Raptors coach Nick Nurse explains why his team has rebounded over the last few games, Toronto's struggles from the 3-point line, Thad Young's impact and scheming against James Harden.
NICK NURSE: Hello. How are we doing?
- How are you?
NICK NURSE: All right. All right.
- Hey, Nick, how much, or if at all does your daily scouting planning, film session change in a series from what you would have done before game 1 to what you're going to do before game 6, without giving up strategic things?
NICK NURSE: Well, it doesn't change much in between those, I don't think, Doug. I'd say the difference obviously is you've got usually a few more sessions than you normally would during the regular season. So that's one thing. So there's a day to day to show film. There's a part tomorrow, pre-shootaround and pre-walkthrough to show some things we're going to walk through. And then there's before the game.
So that's pretty extensive. And you got to kind of try to not show too much at once and save some for the other sessions and things like that. But you got to try to prioritize It It's a little more of a lengthy-- believe it or not, lengthy process because you are kind of trying to plan out kind of and prioritize what you're doing. So probably go over the film a lot more painstakingly, I guess, than I would during the regular season.
- But does the thing you're throwing them tomorrow-- are they the same things you were showing them before game 1?
NICK NURSE: No, of course not.
NICK NURSE: Well, of course not, because they're-- we're doing some things. They're making adjustments to things we're doing. They're lining up different formations. They're cutting guys different places each game. So, you know, you've got your-- it just keeps kind of getting a little bit bigger because, you know, you say, well, remember in game three they did this, and in game five they were doing this. So we got to be ready for both of them because they've kind of got all stuff into their package now too.
- Chris was saying that a lot time the pressure to adjust is on the team that's coming off a loss. For you guys, do you feel like your preparation is much different after a win or after a lost?
NICK NURSE: That hasn't in this series. I don't think so, no. I think, again, there's almost what I just said. They're doing some different things each night. And I give our guys some credit. And you guys have heard me talked about this in the past, that we have been able to do some things when we see new and do them on the fly right in the game or out of a timeout, make an adjustment and cover some things. And that was certainly the case in game five. There was a couple of things that were causing us some problems that we hadn't walked through or talked about ever before.
And we said, here's how we're going to do it. And the guys were able to go right out and do it and kind of took that part of what they were doing out of the game. So they're doing a good job with some of that stuff right now.
- Nick, couple of guys [INAUDIBLE] historic perspective of coming back from an 0-3 deficit. They said they haven't really thought about it. But I know you've been asked a lot about it since you guys went down 0-3. You had some fun with it. But have you thought about how big-- you're halfway there now.
NICK NURSE: Yeah. No, not really. I think that my concern was that we would, you know, get better and play better. And I think we certainly have in the last three games. Obviously didn't handle the first games very well. We've put ourselves in the hole we're in. We're still in a hole.
But, you know, for me, I just-- like I said, when it was 3-0, I said, we just got to get one here, right? And now we're-- still just need one. So just need one, two game-- three games later. Yeah.
- If you had two reasons in your mind why your team turned the series around, what would they be?
NICK NURSE: Two things?
- Two reasons, the main reasons why.
NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, I think we can't all forget we were pretty discombobulated at the start of the series, right? Game 1, we lost three key players in our rotation, right? I mean, that's tough to deal with, let alone you're on the road, and you're in your first playoff series. And you're-- so you're just not-- we just weren't in a state of-- like I kept saying, we weren't doing our basic things right. And I just think we were just in a little bit of a funk. So there's one.
We've got some guys join the series. I've said that several times, right? More guys have joined the series. So we've got players. What else? Another reason. Well, I'm going to stay on that same theme, really, as we did start doing our defensive principles better, which enabled us to go ahead and get our schemes going as well.
- When you look at the 3-point shots you guys thinking and missing--
NICK NURSE: Yep.
- --are they still good shots when you look at it in hindsight? Are they just missed shots? Or are there things that factor into the misses?
NICK NURSE: Well, I would say-- I don't know. Let's just use 30 as a-- we take 30 of them. I would say that somewhere in the mid-20s are really good, shots we're going to take. You know, there's the three or four probably heave here or there, shot clock one here or there. Or one or two quick ones that we've taken maybe covered in transition that we probably would-- those are only good if they go in, type of thing. But for the most part, I think they're pretty good, yeah.
