Nick Nurse admits Pascal Siakam was not himself in the bubble — ProBasketballTalk | NBC Sports

“I just think he lost his bounce. He didn’t look as athletic or as strong or as fast.”

Nick Nurse admits Pascal Siakam was not himself in the bubble — ProBasketballTalk | NBC Sports

GANTER: Raptors have their swagger back now — Toronto Sun

It’s a best of three now. The Celtics were a half second away from taking a 3-0 stranglehold on the Raptors in Game 3. Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby said ‘Not just yet’ stealing Game 3 and a completely different looking Raptors unit took the floor for Game 4. This time there was no buzzer-beater […]

GANTER: Raptors have their swagger back now — Toronto Sun

It’s a best of three now.

The Celtics were a half second away from taking a 3-0 stranglehold on the Raptors in Game 3.

Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby said ‘Not just yet’ stealing Game 3 and a completely different looking Raptors unit took the floor for Game 4.

This time there was no buzzer-beater needed as the Raptors pulled away for a 100-93 win to even up the series.

The Raptors were the clear aggressors in this game continually building leads but to the Celtics credit continually having to re-establish those leads after the Celts response.

But there was a different look in Toronto from the very outset.

No one between games was willing to say the Raptor swagger was definitively back given how little of Game 3 they actually controlled but it’s a much safer statement following Game 4.

The three-point game, a staple of their offence was back led by that stellar backfourt of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry who were a combined 9-for-20 from distance. Serge Ibaka off the bench was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.

Were it not for Pascal Siakam’s 2-for-13 from distance, the team average would have been other worldly.

HOW ABOUT SERGE

Ibaka really isn’t getting the credit he deserves in this series.

With Gasol not quite himself until about Game 3, it was Ibaka who was so important just to give the Raptors a chance in Game 2.

With Gasol looking more like himself in Game 3 and again in Game 4 (despite the foul trouble) Ibaka has ccontinued to play big minutes as Nurse’s first or second man off the bench.

Nurse has been talking up Ibaka’s shooting since the re-start began and for good reason. Ibaka has been averaging just under 16 points a game in the playoffs for the Raptors in just over 24 minutes.

“Serge plays like that, we’re always a better team,” Lowry said afterwards. “When our bigs played the way they did tonight — Marc (Gasol) hit a big shot for us, Serge does like he did tonight, it gives us a big lift.”

NOT CELTICS’ NIGHT

The Celtics have been so good through three games it was almost unbelievable watching them shooting makeable three after makeable three Saturday night and missing.

The Celtics were just 7-for-35 from three in the game with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, their two big gunners going a combined 3-for-17.

Obviously credit the Raptors defence but sometimes the ball just isn’t falling and it seemed like that was the case for a good portion of the night for

the Celtics, but Brown in particular.

The Raptors on the other hand hit 17 threes in the game and while they weren’t real happy about their mid-range game – “We shot like crap from two” was how Fred VanVleet put it, they had a decent night from behind the arc. Lowry still thinks they can be better overall.

Article content continued

“I still think we’re not close to where we could be shooting it at but we made some threes in a good stretch in the third quarter, made some big ones in the fourth,” Lowry said. “You know, the way they play defence is: they contest really, really hard, but we’ve just got to shoot the ball with confidence and continue to shoot the ball with confidence and keep getting better. If we get one of those games where we get really, really hot, it makes a big difference.”

STEVENS’ TAKE

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was rather adamant that the Celtics did carry a bit of a grudge into Saturday’s game after the way Game 3 ended.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we were (angry) and guys played exceptionally hard and did a lot of good things,” he said defending his team. “But the other team is out there, too. And they made it very tough on us. When you miss, as we know, it can kinda cascade on you, and that’s what happened tonight. We gotta handle that better. I was pretty encouraged at halftime. We were shooting awful and it was 49-49. But it’s part of it. Gotta play better, gotta shoot better, gotta feel better. Gotta be ready to go on Monday night.”

