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Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses his team weathering each storm, Pascal Siakam's impressive game, Scottie Barnes' health and remaining focused heading back to Toronto.
NICK NURSE: And he did, you know-- he did reach in there, knock a few away, just enough to kind of keep them off stride a bit. He didn't maybe steal those, but he'd bat away. And they'd have to kind of reset everything and go pick it up again. And we could kind of settle in behind him on some of that stuff, but he was good. I thought he was really good offensively, too, made a couple of tough shots there in the third, when we kind of needed a little ticking over offense and obviously a couple of big threes.
- There were a couple tough shots Pascal also was making, too.
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I just thought he was, again, composed, right? He was taking his time when he needed to. He was finding people, especially late.
He was really dumping the ball off great down below and out, which is great that he's seeing kind of both situations because you got to take what's there. And sometimes they're spraying out to stop Gary or OG from getting a three. And guys are cutting in behind him, and he's able to find those guys, too, but really, really good composure by him.
- And every time those guys made a run, it seemed like you guys would string together two or three buckets. How important was that in terms of keeping their crowd out of it?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, it was huge. I mean, I expected it to probably get a little loud. And we're going to have to withstand a road crowd there if it got a little closer, and you're right. I think maybe up to nine a couple of times, and we seem to answer with a play or get a stop and get a transition bucket or something to settle things in again. And then we were able to get another stop usually and take it back up to double digits.
- I know you were hoping that a couple of days of rest and treatment would help Scottie. Did he look different to you today, equal or better form?
NICK NURSE: He looked pretty good. He looked like he might have been laboring a bit there at the end of the game, so we'll have to-- we'll have to see. But I think he's OK. That's the first time I've seen him limp in two games, and he was limping a little bit there at the end.
- [INAUDIBLE] for tonight [INAUDIBLE] third quarter. And there was, like, almost five straight possessions [INAUDIBLE]. How [INAUDIBLE]?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think if we can keep those guys, Harden and Embiid to around five or six or seven apiece rather than double digits, we stand a much better chance, right, and that's important. And I think we got to the rim some, played through some hits, and we just kept taking it in there. We got by them some to get to the layup or a little bit of a tough stretch-out layup or whatever it was. But I think that's-- I think we can probably survive a 20 to 13.
- Without [INAUDIBLE], how much-- how much more workload can be put on Pascal in particular?
NICK NURSE: Well, those guys have got to handle the ball, right? Scottie and Pascal have got to handle the ball a lot, right, so there's that. That's not easy to do to bring the ball up the court the whole game. It's good that they can kind of do it a little bit in tandem with that, so I think that's the main thing.
- When you lose a player, what is the performance like [INAUDIBLE] group?
NICK NURSE: Well, it says a lot about them. I think that we've had some practice here, especially late in the season, without him. We've kind of had our turn with everybody, and we've had to try to adjust to it. And I think it's important that we had that during the season, so we kind of knew what the rotations would look like, what the offense would look like, those kind of things, yeah.
- Is there such a thing as momentum in a series game to game? And do you sense the change in it here?
NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, maybe there is, but it doesn't really matter. I mean, the ball goes up-- the ball goes up on Thursday. Everybody's got to fight like heck.
- [INAUDIBLE] playoff games as much as possible.
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- Is this the way [INAUDIBLE]?
NICK NURSE: Not exactly how I would probably draw it up, but we're happy to still be playing. We need the games. That's for sure. Our goal is to keep improving.
- [INAUDIBLE] but is there another level to get to? I mean, if you look at the three-point shooting tonight, a lot of great opportunities were open.
NICK NURSE: Well, I think we could probably shoot a higher percentage. We keep throwing up 20% and 25%. I hope we could shoot a little bit better. I mean, again, we hope to get better.
That'd be one thing we could do. We continue to make some adjustments defensively and change some things. And if we can keep executing those, that should give us a lot more kind of in our package of schemes we can run.
NICK NURSE: Yep.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I was. Again, especially early, Michael, I think it's important early in the game that we're out there and making those guys reload or shoot a really contested one or force them back inside the line, right? I thought we did a good job of forcing those guys to drive. I'm not so sure we did as good a job as we could do once they did drive it, right? So there's some things we can look at there.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think we're making the right decisions kicking them out to the right guys. I am pleased. I think we're making another pass a lot, too.
They're making the right reads to get to those things, so hopefully we can keep generating those shots. That's always the main thing. I think if you consistently generate them, your offense is going to be pretty good.
- OK. We have a couple questions online. Go ahead, Josh.
- Thank you. We'll go to Steve Simmons first. Go ahead, Steve.
STEVE SIMMONS: Nick, in the first two games of the series, there was barely a quarter where they didn't score 30 points. Tonight, they didn't get that or really even close to that in any of the four quarters. What has happened and changed from then to now that you have gotten-- I don't know if comfortable would be the right word-- but certainly successful?
NICK NURSE: Yeah. Well, I talked about it after the first two games. And you guys were asking me, what the hell is wrong with your defense. And I said everything, you know, and I meant kind of all those foundational principles.
