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NBA Toronto Raptors Marc Gasol

Raptors Marc Gasol Has a Championship Hangover

After winning an NBA World Championship and a FIBA World Championship in the same summer, maybe it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Raptors big center Marc Gasol seems to be suffering from a bit of a championship hangover early in the new NBA season.

Gasol was held out of contact drills at the start of the Raptors training camp and only saw limited action in two of Toronto’s four preseason games where he shot just 4-12 in 45 total minutes of action against defenders playing with suspect effort.

“Initially, we’ll start off with holding (Gasol) out for a while,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse at the start of training camp. “I’m in no hurry to see him hit the floor, especially in any of our contact stuff right now.”

Maybe Nurse could have rushed Gasol back just a little quicker?

Gasol, whose value to Toronto is primarily as a play-maker and defender, has looked a bit lost in the first two games of the season and hasn’t been able to do anything on offense at all. In fact, despite being forced into shooting wide open shots from the three-point line as the guy left uncovered and (gulp) in the paint, the big Spaniard has hit on just 1-16 shots and has become a run-stopper when the Raptors offense is clicking.

Gasol has looked noticeably frustrated with himself, however, what’s likely a severe case of rust shouldn’t last too much longer than the first couple of weeks into the season. This is one hangover that time and playing games should fix.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

 

NBA Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown talks to the media after the game 5 loss to the Raptors in Toronto

76ers Bet Big Men Will Win The NBA East

It’s only “opening week” in the NBA, but the Philadelphia 76ers sent a message in their home opener against the Celtics, small ball is out and big MEN will determine who will win the East.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps grasped what was going on in Philly right away.

The Philadelphia 76ers spent the offseason building a team focused on a very specific identity: being big and physical and imposing their will on their opponents at both ends of the court.

“Overall the mentality was to go in and [play] ‘smashmouth basketball,’ as coach says, and I think we did a pretty good job,” Sixers forward Matisse Thybulle said.

The object of the game was to wear the undersized Celtics down and as the game wore on, it became obvious the strategy was working. Even without the kind of shooting most teams in the NBA have tried to build around, Philly has the size and athleticism to make life miserable for guard oriented clubs.

Now whether or not “smash-mouth basketball” will get the 76ers past a Bucks team with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, and Robin Lopez is yet to be determined, but Milwaukee won’t be easily intimated and the NBA defending champion Toronto Raptors should be absolutely elated for an opportunity to play this style of play against a team that no longer has the shooting and play-making of Jimmy Butler.

The Raptors don’t have the dominance of a Kawhi Leonard at small forward anymore, but size is something they match up really well against. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are two guys no one is going to push around and Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby give them size, speed and skill at the forward spots. Head coach Nick Nurse must have seen the 76ers strategy coming as he’s already been experimenting with a lineup featuring all four of these bigs on the floor at the same time.

There should be a lot of enthusiasm for the gantlet 76ers head coach Bret Brown has thrown down. Small ball and threes are great for fantasy basketball, but smash-mouth interior ball combined with strategy and skill is a lot more fun to watch.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Toronto Raptors Open The Season With Confidence

The 2019 NBA World Champion Toronto Raptors will open the 2019-20 regular season for the NBA on Tuesday night with confidence despite all the changes that occurred during the summer. After absorbing the shock of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s departure to L.A., just about everyone who follows basketball has been coming to terms with the fact that this team is still pretty good.

“We still good man. People are sleeping on us,” Serge Ibaka said after practice on Monday. “We got players… We know how to play together and we don’t give up. We good man.”

The preseason predictions at FiveThirtyEight have Toronto finishing third in the East with 46 wins and the opening NBA Power Rankings by John Schuhmann at NBA.com confirm Toronto as the third best team in the East and eighth overall.

The Raptors have talent and by current standards guys who are on the right side of 35-years old  without injury issues aren’t done by any stretch of the imagination. Only Kyle Lowry (33) and Marc Gasol (34) are even close to 35 and they look good heading into this season. Serge Ibaka just turned 30 and the rest of the returning roster from the Championship run is young and a lot tougher for the experience.

Head coach Nick Nurse still has decisions to make about who fills out the back half of his rotation, but his top seven are solid and the preseason gave hints about who might grab those fill-in minutes coming off the bench. Undrafted guard Terence Davis looked like a guy worth developing for the future for example and former eighth overall pick Stanley Johnson should be highly motivated to show he can handle a reserve role on a good team, among others Nurse has to choose from.

There is confidence in abundance in the Raptors locker room and there should be. Even without Leonard, don’t sleep on these guys.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri

Raptors Get No Respect Again

You’d think after averaging 53.5 wins over the past six seasons and an NBA championship last year the talking heads at ESPN and elsewhere would be giving Raptors president Masai Ujiri a little more respect when it comes to building a winning program? But no, instead there’s a debate if Toronto will even make the postseason. Talk about no respect.

It takes a lot of effort to ignore the returning talent head coach Nick Nurse has to work with this season.

  • FIBA world champion center Marc Gasol is back and it would be foolish to assume he won’t be just as dominate this season as he was in the playoffs  and has been for years.
  • Five time All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry was rewarded with an extra year at $31 million tacked onto his current deal and he earned it. This is Lowry’s team and as the opposing coaches who keep voting him onto the All-Star team know, he plays winning basketball.
  • The NBA’s most improved player, Pascal Siakam, was even more impressive in the playoffs where he averaged 19 points and 7.1 rebounds. The doubters say he won’t have Kawhi Leonard to attract defenders, but anyone who watched the Raptors in the playoffs saw teams game plan for Siakam as a key threat and, as often as not, he burned them anyway.
  • Serge Ibaka put up numbers not seen since his days at OKC and just maybe that’s the influence Nurse’s style had on the big man. He got his mojo back.
  • “Steady Freddie” VanVleet and “playoff Norm” Powell have come into their own as young vets even if ESPN hasn’t noticed.

