Raptors settling in nicely with Orlando NBA return around corner — Toronto Sun

Having run his troops through mostly individual workouts the past week at Florida Gulf Coast University, Nick Nurse says he is pleasantly surprised by both their approach and their conditioning. The Raptors head coach admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team after a near four-month layoff. “I think I would say I […]

Raptors settling in nicely with Orlando NBA return around corner — Toronto Sun


Raptors settling in nicely with Orlando NBA return around corner

Mike GanterMore from Mike Ganter

Published:June 30, 2020

Updated:June 30, 2020 2:57 PM EDT

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Having run his troops through mostly individual workouts the past week at Florida Gulf Coast University, Nick Nurse says he is pleasantly surprised by both their approach and their conditioning.

The Raptors head coach admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team after a near four-month layoff.

“I think I would say I kind of came in here open-minded,” Nurse told reporters on a conference call from the team hotel in Naples, Florida where the team convened and will remain until the NBA campus opens in Walt Disney World just over a week from now.

“I didn’t know if we were going to be not really in the right frame of mind or whatever and whatever it was I was going to kind of deal with it, but I would say I am pleasantly surprised with the frame of mind, I am pleasantly surprised with the conditioning and I just think you have a bunch of guys who have a high care factor,” Nurse said. “They love to play, they are guys that are concerned about getting better individually, about their own careers, and it just seems like they are doing a really professional job. I just think there is a strong love of the game there for a lot of these guys.”

And in a season that was going along rather nicely for the Raptors before the world was stopped in its tracks by the Coronavirus pandemic, that should bode well for the team going forward.

In fact Nurse sounded very much like a guy still waiting to see the best from his team, and for obvious reasons.

“We went into this last season obviously missing a couple of really key pieces to our team (Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green), so you were kind of selling an opportunity to a few guys, there’s some opportunities for some growth and even usage and chances and stuff like that, but you’re not sure how that’s going to turn out,” Nurse said. “Could this guy go to there and this guy go to there? Fortunately Pascal (Siakam) took a jump, Fred (VanVleet), Norm (Powell), Serge (Ibaka) is playing amazing, OG (Anunoby) has been fabulous, so that opportunity there in the middle, the 3-4 spot, there’s a lot of guys that have taken it. I expect to kind of come back into this and see what we are going to look like coming back here but we have a little cheat sheet to know there is a place we’ve been with this group. So I think if it isn’t all holding hands and skipping rope at the beginning we just have to stick with it and see if we can get back to that level. I think there’s another level this group can go.”

Health will certainly be a factor and that’s before anyone even begins to consider the possibility of the Coronavirus overcoming all the precautionary steps the league has taken inside the Disney bubble.

For starters the Raptors were on pace for 60 wins this season pre-pandemic and that was with just about every regular missing a month or more save for Anunoby.

The near four month break has brought everyone back fully healthy, including Marc Gasol, who looks like he went back to Spain and lived in his gym eating nothing but the healthiest of foods.

Powell confirmed on Tuesday during his call that Gasol, in fact, is the envy of all his teammates these days.

“He looks great, man, he’s moving great. He’s feeling great, in talking to him,” Powell said. “I’m supposed to be playing tennis with him either tomorrow or the next day, so hopefully I’ll still be able to give him a run for his money.”

Now granted these are still early days in the re-start. The Raptors haven’t had and won’t have a full team workout until they get to Disney but all indications point to the defending champs having weathered this pandemic rather well and sit in a nice position to make a real run at repeating.

It’s only been a week but Nurse doesn’t sense or feel any angst within the team that could be at the beginning of a four and a half month road trip, albeit one minus any real travel.

“The days go by pretty quickly,” Nurse said of his initial assessment of this elongated road trip. “We’re trying to mix in some days off. We’re trying to mix in a lot of different activities, as much as we can do under the conditions. We had a barbecue the other day. It was kind of nice. It takes an evening. It was good. There’s ping-pong. There’s pool. There are a few other things we’re trying to mix in, too. I don’t really sense much anxiety or people worrying about, ‘Man, this is going to be a long time. The language has been positive.”

It all has to sound almost too good to the Raptors fan at home anxiously awaiting that first game on Aug. 1. But then who among us doesn’t deserve a little good news given how these past four months have unfolded?

Nurse hopes special Raptors get to ‘keep this thing going’ but thinking safety first — Toronto Sun

On a conference call with the daily beat media, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made it clear that while he’d love to resume his duties sometime soon, there are far bigger things on his mind. Read More

Nurse hopes special Raptors get to ‘keep this thing going’ but thinking safety first — Toronto Sun

On a conference call with the daily beat media, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made it clear that while he’d love to resume his duties sometime soon, there are far bigger things on his mind.

Nurse’s priority, for weeks now and continuing for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, is encouraging his players, staff and fans to focus on safety and best practices during all of this.

“I’ve been really adamant on our safety and health, and doing the right thing,” Nurse said. “I was trying to make those messages clear that we needed to make sure … You know, people were concerned about working out and going to the OVO (training facility in downtown Toronto) and all this stuff, and I was really, really strong in my messaging to everybody that we’re gonna close this and stay shut,” he said.

“(The focus was) lead by example. Let’s make sure we get out and if we can provide any messages, washing hands and those kind of things.”

more….

Nurse hopes special Raptors get to ‘keep this thing going’ but thinking safety first — Toronto Sun

Health means options which means decisions for Nurse … Remember Dewan Hernandez? … The Kawhi myth — Toronto Sun

SACRAMENTO — It should be Saturday at the latest that Nick Nurse will have his full complement of players at his disposal.

Health means options which means decisions for Nurse … Remember Dewan Hernandez? … The Kawhi myth — Toronto Sun

SACRAMENTO — It should be Saturday at the latest that Nick Nurse will have his full complement of players at his disposal.

Then it’s an entirely different form of tough for the head coach.

Rather than filling in the gaps, Nurse will be looking to juggle as many as seven deserving starters while trying to keep everyone happy.