And the thing that I think we've done very well is making one more pass lately. We're starting to-- they're kicking it out and they're rotating hard to that first guy and he just moving it on to a wide open guy in the corner or whatever. So that's been encouraging.
- If they're just not going in, that's one of those facts of life.
NICK NURSE: Yeah. Yeah, they're going to start going in, Doug. I keep saying that. The next game would be as good a game as any for them to start going in.
- Nick, when you look at this group and how young it is, how critical a teaching moment or coaching moment was that game 3 when you look at different things that could have gone right down the stretch that didn't? And you end up putting yourselves in a hole that most teams don't get out of. So either for this series or going forward, just going through that as a group, how useful is the lesson?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, well, I think even though we came out on the wrong side of that game, I think we certainly knew that now we were capable of winning the game or beating them at least. I think we outplayed them for a majority of that game just didn't get it done. Give our guys a lot of credit for standing in there in game 4 and performing and then so they say we played two good games in a row and now we've got to go do it on the road where we hadn't played worth a darn yet. So good amount of courage I think our guys have shown here in these last three games.
- One of the things you talk a lot about is getting this young team, these young guys as many playoff games as you can. I'm sure a lot of the fruits of that will be seen over the offseason, the next season, and what they've taken from this experience. So can you see-- how much can you see that growth on the fly? I know you talk about Precious a lot throughout the series. But can you see game to game from some of these guys, like what the reps and experience are doing for them?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think so. I think that the one thing they're certainly, again once we got settled in, have shown some great growth at the defensive end, right? I think you can just see them, they're pretty in tune with each other. It's not perfect out there, but a lot of the things we're doing are not easy to do, right?
When they've got such a dominating big man, we're on the run a lot but they're doing they're doing I would say an excellent job at some of that stuff. And it's formulating, by them out there they're just connected and they're reading each other well and they're communicating well, that's one thing. And I think at the other end they're settling in, they're showing good composure, they're taking their time, they're getting spacing, they're getting the match ups, they're sending the right people up to screen and not screen and re-screen and slip out and all the stuff that they're growing without there. They just look pretty comfortable at that end, so I think that's signs of them settling in.
- You never really know a bear until you poke him. What do you know about Thad Young now that maybe you didn't know six months ago?
NICK NURSE: Well, you're right. I think that I don't know his personality. I always respected his game. He always seemed to have good games against us and you always would wonder, man that guy's a good player.
Every time we see him it seems like, but certainly didn't know-- he's intelligent, he's got some great composure, he's got some leadership, and he rides with the punches pretty good. There has never been much attitude when I didn't play him. He just waited and he figured it out and he-- and I'd talk to him and say, like in game 2 I said, listen I'm waiting until game 3 for you.
I'm just I don't see it right now. And then in game 3 we brought him in early, and now he's become a big part of this series. So there's a lot of experience. Again, he adds to our composure and level-headedness and he's a good locker room piece and now a good versatile on the floor piece for us.
- Are you happy with the way that Scottie rebounded [INAUDIBLE] last few days?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, he looked good today out there.
- One of the concerns coming into this series was guarding Harden on the perimeter, not getting caught with his, like, rip-throughs and all that stuff. Is that something you've had to circle back to throughout the series, or is it just kind of a product of the dynamic of a series and continuing? Because he only took 11 shots. He's taking heat for it. I imagine he's going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit tomorrow.
NICK NURSE: Yeah. It's funny with him you kind of always have to circle, re-circle, circle, re-circle, re-circle, re-circle. It's just because he's such a unique player and all the things that he does when he's driving. And if he anybody-- seems like anybody in the half court has their arms out he finds them, entangles, and gets tangled up with them.
And then he's got the step back 3-ball thing that's hard, and he's got the lull you to sleep passing thing. Yeah, it's pretty extensive going through covering him because he also-- as you guys can see is when you watch the games, he's also moving pieces around all game long to get different looks and get different situations. So everybody's kind of got to know every piece to the defensive puzzle with him. And everybody's got to know how to guard him because he'll pull just about everybody up there to put it in a one-on-one, too, in a screening situation.
- Nick, you mentioned that the goal has just been to get one. But sometimes with inexperienced players [INAUDIBLE], you play a game and you're trying to win three in that one game. Why hasn't that happened?