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

SIMMONS SUNDAY: Still waiting on that Ujiri extension, RaptorsWild Game 3 win has Raptors feeling and looking more like themselvesSIMMONS: Lowry takes your breath away in last second win for Raptors

QUICK HITS

Pre-game Stevens revealed injured forward/guard Gordon Hayward was due back on the NBA campus on Sunday at which point he will have to undergo a four-day quarantine. But as for a return, Stevens tamped down expectations. “He’s not going to play any time soon,” he said … The Miami Heat are a win away from sending the East’s No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks home from the bubble. News yesterday had Giannis Antetokounmpo questionable for Game 4 with an ankle sprain which makes things infinintely tougher for the Bucks who would be without their leading scorer and leading rebounder … Speaking of the Heat, and we only bring this to your attention to start stoking the fire in case the matchup eventually comes to pass. But long-time Heat beat writer Ira Winderman was asked in his daily exchange with readers who he thought the Heat would rather face in an Eastern Final should they eventually finish off the Bucks. Winderman who knows better than most not to mess with the basketball gods, began by reminding his reader the Heat had not yet qualified for the Conference Final. Only after that did he finally admit the Heat would probably prefer to see the Raptors who they handled better in the regular season than they fared against the Celtics. But don’t let that stop you from starting your Miami-doesn’t respect-Toronto file.

Raptors’ long-overdue playoff meeting with Celtics should live up to the hype — Toronto Sun

For a little while there it felt like this Raptors-Celtics series would be over before it started. Read More

Raptors’ long-overdue playoff meeting with Celtics should live up to the hype — Toronto Sun

Raptors complete the sweep but Lowry injury has everyone a little nervous — Toronto Sun

The first round is in the rearview mirror now for the Raptors, but the path ahead potentially got a little tougher. The Raptors did the expected and handled the undermanned Nets in quick fashion for the first sweep in franchise history, but nine minutes into the Game 4 knockout punch, a 150-122 win, the Raptors’ […]

Raptors complete the sweep but Lowry injury has everyone a little nervous — Toronto Sun

Raptors complete the sweep but Lowry injury has everyone a little nervous

Author of the article:Mike GanterPublishing date:Aug 24, 2020  •  Last Updated 11 hours ago  •  4 minute read

Raptors guard Norman Powell dunks against Jarrett Allen of the Nets during the second half in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs at The Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. KIM KLEMENT / POOL / Getty Images

The first round is in the rearview mirror now for the Raptors, but the path ahead potentially got a little tougher.

The Raptors did the expected and handled the undermanned Nets in quick fashion for the first sweep in franchise history, but nine minutes into the Game 4 knockout punch, a 150-122 win, the Raptors’ worst fears may have been realized.

Kyle Lowry, on the move, stepped on Chris Chiozza’s foot and turned his left ankle just as he reached the Nets three-point line. Lowry, as is his custom, was up to argue the lack of a foul call on the play but did so limping. He stayed in the game for the next possession but at the first stoppage jogged, again limping, directly to the locker room, not to be seen again.

Without imaging equipment at the arena in Orlando, Lowry was taken off-site (but still in the bubble) to have the ankle looked at. He is scheduled to have an MRI on the arch of his left foot on Monday.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry battles for the ball against Jarrett Allen of the Nets during the first half in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs at The Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. KIM KLEMENT / POOL/Getty Images

Head coach Nick Nurse knows exactly what losing Lowry, going into a series with Boston, will mean.

“I won’t be very comfortable without Kyle out there, I will say that. He’s certainly a big engine for us,” Nurse said. “But I would say, I think that we play a system or a style where lots of guys are involved and it’s not like, yeah, we’re going to miss all those great, great things Kyle does if he doesn’t play, but somebody else has got to take shots and play defence and play tough and do the things that he does to make up for it. Or we do it by committee, that’s probably a better way.”

But Nurse was not ready to concede anything to the injury gods just yet.

“It would hurt us a lot,” Nurse said. “All I can say is, you guys know how big a cog he is to this whole thing. He’s our most experienced, toughest leader we got. I don’t want to speculate and answer a million questions on whether he’s playing or not until we know whether he’s playing or not and we’ve got a few days for that.

“But I would imagine this: It’s going to be a hell of an injury to keep him off the floor. It’s not going to be a little thing. He’s going to try to figure it out. He played, I don’t know how many, 14 or 16 straight playoff games last year with a totally messed up left thumb, running through the Finals last year. It’s going to take something pretty serious to keep him out.”

Lowry’s absence for the bulk of Game 4 further complicated things for the Raptors who were already making do without Fred VanVleet, who picked up three quick fouls in the first seven minutes and would not return to the game until the third quarter.
Throw in some early foul trouble for reserve guards Norm Powell and Terence Davis and one might think the Raptors were in a little trouble.