Marc Gasol returned to the lineup Sunday after a 15 game-absence that combined with an earlier injury to the same left hamstring has seen him play just 36 of the 63 games so far this season.

Fred VanVleet, who was questionable coming into the Sacramento game will sit out at least one more and probably a second in Utah before making his return on Saturday once the team gets back home.

“I think we probably (give him the extra time) but we’ll see what happens here tonight,” Nurse said of VanVleet’s return date before the game in Sacramento. “He’s really close so he’ll certainly be in once we get back home but we’ll see what happens tonight with everyone.”

The thinking is that with four full days off between Monday’s game in Utah and Saturday’s at home against Detroit, the prudent decision would be to give the guy with the sore shoulder the extra time off rather than bring him back for one.

With Gasol back and Serge Ibaka playing at a very high level, the decision was made to bring Gasol off the bench for Monday’s game but to hear Nurse tell it that decision and a few more are going to be revisited very soon.

Read More

Health means options which means decisions for Nurse … Remember Dewan Hernandez? … The Kawhi myth — Toronto Sun

Full health is once again within sight for Raptors — Toronto Sun

SAN FRANCISCO — Nick Nurse is hopeful. He says there is a chance both Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol could return to the lineup as early as today in Sacramento. If both somehow do make it back at the same time, it would mark just the third game all season that the Raptors have had […]

Full health is once again within sight for Raptors — Toronto Sun..

BUCKS 108, RAPTORS 97 — WHAT THE TEAMS SAID: “Pretty good defensive game both ways, I was pretty happy. I thought we were amazing for about 22 minutes and then we had the ball and had a little weird turnover in transition there to start their run and end the second quarter. I don’t know, we just didn’t for some reason make enough of those shots. I think we had some pretty god ones there. You probably can’t have Serge (Ibaka) go one-for-10, Kyle (Lowry) go one-for-seven and Fred (VanVleet) go three-for-nine, but in saying that Serge had like 21 straight great games.” — NICK NURSE.

(50-8) MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 108 VS. (42-16) TORONTO RAPTORS, 97 SCOTIABANK ARENA TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2020

TORONTO RAPTORS QUOTES

NICK NURSE (HEAD COACH)

On a very good defensive team getting you out of sync … Yeah, a little bit, I think. Look at the shooting percentages it wasn’t too good either way. Pretty good defensive game both ways, I was pretty happy. I thought we were amazing for about 22 minutes and then we had the ball and had a little weird turnover in transition there to start their run and end the second quarter. I don’t know, we just didn’t for some reason make enough of those shots. I think we had some pretty god ones there. You probably can’t have Serge (Ibaka) go one-for-10, Kyle (Lowry) go one-for-seven and Fred (VanVleet) go three-for-nine, but in saying that Serge had like 21 straight great games. You are going to have that one once in a while and tonight wasn’t his night, but that’s all right, he has been amazing this year, Kyle has, Fred has, and tonight it just didn’t go in.

On taking a franchise record 52 three point attempts tonight … There was 52 of them and let’s say 40 of them were probably decent, if I had to pick something without watching it. We had a couple shot-clockers that were bombs, you know the shot clock was running down. There was one that got blocked, so you would probably like to have that one back. There were a couple others, but I thought again, for the most part they weren’t that bad.

On touching the paint enough on your drives … Probably not, I don’t know what the numbers say, but probably not. I would have liked to hit them multiple times in a possession. I think I can remember Pascal (Siakam) hitting a corner three right in front of our bench and it was a really good possession where we drove it, kicked it, swung it, drove it, kicked it, then it was Pascal standing all alone in the corner. I thought we needed a few more of those types of multiple paint touch possessions.

On using any defensive tricks that might be useful in future matchups … Well, I didn’t get to too many of them. I only got a few possessions of zone and a few possessions of press. I think the press looked like it would have been okay. They were tightrope-ing it down the sidelines and bobbling it around and we couldn’t quite come up with them. Next game I will probably do a few more things. I didn’t get the (Bucks) lineup I thought I was going to get to do some of the stuff. Maybe next game.

PASCAL SIAKAM (22 points, six rebounds, three assists)

How tough was it to get the momentum back coming out of halftime? We were trying to come out aggressively in the second half, but they also came out being aggressive and they made some good plays out there. They chipped back into the game, like with free throws and little things like that, and they got comfortable. But I still think we did a pretty decent job.

Did it feel different than a normal game? It was a good game. A lot of energy out there. They played hard. We played hard. It’s always a good matchup against teams like that … Kudos to them. They played a good game.

Are games like this useful for evaluating things? I think every game of the season we have to use to our advantage. Obviously understanding what it’s like in the playoffs and taking these games as a learning experience win or lose. We have to keep being ourselves and learning from it. If we have to do things differently, do them differently, and if we don’t, then continue to play our game. We all know what it takes in the playoffs and you have to do a better job if you want to take that next step.

KYLE LOWRY (10 points, six assists, four rebounds)

Against a team like that, how tough is it to get the momentum back? It wasn’t tough to get it back. We just started the third off slow and didn’t make shots and we missed a lot of open shots tonight. They made some shots and they were aggressive, (and) got to the free throw line more than we did. It’s one game. They played well – well, neither one played well – but they got the win, so they played better than us tonight.

Is there anything you guys can do differently to get in the paint more? Screen a little more, maybe screen a little harder, play a little faster, up tempo. But we made some shots. I hit a couple threes, Serge (Ibaka) hit a couple threes, (Pascal Siakam) hit a couple. We make more threes and space it out a little bit more, the game changes a lot.

(50-8) MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 108 VS. (42-16) TORONTO RAPTORS, 97 SCOTIABANK ARENA TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2020

MILWAUKEE BUCKS QUOTES

MIKE BUDENHOLZER (HEAD COACH)

On tonight’s game… Just a good effort by our group. Obviously the end of the second quarter was really big for us; we were not having a very good half. They were great. But somehow we found a three or four-minute stretch to close the gap and then the third quarter, on both ends of the court, lot of things where we want them to be and able to close it out. So it’s a good win for us on the road tonight.

What was the difference for you offensively in the third quarter? I think you get a little bit of rhythm of the aggressiveness that they were playing with, to the ball. Especially Giannis (Antetokounmpo), I thought his composure and kind of just seeing the court, reading the court. Then you got to make some shots. Different guys stepped up and made shots. We got to play in transition, I think it was a 19 point defensive quarter, so you’re getting a lot of stops; you get out to run, hopefully play against a defence that’s not set.

On how you made the Raptors work on offence tonight… We try and make everybody work, so tonight you got your hands full. They have a lot of great players and they make things really hard on you. But I think, overall, some real positives to take from tonight from our defence.

KHRIS MIDDLETON (22 points, eight rebounds, three assists)

Was this the type of game you expected tonight? I guess you could say that. They play hard every night just like us. The question of, “is that what we expected?” I guess so, for them to come out like they did with their crowd behind them.

What did the team feel it had to improve on in the second half to make a push? Just settle down. I think we played into their hands in the first quarter. I think we could have used the back-to-back as an excuse if we let it keep happening for the whole game. Eventually we settled down and took advantage of their schemes somewhat. I think we played a much more controlled gamed after that.

Do you get any extra satisfaction getting the win tonight after last year’s playoffs? Not really. We won it last year during the regular season. It doesn’t guarantee a win in the playoffs. It’s a great win against a great team that we can see down the road in the future.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO (19 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists)

What changed in the second half? We came out in the second quarter and started knocking down shots. They were physical defensively and we weren’t playing great basketball. We were able to close it out in the second quarter hard. We came out of the half playing better, moving the ball better, we were knocking down shots and defending better. It’s good.

On tonight’s game… This is the second time we’ve played Toronto. We got the first one at home. We knew they were going to come out and set the tone and play good. They are a very good team that doesn’t stop playing hard. That’s why they win so many games and that’s why they’re so good. We expect that. We knew that we had to come out and get a win.

Was game six on your mind at all? Of course. You always remember the last time you played here, the feelings you had. It was definitely on my mind.

NETS 101, RAPTORS 91 — WHAT THEY SAID: “I think when you look at it in totality, sitting where we are right now, I think we’re extremely pleased to get to this point. The good news is I think we’ll Marc Gasol back after the break. Norman Powell is pretty close as well. Obviously that’s what is most important, is to get our team back as a whole. I think our team really battled well with a couple of key guys missing. I think we’ve had a healthy team for two games this season, so we’ve done a nice job of plugging in and picking up.” — NICK NURSE.

KENNY ATKINSON FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On what intangibles were present for the Nets tonight: “I think I said it before the game, our compete level, our intensity level has to be three levels higher than them to have an opportunity to win the game. I thought our physicality, the things we were missing in the last two games against them, I thought we just raised that. We wanted it bad. The execution wasn’t perfect, but our will to win was at a super-high level. That’s why we came out with the W.”

On how big it has been to have balanced scoring: “I think – I don’t know how many turnovers we had – we took care of it. Against this team, you have to take care of it. You have to limit their transition points, and we’re starting to get some chemistry with the guys and it’s flowing better on both sides of the ball. Tonight was really a story about our defense. Going into the All-Star break, I know we have 30-something games left, but we’re a top 10 defensive team. Obviously, offensively we have a ways to go. But that’s a nice — you know I said, what was our identity? That looks like our identity right now if you say pick one thing that the Nets are doing well, and I think our defense will probably be top eight after this game. So we have to continue that and then shoot the ball a little better on offense.”

On if he feels like the Nets are turning a corner by being able to go toe-to-toe against teams with winning records: “I think we understand that there’s potential to see these teams down the road in a more important scenario, so it’s important that we play well. It’s important that we get this information against a really good team if you have to face off against them in the playoffs. Obviously, this wasn’t a playoff game, but it gave us good information. I think when we’re healthy and we have our whole roster intact, we’ll be pretty good. Let’s see how this stretch after the All-Star break goes. It’s important. We really want to gain some momentum, be playing well at the end of the season. That’s the goal right now.”

BROOKLYN NETS POSTGAME QUOTES

JOE HARRIS FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On the team’s defensive mentality since the last Toronto matchup: “I think the process has been right. Sometimes you get a little fortunate, teams are off. I thought tonight and especially against Indiana we just did a better job contesting every shot. We did a good job scrambling around. A lot of times defense gets broken down, but it’s about the second effort, closing out still getting contests. You know, we just talked about trying to be the more aggressive and assertive team on both ends. Especially when you play against quality teams. That’s usually what dictates the game, who is able to establish as the aggressor early on.”

On the team’s growth, ability to go toe-to-toe with quality teams: “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Especially going to Indiana getting a win there. I don’t think we’d beaten any teams over .500 on the road all year, so for us to go on the road and have a big win like that is just good in terms of confidence going forward. Obviously we’re going to have a lot of tough games after the All-Star break. I don’t think anyone’s looking too far ahead. The biggest thing right now is making sure some guys recover but also some guys getting enough work over the break. Last time we had a few days off (after the holidays) we turned around and were 3–13. So I think a lot of guys are still trying to stay locked in. Take advantage of the time off that we have, rest, recuperate, get our bodies right and make sure we finish off this second half of the year strong.”

On ramping up effort with the possibility of playoffs: “Yeah, I think at the end of the day all you really want is just to be playing quality basketball. We started sharing the ball better. Guys are starting to find their rhythm in terms of shooting. And then the effort, the focus defensively I think it’s just been, we’ve been more cohesive. Whether it’s a testament to the focus, locking in with the preparation or whatever it might be. I think we knew how important this stretch was going into the break. It’s just a testament to guys locking in and staying focused and we just need to continue to do that moving forward.”

BROOKLYN NETS POSTGAME QUOTES

JARRETT ALLEN FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On what the energy is like in the locker room after a big win like tonight’s: “It’s a great win. Especially snapping that 15-game win streak. It’s a big mark for us.”