And, it would be hard to say any NBA team has done a better job at finding and developing overlooked talent. We don’t know who is going to surprise off the back half of this roster, but it would be foolish to bet against Ujiri at this point.

But ignoring the potential upside and development fans in Toronto have come to expect from a Ujiri built team, as the analysts at FiveThirtyEight calculate based on player talent alone, this Raptors squad is a top four Eastern Conference team as is.

Their 2019-20 NBA Predictions as of October 12, 2019 (updated daily):

  1. Bucks 53-29
  2. 76ers 52-30
  3. Celtics 46-36
  4. Raptors 46-36
  5. Pacers 43-39
  6. Heat 42-40
  7. Magic 42-40
  8. Nets 38-44
  9. Bulls 37-45
  10. Pistons 36-46
  11. Wizards 30-52
  12. Hawks 29-53
  13. Hornets 26-56
  14. Knicks 24-58
  15. Cavs 20-62

If history and confidence in management and coaching is worth anything, pencil in the Raptors for another 50 win season. While its fair to give the Bucks and 76ers the best chance of coming out of the East at the start of the season based on the talent they’ve assembled, it’s a long way to May and June.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors rookie Terence Davis

Raptors Bet On Undrafted Rookie With Huge Hands

If you’ve been looking for a big name or proven veteran to bolster the Raptors rotation for the upcoming season, President Masai Ujiri hasn’t been listening. After signing a pair of young forwards that weren’t given a new contract by their old clubs, Ujiri has dipped back into the undrafted pool of talent to scoop up a combo guard from Ole Miss, Terence Davis.

If Ujiri hadn’t proven himself to be a pretty good judge of overlooked talent (see Fred VanVleet), one could be convinced the Raptors were giving up on defending their NBA title. (still T.B.D.)

Never really an NBA draft prospect, Davis had a strong senior year and turned down two-way NBA contracts to sign with Denver for summer league and betting on himself appears to have paid off. After all, he was gaining attention for all the right reasons as described in his Ole Miss profile.

Davis had his best season to finish his Ole Miss career.

Davis’ final shooting numbers included 44.4 percent (179 of 403) from the field, 37.1 percent (65 of 175) from beyond the arc and 77.2 percent (78 of 101) from the free throw line. He also produced four of the team’s five double-doubles throughout the season, including a night of 25 points and 12 rebounds versus No. 6 Kentucky (March 5) during his last game in The Pavilion.

Behind Davis’ senior leadership on and off the floor, Ole Miss returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. The Rebels were predicted to finish last in the SEC, but Davis and company exceeded expectations en route to a 20-13 record

From not even on the NBA radar as a college rookie, Davis’ game improved at both ends of the court and while he still has a long ways to go, the promise of becoming a “microwave” scorer and solid defender is there as described in a detailed SB Nation Grizzly Bear Blues article.

Defensively, I love his versatility at that end. At 6’4” with his 6’8” wingspan, he has the size to guard positions 1-3. In addition, he possesses the lateral quickness to not get torched at the next level.

Unlike most stereotypical 3-and-D players, Davis has a solid first step and can create his own shot. With this skill, he can get hot from the field super quick and get on a nice scoring run.

he has the athleticism and explosiveness to thrive in transition. He’s also a strong rebounder for a smaller player, and he could capitalize on that skill to ignite the fast-break.

That is a description for how Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wants to play and if Davis can handle the transition to the NBA smoothly, he’ll find minutes off the bench.

Another reason Ujiri was probably attracted to Davis (aside from the fact he’ll be a cheap addition to a team that doesn’t have a lot of flexibility), is an apparent level of toughness that Ujiri has coveted since the day he started rebuilding the Raptors into an organization other teams have been forced to respect. Davis probably should have played football instead of basketball coming out of high school according to Matthew del Rio of SB Nation Liberty Ballers.

An NBA future wasn’t always in the cards for Terence Davis. Five years ago, he was a highly touted high school wide receiver and received scholarship offers from twenty power conference schools. “I was a 6-4 wide receiver with long arms and huge hands who could catch everything that came my way.” Davis (said.)

despite improving by leaps and bounds during his time at Ole Miss, an NBA career was unlikely. Following his junior season, Davis entered his name in the NBA Draft but chose to return to school after it became clear he was a long shot

But his improved play last year and his physical measurements suggested someone should be giving him a harder look.

Davis received an invitation to the 2019 NBA Draft Combine. Although Davis impressed in both combine scrimmages — he shot 12-for-21 from the field — his measurements were what stood out. The 6-foot-4.5 shooting guard’s wingspan measurement is listed as 6-foot-8.75. Of the four combine participants whose hand width measurements are listed as 10.75 inches, Davis is the only one shorter than 6-foot-8.75.

Raptors fans won’t have forgotten the advantage of having monster hands on defense can have after last season. For comparison, Kawhi Leonard’s hands are 11.25 inches in width. Rajon Rondo, whose hands are huge for a guard, are actually smaller at 10 inches.

Ujiri has decided to give another late bloomer in college who has shown leadership potential and a two-way game a chance to develop in a system that has proven to be very effective at producing NBA players. This kid has the tools, the Raptors hope he has the talent to go with them.

In fairness, look for Davis to start out playing significant time with the Raptors 905 in the G-League, but like previous players Ujiri has sent down, if he impresses, he’ll get his shot with the big club quickly enough.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Rondae Hollis-Jefferson free agent 2019

Raptors Give Rondae Hollis-Jefferson A Second Chance

The Toronto Raptors have signed another young forward who can’t shoot giving Nets cast-off Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a second chance to prove himself in the NBA.


Hollis-Jefferson was rounding into form as a decent mid-range shooter in his third season with Brooklyn, but last year he couldn’t find the basket from any range and in today’s NBA a player that can’t hit the three-ball is at risk of being left behind.  It’s a short step from starter to gone in the NBA as detailed by of Nets Daily.

Rondae had a solid showing in his second year under Atkinson. He was the primary starter at the 4 and had a breakout year, averaging 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. However, entering this past season, Hollis-Jefferson was hobbled after straining his hip in Jeremy Lin’s charity basketball game in China.

He fell in and out of the rotation. The Nets had expanded their depth and inserted guys that played the style of ball they wanted to play.

Between the Nets’ analytical-heavy approach and their desire to clear space for free agents, the writing was on the wall.

The Nets were a team on the way up last season and the hip strain couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hollis-Jefferson. Glowing remarks about his intrinsic value to the team weren’t going to be enough get him playing time or land him a new contract in Brooklyn, but for a Raptors team trying to fill out a roster with very limited flexibility, it’s easy to see the attraction.

Rondae is a tough kid from Chester and the 7th Street Ball Courts. He wears his heart on his sleeve and puts others before himself. That’s what made him a fan favorite and that’s what made him the “heart and soul” of the Brooklyn Nets, even when he wasn’t playing much – if at all.

His gritty style of play provided a peep of optimism during a time when there was very little.

It’s only a one-year deal and if can find his third season shooting form and live up to his gritty team-first reputation, the Raptors will be able to find minutes for him.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Stanley Johnson

Raptors Sign Reclamation Project Stanley Johnson

The Toronto Raptors have signed the former Detroit Piston 2015 NBA 8th overall draft pick Stanley Johnson to a two-year $7.5 million contract that has a player option for year two as reported in Hoops Rumors  (among other places).

To put it mildly, Johnson hasn’t lived up to his draft position and the Pistons dumped him on the Pelicans last year who in turn didn’t bother issuing the 23-year-old small forward a qualifying offer.

Johnson has struggled with his offense from the beginning, shooting 37.4 percent from the field for his career, but he has been given credit as a versatile defender, so maybe Nurse can find a role for him off the bench.

His strength is his defensive prowess with the ability to guard four positions. Outside shooting (29.3% on 3-point tries) has been a major issue for Johnson at the offensive end.

Listed at 6’7 and 245 lbs, Draft Express described him as “a physical specimen with his chiseled frame” in the 2016 Summer League They also suggested, “ Johnson’s jump shot is sound mechanically and he will continue to develop the rest of his offensive game, making him one of the bright prospects in the League.”

The offensive development never happened, but there is hope, in his lone season at the University of Arizona, Johnson shot 37.1 percent from three, hitting on 43 of 116 attempts, so maybe the Raptors coaching staff can help him find his college stroke again.

A prospect, a suspect and maybe a reclamation project, the Raptors must see something in Johnson’s game to make them believe he has a chance at becoming the player scouts envisioned when he left college.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

 

NBA Los Angeles Clippers Kawhi Leonard 2019 champion

Can Raptors Masai Ujiri Poach Another Superstar?

Last summer Raptors President Masai Ujiri pulled off a blockbuster trade to poach Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the Spurs on expiring contracts and they came thru with an NBA Championship. However, Ujiri knew the risks and both players have taken their talents to L.A. in free agency leaving Toronto without a superstar for next season.

The only real questions for Masai now are, after getting to the top of the mountain:

  1. Can he be happy with rebuilding,
  2. Is merely being good heading into next season acceptable, and,
  3. Is he willing to take some big risks again in an NBA without a clear-cut favorite for the title?

“The Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship,” Ujiri said in a formal release on July 6th.

A roster with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol should be good enough to easily secure a playoff spot, but will have few expectations beyond that and this isn’t a situation Ujiri has seemed satisfied with in the past.

However, Ujiri is $20 million below the luxury tax line, has the full Mid Level Exception to play with and has $90 million in expiring contracts to dangle.

There are some good options for Ujiri in free agency if he’s happy merely improving his chances for a second round exit next spring.

  1. Recently waived veteran guard Avery Bradley would be a solid addition.
  2. Marcus Morris still needs a contract and the Raptors need depth at forward.
  3. DeMarcus Cousins would be a good add if Ujiri trades Marc Gasol.

There is still talent available, but nothing that looks like it’d give the Raptors a chance of getting by the 76ers or Bucks next spring on its own.

If Ujiri wants to gamble yet again, there are some home run balls out there to go after.

John Wall, Washington Wizards

Things haven’t gone as hoped for Wall and the Wizards and their superstar point guard isn’t expected to be back in action until after the All-Star Break as he sits out rehabbing a torn Achilles just as his four-year $170 million extension kicks in.

Arguably the 28-year-old has been one of the best point guards in the NBA averaging 19 points and 9.2 assists over 9 seasons, but his success hasn’t always translated into team success and it’s becoming obvious the Wizards would rather build around Bradley Beal than Wall.

The Wizards should be more than interested in taking on Kyle Lowry’s expiring deal to get Wall moved and Toronto should be demanding first round draft pick Rui Hachimura as compensation for taking on the risk. A high risk, high reward gamble Ujiri shouldn’t be afraid to explore.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

With the Paul George trade and more first round draft picks than any team could possibly want, the Thunder have moved solidly into demolish and rebuild territory with their future aspirations many years out. Plus, OKC remains in the luxury tax even after the George trade and the Raptors have the expiring contracts to help them move on.

Like Wall, Westbrook has four-years and $170 million left on his deal, so a trade for Lowry straight up would get the Thunder out from under this deal and with Westbrook about to turn 31-years-old in November, how much more Sam Presti can get is to be determined.

What would makes things really interesting would be adding a Marc Gasol for Steven Adams swap. A bigger trade just might entice Ujiri to add in a couple of draft picks and a young player like Anunoby.

These trades sound like a Thunder salary dump, but with Russell’s agent Thad Foucher apparently requesting a trade per ESPN, that’s where things are.

Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

The long coveted Canadian’s value hasn’t exactly been on the rise over the past two seasons and his max extension could be considered to have made Wiggins untradeable, but the combination of bad team chemistry, suspect player development and confusing/missing leadership from the top makes this former number one overall draft pick a prospect worthy of taking a gamble on. Plus the T-wolves can’t possibly have any reasonable expectations beyond merely off-loading Wiggins’ salary at the lowest possible cost.

Offer Serge Ibaka’s expiring deal straight up for Wiggins and see if the T-wolves are frustrated enough to take it. In the Raptors player development system, Wiggins has a chance to grow into his contract and become the player he was envisioned to be five years ago. In Minnesota, no one can see that happening.

Last summer Ujiri took a gamble on an unhappy “former” superstar and turned things into a championship. If he wants to defend that title or even just enjoy a deep playoff run, he’ll need find a way to repeat the process again.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

 

 

 

Indiana Pacers Paul George

Clippers Bet Their Future On An Injured Paul George

Apparently the price of admission to land the Raptors free agent Kawhi Leonard was a second superstar and the Clippers bet their future in a big way to pull Paul George off the Thunder in a trade that should remind everyone of a Nets team in 2013 that gave up their future for a shot at a championship.

The Clippers are sending Oklahoma City their unprotected 2022, 2024 and 2026 picks, their unprotected 2021 and protected 2023 first-round picks via Miami, and the rights to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025, per ESPN

That’s a massive haul of five first round draft picks and two potentially very valuable pick swaps for George who could miss all of training cap and preseason recovering from a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and  a torn labrum in his left shoulder per rotoworld

No one is suggesting George won’t recover and play well next season, but in OKC George didn’t win 50 games in either season or see his team get by the first round of the playoffs with a pretty solid roster and an MVP running mate in Russell Westbrook.

Like the Celtics, who got three first round draft picks and the 2017 pick swap that became first overall from the Nets for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Thunder, who got an even bigger haul for George, could come out of this trade looking pretty good a few years from now.

As an added bonus, if the Thunder can dump $9.6 million of payroll, they can finally escape luxury tax hell after spending almost $90 million in tax over the past two seasons with George on the roster. If you’re sitting in OKC, you should be feeling pretty good about this trade.

It’s assumed Leonard was the puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes to force the Clippers into the George trade and with the move they are now the L.A. team favored to win it all next season. High risk, high return, but in today’s NBA that’s what it takes to make you a real contender.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. 

photo credit Paul Saini

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard during warm-ups

Why Canadian Tax No Longer Scares NBA Free Agents

It’s mostly been misinformation that scares American athletes when it comes to paying Canadian income tax, often perpetrated by American media working in Canada who simply put, just aren’t in the right tax bracket, but any NBA free agent with an adviser worth anything will know this is one thing he doesn’t have to worry about.

As Adam Scherer, Tax Partner at Crowe Soberman LLP suggests, Ka’whi Canadian Tax may not be so bad for Leonard:

 it is not unreasonable to say that with thoughtful tax planning, Kawhi could structure his affairs in Canada so that he’s no worse off tax-wise playing for the Raptors than for a California team.

In the case that matters most to Canadians just ahead of NBA free agency, Kawhi Leonard won’t be influenced in his decision between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Toronto Raptors because of income taxes.

On the surface, the math looks relatively simple. Income taxes in Toronto, Canada are 53.5 percent total. US Federal tax is 37 percent, add in California state tax at 13.3 percent and don’t forget Medicare tax of 2.35 percent totaling 52.65 percent, making the straight up difference between L.A. and Toronto less than one percent. BUT the situation for American athletes playing in Canada is so much better than this as Scherer explains:

the Raptors calculated that their players spent 66 percent of their working days in Canada. Thus, only two thirds of his salary would be taxable in Canada. Credits are available in the U.S. for taxes paid in Canada, meaning effectively that a player pays the higher of either the Canadian tax rate or the U.S. tax rate on his working days in Canada.

So even this slight difference is reduced by a third just by filing correctly, but it gets better.

NBA rules also allow a player to earn up to 15 percent of his salary in the form of a signing bonus. As we’ve noted before, signing bonuses get unique treatment under the Canada-U.S. income tax treaty.

Signing bonuses are only taxed at 15 percent in Canada so,

it’s possible Kawhi could have $27M per year taxed in Canada at an effective rate of 45.3 percent, for a total tax obligation of $12.2M. Much lower than in California!

Now no one is going to claim an NBA free agent isn’t going to keep more of their money by playing in the state tax free franchises located in Texas or Florida, but high tax states like New York and California face the same challenges as Canada and they don’t seem to have a lot of blow back from players about this issue and with the Clippers as the Raptors main challengers for Leonard’s services, income taxes shouldn’t even be a consideration.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant 2019 NBA Finals game 5

By Going All-In The Warriors Sabotaged Their Dynasty

It’s admirable that Golden State fought to the very end of the NBA Finals, never giving up hope, but by going all-in the Warriors have sabotaged their dynasty and opened the door for the rest of the West to stake their own claim next season.

And it didn’t have to happen. Whether Kevin Durant stayed or left in free agency this team had a chance to get back to the Finals again next season if only they could have accepted their inevitable defeat at the hands of the Raptors.

Now, instead of trying to re-sign a healthy Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to new long-term deals in July, the Warriors are now faced with some very difficult decisions.

There should be no argument that the dozen minutes Durant gave to the Warriors in game five before he was injured wasn’t critical if not the major reason their season was extended to a game six. However, it doesn’t even take hindsight to question if Durant should have played at all. The words coming from head coach Steve Kerr the day before made it obvious this was a bad idea.