But if this team has shown one consistent trait this year, it is being able to absorb a blow that might dismantle others and find a way to win. Sunday night that trait was in full view.

Powell and Serge Ibaka came off the bench and helped the Raptors put up 77 in that first half, which is a franchise record for a playoff game.

“Breakin’ records.”

First postseason series sweep ☑️ pic.twitter.com/DlKoLZ9Ryd— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 24, 2020

Powell finished with a playoff-best 29 points in 24 minutes on 9-of-14 shooting. Right with him was Ibaka, who 27 points and a team-best 15 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
VanVleet returned to the floor to start the second half but wound up playing just 19 minutes.

Playing without key men is nothing new to the Raptors. They’ve done it all season with everyone on the team missing time at some point due to injury with the exception of OG Anunoby and Davis.

“One thing about us, we know we have a lot of guys who can play,” Ibaka said after the game. “We don’t really worry about who’s going to score 30 or 40 every night. We are not that type of team where one guy is going to score 30 or 40. So we just come and try to play basketball: Move the ball, whoever’s hot, we’re going to go with him, and that’s why we are always there, even when we have guys down.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/AhS3CnGZn2k?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1

As good as Powell and Ibaka were, the Raptors bench as a whole deserved a ton of credit in this one. It scored 100 points with contributions and scoring from all eight reserves that took the floor — a Raptors and an NBA record.

The old playoff mark was 86 set by Dallas. The all-time mark for bench points from a team in a game was set by Golden State with 94 in 1977.

The Raptors win sets up the much-anticipated second-round matchup with the Boston Celtics who themselves completed the sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the day. The two Atlantic-division foes have never met in the playoffs.

The Celtics lost guard Gordon Hayward with an ankle injury of his own earlier in the playoff round but they still boast a tough lineup with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and now likely Marcus Smart joining the starting five with Hayward out.

Already this season the two teams have played four highly entertaining games with the Celtics winning three including one since the re-start.

RAPTORS-CELTICS SCHEDULE (Best-of-seven series)

Game 1 – Thursday, August 27

Game 2 – Saturday, August 29

Game 3 – Monday, August 31

Game 4 – Wednesday, September 2

Game 5* – Friday, September 4

Game 6* – Sunday, September 6

Game 7* – Tuesday, September 8

mganter@postmedia.com

WOLSTAT: Ibaka was massive in Raptors sweep of Nets — Toronto Sun

Serge Ibaka didn’t have to start to finish off the Brooklyn Nets. Read More

WOLSTAT: Ibaka was massive in Raptors sweep of Nets — Toronto Sun

Serge Ibaka didn’t have to start to finish off the Brooklyn Nets.

The Raptors big man had his third strong game in the four first-round contests on Sunday, completely dominating the Nets at both ends of the floor.

WOLSTAT: Ibaka was massive in Raptors sweep of Nets

A game after hauling down 13 rebounds off the bench, three behind Bismack Biyombo’s reserve record, Ibaka had 15. He also scored 27 points, which would have been a new franchise scoring mark for a reserve, except Norman Powell bested him with 29 as the team set an NBA bench mark with 100 points from the pine. Ibaka hit each of his three three-point attempts for the second game in a row and Brooklyn had no answers for him.

It was the fourth time Ibaka had scored at least 20 in a non-starting role, extending his Raptors record, and he was the first player with at least 27 and 15 off the bench since Mychal Thompson in 1988.

Ibaka collected his fifth playoff double-double as a Raptor, which tied him with Chris Bosh (who granted did it in far fewer games) and two behind Pascal Siakam, who also posted a double-double on Sunday.

Heading into Game 4, his best of the series, Toronto had already been 27.1 points per 100 possessions better with Ibaka on the floor compared to when he was on the bench against the Nets.

Ibaka even handed out eight assists in the series — many of them quite pretty helpers — against only three turnovers.

Starting centre Marc Gasol was pretty average against Brooklyn for the most part, and much more will be expected out of him in the next round against the Boston Celtics. But it’s unclear if that’s a good matchup, since Boston is small and quick. It’s quite possible that Ibaka will be called on quite a bit in what projects to be a razor-thin series.

Ibaka said post-game that Boston presents many challenges.

“We know they’re a great team. They’re playing one of the best basketball right now, and they have confidence,” he said. “We know it’s not going to be easier. We have to come to play our best basketball against them.”

