Looking back at last night’s game-winning three pointer by Kyrie Irving caught my attention for a few reasons.
The magnificence of Kyrie Irving is undeniable and at this early stage of his career, Irving showing the guts and cold-bloodedness to pull up for three with his team down only two points excites the basketball fan in me greatly, but that brilliance alone does not a HoopChalk.com post make.
Instead, I’m choosing to focus on what excites me as a basketball coach and that’s the failed execution of the Raptors defense in that fateful possession.
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the Cavaliers used nothing dynamic or innovative in their final play call. Trailing the Raptors by two points, the Cavs elected to let Irving isolate at the top of the key and make a play. (In hindsight, brilliant strategy by Cavaliers coach Byron Scott.)
Coming out of a timeout, the Raptors and their coaching staff had plenty of time to discuss how they wanted to approach this end of game defensive strategy.
It’s clear that in any situation when your team is leading by only two points, that giving up a two point field goal would hurt a great deal, but giving up a three pointer KILLS.
Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey echoed this sentiment in his post game thoughts:
“We wanted to push him. We wanted, if they were going to make a shot, to make a two. Get him off the three-point line. . . . I think he caught Alan (Anderson) off guard because he was so far out. He hit a tough shot.” (courtesy of the Toronto Star)
Watching Irving’s final shot again knowing the Raptors’ strategy, its clear that Raptors forward Alan Anderson was simply giving Irving too much space once he crossed over half court.
Anderson’s task of trying to corral Kyrie while being isolated against him at the top of the key is not an easy one, but as you’ll see in the picture below, at the moment of Kyrie’s pull up, Anderson had backed up just inside the three point line.
This is way too much space, especially when trying to not give up a three pointer.
Also particularly interesting, was something I caught on the re-watch of the shot and that’s the body language of Dwayne Casey on the Raptors sideline.
I’ve pointed out Casey in the photo above and when you watch the video of Irving’s shot, you can clearly see Casey urging Anderson to move up on Irving and take away his space. Casey’s actions on the sideline, matched up with his post game comments is even more evidence of the failed execution of the Raptors defense.
Watch Irving’s shot live: