Moments that Mattered: Raptors not afraid of weak 3-point shooters

Aaron Rose

On paper, the Toronto Raptors' defense should be a total disaster. 

They allow a higher percentage of 3-point shots than any other team in the NBA, allowing opposing teams to make it rain from behind the arc. To make matters worse, the Raptors allow the highest percentage of wide-open 3-point shots where the nearest defender is further than six feet away. It's part of the reason they rank 25th in the NBA in what's called Location Effectictive FG%, a stat from Cleaning the Glass that measures what would happen if every shot a defense allowed was hit at the league average rate. Essentially, if Raptors' opponents hit their shots at a league-average rate, Nick Nurse wouldn't look like such a brilliant coach. 

And yet, the Raptors defense is one of the league's truly elite units, with the second-best defensive net rating in the NBA.

It's all because of the way the Raptors treat opposing teams' worst 3-point shooters.

Take last night's 109-99 win over the Orlando Magic for example. The Raptors forced James Ennis III who shoots 32% on about 2.5 3-point shots a game into six 3-pointers. And what happened? Ennis went 0-for-6 from behind the arc.

Here the Raptors are totally content to let Ennis shoot. Marc Gasol doesn't even consider running out to the 3-point line to contest the shot. 

Diving even deeper into the numbers, Ennis shoots just 22.6% on wide-open 3-point shots this season. 

Here, Kyle Lowry does close out on Ennis, but only after completely abandoning him in order to cut off Evan Fournier's potential pass to Nikola Vucevic. Once Fournier throws it to the corner, Lowry runs out to contest Ennis' 3-point shot.

On the flip side of that, the Raptors will chase around opposing teams' top 3-point shooters, making life incredibly difficult for them. When Toronto played Miami on Monday, Duncan Robinson was held to just four 3-point attempts and made just one. That's because Robinson is a 44.6% 3-point shooter this year, so if you leave him open for even a second, he's going to make you pay.

Don't be too surprised if the Raptors stay tight on Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum on Friday night, but are content to let Marcus Smart and his 30% 3-point shooting on catch-and-shoot 3s beat them.

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