The Celtics had their way with Toronto earlier this month in Orlando, with Ibaka turning in perhaps his worst game of the year, but the big man was decent-to-excellent in the other three meetings, though Boston won three of the four.

Ibaka will become an unrestricted free agent whenever this season ends, so it’s possible these are his final games as a Raptor. If that’s the case, he will have left quite the legacy with his big playoff moments. Ibaka hit some massive shots and made some huge defensive stands against the likes of Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State. He’ll surely be called on again as these playoffs continue.

SIXERS FALL SHORT

When Kawhi Leonard’s miraculous four-bounce shot fell last year, the Raptors were elated to survive what would end up being their toughest series on the way to the NBA title.

With young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, plus Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia seemed to be on the verge of being a major force for years to come. But much like when the Raptors lost to the Sixers back in 2001 with the future looking so bright for Toronto before it all fell apart, Philadelphia seems poised to be going down that road too.

They meekly bowed out against Boston on Sunday, getting swept. Head coach Brett Brown is expected to be fired. Embiid has once again said he needs to be better and Simmons is trying to get healthy. Oh, and they project to have one of the biggest payrolls in league history next year, despite letting Butler and Redick go and oddly adding big man Al Horford.

Not great, Bob.

Meanwhile, Boston looks great and Jaylen Brown said after the sweep when asked if the Celtics had a better team than last year’s group that fell in five games in Round 2 to Milwaukee: “I think we’re a better team and I think we’ll prove it.”

The Sixers probably think they’re a better team than they showed too, but don’t expect them to get a chance to prove that. There will be changes coming.

LUKA MAGIC

In Sunday’s thrilling overtime win against Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers, young superstar Luka Doncic became only the third player with a 40-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist playoff game. Charles Barkley did it in 1993 for Phoenix, Oscar Robertson in 1963 with Cincinnati.

Doncic also joined Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kawhi and Damian Lillard as the only players to score at least 40 in a post-season game and hit a buzzer-beater, according to Basketball-reference. Only Magic Johnson posted consecutive playoff triple-doubles at a younger age than Doncic.

Oh, and Doncic did it on a severely sprained ankle.

It never made sense that three teams decided to pass on the Slovenian sensation when given the chance and it never will.

AROUND THE RIM

Paul George is not having much of a series against Dallas. He’s averaging just 15.3 points per game on 29% shooting … Toronto improved to 10-7 in potential series closeout games and now only the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have never swept a four-game series … NBA coach of the year Nick Nurse now has a 20-8 playoff record and will tie Dwane Casey for the team record with his next win.

Raptors revel in Fred VanVleet’s backcourt shot, Game 3 win over Nets — ProBasketballTalk | NBC Sports

After Fred VanVleet rained 3-pointers – including multiple DEEP 3s – on the Nets in Game 1, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn was asked about defending the Raptors guard like Damian Lillard.

Raptors revel in Fred VanVleet’s backcourt shot, Game 3 win over Nets — ProBasketballTalk | NBC Sports

By Dan FeldmanAug 21, 2020, 4:26 PM EDTLeave a comment

After Fred VanVleet rained 3-pointers – including multiple DEEP 3s – on the Nets in Game 1, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn was asked about defending the Raptors guard like Damian Lillard.

“Historically and analytically, VanFleet [sic] hasn’t made those shots at the clip that he made them at,” Vaughn said. “So, it’s a little different with Lillard, and he’s proven he can do that time and time again from deep range.”

There’s something to playing the odds.

But VanVleet – who has risen from undrafted to near-star – keeps beating the odds. VanVleet sunk a backcourt shot to end the first half today.

Time to at least learn his name.

And remember the Raptors’.

The defending champions beat the Nets 117-92 Game 3 Friday. Toronto now leads the first-round series, 3-0.

All 136 teams that took a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series won it. Up 3-0 for the first time in franchise history, the Raptors will look to eliminate Brooklyn in Game 4 Sunday.

After an ugly Game 2 win, Toronto enjoyed cruising to this victory. So many players contributed.

Pascal Siakam (26 points, eight rebounds and five assists) played his excellent all-around game. VanVleet (22 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting with with five assists) showed his typical steadiness. Kyle Lowry (11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals) made his usual subtle mark on the gameSerge Ibaka (20 points and 13 rebounds) brought his productivity off the bench.

Without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors might not have the same upside as last season. But they have found a winning formula and repeatedly execute it.

