It was the worst of halves and the best of halves for the Toronto Raptors' defensive game in their win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse gives his insight as to what changed at the half.
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- All right. Go ahead, Justine.
- Sounds good. We'll start with Doug.
- Hey, Nick. Congratulations on the win. Obviously, the defensive effectiveness changed greatly at halftime. Why? And what did you see that caused it to be so?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think you're right about as two different results defensively in a game as you can have, really. Well, I mean, I think the first half, Doug-- you know, when you start not doing some things well-- and most of it just usually stems from a readiness standpoint. We weren't running back hard enough to get set. We weren't quite getting out to shooters. We were kind of there, but not the way the game plan was set up.
We just weren't moving and active enough, you know. There was plays right in front of us, and we were kind of right there. And we couldn't react very well. And then it all changed. We got into them, and we started getting some deflections. We started swarming and flying.
We started standing in there more on their drives, rebounding well. You know, we just started doing everything better. And I think it just came down to some readiness and some energy that we found.
- I know, if you look at the numbers, it doesn't seem that Precious had a huge night. But I thought at the start of the fourth quarter, he really provided a lot of big energy-- made the 3, but he had a block. He got some rebounds. That short spurts, can you talk about his effectiveness there?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, you know what Doug? He even did it in the first half. He was on the floor two or three times digging out some loose balls. I thought his effort was great. And I think that's really all we're asking. I think he's going to make effective plays. He's so big and athletic. If he's amped up and playing hard, he's gonna impact the game.
And you're right. He was doing a little bit of everything. And then you're also right. He throws in a big 3. That was kind of a big momentum 3 there that got us going too. So yeah, he played-- again, one of those guys that didn't have a ton of shots or a ton of offense, but a really impactful game.
- Great. Thanks very much. Safe trip back, Nick. Appreciate it.
NICK NURSE: Thanks, Doug.
- Next we'll go to [? Steven. ?]
- Hey, Nick. Does this game or does this victory-- does it feel bigger or more important than previous ones, giving second night of a back-to-back? Your guys stormed back in the second half. Does this feel like a bigger win for you?
NICK NURSE: Well, it's a good win. Right, [? Steven? ?] I think it's a good win. I think you're right on the back end of a back-to-back. But again, it's just wanting to see some progress with this group and figure some things out. And it was good.
I think the thing we figured out tonight is we didn't have our best juices flowing. There just-- that's just no other way to say it than that. But it's a long game, and you hang in there. And you find a way to get them flowing. And then you start playing really good defensively. So again, it's just a learning thing and continue to make progress with this team.
- Well, to that point, the second half turnaround-- you mentioned how you guys didn't have the juices flowing in that first half. But what does that say about this team, in particular the younger guys, that they can just like turn it up in that second half?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think that you learn that it is a long game. And sometimes you're not always gonna be at your best, right. You really want to. You gotta learn that this is a defense-first process. And again, they did a good job of not really overreacting to that first half.
I thought we got in the locker room-- and I actually said, jeez, we're pretty fortunate. You know, it's a 9-point game. There's a lot of ball to be played here. I think our offense is fine. We're gonna score. It's just a matter of can we flip it around and start doing some of the things we need to do defensively. And we did.
- Great. Thanks a lot, Nick.
NICK NURSE: Thank you.
- Next we'll go to Ryan Wolstat.
RYAN WOLSTAT: Hey, Nick. Just curious what you make of how this new starting five that's actually getting to play together, how it's looking, especially with this back-to-back.
NICK NURSE: Well, it's looking good. I mean, I think it's-- you know, there's a lot of learning process to go on here yet. I think they start and they end. Right? So we got put in a situation tonight where we needed to execute offensively late on the road in the tough game. We had some good ones, had some not so good ones. Those things need to get cleaned up and we need to get a little bit more systematic on those things.
You know, saying it-- it wasn't bad. But there-- you know, you can't have any of those ones where you don't quite get into anything and the whole clock runs down, and you don't get a decent shot up. So there's plenty to learn with them. But so far, they're fine. They should be able to do a lot of different things, both offensively and defensively.