“He’s going to practice with us today,” Kerr said when asked if Durant was any closer to being able to play. “He’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players. We’ll gauge it from there.

“what he’s going to do today he hasn’t done”

So Durant, who hadn’t played since the second round of the playoffs and had just been cleared to practice with some of the young guys for the first time since then, was under serious consideration to play in the NBA Finals. If that isn’t rolling the dice, what is?

Even Kerr had words of caution, words he choose to ignore, immediately prior to the start of  game five.

“We’ll start him and play him in short bursts and see how he responds physically,” Kerr explained.  “I don’t want to put too much of a burden on him. It’s been a while, we don’t know how it’s going to go.”

Well, now we know.

Durant started and played six minutes before Kerr subbed him out for a brief 2 minute 17 second rest before putting him back in for his final six minutes before tearing his Achilles.

It’s easy to understand the pressure Kerr was under, the Warriors were a lot better with Durant on the court, but those weren’t short bursts, Durant was carrying a heavy burden and everyone knew it.

The Warriors had gone all-in for a chance to turn a Finals on the verge of slipping away around and while no one could have predicted the specific terrible injury that Durant suffered, it’s hardly a stretch to say everyone knew there was a real risk of something bad happening.

There never should have been a game six back in Oracle. This series should have ended in Toronto in game five and no reasonable person would have blamed Durant for not playing or Kerr, the medical staff or President Bob Myers for holding him out.

“You can blame me,” Myers said after the game.

No problem, as the person responsible for Warriors basketball operations, Myers is ultimately to blame.

The unforeseen impact of Durant’s sacrifice in game five was the Warriors would lose Klay Thompson to a torn ACL in game six. While there’s no one to blame or even second guess when it comes to Thompson’s injury, it occurred in a game that, but for going all-in, never would have been played.

Both Durant and Thompson are expected to miss most of, if not the entire, 2019-20 NBA season and while Durant could opt in to his $31 million player option and potentially allow the Warriors to cover part of his salary with insurance, both players are anticipated to enter free agency expecting max deals to be on the table for them.

Without at least one of Durant or Thompson playing next season the Warriors will be knocked down a peg and the the cost to keep both players on new max contracts represents a financial burden even a billionaire will find tough to swallow. Ownership will face some very tough decisions this July.

However, you can’t be mad at Golden State for going all-in, that’s what every fan hopes their franchise is willing to do when it comes to winning Championships, but it came at a cost. This five year dynasty has been sabotaged and it will take a huge financial commitment and no small measure of luck to get it back to the level it was at prior to game five in Toronto.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr 2019 NBA Finals

Kevin Durant Will Start For The Warriors, But

An hour before game time Warriors head coach finally confirmed all the speculation, Kevin Durant will play in game five, but it wasn’t until the third query that Kerr admitted Durant would start.

“Are we really going to go into it that deeply?” Kerr responded to the opening question. “He can play now. He’s been cleared, so he’s going to play.

“We’ll start him and play him in short bursts and see how he responds physically, see if his wind is okay and as the game goes, we’ll try to figure it out from there,” Kerr responded when asked how Durant will help Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.  (oops?)

Kerr admitted he really doesn’t know what he can get from Durant, but he knows what he hopes he can get.

“I don’t want to put too much of a burden on him,” Kerr stated. “It’s been a while, we don’t know how it’s going to go, how it’s going to look, but just his mere presence makes a huge difference for us.

“I’m more hoping that Kevin’s return can sort of normalize the bench players’ roles.

“Kevin’s insertion changes quite a bit for us and so we have an idea of how we’re going to play and what our rotation will look like, and of course I’m not going to tell you.”

However, what Kerr is really banking on is his team just playing better than they have so far in this series.

“We got to cut down our turnovers,” Kerr said. “We had 19 the other game, and got to improve our defense.

“We do those two things, I like our chances.”

Kerr isn’t wrong. If the Warriors defense remains suspect and they keep turning the ball over so much, even Durant at 100 percent won’t matter.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Toronto Raptors We The North and the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy at the pre-series media party

Toronto Raptors First Of Three Chances For A Championship

Everyone in Toronto wants to see the Raptors close out the Golden State Warriors in game five and no player wants to give their opponent a second chance, but this is just the first of three opportunities to win an NBA Championship for We The North.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “We got to keep some focus and improve on some things and make some adjustments and do the work. I think there’s a lot of basketball to be played yet. Again, we try to ignore what the score in the series is and be more concerned with making it a one-game series, if we can.”

There are no guarantees in pro sports and the Raptors have had first hand experience with losing games they could’ve should’ve won in every series they’ve played in during this year’s playoffs. It’s good to have second and third chances.

“(Our players) know there’s work to be done,” Nurse said. “I just think they just know there’s not a whole lot of energy to spend on celebrating before time. Let’s hope we understand that. We’re going to see tomorrow night. We have handled it so far, and let’s see if we can handle it again.”

The best player in the NBA Finals knows what his Raptors have to do in game five to end this series.

“Just stay in the same routine and just focus what’s in front of me,” Leonard said. “Obviously, as you said, human beings, we do think in the future. Been thinking in the future since the beginning of the season, just trying to get to this point. You just got to stay current and stay in your routine, be patient and not rush anything.

“It is pressure with any game. I don’t think it’s any added pressure to it. We still have to go out there and play a basketball game. Whatever game or significance of the game or time, you always want to play great defense and make a shot. It’s pretty much just a title over it right now.  Just go out and play. Play it, enjoy it and whatever happens we’ll see the results.”

And in a few short months the Raptors have gone from being All-Star Kyle Lowry’s team to following in the very big shoes worn by Leonard. They get their collective sense of calm from The Klaw, he’s just the same every practice, every game.

“Probably Kawhi, Nick Nurse, Danny, Marc. I think we just have a bunch of guys that are in the moment, understanding that we’re just going to keep playing and keep working,” Lowry said.