Especially against the decimated Nets.

Tyler Johnson (23 points on 5-of-9 3-point shooting) got hot. But Brooklyn couldn’t get much going. Too often overlookedJarrett Allen didn’t even attempt a single shot. He’s a play finisher at the rim, so his lack of offensive involvement reveals bigger problems.

Tags: Damian LillardFred VanVleetJarrett AllenKawhi LeonardKyle LowryPascal SiakamSerge IbakaTyler Johnson

NBA Playoffs Preview: Nets vs Raptors – Defending champs look to extend lead — Mo and Sports

Already down two games in what could be a very brief postseason this summer, the Brooklyn Nets look to halve their playoff deficit when they take to the floor on Friday for Game 3 against a motivated Toronto Raptors side. Can they keep the ball out of an in-form Fred VanVleet’s hands and make it […]

NBA Playoffs Preview: Nets vs Raptors – Defending champs look to extend lead — Mo and Sports

Nets don’t make it easy but Raps off to a 2-0 start in playoffs — Toronto Sun

Anyone worried the Raptors might not get the necessary challenge from an undermanned Nets team in this first round need no longer worry. Read More

Nets don’t make it easy but Raps off to a 2-0 start in playoffs — Toronto Sun

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle — Toronto Sun

Fred VanVleet had one of those nights where it really didn’t matter where he was shooting from, the ball was almost assuredly going in. Read More

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle — Toronto Sun

Fred VanVleet had one of those nights where it really didn’t matter where he was shooting from, the ball was almost assuredly going in.

He went a ridiculous 11-for-15 from the field including 8-of-10 from behind the arc on Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Extended range making VanVleet and Raptors that much tougher to handle

And we aren’t just talking about about your run-of-the-mill three-pointers either.

Only one of VanVleet’s eight makes from behind the arc came with his toes approaching the actual three-point line. At its furthest the three-point line is 23.75 feet from the basket. VanVleet’s final three of the night came from 23 feet. The other seven ranged from 25 feet all the way out to 31 feet, his second make of the night from deep.

VanVleet has always had the three-ball as part of his arsenal but extending it well behind that line has taken his game to another level.

The move came at the suggestion of head coach Nick Nurse who had seen just what Kyle Lowry’s expanded range had done for his game and was noticing that VanVleet was having some issues getting his three-ball off.

“It probably came a little bit out of necessity,” Nurse admitted. “He was not getting shots off, he was getting a few blocked and we needed him. We needed his spacing and his three point shooting so we just decided, well, if he backed up maybe five feet, maybe they wouldn’t be able to get to him as quick and he went to work on it.”

The bulk of that work took place last season during VanVleet’s recovery from a thumb injury but he’s been working at it ever since.

“Give him credit, he really started working on it, working on it and I think it just continues to grow from there,” Nurse said. “His range just keeps getting farther and farther out which is good. Again it’s just again more spacing and it’s hard to guard if a guy can shoot it at a really high clip eight feet behind the line. It’s really hard to guard.”

VanVleet is at the point where he no longer looks for the line. He’s comfortable anywhere from 24 to 27 feet and after that his success rate might not be as high (he doesn’t know the actual numbers) but he’s still comfortable taking just about any open shot that presents itself.

“If I feel like I’m open, I’m not really worried about the line and where I’m at, I’m just trying to get one up,” he said.

Having that tandem of Lowry and VanVleet out there ready to bomb from just about anywhere opens up all kinds of space for driving lanes for themselves and the likes of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby and his improved handle.

Throw in the fact that all three frontcourt players are also capable fo stepping outside and hitting from deep and you have the perfect Nick Nurse team.

“Really, it’s all about spacing,” Nurse said. “That’s the other thing I always say, offence is about creating space and that sure helps when you’ve got everyone out there who can shoot in space (and) from three.”

The Nets meanwhile are content to let the Raptors bomb away as they retreat and protect the paint with numbers.

VanVleet was asked if his intent when he starts bombing away from distance is to lure those Nets defenders further out and open up some of that space. On paper that makes a ton of sense, but VanVleet laughed the question off.

“I want them to stay like that the whole time,” he said of the Nets dropped defence. “I’m the one getting the open shots. When they come up I’m going to have to probably start creating and passing it out. You just try to be ready for anything. I work on every coverage and I got an answer for everything offensively I feel like.”

It certainly looked that way in Game 1.