On how much sharing the ball offensively has been a point of emphasis: “I wouldn’t say it’s been a point of emphasis. We’ve been working on our defense and you always hear defense goes to offense.”

On if their recent wins against teams with lower records helped them get into a groove to win against teams with winning records: “It definitely does. Everybody talks about momentum in this league and that’s definitely what it is. Coming into these two games, these last three games before the break, tough schedule. Toronto, Indiana and then back to Toronto, we definitely had a good momentum coming in to this.”

On if teams like Toronto bring the intensity out of the Nets or is it a conscious mentality that they bring into the game: “It definitely has to be a conscious mentality. There have been games before where we came in not with the best mindset and got blown out. I’ll take Milwaukee for an example. They blew us out. But today, you could just feel the energy when we came into the locker room, we had shoot around before. Everybody was pumped up ready to play.”

BROOKLYN NETS POSTGAME QUOTES

NICK NURSE FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On what his mentality is heading into the All-Star break: “I think when you look at it in totality, sitting where we are right now, I think we’re extremely pleased to get to this point. The good news is I think we’ll Marc Gasol back after the break. Norman Powell is pretty close as well. Obviously that’s what is most important, is to get our team back as a whole. I think our team really battled well with a couple of key guys missing. I think we’ve had a healthy team for two games this season, so we’ve done a nice job of plugging in and picking up. In the big scheme of things, you look at the overall of where you’re sitting and we have to be pleased with that.”

On what the makeup of this team is this year without Kawhi Leonard: “Well, I think that we’re hoping that some of these guys have taken some steps forward. Obviously Kawhi (Leonard) is a late-game closer on both ends of the floor. Pascal Siakam has to assume that role. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol have kind of stepped forward to assume the secondary role to Pascal Siakam. Fred VanVleet continues to get better. Norman Powell, before he got hurt, was getting better. So probably it’ll be a little more by committee on both ends and trying to figure out matchups. Again, our team has played pretty well. We’ve got some growth to do and we need to do for sure if we want to make a run at it again.”

BROOKLYN NETS POSTGAME QUOTES

FRED VANVLEET FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On the win streak ending and what he saw tonight: “It is what it is, man. I just think we didn’t have enough juice to overcome some of the things that were going on tonight. So, just didn’t have enough juice. I thought we were a little flat early and just couldn’t really get it going after that. It is what it is. We weren’t going to win them all. The break has come at a good time. Everybody is going on break and take some time and come back and get one started again.”

On what the Nets did differently tonight compared to past matchups: “Give them credit, they went and won the game. I’m not going to disrespect those guys, but we didn’t really make it that difficult for them. I don’t know how much adjustments they made. They just kind of played a little harder, fought a little harder. They hustled more, made their shots and we didn’t make ours. I didn’t see too many gameplay switches from them, felt pretty similar out there. We just didn’t play well enough to win, and they did.”

On if it felt like there was any carry over from the two teams’ last matchup: “They played us tough last game. This is a good team. Anybody can lose any given night in the NBA. It wasn’t like we were overlooking them or anything. We know they’re a tough team, they’re a playoff team and they played us tough pretty much every time we play them, and tonight was no different. Like I said, we just didn’t have enough to get over the hump tonight.”

BROOKLYN NETS POSTGAME QUOTES

KYLE LOWRY FEBRUARY 12, 2020

On if the All-Star break comes at a bad time following a loss: “I’m glad to get away, we need separation. You’ve been grinding since September and you need this time to kind of mentally decompress, physically decompress, and have guys go live their lives. Then we come back together and have the kind of newfound excitement to see each other again. That’s the one thing about the break, it gives you that time away from your brothers. You love being around them. We have a great team, so we don’t mind being around each other. But you know when you get back together it’s kind of like alright fellas, good to see you let’s have some more fun.”

On where he saw game plan changes from the Nets after playing them this past weekend: “They made shots, they played well. We didn’t play too well. They stuck with their coverages, they stuck with their game plan, they stuck with their schemes. We played kind of like walking zombies. We didn’t play well tonight, simple as that. We missed shots, we weren’t aggressive, we just didn’t play well. Give them credit. They played their butts off and they beat us. It’s only one game.”

RAPTORS 137, TIMBERWOLVES 126 –WHAT THE TEAMS SAID: “It didn’t feel like a win going away for quite a long time. There was a lot of energy in the game. I think we are getting everybody’s A-plus game. They were really good I thought for a lot of stretches and we just had to try and figure some things out and as you saw we had a lot of unconnected defence for a lot of the game, but the chemistry between those guys that were out there started to build. Our switching got a little bit better, we stopped all the backcutting and miscommunication on some of that stuff for a nice stretch there in the third and fourth quarter, got it under control.” — NICK NURSE.

(16-36) MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, 126 VS. (40-14) TORONTO RAPTORS, 137 SCOTIABANK ARENA MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2020

TORONTO RAPTORS QUOTES

NICK NURSE (HEAD COACH)

On winning going away … Well, first of all it didn’t feel like a win going away for quite a long time. There was a lot of energy in the game. I think we are getting everybody’s A-plus game. They were really good I thought for a lot of stretches and we just had to try and figure some things out and as you saw we had a lot of unconnected defence for a lot of the game, but the chemistry between those guys that were out there started to build. Our switching got a little bit better, we stopped all the backcutting and miscommunication on some of that stuff for a nice stretch there in the third and fourth quarter, got it under control.

On OG Anunoby … He was really good, I thought his decisions were really, really good tonight. The only questionable decision I thought he made, one time he was open for a corner three and he pump-faked, there was nobody there and he went to left and made it anyway. So it ended up being a good decision as well. He was good defensively, we put him all over the place. We had him on (Karl-Anthony) Towns a lot and he was doing a good job, he had to switch out on (D’Angelo) Russell because of that. He was just making some really good reads. I thought those guys got some hands on some balls. I thought Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) came up with a couple huge steals as well, but OG had a pretty complete game out there, that’s why we let him run, what was it 15 or 16 straight there through the quarter.

