How Precious Achiuwa's cutting helped the Raptors defeat Heat

Asad Alvi discusses the defences Miami was throwing at Toronto and how Precious Achiuwa used timely cuts to finish plays around the basket.

Video Transcript

ASAD ALVI: Welcome back to Yahoo Sports Canada. My name's Asad, and I'm here with another video breakdown, this time of last night's Raptors win over the Miami Heat. The Miami Heat hit the Raptors with a zone defense for most of the night, which required the Raptors to do a lot of passing, a lot of cutting, and play as a team. The Raptors responded with 32 assists on only just eight made 3's. So we're gonna show how the Raptors beat that.

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And one player that was key to this-- Precious Achiuwa, coming off the bench and making timely cuts, spacing correctly, and showing how you can beat the zone not just with hitting a 3, but also with movement. Precious has had a tough season up to this far, but having one of his best games of the season coming off the bench and giving the Raptors much-needed energy and scoring against the Miami Heat defense.

So we're gonna break down the clips. Let's get right into it.

Now, this first play, we're gonna see OG Anunoby take Kyle Lowry into the post, and you're gonna see Cody Zeller now come over to double. Precious Achiuwa, right now, is outside, near the top of the key. You're gonna see him drop down to the wing 3 here, which is important, as Cody Zeller comes to double. This is to get correct spacing. He's open for the 3.

But Precious Achiuwa's not gonna wait for the pass for the 3. Again, the Heat, playing with Cody Zeller as the only big, have no other rim protection. OG feels Cody Zeller on his back, turns towards the double, keeps the ball high, and knows that this is where the pass needs to go. So he's gonna keep the ball high here, hit Precious Achiuwa right on the money for this cut, and Precious Achiuwa goes right for the dunk.

And now, what I want to highlight very quickly is how important his positioning is. Since Precious Achiuwa is at this wing and not at the top of the key, when he makes this cut right here, instead of him cutting through the elbow here, where Caleb Martin could probably clip him, slow down his speed, take him away, he has a straight line for the dunk. And that is the beauty of positioning and how to best play off-ball when you're playing with other playmaking bigs.

Now, in this play, we once again have OG Anunoby handling the ball. Scottie Barnes is in the middle. The Heat are in a 2-3 zone, and you see Chris Boucher out on the wing for the 3. So what the Raptors are gonna do is they're gonna screen against the zone. Screening against the zone-- very effective, as we're gonna see here.

Scottie Barnes sets a screen for OG Anunoby. He takes a hesitation dribble to engage this defender at the top of the key. Now both defenders at the top of the zone are engaged with OG Anunoby. Scottie Barnes is gonna cut into the middle of the zone, and you can see Precious Achiuwa already pointing to the open Chris Boucher for 3. Now, OG Anunoby's gonna show some great patience here as he steps back, as he keeping his dribble alive.

Now, you've seen Max Strus has gone from here, and he has stepped up towards Chris Boucher to take away this open 3. And Precious Achiuwa, realizing this being the case, seeing that Cody Zeller is engaged with Scottie Barnes in the middle-- he's gonna cut the baseline, and OG Anunoby's gonna deliver a pass right on the money, and Precious Achiuwa is gonna go with a strong, athletic finish. And that is, again, moving off ball, correctly spacing, and timing your cut to perfection so you're able to score against the zone without the need of hitting the 3.

Now, in this play, we're gonna see Precious Achiuwa come and set a screen for Scottie Barnes. Now, notice how high this screen is. This brings the big up to the 3-point line. And again, Miami has no rim protection on the back line. So what Scottie's gonna do is Scottie is going to, as he takes the screen-- and Precious does a great job with the screen-- he sets it so Martin has to go over it. Can't go under. Makes good contact, so Martin ends up trailing Scottie.

And here Scottie throws the ball ahead of him. And now Precious rolls, and he rolls in line with the ball handler. As Precious is rolling, you see Kyle Lowry drop down to zone up the back line. But what's gonna happen is Chris Boucher is gonna cut to the baseline, keeping Max Strus a little bit closer to the ground, leaving this gap open.

At the same time, OG Anunoby is also cutting the baseline to get Kyle Lowry to feel him back there. And Scottie Barnes is gonna do a great job of using his eyes to freeze Kyle Lowry, freeze Cody Zeller, thinking the pass is gonna go here, and drop a nice no-look pass to Precious, who makes a nice, athletic finish in one go at the rim.

Now, the reason I want to highlight these plays specifically is, to beat the zone, everyone says you've gotta be able to hit the 3 ball. But it's not always the 3 ball. To beat the zone, you need to be, A, able to pass. You need to be able to get into the middle of the zone. You need to be able to screen against the zone. And we saw the Raptors showcase that.

And in the case of Precious Achiuwa, he's gonna have to learn to play alongside other passing forwards like a Scottie Barnes, a Pascal Siakam, an OG Anunoby. And tonight against the Heat, he showcased that brilliantly. He found himself in the right spots, found ways to cut off-ball whenever the ball handler was doubled, was able to angle himself correctly before making that cut, making that cut timely and then finishing strong at the basket. And those are the things that are always gonna be important for Precious Achiuwa's success on the offensive end on this Raptors team.

I've been Asad Alvi for Yahoo Sports Canada with this video breakdown of Precious Achiuwa. If you like this content, please leave a like, please subscribe, and leave a comment on who you'd like to see us break down next.

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