” We didn’t do nothing yet. We haven’t done anything. We still got to get one more win. It’s the first to four. You got champions coming in here and they’re going to play their butts off and play extremely hard. “

The thing to remember in Toronto is anything can happen in one game and that’s what the Warriors are hanging onto.

“Being down 3-1 in The Finals. We haven’t been in this position before in The Finals,” Stephen Curry said. “But for us it’s just a matter of, can you win one basketball game right now?

“Can you go out tomorrow, play an amazing 48 minutes, quiet this crowd that’s going to be probably unbelievable tomorrow, and slow down a team that’s been playing amazing, especially these last two games, and just win one basketball game and take it from there?”

Toronto is heavily favored to to win their first NBA Championship in game five, but in case everyone has forgotten, the Raptors are 3-0 in Golden State this season and will get another kick at the can if the Warriors put together an “unbelievable” effort in game five. And if that doesn’t go the Raptors way, there’s always game seven back in Toronto on Sunday.

That’s three chances to win a championship for a team with the patience and sense of calm to end this series in game five.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant

Warriors Kevin Durant Doesn’t Look Ready To Play Yet

The Warriors are in trouble. Down 3-1 with game five in Toronto on Monday night, the mantra remains, just wait until Kevin Durant gets back. But after today, don’t hold your breath. The early indications are he doesn’t even look anywhere near ready for a red shirt scrimmage let alone an NBA game.

“What he’s going to do today he hasn’t done,” head coach Steve Kerr said about Durant on Sunday.

“He’s going to practice with us today, and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players. We’ll gauge it from there.”

The comments from Nick Friedell of ESPN put what happened crystal clear,

If Durant did get substantial work in Sunday, it wasn’t much.

Durant was not on the floor while the rest of his teammates got up some shots in the open part of Sunday’s practice, but made his way to the court as soon as media and cameras were cleared away.

he was one of the first players back into the Warriors’ locker room after the team’s brief workout. The 30-year-old reappeared a few moments later with two big ice packs wrapped around the lower part of his right calf and his right Achilles tendon.

Well, gauging it from what Friedell saw, Durant isn’t ready for a light practice, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Kerr told us he was going to try something he hadn’t done yet. Apparently taking a few practice shots in front of the media is still too much to ask as the ice bags after “giving it a try” seem to indicate and a light practice is a long ways from a regular season NBA game.

Got to love the gamesmanship from Kerr during the NBA Finals though. He really does know how to play the media. Maybe we should just stop asking until we actually see Durant running around on the court?

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Draymond Green 2019 NBA Finals

Warriors Are Questioning If They Can Outscore The Raptors

Is the old adage of Defense Wins Championships still true in today’s NBA? Well after scoring 109 points three games in a row and only squeezing out one win, the one-time defensive juggernaut Golden State Warriors are beginning to remember how they really won three of the past four NBA titles.

“For the most part I liked the way that we played offensively,” Stephen Curry said about game three. “I don’t think that’s going to be the issue for us to win. It’s all about our defense.

With a nod to Captain Obvious, if the Warriors give up 118 points like they did in game one in Toronto or 123 points like they did in game three at home, the likelihood of winning isn’t very high. The Warriors defensive rating in the Finals has been an unfathomable 116.2 and if that doesn’t come down dramatically, it isn’t going to matter who comes back from injury to save them.

“Any time you make it to the NBA Finals, you’re playing against another great team,” Draymond Green said. “So it’s always going to be challenging.

“We can sit and talk about the injuries until we’re blue in the face, it’s not going to change how Kevin’s calf feels or how Looney (feels).”

No one questions the Warriors ability to score, with or without the services of Kevin Durant, and even before Durant arrived on the the scene, the Warriors had built a roster that was the best on defense even as they piled up points from long range. But that was then and things have changed. This year it would be more than fair to question the Dubs defensive focus during the regular season (108.5 defensive rating) and, more importantly, in their playoff run thru the Western Conference (110.8).

Defense wins in the playoffs, especially in The Finals,” head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged. “So we got to play better defense.”

As off right now, a Raptors defensive rating of 110.5 thru the first three games has been good enough, even if it’s up dramatically from the 102.9 they put up as they ran thru the East.

The Warriors can score points. Klay Thompson and his deadly three-point shooting will be back for game four after missing game three, but it’s his defense his team needs.

“Just being able to guard their guards out there,” Thompson explained after sitting out game three with a sore hammy. “They looked comfortable yesterday. They were playing in great rhythm. So it makes you mad. You want to get out there and stop them. I’ll try and do that tomorrow (game four).”

As a reminder, the Raptors looked pretty comfortable in game one with a healthy Thompson on the court and hoping their guards will miss open shots like Toronto did in game two really isn’t a reliable strategy. All of the Warriors need to step up their defensive effort.

“If we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108 and that’s the biggest thing,” Kerr said.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell and Kawhi Leonard by Larry Millson 2019 playoffs

Can The Warriors Defense Stop Anybody Anymore?

The Golden State Warriors earned a reputation for defense over their five year dominance of the NBA, but this year is different. KD or no KD, it’s valid to question if this version of the champs can stop anyone anymore?

No one questions the ability of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to put up big numbers and Kevin Durant only makes the Warriors’ offense even more dangerous, but this year teams scored on Golden State during the regular season at a lofty 108.5 points per 100 possessions and during the playoffs that’s ballooned to 110.8.

Head coach Steve Kerr can moan about transition points given up and Draymond Green can say he has to play better defensively against Pascal Siakam, but this team has been easy to score on all season and throughout the playoffs.