On what you did on D’Angelo Russell in the fourth quarter … We really tried to press up on him and make him drive it. We just sat down, sat back a little too much and he is going to make those no matter where he is. Then we did try and trap him out of the timeouts a lot when we got the right matchup on him and I think we turned him over twice out of time outs for layups, which was huge.

FRED VANVLEET (16 points, seven assists, three steals) Did you think you’d have to play centre tonight? I wasn’t expecting that. When we got here we were a little shocked to hear about Serge, but it happens. At this point we are used to having guys out, unfortunately. Like I said before, next man up. I thought Rondae did an amazing job and I think it helped us in the second half, especially when we were able to switch on the fly. Do you guys take for granted your ability to ability to adapt? Probably, I think we’re used to it at this point. I think we can get a little lackadaisical at times, as you can see, I think that it is a huge tool for us to be able to use in certain situations. I think we realize when we play against other teams how we are able to take advantage on the other end. We probably do take it for granted to answer your question. I think it’s something that keeps developing and it’s something we have in our back pocket when we need to.

How do you execute on both ends when you enter a game knowing there is a significant size differential? Just effort. That’s it. Once we calmed down on our defensive schemes I thought we were in a good position to get most of the boards and obviously we got a few offensive rebounds, so that helps. Give those guys credit in there, Rondae, Chris, Pascal, Kyle, OG. Give these guys credit, they go up and get them and battle with someone like Towns who is a really good offensive rebounder. They have a lot of corner crashers from the wing coming in. I think we did a good job of putting bodies on them and cleaning the glass.

Does the streak help keep the team focus as you approach the break? Yes, it’s fun. I think it’s at a good time. At this time of the season people are looking ahead to the break and it’s one of those weird points in the season where you have to find some inspiration and energy sometimes. I think to be rolling the way we are right now it gives us a little extra boost. For the most part we’ve been coming out engaged. Tonight we weren’t ourselves in the first half. Obviously we cleaned it up in the third quarter and we are trying to keep it going as long as we can. I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind.

PASCAL SIAKAM (34 points, six rebounds, five assists)

How big of a challenge is it for the team to find out about injuries just before the game? It’s not a good thing, but it feels like another day. Something happening and we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got guys stepping up. It was a great job by Rondae, OG to be able to guard those guys like Karl-Anthony Towns. It was good for us. It speaks to the character of the team. We’ve got guys ready. They can’t wait to come in and get an opportunity to play. Once they get it they go at it.

Do you feel more prepared for these challenges than you were at the beginning of the year? Probably, I think you can say that. We’ve never had our entire team for a while. We have had to adjust and figure it out. I’m sure guys now know that you have to be ready every day because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Today you might be sitting on the bench and the next day you may be starting. That just has to be the mentality and I think everyone knows that.

Does it feel like you’re on a streak? Yes, I mean obviously I see it every time I’m on Instagram or something. For us it’s about every single day coming in and taking every game one at a time, making sure we come out and execute every single game and have a game plan.

Do you find the confidence of the team is growing in its ability to adapt to different challenges? I think we have a system and we trust that the coaches have a game plan that we are going to execute. If it’s not working we trust that we can adjust on the fly and try something else. I think one thing that we’ve been doing is trying different things out. We have a lot of things we can throw at you. We trust that it’s going to work and if it doesn’t work go to the next thing.

RONDAE HOLLIS-JEFFERSON (20 points, six rebounds, three steals)

How much energy do you get when you find out you’ll be starting? I try to stay with the same mindset and be locked into what I have to do. I know I’m a defender. I know I can bring energy and bring that spark to the guys. I just try to lock into that at the end of the day.

How much different is it as a defender when you’re guarding a big man? It’s definitely different. The battle itself, holding your own ground, but they’ve got five inches on me, four inches on me, 30 pounds on me or so. It’s definitely a battle, but it’s about being mentally tough, having that resiliency. Coming from where I come from I was born with it, inherited it. Chester, PA, thank you. I love a challenge at the end of the day.

(16-36) MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, 126 VS. (40-14) TORONTO RAPTORS, 137 SCOTIABANK ARENA MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2020

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES QUOTES

RYAN SAUNDERS (HEAD COACH)

What were the Raptors doing down the stretch to make it so difficult? A lot of credit to them, and that organization. There’s a reason they have won 15 games in a row. They play with a sense of urgency and they have a great identity about them. I thought they got physical with us; some things didn’t go our way. They were able to force some turnovers that got them in the open court and kind of broke it open a little bit. I’m really proud of this group and the way these guys did keep fighting back, even that second unit they were the ones who really pulled us into the game late in that third and early in that fourth.

Even in the loss, you like the energy and effort you saw throughout? Yes, I do. I feel really good about us going home, having a solid day tomorrow and also a good game on Wednesday, and then using the break to recharge and also, evaluate and really dissect what we can do moving forward.

With all the new guys coming together, do you expect the turnovers? We knew that, we kind of said that. Against the Clippers, we did a great job of taking care of the ball, which you almost expect to happen some more turnovers against a team like the Clippers, and then you play a team like Toronto; they’re a good test for us. The one thing that Toronto does such a great job of is your turnovers are as good as twos and threes for them, the way they push the ball and the way they can score in the open court. So I think that’s where it hurt us even more.

KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS (23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists)

On tonight’s game… I thought we played well. We played well throughout the game, obviously, they’ve won 14 games in a row and they’re hot. They made some shots obviously, but I thought we stuck right with them. We showed a lot of toughness. We showed a lot of grit. No matter what the game threw at us, we found ways to get back and stay close, get the lead, or whatever the case may be. They’re a good team and we played hard. We played together and we gritted and grinded, you know, we just didn’t come out with a win tonight. I’m proud of our guys for playing as hard as we did. I think we pushed them to a lot of brinks tonight and we made them earn it.