RYAN WOLSTAT: And with Scottie in particular, pretty quiet today and the five fouls. Was it, you think, maybe he's just getting back and a back-to-back that plays into it?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I do. I think he-- it was, you know, he's young. And it's getting used to the mental prep and all that stuff that you gotta do and the physicality of the games and all that stuff. And it's OK, though. I thought again, he brought-- like everybody, he raised it up a little bit in the second half. I thought he played a lot better defense, was way more impactful. I see some openings for him, offensively, that I think we can get to here coming up. So that's another positive that I think I see with this crew late in the game and stuff.
RYAN WOLSTAT: Thanks.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, thank you.
- Next we'll go to [? Kayla. ?]
- Hey, Coach. Just a question on Justin Champagnie and the energy that you've been able to see consistently, in particular over the last two games.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, he's had some, man, big minutes. It's a good problem, [? Kayla, ?] because he's out there impacting the game like crazy. And I'm sitting over there thinking, jeez, I gotta get OG back in. I gotta get Scottie back in. I gotta-- you know, Gary's over here. And I'm thinking, I don't really want to take him out because he's getting a bunch of loose balls and all that kind of stuff.
But that's kind of the role. He's a young guy. But he's just doing what he does, man. He's got an incredible nose for the ball. He's got an incredible nose for cutting behind the defense, as you saw tonight a couple of times. And he's making hustle plays, which is awesome. It's a good fit with everybody else. We need it.
- And lastly, from me, I mean, obviously the last little while with no fans in the building, you would assume the team would sound a lot louder. But particularly in the last couple of minutes of this game, we saw Pascal, Fred get very vocal. Are you noticing that, in terms of the communication, how things have changed?
NICK NURSE: Well, we had another one of those good nights. I don't know if you were at the press conference a couple of nights ago when I said we gotta create our own fun.
- But we had another good night on the bench, man. Our guys-- we had our defense in front of us in the second half. And it was super vocal from our staff and from our players and support staff and everybody. And everybody was really energized and tuned in to trying to help us guard. And that was fun.
- Thank you.
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- Two more are here for you, Coach. First we'll go to Josh.
- Hey, Nick. We've talked a lot about Fred's on- and off-court numbers throughout the year. You've had really starter-heavy lineups on the floor the last couple of games when Fred's gone to the bench. And I think you guys are plus-16 when he hasn't been out there. How pleased are you with the effort from those groups and holding the fort while Fred's been out?
NICK NURSE: Well, it's good, Josh. And it's like we're still pretty experimental. Right? I mean, come out of that quarter break, and he's out. And I'm not quite sure, but it's like Pascal at the one, Precious and Chris, maybe Scottie or OG, and then somebody else. And it's like, you're-- the first time you're doing that, you're looking on paper on that and wondering how that's going to function.
And the first time we did that was against the Knicks. And they went out, I think, 6-0. Knicks called a timeout. And then they went something like 8-3 our of that timeout. So they just kind of-- not only did they hold fort, they kind of blew the game open a little bit.
Again, I think there's a lot of learning to be done there. There were some possessions. They go zone on us, which we'll probably see it quite a bit with that lineup. We've gotta get to pushing the ball and beating the zone down the floor. And we've gotta get to executing a little bit better.
We-- it's too bad. Because we did actually-- in that stretch where they went zone and we came away with absolutely nothing there for about four minutes, we had about three wide open dunks that we either mishandled it or missed the pass, or we were actually executing pretty good and didn't come away with anything-- so just cleaning some of that stuff up.
- Thanks, Nick. Safe travels back.
NICK NURSE: Thanks, Josh.
- Last one for you, Coach. We'll go to Aaron Rose.
AARON ROSE: Hey, Nick. We've obviously talked a lot about Fred's All-Star candidacy. And your other guys probably know how the games can get there. But are you seeing All-Star caliber play lately from Siakam?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And I guess probably have to take a longer look at that to see. I would imagine there's a lot of guys that don't have games played this year. Right? I think that'll be interesting to see how that all shakes out.
But he certainly-- he's playing at a super high level. I think his passing, his rebounding has been good. He only got five tonight, but it's been really good, as you know. I just think he's making a lot of good plays, finished a couple of big baskets tonight as well. So yeah, he's definitely playing at that level.
AARON ROSE: Thanks, Nick. Safe travels.
NICK NURSE: Thank you. Good?
- Yeah. All good. Thanks, Coach.
NICK NURSE: OK. See ya.