Each week, I’ll be writing about one thing that’s on my mind.
It’s hard to pinpoint a single reason for the Toronto Raptors’ sudden turnaround over these last 5 or 6 games. But one of the reasons is definitely the surprising play of Stanley Johnson. While his defence has been top notch (which, as we know, he refuses to take any individual credit for), what he’s doing for the offence might be even more important.
Marc Gasol’s absence has left a crater-sized hole in the Raptors’ halfcourt offence — an offence that was already terribly lacking to begin with. Gasol orchestrated the offence, either from the middle of the floor or from the three-point line, using his court vision to guide the ball exactly where it needed to go. He was the go-between, funneling the ball to open three-point shooters, rollers and cutters. And as such, he was the team’s number one zone buster. Any offence he provided was bonus.
This is exactly the role Stanley Johnson is now playing for the Raptors. It became oh so apparent at roughly the nine-minute mark of the 4th quarter of the second Miami Heat game. The Heat were once again 2–3 zoning the Raptors to death. That is until the Stanimal stepped in.
Whether he was operating in the middle of the floor to find Boucher on a back cut, or finding OG for a wiiiiide open three, or he was operating from the arc to find OG for an alley-oop, Johnson was doing his best Gasol impression. And it helped tear apart the zone to take down the Heat.
Just listen to Johnson’s reply about his pass to the cutting Boucher. This dude just gets it. Maybe he didn’t last year, as Nurse famously proclaimed. But he does now.
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