, scram switching as well.

Eric Apricot: Vs GSW it’s the inverse issue... should be fine to switch a small onto Draymond Green.

Coop: Unless Steve Kerr decides he goes for the infamous Curry/Kevin Durant PNR.

Star health

Eric Apricot: There’s a very good chance Durant is out for good.

Coop: Oh you think? I haven’t been keeping up on his status and the vibe.

Eric Apricot: Yep, insiders seem to think it’s < 50% Durant plays.

Coop: Is he 100% out for 1 + 2?

Eric Apricot: He hasn’t even been back on the court. DeMarcus Cousins might show up in his bowling ball way.

Coop: This is going to be a very peculiar series.

Eric Apricot: How is Kawhi Leonard’s health?

Coop: It’s hard to tell if he’s not shooting the ball as well as earlier in the playoffs due to health or just the regression that was due from shooting 70% on contested pull up mid range jumpers.

Eric Apricot: Yeah can’t expect superhuman midrange all playoffs.

Coop: He definitely hobbles a ton once the play is over and even the occasional in game possession. But he’s been god like otherwise.

Blitzing Kawhi

Eric Apricot: Do you have film on how TOR has handled blitzing of Kawhi?

Coop: ORL in game 4 or 5 tried it and got decimated. Seemed like Kawhi was toying with Nikola Vucevic. Kawhi’s been incredible - but his indecisiveness against Hard Hedges, particularly when he tries to attack a guard mismatch with a screen, limits the effectiveness of hunting mismatches. Another barrier is Danny Green’s (Curry’s assignment) current slump & lack of dynamism on catch.

Eric Apricot: Didn’t MIL double Kawhi sometimes?

Coop: They definitely were aggressive in sending help to contest his shots, but double teaming out of normal screening actions to take the ball out of his hands was much more prevalent in the middle to latter parts of PHI and the end of ORL. Philly’s was fueled by the lack of guarding Pascal Siakam and would just make a B-line for Kawhi with Joel Embiid. Not dissimilar to how they treated Giannis with double teams in the post.

Eric Apricot: It feels like the series will be decided by who handles the blitz better, Kawhi or Steph. GSW really really aggressively blitzed James Harden, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, which they hadn’t in previous years.

Brief video interlude, with video breakdowns of the blitz on Harden and Dame:

Coop: To me, when the other guys are shooting average or better, Kawhi’s willing to dish it out to the short roll and then Marc Gasol is a master from there. It’s when the other guys are cold he starts barrelling through three defenders and taking tough shots or turns it over.

Eric Apricot: Does Kawhi tend to attack from the elbow or the arc?

Coop: I’d say both, but when it’s not a scripted action and he’s just bailing the team out, it’s probably starting from above the arc.

Eric Apricot: GSW has been blitzing way up high. If Kawhi starts in high post, GSW will go I think to usual weak help type stuff, maybe some traps, scramming out any bad small matchup.

Coop: There’s some film that paints Kawhi in a positive light where he was isolated on the wing in game 6 vs Milwaukee and they brought a defender to the strong side low block and zoned up the weak side (akin to a baseline double) and he made some good reads.

On big lineups and Danny Green

Coop: Has Kerr ever been the type to invert the 4/5 defensive matchups? That’s been a big thing against Toronto - putting the C on Siakam and ignoring him unless he’s in the corner, and putting the PF on Gasol so that his shooting/screening out of Pick and Pops is neutralized.

Eric Apricot: Yes, Kerr is flexible with matchups. Kerr will love it if he can eat minutes with our host of quick undersized bigs and sluggish large bigs. How much % time is Siakam and Gasol going to be out there?

Coop: Without OG, Toronto has to essentially play a majority of its minutes with 2/3 of Siakam, Gasol, or Serge Ibaka.

Eric Apricot: But basically a two big look. Because POR and HOU was going 0 or 1 bigs.

Coop: Danny Green’s poor shooting so far has certainly contributed to an inability to go with just one big.

Eric Apricot: I don’t get it. D Green and M Gasol on paper look like they should be studs in the system.

Coop: The weird thing is Danny Green had the most consistent shooting season of any Raptors “shooter” ever. All the guys in this fuve year run that were shooters would (like every shooter in history) go through week-month spells of poor shooting. Green was 45% on relative high difficulty and essentially never had a dry spell.

Eric Apricot: Yeah, I’m guessing small sample size, or I don’t know if some scheme thing made him second guess his shot. I’ve experienced too many Danny Green big plays against GSW (and others) to write him off.


Assuming Kevin Durant does NOT play all series, who wins the 2019 NBA Finals?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    GSW in 4
    (42 votes)
  • 11%
    GSW in 5
    (80 votes)
  • 48%
    GSW in 6
    (330 votes)
  • 9%
    GSW in 7
    (62 votes)
  • 10%
    TOR in 7
    (73 votes)
  • 9%
    TOR in 6
    (61 votes)
  • 2%
    TOR in 5
    (19 votes)
  • 1%
    TOR in 4
    (8 votes)
675 votes total Vote Now

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