LEAVE PASCAL ALONE

Norm Powell took his turn fielding the question about Pascal Siakam and whether he was pressing or not. Like VanVleet a night earlier, Powell leapt to his teammates defence. “I see Pascal playing his game,” Powell said. “You know, I see he’s still taking the shots that he was accustomed to taking in the regular season before the hiatus. I see he’s playing his game. He knows he’s going to get his opportunities, his shots, his chances, and he’s making the most of them. Sometimes, some of the other shots he’s taking are the same shots he has made, and a bad bounce, whatever it is, but we need him to stay aggressive, stay confident, and continue taking those shots because he’s our go-to player, and he’s the No. 1 option. I don’t think he’s going to stop or deter from trying to make an impact, trying to make a play, and take those shots he’s been taking.”

DOWN ANOTHER BODY

The league expanded rosters to 17 for the re-start to off-set the conditioning lost over a 41/2-month hiatus. It won’t be of any benefit to the Raptors, who are down to 15 bodies with first Pat McCaw leaving the bubble for treatment and now Mississauga native Oshae Brissett having to leave for surgery on his right knee to clean up some loose bodies. Brissett will return to Toronto and have the surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital.

PLAYOFF KYLE VS REG. SEASON KYLE

Kyle Lowry may have been a little overshadowed by his backcourt mate VanVleet in Game 1 but make no mistake Lowry remains the driving force behind this team. Norm Powell who is in his fifth year with Lowry said the face of the franchise takes on a little more serious look once the playoffs arrive. “I think leading in practices and things like that,” Powell said where he really notices a difference with Lowry. “He’s very focused and locked in, he’s a lot more vocal in what we’re doing and talking to the guys, making sure they know what the coverages are and what the schemes are what we’re trying to go out there and do during the games. He’s very vocal in that sense, being locked in and he’s talking to us to make sure that we know everything and that we’re locked in and we’re together in this playoff run. I mean off the court away from that he’s still relaxed and having fun and enjoying the process, but once it’s time to lock in and lace ‘em up, he’s focused.”

FINALLY MEANINGFUL GAMES

If you felt like the Raptors were a little more zeroed in Monday night from the opening tip, give yourself a pat on the back for solid analysis. VanVleet felt it too, and he explains why he thought it was that way. “I think our intensity was up a little bit,” he said. “ think everybody felt like they had something to play for, and that’s tough. It’s been tough for us all year after winning a championship. We know what the ultimate goal is, so getting up for regular season games that we know really don’t matter long-term, I think that was a challenge this year. Having something to really lock in and laser in on, this being the playoffs and Game 1, and you know the history of all the Game 1s, just trying to go out there with a good performance. That was something I think we were focused on, and I liked our intensity and our approach last night from pretty much everybody that stepped on the floor.”

A YEAR WISER

VanVleet said the feeling this year from last starting the playoffs is significantly different and his feeling of the situation had nothing to do with being in a bubble this time around. “I think we are a little more comfortable this time around because we know what it takes and we know what the journey is going to be,” he said. “Last year I feel like we were still pretty new with each other so we were still trying to figure it out. I think the chemistry is probably a little bit up this year and we feel a little bit more comfortable. And we lost against Orlando last year in Game 1 so I think that was all in our minds going in. Like we don’t want to start that way again.”

mganter@postmedia.com

Nurse makes the right moves again as Raptors begin playoff push — Toronto Sun

Nick Nurse loves to experiment, so why should he act any differently in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs? From going big early with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, to changing his coverage of Nets star Caris LeVert on the fly, to trying Matt Thomas in the first half and then going to fellow rookie […]

Nurse makes the right moves again as Raptors begin playoff push — Toronto Sun

Raptors tip off title defence against Nets in Round 1 — Stabroek News

The Toronto Raptors embraced the role of the underdog on their way to their first NBA championship last season and again this season after the departure of Kawhi Leonard. They will not be able to use that in their first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets that starts today near Orlando. The seventh-seeded Nets are […]

Raptors tip off title defence against Nets in Round 1 — Stabroek News

WOLSTAT: Five things we’ve learned about the Raptors in the bubble — Toronto Sun

The Toronto Raptors will conclude their bizarre regular season on Friday afternoon against Denver. The playoffs will begin on Monday. Read More

WOLSTAT: Five things we’ve learned about the Raptors in the bubble — Toronto Sun