SAN ANTONIO â€” By rights, Jay Triano and his staff should be in overdrive right now trying to come up with a way to piece together a lineup that can hold this San Antonio Spurs juggernaut in check Wednesday night.
It has to be at least a little more daunting than normal to know that not only is the opposition in almost full health compared to your own broken parts status, but is in the midst of potentially taking a run at the best regular-season record in NBA history (’95-’96 Bulls, 72 wins).
In fact, Triano has processed all that and more already, but to describe the mode he’s in right now as overdrive would be to lessen what he and his staff have been doing for weeks now because overdrive has been their constant mode.
Whether it has been figuring out a way to slow down John Wall or containing Chris Paul, or just limiting the damage Joe Johnson can do (or even in Monday’s case trying to figure out how to get through a game without any backup swing men) Triano and his coaching staff have tweaked and re-shuffled and done whatever possible with a host of changing parts just to stay close.
It’s all about weathering this injury storm that has had them patching holes for weeks now.
So with Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan on tap not to mention Richard Jefferson, George Hill and Gary Neal and the league-leading 35 wins they possess, Triano and his staff are merely doing what they’ve been doing.
â€œWhen we find out who we are going to have and who is going to be available to us, we start looking for a way to pull off the upset,â€ Triano said of his personal Groundhog Day since this rash of injuries hit. â€œWhat can we do as coaches? This has been great for our staff. It’s a real challenge. Every day we have to come up with something.â€
In essence it’s a new game plan every night, a necessity when you’re starting five changes as much as the Raptors has.
So far this season, they have had 15 different starting lineups. The most games any quintet has been together is eight and that’s not going to get any higher because Jarrett Jack is no longer a Raptor.
It’s like starting a new season every game you play. The only difference is Triano and company are doing it with significantly fewer healthy bodies to pick from.
Triano says he actually finds the nightly challenge fun.
â€œAgainst New Orleans it was control Chris Paul,â€ he said. â€œI thought we did a really good job. John Wall in the Washington game. We had to control him. Control the point guard, change it up, take them out of sync. Play some zone, some man. Come out after a timeout and sometimes come out in man-to-man, sometimes in zone or sometimes come out and trap. Sometimes come out and switch. Just try to keep teams off so that they can’t get on a roll against us and as a result our guys have been more aware and possibly why our defence has been better. It’s like we’re trying to scheme every game to figure out a way to win.â€
And before you choke on your morning coffee, yes, Triano did say his defence has been better.
For the past five games the Raptors have held their opponents to 43.5% shooting.
â€œThat’s pretty darn good,â€ Triano points out. â€œIf we did that all year, that would put us in top three of the league.â€
The problem has been taking advantage of those stops. The New Orleans game was a perfect example where the Hornets shot just 39.1% as a team for the game, but pulled down 19 offensive rebounds to negate that success and ultimately rallied for a win.
Triano admits watching that can be frustrating in the moment and in the immediate aftermath, but to stay sane and stay the course, he highlights the successes.
â€œWe look at video and the stats and a lot of the things that we have been doing well,â€ he said. â€œOur challenging of shots has been up and our FG percentage against has been better. We have to take those small positives and try to get guys back and healthy and see where we are then.â€
For now though it’s a chess game of keeping the opposition guessing with various coverages and hope that by junking it up enough, you get enough stops, that you give your offence a chance to steal a game.
It’s not the ideal way to go about things, but right now it’s the Raptors best bet.