NBA Golden State Warriors Defensive Ratings 2015-2019

Last year Golden State put a sub-par defensive regular season behind them to become the best defensive team in the postseason, holding opponents under 100 points 10 times in 21 games including a stretch of five in a row. This year, they’ve only managed to accomplish the task trice, and two of the under 100 point defensive efforts were against the depleted and over-matched Trail Blazers.

The last couple of trips to the NBA Finals were against a Cavaliers team that was playing a weak brand of defense equal to what the Warriors have been up to this year.

In contrast the Raptors have won with defense this postseason, holding teams under 100 points 11 times in 19 games including a stretch of six in a row. They can argue it’s really 12 times as the Bucks only scored 96 points before that game headed to overtime.

Is it any wonder Kerr keeps saying the Raptors are built a lot like his team? We all have a tendency to live in the past.

“They’re very long and athletic, they’re tough, they get after you and they play well together,” Kerr said. “They got a lot of versatility. I think they’re actually a lot like our team, they can switch and guard different positions and that sort of thing.

“We got to play better if we’re going to beat them.”

What the Dubs have to do is find their defensive moxie of last year and show everyone they can still stop teams from scoring.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 photo credit Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

It’s Raptors Defense Vs Warriors Offense In The NBA Finals

A throwback NBA Finals of offense versus defense is about to commence in Toronto as the high scoring Warriors try to impose their style and pace on the very stingy Raptors who have only made it this far because they’ve been able to shut down the “best starting five in the NBA” put together by Philly and the highest scoring team during the regular season at 118.1 points per game from Milwaukee.

Golden State has rolled over opponents in the postseason thus far scoring a playoff best 117.1 points per game while leading in field goal percentage (48.7%) and three-point shooting (37%), the repeat champs have earned the respect of analysts and bookies alike.

But the West isn’t like the East. Points have been a lot harder to come by as the playoffs progressed in the Eastern Conference as defenses tightened and the four lowest opponent field goal percentages all belonged to teams in the East that made it to the second round.

While the Warriors have cruised thru their opposition allowing 44.2 percent shooting from the field, 36.5 percent from three and 110.5 points per game, the Raptors won by holding teams in the 90s (99.6 average), stifling three-point shooters to just 31.3 percent and holding teams to 41.7 percent from the field.

“I think for us we have to really focus on getting our defense set, limiting them to one shot and being able to take care of the ball,” Norman Powell said.

“We’re able to switch. We’re able to do a bunch of different coverages. We know that they like to move it. They have plays they like to move without the ball. So just being really tight and locked in in our foundational defense, and being locked into the guys off the ball is the most important thing. It’s just going to be a full five-man job whoever is out there guarding all five of them.”

As Nurse has said, it’s 15 percent knowing what to do and 85 percent effort. The Raptors have won with defense because they have played with the intensity to get the job done.

“If you need a motivation to come out and play hard and play with passion and energy in the NBA Finals, you’re in the wrong field,” Powell stated.

The Raptors ability to defend at an elite level is about to be put to the test.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 photo credit Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

The Raptors Are The Finals Hotter Three-Point Shooting Team

What scares the rest of the NBA about playing the Golden State Warriors is their ability turn games on their head in what seems like mere seconds with the three-ball. We’ve never seen a pairing like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This year these two guys put up 19.4 threes a game during the regular season between them and hit on over 40 percent, they’re scary great shooters. However, it’s possible the Magic, 76ers and Bucks have helped to prepare the Raptors for the coming onslaught defensively and just maybe it’s Toronto who’s the hotter three-point shooting team heading into the NBA Finals.

Regular Season Stats

Warriors 34.4 3FGA, 38.5% (3rd best)

  1. Stephen Curry 11.7 3FGA, 43.7%
  2. Klay Thompson 7.7 3FGA, 40.2%
  3. Kevin Durant 5.0 3FGA, 35.3% (questionable for the series)

First Round opponent: Magic 32.1 3FGA, 35.6%

  1. DJ Augustin 3.8 3FGA, 42.1%
  2. Terrence Ross 7.0 3FGA, 38.3%
  3. Nikola Vucevic 2.9 3FGA, 36.4%

Second Round opponent: 76ers 30.2 3FGA, 35.9%

  1. JJ Redick 8.0 3FGA, 39.7%
  2. Mike Scott 4.4 3FGA, 41.2%
  3. Tobias Harris 4.8 3FGA, 39.7% (76ers & Clippers)

Conference Final opponent: Bucks 38.2 3FGA (2nd most), 35.3%

  1. Malcolm Brogdon 3.8 3FGA, 42.6%
  2. Kris Middleton 6.2 3FGA, 37.8%
  3. Brook Lopez 6.3 3FGA, 36.5%

So what happened to the Raptors as they played their way thru to the NBA Finals?

Raptors (4-1) vs Magic

In game one against Orlando, the Magic hit 48.3 percent of their threes and Augustin hit 4-5 to score 25 points. As Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said, “It took one punch in the gut from the Orlando Magic to understand we’d better start playing a lot harder,” and the Raptors held the Magic to 26.2 percent from three over the next four games. The hot shooting Augustin went 2-8 from three over the next three games

Raptors (4-3) vs 76ers

In their toughest test of the postseason to-date, the Raptors held Philly to 32.9 percent from three over the seven games and only once did the 76ers shoot better than their regular season average from deep. Harris, who shot 50 percent from three in the first round, only hit on 27.9 percent of his 6.1 three-point attempts against Toronto and Scott was a non-factor, although Redick did what he always does.

Raptors (4-2) vs Bucks

The Bucks fired up the second most threes in the regular season making the second most and only Houston shot and made more threes per game in the postseason thru the Conference Finals. Thru the first two rounds of the postseason the Bucks were shooting and making threes right at their regular season averages, then they ran into Toronto. Versus the Raptors, they were still putting up more than 38 three-point attempts per game, but they were only hitting on 31 percent of them. Lopez only managed to get off more than four three-point attempts twice in the series after averaging over six all season. All-Star Kris Middleton saw his numbers plummet from 6.7 three-point attempts at 46.7 percent thru the first two rounds to 37.5 percent on 5.3 attempts.