First, transition was a huge problem. We weren't good at that at all. Our ball pressure wasn't good enough.
Our shot contesting wasn't good enough, and our rebounding wasn't good enough. That's our four foundational principles, and we've just gotten so much better at all four of those. And then it allows us to get our defense set, and then we can get to some of the schemes and things we're doing.
STEVE SIMMONS: In tonight's game, the only time it really seemed to be close or get close was in the third quarter when you guys were sort of-- I don't know-- struggling offensively may be the way to put it. But every time you got into that struggling offense, it seemed Pascal made a basket, sometimes standing still, sometimes a shot. He made about seven points in, I think, in three times down the floor that really separated the game at that point, and it was really never close again.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, you're right. He made some big tough buckets when there wasn't much going, and those are huge. That's-- your scorer needs to produce some baskets on his own sometimes, and he was able to do that. I thought we had-- you're right, though. I thought we had-- I can't quite remember exactly, but I think it was at the end of the second and at the end of the third where we had three really, really poor possessions in a row to end the quarters.
Like, we had a transition, and we turned it over. And we came down and took a quick contested three off of no passes, you know, and just like three in a row. And usually you can't get away with that, but you're right. Pascal bailed us out at the end of those usually.
STEVE SIMMONS: One last thing quick, Scottie Barnes wins the Rookie of the Year on Saturday. Does he now win the most improved player by today?
NICK NURSE: Well, his health has improved, and he's not the only one. I think, other than Fred, everybody's feeling a little bit better, Gary especially. Scottie's obviously in the series now again after going down in game 1, right, pretty early on.
But I thought he was assertive, man. He made some tough turnarounds, used his size. He went to his strengths, and he did it physically.
- Thank you. Next, we'll go to Adam from the Daily Hive. Go ahead, Adam.
- Hey, Nick. All season long, we've talked about the high minutes that the guys have played on this team. And coming into a playoff game, do you feel like the high minutes that they played throughout the year kind of has served as an advantage to them in these high-pressure moments?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, it was conditioning. We were conditioning them through the year for this. It probably hasn't hurt. I think, again, you get some time from the end of the year.
We got about a week, right, until our first playoff game. Now we're going to get a few days. But this is-- every game is critical, no matter what the score in the series. And you're going to run your best guys about as long as you can.
- All right. Thanks, Nick.
NICK NURSE: Yep, thank you.
- Next, we'll go to Oren Weisfeld. Go ahead, Oren.
OREN WEISFELD: Hey, Nick. You talk about breaking the spirit of another team with the way that you guys can play defense and have at certain points. Have these last two games kind of been an example of maybe not breaking anyone's spirits but kind of wearing them down in a way?
NICK NURSE: I don't know. I just think that we've been back, and we've got our defense set. And it's been active, and we've put pressure on them, and we've contested shots. And we've just got to continue to do that through 48 minutes if we want to have a chance to win.
OREN WEISFELD: All right. Thanks.
NICK NURSE: Thank you.
- Next, we'll go to Louis Zatzman. Go ahead, Louis.
LOUIS ZATZMAN: Hey, Coach. When Pascal gets the ball in the paint and gets swarmed there, how important is Scottie Barnes ducking in on the baseline to opening up the floor for the offense?
NICK NURSE: Well, it's important. I mean, you want to have a rim presence, right? And usually a cutter can draw in another perimeter guy. Sometimes a cutter will draw two guys because it's kind of confusing sometimes it's tough to figure out who is supposed to take them.
And are you passing him off and popping out or whatever? So it's important. I mean, we worked on that a lot, him and Chris and Precious and those guys that are kind of-- OG some-- where they're in and out guys. And if they can figure out where they're at and cut in there behind, it keeps them honest, and it keeps good floor balance and floor spacing.
LOUIS ZATZMAN: Thanks, Coach.
- And last question to Takeshi Shibata. Go ahead, Takeshi.
NICK NURSE: Takeshi!
TAKESHI SHIBATA: Hi, Coach. Congratulations for a great win but a lot of work to be done yet.
NICK NURSE: Sure is, yeah, there is.
TAKESHI SHIBATA: My question is I thought game 5 on the road today after a game 4 win, that would be a very tricky game today. And game 6 might be even more tricky because they are very aware of their position, and you guys are on the kind of very good momentum. So my question is, so I'm getting back to Yuta, so I'm curious about--
NICK NURSE: All right.
TAKESHI SHIBATA: How Yuta-- or not only him, but are the Raptors all ready mentally for this kind of situation?
NICK NURSE: Well, yeah, I mean, listen, I think that with the emergence of Thad in this series now, we're OK playing probably a little bit bigger. Chris has played well. Precious has played well. I think we're getting our 10, 12 minutes out of Khem as well.
Again, there may be a time, like I've told you before, where I feel like we need some perimeter shooting. That's-- again, Yuta's probably next on the list to come in there and provide that. He does give us a chance to continue to switch with his size and his hustle on defense, so you never know. You never know.
TAKESHI SHIBATA: OK. Thank you so much.
NICK NURSE: Thanks, everybody. See you.