Welcome to “One Play!” Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Context: It was only a matter of time.
After playing little-to-no zone defence in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat played more zone than man-to-man defence in Game 2. Some of that was out of necessity with Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo being sidelined with injuries, but the Heat played more zone defence than any team in the league during the regular season and had a lot of success with it against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were bound to break it out at some point against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In theory, the Heat’s zone should give the Lakers a lot of trouble. In reality, it’s hard to play zone against a team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
We’ll get into all of that soon. First, let’s take a closer look at one particular possession from Game 2 in which James and Davis picked the Heat’s zone apart.
The play: James sets Davis up for a dunk.
Breakdown: Let’s just get to the meat of the possession.
With 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Rajon Rondo receives the ball from Alex Caruso just inside the 3-point line. Rondo and Caruso are on opposite wings, Kyle Kuzma and James are in opposite corners and Davis is in the dunker spot closest to Kuzma.
The Heat are playing their normal 2-3 zone, in which they have their two-best wing defenders (Andre Iguodala and Jimmy Butler) at the top of the zone, their two guards (Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro) on the baseline and their centre (Kelly Olynyk) protecting the rim.
When Rondo receives the ball from Caruso, Iguodala closes out on him. Butler, meanwhile, leaves Caruso to prevent Rondo from driving to the basket. Everyone else on the Heat matches up with whoever is closest to them.
What happens behind Iguodala and Butler is the beginning of the end for the Heat.
With Olynyk shading towards Davis, James makes a cut from the corner to the basket, looking for an alley-oop from Rondo. The Heat react in time to prevent him from getting an alley-oop, but it draws Herro into the paint and Olynyk away from Davis for a split-second.
That gives Herro even more ground to cover when Rondo, who is now being pressured by Iguodala and Butler, gives the ball back to Caruso.
Even though Herro’s zone in the zone is the corner, the Heat have their guards tag the person on the wing on ball reversals to give whoever is on top of the zone time to recover. They’re then expected to drop back to keep the 2-3 zone intact.
The problem is Caruso hot potatoes the ball to James on the baseline before Butler can recover. That forces Olynyk to rotate over to James to prevent a breakdown.
Now the Heat have two defenders on James and one defender covering Davis and Kuzma on the opposite side of the court.
That defender? Nunn, a rookie who isn’t exactly known for his defence.
To be fair to Nunn, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Stick with Davis, and he risks James skipping a pass to Kuzma in the corner for a wide open 3. Close out on Kuzma, and, well…
It doesn’t help that Iguodala was stuck in no man’s land, although he didn’t exactly have an easy decision to make either.
Why it matters: Some numbers to chew on.
According to Couper Moorhead of Heat.com, the Lakers averaged 1.50 points per possession against the Heat when they were in man-to-man defence in Game 2. When they were in zone, that number dropped to 1.22 points per possession.
Better? Yes. Still a ridiculous rate? Also yes.
For perspective, the Dallas Mavericks had the best halfcourt offence in the league this season. Their offensive rating? 1.01 points per possession, per Cleaning The Glass. Anything over 1.10 points per possession is absurd. Anything over 1.20 points per possession is entering video game territory.
The combination resulted in the Lakers scoring at a rate of 1.35 points per 100 possessions in Game 2, making for the third-most efficient Finals performance in the play-by-play era, per NBA.com’s John Schuhmann. The Heat had their most efficient game of the playoffs, but they couldn’t string enough stops together for the end result to ever be in doubt.
Where the zone was effective: Miami was able to keep the Lakers out of the restricted area, get them to take a ton of 3s and keep them off the foul line. From that perspective, the zone worked. Where it wasn’t effective: Los Angeles still scored a ton in the paint (just not necessarily in the restricted area), made enough 3s to keep the Heat honest and dominated the offensive glass, the latter of which contributed to 21 second chance points.
The offensive rebounds in particular were a killer. There were a number of times where the Heat got the Lakers to take the shot they wanted, only for someone to swoop in for an offensive rebound and putback.
It’s easy to say that the Heat just need to be more disciplined, but one of the weaknesses of a zone is that it leaves teams vulnerable to offensive rebounds.
You can see why on possessions like this:
Olynyk does his job in boxing out Dwight Howard, but it leaves Nunn and Iguodala battling for position with Davis. Nine times out of 10, that’s not going to end well for them.
What will be interesting to see in Game 3 is whether or not the Heat lean on their zone defence as much as they did in Game 2. As I mentioned at the top, they went from playing little-to-no zone defence in Game 1 to playing zone almost exclusively in Game 2. Some of that had to do with the Heat being short-handed – again, not having Adebayo and Dragic makes it much harder for them to match up with the Lakers man-to-man – but it might be their best shot at getting back into this series if Adebayo and Dragic can return.
Even so, playing zone against James and Davis isn’t exactly foolproof.
James filled a number of different roles against the Heat’s zone in Game 2, alternating between attacking them from the wing, the middle and the baseline. He didn’t pick the Heat apart with his 3-point shooting. Rather, he picked them apart with his passing and cutting.
James made a couple of jaw-dropping passes in Game 2, this being one of them:
As for Davis, he punished the Heat on the offensive glass and out of the post. He finished with more offensive rebounds (8) than everyone on the Heat combined (6) and once again used his size to impose his will around the basket. He’s simply too strong for Butler and Jae Crowder and too quick for Olynyk and Meyers Leonard.
There’s no doubt that having Adebayo back would help – he’s a far better rebounder and rim protector than Olynyk and Leonard – but expecting him to solve all of the issues the Heat dealt with in Game 2, especially with him dealing with an injury, is … a lot. It’s not as though the answer is as simple as them going back to playing man-to-man if Adebayo returns either. Game 1 was a prime example of how difficult they are to defend in those situations, as it paves the way for James and Davis to hunt mismatches.
Such is life when you play against a team led by two super duper stars. Whatever weakness you may have, they’re going to figure it out.
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Cash’s call to Kershaw in the clutch: 5 most memorable World Series moments – Sportsnet.ca
The short, sweet, unpredictable and unprecedented 2020 MLB season is over. The Los Angeles Dodgers, unequivocally baseball’s best bunch this year, are champions.
In the cold months ahead, there will be plenty of time to bemoan the absence of baseball. Let’s not do that just yet.
Instead, let’s look at the most memorable moments from a riveting World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are five that stand out:
When Rays manager Kevin Cash emerged from his dugout in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Blake Snell dropped an F-bomb. In a game Snell was leading (and largely controlling), Cash had come to remove his ace — a move that was immediately questioned around the baseball world and surely will be for some time.
Game 6, and ultimately the series, turned in the moments that followed.
Nick Anderson entered in relief, promptly allowing a double to Mookie Betts to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. In the next at-bat, Anderson spiked a curveball that allowed Austin Barnes to score and Betts to advance to third. One pitch later, Corey Seager brought Betts home on a fielder’s choice to secure the lead.
Cash’s call to yank Snell was largely based on the fact that the top of the order (Betts, Seager and Justin Turner) was coming up for a third time. The third trip through an order typically spells bad news for pitchers, but in its first two go-rounds, the Dodgers’ top trio was 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Cash removed Snell (a lefty) for Nick Anderson (a righty) to face Betts, who slugged .218 versus lefties this year (fifth-lowest among qualified hitters) and .677 versus righties (second-highest). Anderson had also allowed at least one earned run in each of his six previous outings.
Cash called it a “gut-wrenching decision” after the game, and that almost seems like an understatement.
Seager’s MVP moment
Admittedly, Corey Seager’s World Series MVP resume was built over the entire series. But let’s not overlook the fact he brought in the championship-clinching run, too.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
In the aforementioned meltdown of a sixth inning for the Rays, Seager managed to pull a curveball on the outer-third of the plate to first base, which allowed the speedy Betts to run on contact and score the eventual winning run.
Seager has had flashier swings this series, no doubt, but sometimes a good ol’ fashioned ball in play is enough to get the job done.
MVP! MVP! MVP!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
As a whole, Seager was truly the MVP of the Dodgers’ post-season run. Not only did he earn NLCS MVP honours, but the 26-year-old shortstop led the team throughout with a blistering 1.171 OPS in 18 games, bashing eight home runs and notching 20 RBIs along the way.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Seager is on track to be part of a loaded free-agent class next winter. What he accomplished this October is sure to pay dividends.
Kershaw stops steal attempt
Clayton Kershaw was in a groove and taking his time when something chaotic happened. But he didn’t panic.
In the fourth inning of Game 5, holding a 3-2 lead with two outs and runners on the corners, Kershaw started his motion from the stretch by slowly raising his arms skyward. Behind him, Manuel Margot took off down the third-base line on a rare attempt to steal home.
Kershaw took his left foot off the rubber and fired home in time to nab Margot, ending the threat and the inning. It was also the last whiff of drama for Kershaw, who retired the final five batters of his start.
As the victor of Game 5, Kershaw pushed his 2020 playoff stats to a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and .211 opponent batting average. Not bad for a guy whose post-season woes have been well-documented through the years.