On playing with D’Angelo Russell… It was a lot of fun… You could see how much we were talking to each other and we were just hyping each other up and everything. That’s my brother, man. I told him that I don’t know if he’ll ever have a teammate that loves him as much as I do and have his back more than I do. I’d die for that man and I know he would do the same for me.

D’ANGELO RUSSELL (22 points, five assists, one steal)

How did it feel playing tonight? It was great. (I’m) super excited about this group. You know what Karl does, what he brings to the table, but just the group in general, the coaching staff, I look forward to this challenge of figuring out what we can do to get better every day.

How long do you think it will take you to learn plays and terminology? There’s no right answer to that. I think just in general our pace of what we want to work at on the offensive end (and) the defensive end … The quicker we get in film and get some games under our belt to be better; I think that’s on our time.

What do you think the biggest challenge is coming into a game like this with a new team? That’s a great team over there. They’re obviously capable of doing great things. Nick Nurse is a great coach, but in general I think we’re worried about us. The more we can get some games under our belt and just dissect the film from being better individually; I think it’ll help our team chemistry as a w

RAPTORS 119, NETS 118. WHAT THE TEAMS SAID: “Incredible depth. Gasol is out, this guy is out, this guy is out. That’s a true sign of not only a good basketball team but a good program when you can have the injuries they’ve sustained and go deep into your roster. You’re going 11th man, 12th man. McCaw plays well. Boucher was really good tonight. They have young guys that are deep in their roster that have helped them win the game. That’s how you go on a long streak in this league. You can’t just do it with your top five or your top six, you’ve got to be deep. They are deep. They are playing great basketball.” — KENNY ATKINSON.

(23-28) BROOKLYN NETS, 118 VS. (39-14) TORONTO RAPTORS, 119 SCOTIABANK ARENA SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2020

TORONTO RAPTORS QUOTES

NICK NURSE (HEAD COACH)

On running out of gas towards the end of the game … You’re right – we were, we didn’t make a three, I don’t think, forever, it seemed like there in the fourth. We had a couple of point-blank front- of- the-rimmers and we all knew it. We talked about it in a couple of the timeouts, man, we gotta gather everything we’ve got when we get it inside and try to finish, but we couldn’t quite do it. Big stop at the end, good job of pressing up and getting him disjointed down there.

On playing Matt Thomas for 15 straight minutes and continuously getting big performances from guys that never play … Our assistant coaches do a great job of keeping those guys ready. I think the mindset of you never know and stay ready maybe helps a little bit once in a while. When you don’t hit the scouting report because you haven’t played for a while too, so that is the other thing. He played great, man he came in there and like always every time he raises up you think it’s going in and he banged a bunch of them in. That was a big lift. That group was awesome, first half. They were incredible, they turned a lacklustre start to the game into an energetic game and they were great.

On starting Terence Davis … I just wanted the spacing, and he has been shooting the ball really well and I just wanted the spacing out there along with kind of considering Pat (McCaw) our backup point guard. I wanted him to be able to come in and sub for either him or Fred (VanVleet) and go from there.

On leaving the bench in the game with Brooklyn brought their starters back … I thought they were playing with great defensive energy, getting out on the open floor and they guarded great for about six straight minutes. They did their job, got it the down to about five and a half or something and we started filtering the guys. It was just based on their energy really, they had it going defensively and that was creating some offence for them.

FRED VANVLEET (29 points, six assists, two rebounds)

On tonight’s final minutes… Obviously it’s not a textbook way to close out a game, but when you have a long winning streak like that there will be different types of ways to finish it. We had a good idea they were probably going to give the ball to Caris (LeVert) in some sort of fashion and try to switch everything. I thought we did a good job of stopping their initial play that they were trying to give to Joe Harris for a pin down or something like that and then OG (Anunoby) was just great (with) one-on-one defence. We did give up an offensive rebound, he had a good look in the end, but it bounced out, so sometimes it’s good to be lucky too.

On the bench play… Those guys can play. I feel like we’ve had this conversation five to 10 times this year. It’s a good thing. Every time they step up and they play well people are surprised because they’re at the end of the bench, but you just have to wait for your turn (and) wait for (the) opportunity. Somebody like Matt (Thomas), who doesn’t’ really play on a consistent basis, stepped up there with a big first half, some key buckets. Obviously Terence (Davis) started tonight, but same thing with him. Those guys have been good for us all year; Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), Chris (Boucher), and to do it on consistent nights … it’s special and that’s what we need out of those guys.

MATT THOMAS (15 points, six rebounds)

How much easier is it to get in a rhythm when you’re out there for an extended period of time? (For) any athlete when you get in the zone and you get in that rhythm, obviously it’s a lot easier. The game comes a lot naturally and you just play a lot more confident.

What is it about this team that makes everyone pretty comfortable with playing with different guys? I think it’s just a testament to how hard everyone works on the team. Everyone stays ready. We have a very deep and talented team and everyone is more than capable of coming in and making plays. Also, just shows the chemistry we have on this team. We’re all so good at playing off each other and everyone plays unselfishly and plays the right way.

BROOKLYN NETS QUOTES

KENNY ATKINSON (HEAD COACH)

In a game like that what stands out: the comeback or the deficit? Missed opportunities. On the road, I think 34, 33, 34 points is a lot to give up. It’s a lot to make up. The fourth quarter was fantastic. We held them to 19 points defensively. We obviously started to make some shots. That’s what got us back in it. I don’t think you can dig yourself a 20-point hole against a really good team like this.

How about DeAndre Jordan’s fourth quarter? He was our defensive anchor. I felt like we weren’t getting that resistance and he anchored our defence. He did a good job on (Serge) Ibaka, was patrolling the paint, he got us back in the game with his defence.

On the last possession… We wanted to go quicker. I think guys got into a little bit. You want to go as quick as possible. We wanted to get a good shot at the end of the day.