NICK NURSE: Well, I just think, again that we've got put in a big hole here 3-0 and we just knew that getting one could get us back in this thing and get us a chance to keep it going. Nobody really-- I mean, listen everybody was disappointed about the 3-0 start and felt a little heavy for a while, but not that long a while. I think when we finally got back to the film room the next day, I like the body language, I liked what I was hearing communication wise, and we were ready to go.
- Nick, you said before the playoffs that you felt like this roster construction was built to find success in the playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of this series, have you seen something to reaffirm that belief? And do you still feel that way and why?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think so. I think this-- again, I can't totally discount game 1 and 2 but again we were just-- we were out of sorts and out of sync because of all the injuries that hit us right at the last second. And we couldn't quite manage that at the moment.
But I felt really good about the way we've played the last three games. So yeah, it's looked pretty good. I think in this you don't want to get carried away though. I think that it would be great if we could somehow come through this series and see another opponent, because it changes drastically as soon as you got another opponent and you need to again see how the roster and the guys play against somebody else.
- Nick, in a baseball series, they say momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher. How does that translate in terms of basketball? Where does momentum carry game to game in a playoff series?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think this one seems a little strange to me, Steve. I'm not sure that-- I know even in game 2, we came out with a great start. We really bounce back. I felt like in the playoffs when the team that loses really comes out super determined the next game. And I don't really know about momentum, I think in basketball the momentum shifts so much during one single game.
We ought to feel good going into it tomorrow but ain't going to mean anything, because as soon as the ball goes up we've got to play good. We've got to make plays and I think, again, getting off to a good start, especially defensively and transition defensively would be a big key to getting off to a good start. I mean continuing the play we've been on.
- Nick, when you look at the makeup of this team, you have a lot of guys who have been passed over, underdogs with chips on their shoulder. How does that factor into maybe making this comeback, or already getting this past couple games?
NICK NURSE: I mean, talked about a little bit being down 3-0. I already said it if somebody could do it, it would be us. They were in that meeting when I said that. However, I just think that I don't think they're really seeing that part of it at all right now. I think they're just trying to find out where they can play the best at both ends and how they're fitting in and all that stuff.
And again, I would agree with you, we got some guys I think that there's some confidence growing. OG for one, he's really playing, starting playing composed. Gary, Precious, Thad, you know Chris is chipping in the way he does. So there's some confidence growing with some of those guys and that's what we needed to have happen to get in the series.
- Nick, when it comes to shot making, are you kind of fingers crossed a little bit that a guy like Gary, or Precious, like someone will just kind of go off and nail a bunch of 3's or--
NICK NURSE: I mean, not really.
- It'd be nice.
- Well, I just-- like back to Doug's question, if we continue to generate these shots, then I'm fairly satisfied. I mean we can't miss them all, but if we continue to generate and-- I think Precious is going to have a few open looks and OG is going to have a few and Gary is going to have a few and if for some reason they don't, then that must mean we're driving it successfully one-on-one.
I just think that if we continue to generate and make the right reads, move it around, again, make the extra pass which we've been doing a little better. I think they'll be there, then we'll cross our fingers hope they go in.
- Nick, [INAUDIBLE] team doesn't have to bear the burden to make a long run in these playoffs because it's young, and there's just not the same expectation of the 76ers, helpful in trying to make this run back 0-3 because it feels like you have an opportunity to do it in a way?
NICK NURSE: Just going to say that we got nothing to lose. Got nothing to lose.
- Little while ago, you were talking about how quickly just sort of been able to brush off that start to this series and get back to work in film session. I think a lot-- just as people, we sometimes feel sad when things are low and get high when things are high. But you talk about even in 2019 how important that even keel was. But this is such a young group. Are you surprised that they have that even keel, that--
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean not surprise probably because they have been pretty level and unemotional all year long. It's just kind of been who we've been all season and that may be-- again back to the other question about not the expectations-- were super, well, super-- pretty low, not super low but they're pretty low. And we just weren't sure who we were.
Were kind of a funky roster. We were playing a funky style of basketball a little bit, and kind of working our way through. Taking it as a common we were able to put a handful of four or five game winning streaks together. Get jostled around a little bit, pick ourselves up, put another four or five together. And I just think it's-- we just been trying to get better and better and to get to this time of year.