Game 4’s insane ending
Words can’t really do this one justice, so let’s just make sure everyone’s memory is jogged on this first:
Trailing 7-6 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, the Rays sent Brett Phillips to the plate for just his third at-bat of the post-season. He singled and the Rays won, but it’s a bit more complex than that.
Phillips’ single to centre was booted by Chris Taylor, which enticed Randy Arozarena to try to score from first base. Taylor’s throw home was cut off by Max Muncy — which catcher Will Smith did not anticipate — and Muncy’s relay throw got by Smith as he tried to catch the ball and perform a swipe tag in one smooth motion.
Arozarena, meanwhile, had come barreling around third so hard he somersaulted on the base path. He was momentarily frozen on the chalk, before scoring easily as the ball rolled to the backstop.
The image of an awestruck Arozarena smiling and smacking home plate is pure art.
Randy rewrites the record books
Goofy Game 4 ending aside, let us not forget about what Randy Arozarena did this month.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old rookie smacked his 10th home run of the post-season, building upon a single-season record he already owned. He also set a record for most hits in a post-season (29), as part of his 1.273 OPS compiled over 20 games.
Arozarena’s thunderous arrival into baseball stardom is understandably overshadowed, given that the Rays came up short. But his playoff performance was one that transcends 2020, title or not.
And it’s fun to think about what he and others can do to make next year’s post-season even more memorable.
Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home – CTV Toronto
Some of Kansas City’s most famous residents want to call the Toronto Raptors their home team.
On the heels of reports the NBA season will tip off Dec. 22, and with federal and provincial restrictions around COVID-19 potentially keeping the Raptors out of Scotiabank Arena, there’s been rampant speculation about where the 2019 NBA champions will play.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif took to social media to advocate for the Raptors to play there.
Mahomes, the 2020 Super Bowl MVP, posted on Twitter “Bring them to KC!” with a flexed-arm emogi, to which Mayor Lucas replied: “Working on it.”
On Tuesday morning, the mayor wrote: “Good morning, Kansas City! It’s currently 13 degrees colder here than in Toronto (7 degrees Celsius),” with the hashtag “We the North.”
The Chiefs’ right guard Duvernay-Tardif, a medical school graduate from Quebec who opted out of the NFL season due to concerns around COVID-19, replied: “Merci monsieur! Definitely feels like home,” with a happy face.
The T-Mobile Center in Kansas City has close to 19,000 seats for basketball. The 13-year-old downtown arena has hosted games in the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball championships as well as NBA and NHL pre-season games.
Kansas City, Louisville, Ky., Hartford, Conn., and the New York area have been some of the suggestions as temporary home courts for Toronto.
Raptors spokesperson Jennifer Quinn, however, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday “Our focus is on playing in Toronto.”
After the federal government denied the Toronto Blue Jays permission to play at Rogers Centre this season, the Major League Baseball team played home games in Buffalo, N.Y., after politicians from just across the border pitched the city as a temporary home.
All three Canadian Major League Soccer teams have been playing recent home games in the United States. Toronto FC is in East Hartford, Conn., the Montreal Impact are in Harrison, N.J., and the Vancouver Whitecaps are in Portland.
TFC coach Greg Vanney told reporters Tuesday he’d love to have the Raptors in Connecticut.
“I don’t think our hotel could accommodate both of us at the same time, but it would be great to have them nearby,” Vanney said.
The Connecticut experience has been excellent, the coach said.
“For me . . . it’s the living situation, and the field,” Vanney said. “Those are the most important things, and so far the place that we’ve been staying has been phenomenal in terms of the living conditions, the food and everything has been great.”
He said some of the fields have been “touch and go” as the weather gets colder.
“(But) In terms of basketball, I assume you find a court and the court is generally the same, so it’s doable.”
Toronto FC’s hotel is across the street from the XL Center in Hartford, a potential home arena for the Raptors. It seats around 16,000 for University of Connecticut basketball games, and is also home to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.
The Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in nearby Storrs, Conn., seats just over 10,000 and also hosts some UConn basketball games.
The Raptors haven’t played a game at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena since Feb. 28, a 99-96 loss to Charlotte. The 2019 NBA champions were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by Boston once the season resumed in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.
Dodgers' Justin Turner joins team for World Series photo after positive COVID-19 test – Toronto Sun
Article content continued
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was a “bittersweet” end to the season.
“We’re glad to done, I do think it is a great accomplishment for our players to get this season completed but obviously we are concerned when any of our players tests positive,” he added.
“We learned during the game that Justin tested positive, he was immediately isolated to prevent any spread.”
The World Series was held entirely at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas with a limited number of fans in attendance to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Turner said he felt great and had “no symptoms at all.”
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