Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses his new bench unit with Gary Trent Jr. playing well so far, Precious Achiuwa finding a rhythm and what Scottie Barnes has done better within Toronto’s halfcourt offence recently.
- I guess the season high 3's was probably made because you had a season high 32 assists as well. What did you think of the ball movement on offense most of the night?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, it was good. I think that we've tried to get some guys more aggressive. As far as the way teams are playing. some of the things that we're doing, the schemes that they're playing against us. And I think we came out obviously just taking the open ones, and I think we created a lot in transition as well, just kick out shots that were good ones. So it's pretty good. We're very happy with making 3's and assists, and putting points on the scoreboard, obviously, is good to see.
- What made you think that [INAUDIBLE] would work? And why do you seem to play zone 95% of the time with the three of them?
NICK NURSE: Well, I'm just, again, trying to come up with a solution after we had such a rough stretch there with guys off the bench, right? And tried enough combinations and all kinds of stuff that we just-- I just was trying to come up with a solution to give those guys A, a chance to play, and give the other guys a chance to regroup and have some juice left at the end. And that was just kind of an idea, and we started practicing it to let them go back to zone. We're trying to press a little bit after free throws and stuff like a 3 quarter court press and back to zone.
Again, just to help their defensive transition and make it something a little different in the game, right? And we've kind of given them a smaller package of plays to kind of run over and over on offense as well, and they've been working on those, so just to give them some organization down there too. We'll see how it goes. I mean, obviously it's been pretty good. The couple of games, I'm not sure what the tally was tonight, but it seems like it was very much so on the positive side for both stints, right? I mean, it wasn't so much one way or the other, and that's probably a success, too, right? That it just kind of holds some ground there.
- You were hoping to get Precious one of those extended runs, and got off to a bit of a shaky start in the second quarter. But what did you like best about the way that he was able to kind of turn things around?
NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, you're right. I mean, it was shaky, right? But it was aggressive shaky. Probably overly aggressive. And it's such a good thing that it turned into a good stint, right? That you can let him play through a couple of not maybe great decisions, a couple of mistakes here and there, and it didn't warrant that I had to make a major shift. And then he got going. He needs some of those extended things, and just like everybody, he's going to make mistakes. And it's nice to let him play through some and show what he can do.
- You talked about getting them up, both of those guys up to 20 minutes. In the perfect world. Is Precious there yet? Like, is he at the point yet where you get to that, or is he still--
NICK NURSE: Getting closer. Yeah, getting closer. Again, I'm not sure how long this experiment's going to work with what I'm doing as far as how I'm playing the bench and stuff. I would imagine that's going to have to get adjusted for those guys to do that, but we'll see. And he had that long stretch of maybe-- Yeah, but I think it was at like, 7. And I thought he looked like he was maybe at his limit, just conditioning-wise. But there was a timeout, and I asked him, and he said, man, I'm good. So it was kind of time to make the move, but I wanted to give him a couple more minutes, obviously, he was playing well too. We always try to say, if you come off the bench and you're having a good stint, that thing could last for as long as you can conditioning-wise handle it.
- Last season, Precious started a little slower to the year. By the end, he was just absolutely foundational. And then even in individual games, he can start a little shaky and then by the middle of the game, he's tossing in 3 3's. Why is it that he of all people, over a long or short period, can really go from 0 to 100?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think he's relatively a young player and inexperienced, right? So he's still in that phase of very high highs and low lows, just the up and down of not having a ton of minutes on the floor. That'd be my explanation. Yeah, still pretty young, as far as court time for sure.
- When he is at his best, stopping the rim and driving in 3's, does he do something that you kind of don't really get anywhere else on the team?
NICK NURSE: Well, again, I think what he can do when he's kind of got his motor running, or revved up, or whatever, is he can be a force at both ends at the basket. We know he can pop out and make the occasional 3, or rhythm 3 or take those and he's got pretty good shooting mechanics and all that stuff. But his force and athleticism at the rim at both ends becomes something we don't really have, right?
- Taking off of that, though, you're still experimenting with lineups, especially off the bench. But what's with the dynamic between Boucher and Precious always being so strong when the two of them play together?
NICK NURSE: Well, again, you're right. That crew, last year, I can't remember, maybe it was Thad or something. Those guys seem to generate a lot of our offensive rebounding energy, right? And then it kind of spreads. Like tonight was a great offensive rebounding night for us. And I know the numbers bear it out, but there's just the feel of it, really, really [INAUDIBLE] I mean, like their defense, it was hard for them to get a defensive rebound.
Even when they got it, like, we were almost there, or challenged, or almost tipping it, or whatever. And that, again, is something else that Precious brings, right? And Chris. They just kind of feed off each other, and they're both at the glass, and now you sprinkle in Christian tipping a few out of there too probably as the third guy. In that stint, it seems to rev up everybody, the guys on the bench watching it as well. So it's good that they can provide that.
- When it comes to Scottie Barnes, they didn't play as deep on him for this game--
NICK NURSE: Pardon me?
- When it comes to Scottie Barnes--
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I'm sorry.
- Yeah, yeah, that's cool. They didn't play as deep on him this game as they have in past games. And his shot making from the three point, that stuff hasn't wrapped up or anything. But he's become more effective at moving you guys through the offence. What are you guys seeing from him?
NICK NURSE: I think just a little more decisive. Not going from one side to the other, not staying on the same side with his actions. Just having a better idea that he's going to get off it a little-- quicker decisions. And that's really something we've been talking about. It's time to make a play. It's take the shot, it's drive it to the rim, it's get it to the next action. It's not dribble it in the same spot, or hold it in the same spot and think and look and just take the next action to keep it going. And that's probably what we did good tonight. I mean, it was an emphasis to not try to strike right away, because they're pretty good defensively. And then you just got to kind of get it to the next side or to the next action, and then things start to open up. I thought we did a good job of hitting the paint and kicking out, but I think there's even improvement there we could do.
- Do you think there's sort of a-- Do you think there's any room to continue to build up the offense a little bit more from where Scottie's--
NICK NURSE: Yeah, there is. I think there is some room to play through them and get some more cutting and things like that going, yeah.
- [INAUDIBLE] they both filled up the stat line. What do you feel like your team was able to do defensively, whether that's throwing from the backboard to [INAUDIBLE].
NICK NURSE: Well, not much. Outscored them, really. They're super explosive. I think we just did enough there in the last six minutes. Again, not exactly sure, but we just made a miss enough. I think we got-- I know at one time, we had six consecutive stops, and that's kind of in the guts of the game. They were just little harder shots. They just missed them, and we were able to hold them to one. But we were talking about this is one of those games where they do play at a pace where you know the scoreboard is going to be going, right? And when can we put together a string of consecutive stops to make the difference in the game? And that really was what happened.
- You spoke before the game about how your team's attitude has been pretty strong throughout the past few weeks, and Gary Trent Jr., he's a guy who's been on the bench, and then he's get back in the starting lineup. And in the past a little bit he been back in the starting lineup, what can you say about his attitude in particular just throughout the season throughout those ups and downs and different combinations?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, he's been as professional as he can be all the way through about all of it. Even when I go to talk to him, his attitude is, man, I'm going to work and do my job and whatever you need. If you want me to start, whatever it is, he's been right on top of it. Yeah.
- Thank you.
NICK NURSE: OK, everybody.