Did you want to them to get to the rim if possible? There were a couple of options on the play. They took away the first option. Joe was the second option coming off to stagger if we didn’t get him, and Caris went one-on-one

What do you think of the Raptors run? Incredible depth. Gasol is out, this guy is out, this guy is out. That’s a true sign of not only a good basketball team but a good program when you can have the injuries they’ve sustained and go deep into your roster. You’re going 11th man, 12th man. McCaw plays well. Boucher was really good tonight. They have young guys that are deep in their roster that have helped them win the game. That’s how you go on a long streak in this league. You can’t just do it with your top five or your top six, you’ve got to be deep. They are deep. They are playing great basketball.

On Caris LeVert’s progress… I said it when he wasn’t playing well, he’s going to catch his rhythm. He caught his rhythm and he’s doing it consistently now. It’s game after game after game. That’s kind of the all-star Caris we saw at the beginning of last year and the playoffs last year. It’s great to see and it’s great news for the Nets.

SPENCER DINWIDDIE (21 points, 11 assists, six rebounds)

What turned the game and allowed the Nets to get back in it? Finally in the fourth quarter we started getting stops. Obviously Caris was phenomenal offensively for us. Just our collective energy and effort beyond Caris’ offensive outburst was what got us back into the game.

Does the early deficit make this loss that much more disappointing? Definitely. If we had have played good defence the first three quarters – and credit Toronto, they are obviously a great basketball team, making shots and doing this to a lot of people – but 30-plus the first three quarters and then 19 in the fourth is tale of the tape right there.

Are there any positives to take from this loss? I don’t think we’re in the business of moral victories. We’re a playoff team as well. I think if you had asked me that two years ago we probably would’ve been like, “yeah, we played well. We fought. We’re a young group and we’re figuring it out.” We’re a playoff team. We need to figure out how to beat these teams that could be our first round matchup. We could play them, what, next week, four more or five more, six more times in the playoffs, right? You’ve got to be ready for that.

NICK NURSE NAMED EASTERN CONFERENCE COACH OF THE MONTH

NICK NURSE NAMED EASTERN CONFERENCE COACH OF THE MONTH

The National Basketball Association announced Monday that Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for games played in January. This marks the third time Nurse has earned the honour overall and second time this season. He was also named coach of the month for games played in October/November.

Nurse guided the Raptors to a 12-3 record last month, including an Eastern Conference-best 9-1 record on the road. Toronto ranked fourth in the conference averaging 113.1 points and third defensively holding opponents to 106.1 points (third in the East). The team also lead the East averaging 12.8 three-pointers per game and 10.0 steals.

Highlighting the month was a season-high 10 game winning streak (Jan. 15-31), which catapulted Toronto into second-place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors won by an average margin of +11.0 points per game during the streak, which included six road contests. Toronto matched a franchise-record Jan. 17 vs. Washington by scoring 140 points.  

A native of Carroll, Iowa, Nurse will coach Team Giannis at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago. He became the first coach to win both an NBA and NBA G League championship, after guiding Toronto to its first NBA Championship last spring. 

RAPTORS 107, 76ERS 95– WHAT THE TEAMS SAID: “It’s Toronto, that’s just the way they are, especially defensively. They get into your body, trying to get you off balance when you’re attacking the rim. They have great hands. They’re always in there with their hands getting deflections and steals.” — BEN SIMMONS

(29-17) PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, 95 VS. (30-14) TORONTO RAPTORS, 107 SCOTIABANK ARENA WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2020

TORONTO RAPTORS QUOTES

NICK NURSE (HEAD COACH)

On the defence helping to establish the pace … Yeah, I think we’re going through a little bit of mid-season things, I think, just a bit. I think this is a couple games where we just don’t quite seem – we just seem to be a half step or a half second slow at the start of a couple of games here lately. I thought they had five totally uncontested threes in the first four minutes …. We did when it mattered, we were really moving and flying and playing physical most of the second half I thought. We just kind of have to play through some of that stuff once and a while, but I am really proud that they dug in and played defence and gave themselves a chance.

On Fred VanVleet’s shooting since he has been back … He is playing good, and I think again the fresh legs thing, we have seen the benefits for just about everybody and he is a really good shooter and let’s hope he keeps up at that pace.

On the team feeding off Serge Ibaka … I think the biggest asset he has is his rim protection and his rebounding. I think it just changes, when he is really aware and there is a drive coming and he is there early, it just changes the whole possession from there on out. Would-be layups turn into high floaters or pull-ups or stopped drives even, and then usually if they throw something up that doesn’t go in, he is the one that is pulling it down as well. I thought he was really solid on offence too. He was patient, he set good screens, he got to the right spots and he made some key buckets. He is really shooting the ball well too, and he has worked really hard on his mechanics as of late. When they come off his hands, he is hitting them right in the middle, a lot of them. So he has put in some good time and he is doing a good job.

On how much easier the offence is when Serge and Marc Gasol are shooting like they are … That’s the tough one when Serge is rolling and the team is kind of rolling and the game has changed and I look and see Marc is sevenfor-seven, what’s he doing sitting over here. I was contemplating going back with both of the bigs, since they were both playing so well, but they were kind of smallish for them, with (Tobias Harris) at the four. That’s a guy that puts it on the deck pretty good and that group was playing too well to mess it with it probably.

NORMAN POWELL (18 points, eight rebounds)

On team’s slow start to games… It was really mainly our defence. I think we were a step slow to start the game – reacting to what they were doing instead of being the ones dictating where they go. Being physical on the defensive end, and we made it a point to put a little more into the game and that’s what we were able to do in the second half.

Do games against teams close on the standings mean more? For me every win means the same to me. We’ve got to get as many wins as we can to get to where we are going for the playoffs. We are trying to set ourselves up for the best possible run, but games like this it’s really a little bit more weight for the outside, what it is being Eastern Conference teams and top teams in the East, so I just think every game is important.

KYLE LOWRY (16 points, four assists)

On the zone changing the game tonight… I think we’ve got to keep Ben (Simmons) out of transition. Once we were able to score and set up, it was good for us. We really communicated in the zone tonight and made sure we knew where everyone was going to go. We just wanted to switch it up and change the flow of the game a little bit and I think that’s what coach wanted to do.

