Moments that Mattered: Gasol's half-court offense

Aaron Rose

There wasn't much to like from the Toronto Raptors' 117-106 scrimmage loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday afternoon.

As coach Nick Nurse said after the game, the Raptors "certainly didn't do anything very well."

Nurse did, however, point to center Marc Gasol as one of the few bright spots from the game.

After missing the first scrimmage and being limited in the second, Gasol showed some of what makes him so important to the Raptors during Tuesday's scrimmage against Phoenix.

Play 1: Gasol quarterbacking half-court offense

A little while ago I wrote about just how important Marc Gasol is to the Raptors half-court offense. It's an area the Raptors struggled with a little bit this year, ranking as a middle-of-the-pack half-court offense, much worse than their elite transition offense. 

Here, the Raptors set up in the half-court and get the ball to Gasol in the high post, where he can observe the court and make decisions.

When he spins around, OG Anunoby begins his cut to the hoop from the top left corner. With Gasol staring Anunoby down for a pass, Mikal Bridges leaves Pascal Siakam in the bottom right corner to stop that pass to Anunoby. 

Whoops.

Gasol looks off Bridges just long enough to throw a Patrick Maholmes-esque pass to Siakam for an easy catch-and-shoot 3-pointer.

That's a perfect Raptors half-court possession and it's the kind of thing Nurse was talking about earlier in the month when he said he wanted to try to increase Gasol's offensive involvement.

"I think I'd like to probably make him a main cog in the offense," Nurse said on July 12.  "Any time we can get him the ball, good things happen. Not necessarily buckets from him, but good things happen."

That same day Raptors rookie Terence Davis II talked about the importance of getting Gasol the ball in the middle of the court where the team can take advantage of his high basketball IQ.

"He's a great, terrific passer," Davis said. "We can start the offense with him in the middle of the floor. That just helps everyone out because, in the middle, you're looking both ways"

Play 2: Gasol finds VanVleet for 3

Here's another play where the Raptors get Gasol the ball in the high post allowing him to read the defense to make the right decision.

On this play, Kyle Lowry feeds Gasol on a pick-and-roll. Once Gasol feels Devin Booker on his back, he turns and fires a pass to Fred VanVleet for another catch-and-shoot 3-pointer.

It should be no surprise that Gasol averaged just 1.41 seconds per touch this season, the second-lowest time with the ball for players with at least 50 touches, according to NBA Stats. For Gasol, the basketball is like a hot potato, he catches it and quickly analyzes the court looking for the best person to get the ball to.

If the Raptors are going to advance far in this year's playoffs, Gasol will need to stay healthy and continue to show he can be a key contributor in Toronto's half-court offense.

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