The Raptors turned the tables on the Bucks, outscoring them by an average of 7.5 points from three.

Thru the first three rounds, Toronto has held their opponents to a stingy 31.3 percent shooting from three. The Warriors, on the other hand, have surrendered a lofty 36.5 percent to three-point shooting.

NBA Finals

What may be getting overlooked in all the deserved hype about the Warriors vaunted three-point shooting is just how close this stat has been for both Golden State and Toronto during this postseason. While the Warriors made the third most threes during the regular season (13.3) and have made the third most threes in the playoffs (12), since the regular season ended, the Raptors have made the fourth most threes at a statistically insignificant difference (11.9).

In the Conference Finals, Toronto shot 14.3-38.3 or 37.4 percent from three against Milwaukee. While the Warriors, sans Durant, only went 11.5-31.8 or 36.2 percent from three as they cruised past Portland with Curry literally taking 48 percent and making 56.5 percent (6.5-15.3) of his teams three-point attempts.

Maybe the change in the Raptors fortunes from three shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. The 76ers head coach Brett Brown certainly was expecting it as he kept saying Toronto has been the NBA’s best three-point shooting team since they traded for Marc Gasol. He’s not wrong. The Raptors finished off the final 23 games of the regular season hitting a league third best 14.5 threes a game at a league best 41.5 percent. Post All-Star break the Warriors hit 14.2 threes at 38.7 percent.

It’s hard to believe Toronto is going let Curry fire off better than 15 threes a game in the NBA Finals and it’s going to be incumbent on the Warriors to not let Toronto fire off more threes per game than they do or their better shooters are going to be offset by sheer volume. Plus Durant’s health could play a bigger part in the outcome of this series than most analysts are considering.

This NBA Finals has potential to be full of surprises.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 photo credit Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse after winning game 6 ECF

These Raptors Needed A Punch In The Gut To Win

Maybe the regular season really is just 82 games of practice as the Raptors Kawhi Leonard describes it and the entire Golden State organization seems to treat things before the real season starts in April. Then, as head coach Nick Nurse admitted, it took a punch in the gut from the seventh place Orlando Magic to wake his team up to the fact the postseason was here.

“It took one punch in the gut from the Orlando Magic to understand we’d better start playing a lot harder,” Nurse responded to Pro Bball Report after winning the Eastern Conference Final. “I think we came out in Game 2 and you saw a totally different basketball team that started using their abilities to the best of their ability. That’s really the difference.”

After losing game one to the Magic, the Raptors crushed their first round opponent in four straight games, holding Orlando to an average of just 89 points and winning by an 18.8 point margin.

However, Nurse might have continued with this line of thought. His team got down 2-1 in the Philly series before upping their game to take three of the next four. In the Raptors four wins they held the 76ers to just 92.5 points, but gave up 107.3 in the three loses.

Then in Milwaukee the Raptors got punched in the gut yet again, twice, as the Bucks averaged 116.5 points to grab a 2-0 lead. Toronto waking up at home to play the level of defense they are capable of and take the next four in a row by holding the Bucks to just 97.8 points during regulation time (101.8 counting OT).

Nurse’s Raptors haven’t been starting series playing as hard as they can, but they have shown an ability to “flip the switch” defensively.

“Now, listen, we’ve learned and grown as well,” Nurse continued. “Our communication, scheme, switching, blitzing. Our rotations, contesting shots, all those things have been growing here since the start of the playoffs. The other thing is there are some moments, like stretches, we call them consecutive stops, and there are some stretches where it’s darned hard to complete a pass against us. That wears into a team after a while when you’re up into them and you’re denying and everybody is just that connected and playing that hard.”

That ability to stop a team from scoring for extended periods of time was on full display in games five and six against the Bucks as Milwaukee built double-digit leads in the third quarter of both games only to go ice-cold as Toronto took it away from them.

At this level it’s effort that separates the winners from the losers. Every team has elite talent, a superstar to lean on and can bury you offensively if you start taking possessions off.

“We end up showing all these clips and all these coverages and all these matchups and all these things and blah, blah, blah. Almost at the end of it every time, I say, This is about 15 percent of the game,” Nurse said. “The rest of it is are we going to sprint back and are we going to communicate great and are we going to get physical, are we going to get into bodies, are we going to block out with some toughness. I can keep going on and on, but that’s where the 85 percent comes from.”

Nurse has to be hoping that when the Warriors come to town to start the NBA Finals his Raptors don’t need another “punch in the gut” to get going. Golden State has an ability to hit a lot harder than anyone else.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Nick Nurse 2019 Game 6 NBA ECF

Raptors coach Nurse Says Xs and Os Won’t Decide Game 6

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is under no delusions about how close-out games are really decided. Xs and Os will only take a team so far.

“I think my message is that this is a really good team we’re playing, and to beat them we’ve had to play extremely hard and physical and do some really good things,” Nurse said before game six. “That doesn’t change. These games are hard-fought. They last 48 minutes. I think my focus is it’s a 48-minute game. Doing about four or five things, really key things really well over those 48 minutes.”

Game six in Toronto will be won with heart and want-to and desire. Not giving up when you’re down double-digits and putting your foot on the neck if you can scratch out a decent lead.

“85 percent of it,” Nurse said. “I mean, that’s kind of the line I use. We end up showing all these clips and all these coverages and all these matchups and all these things and blah, blah, blah. Almost at the end of it every time, I say, This is about 15 percent of the game. The rest of it is are we going to sprint back and are we going to communicate great and are we going to get physical, are we going to get into bodies, are we going to block out with some toughness. I can keep going on and on, but that’s where the 85 percent comes from.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.