Is the rest he got the reason Marc Gasol has been shooting better? No, we’ve been on him a little bit and I think he’s been on himself to make sure he’s looking for his own shot, but Marc can still play basketball at a high level and he’s proving it.

FRED VANVLEET (22 points, eight assists)

On his success extending his shooting range… I broke my thumb last year and I was out and couldn’t really do much and I was shooting, I was working out and Nurse just kind of mentioned to me why don’t you just, he said he was looking at the numbers on 35 footer uncontested versus toe-to-line contested three, so we had a conversion about it and I started to implement it. He gave me a little freedom to shoot it and I started then and so obviously the Philly series was a chance for me to say okay, if I can’t get my shot off or if I’m getting contested because they do a good job, taking it a step back or a step two back is a viable option for me, especially if I’m going to put the work in to make it a good shot for me.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS QUOTES

BRETT BROWN (HEAD COACH)

How do you characterize tonight’s game being shorthanded? I thought that we competed. There was a physical difference I felt from them to us as the game started to get going in the fourth period. I give them credit, when you play in June there are lessons that you learn that spill over to the regular season and there was physicality to their game that you felt. You know, we got Matisse (Thybulle), Furk (Fukan Korkmaz) ,Shake (Milton) and Norvel (Pelle) and the young guys that are feeling what it’s like to play against an NBA champion. We will come out of this thing I think more realistic of what it really takes to play as deep into the calendar as we hope to.

On what you thought of Shake Milton… The JRich (Josh Richardson) thing hurt, like he went out quick. You knew that you were going to have to make some threes. They’re physical all over the place, they scramble and so we thought that our best opportunity to steal a win on the road without Jo (Joel Embiid) and JRich was going to be to hunt some threes, and spread the thing around and play fast and share the ball. I thought at the start of the game in the first period we did that quite well. We missed some shots in the second period, I give Toronto credit for really sort of amping up their defence, but Shake was a part of that environment that I just said, and I thought played really quite well.

On did you think your guys wore down… This is what I felt: I felt that the athletes and the physicality, and the downhill attack, you felt all of that for the whole game. And then Fred (VanVleet) does what he does in the fourth period and goes bananas on making tough shots, they made a bunch of threes – I think four, I think they had nine free throws. We corralled our turnovers, I think we had nine turnovers in the first half, zero in the third, and then had a few too many in the fourth. But I felt like the physicality, the athleticism was something we felt. That’s a team that won a NBA championship and got used to playing that style, and winning with that style and you have to if you are going to play in June. I felt that side of it more than anything.

BEN SIMMONS (17 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists)

How do you characterize this game? That’s just how we play. Obviously you don’t want to see guys go down, but that gives opportunities to other guys to step up. I think it was a good learning experience for some of the guys, especially against a great team in Toronto who have been to the championship last year and won it. We know that’s the level we have to play at – that physicality – offensively and defensively.

How did you feel about Toronto’s physicality? It’s Toronto, that’s just the way they are, especially defensively. They get into your body, trying to get you off balance when you’re attacking the rim. They have great hands. They’re always in there with their hands getting deflections and steals.

How do you move on from Josh Richardson’s injury? Somebody has to step up. That’s everybody. One guy goes down, everybody has got to step up. Josh is a big part of this team – defensively and offensively – so we’re going to miss him for however long it is, but it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and fill that role.

On Shake Milton stepping up… I think he was great. He got to spots and knocked down shots and got deflections. He stepped up. He did really good.

SHAKE MILTON (nine points, four rebounds, two assists)

What was your experience after having to step in when Josh Richardson went down? Like Ben said, it’s next man up. You don’t really want to see anyone go down with injury, but when your number is called you’ve got to step up, just try to stay locked in and my teammates kept encouraging me, so it wasn’t that hard.

What were your teammates saying to give you some confidence out there? They told me to just get to my spots and knock down shots and play with confidence. Once you get up the floor a couple of times you get into a groove. It’s just like playing basketball again.

How do you stay fresh and confident when you haven’t been playing as frequently? Just making sure I keep up with the plays and everything they’ve got going on offensively and defensively. Staying in the gym and putting in the work and doing my best to stay locked in every single game.

TOBIAS HARRIS (22 points, six rebounds and four assists)

How do you characterize this loss with the injuries to a few key Sixers players? I thought even with guys out we still had a chance to be in this game and get a win. Give them credit, they did a really good job after the first quarter in defending us. We had a great first quarter, but after that they scored too many points in the paint. I think it was 52 points in the paint. That’s too many. They were the more physical team all throughout after the first.

What was it about how they defended you that gave you some trouble? I think they got up into our stuff. Obviously they presented some zone at times that kind of altered our play a little bit. So some things we have to get better at execution-wise, defensively on our part, we let the wrong guys get off and get shots to fall. There are a few things we have to clean up.

Where will you feel the loss of Josh the most? JRich is a great player. Obviously he brings it at both ends of the floor. Like we’ve had all year, it’s the next man up mentality. Whenever it’s presented, come and be ready to go out there. Shake did a great job tonight coming in and staying ready and giving us that lift. It’s just the next man up.

What happened in the Raptors’ 10-0 run over a three minute stretch in the fourth? I think we turned the ball over in that stretch which led to them to get out in transition. That’s when Siakam got the and-one dunk, I believe. On our part we didn’t have good offensive execution. We didn’t get up good shots and the good looks that we needed. It’s something we have to get better at.

Raptors will mix and match starting lineup in second half of season — Toronto Sun

ATLANTA — Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reiterated on Monday that Toronto’s starting lineup is going to change from time-to-time from here on out. Read More

Raptors will mix and match starting lineup in second half of season — Toronto Sun

Nurse will work with refs, but Raptors coach won’t tone down intensity — Toronto Sun

CHARLOTTE — If you look up — way up — the list of NBA leaders in technical fouls, you’ll find Raptors head coach Nick Nurse there with nine so far. Read More

Nurse will work with refs, but Raptors coach won’t tone down intensity — Toronto Sun