Nick Nurse and the Raptors appear ever nearer to an inevitable separation

Nothing vital has modified within the Japanese Convention play-in photograph on Friday evening. In reality, the primary outcomes have been as anticipated.

Chicago received in Charlotte. Atlanta misplaced to Brooklyn. The Raptors misplaced 117-110 to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks and the Raptors (38-39) keep forward of the Bulls, with the Raptors ending second in a possible three-way tie, shedding their tiebreaker with Atlanta and successful it in opposition to Chicago. It should not have appeared like a very vital evening.

When does the coach brazenly query his future? When do the Raptors permit a championship staff to shoot 76% from the sphere within the first half? This does not really feel like a straightforward loss in a season that has seen too many for anybody concerned.

This is what stood out from an evening that was equal elements disappointing and peculiar.

The query of the coach

When a staff with respectable expectations has a comparatively poor season, the supervisor’s scenario is nearly all the time in query. Sure, even when that coach has received a Scudetto. Frank Vogel received a title with the Lakers in 2020 and the franchise fired him simply two full seasons later.

Nonetheless, Nick Nurse’s title with the Raptors in 2019 helped the franchise recover from the hump. He is without doubt one of the most imaginative X and O coaches within the league, particularly on protection. He is an effective NBA coach.

Just lately, each and The Toronto Star reported league-wide hypothesis that Nurse and the Raptors could possibly be headed for divorce, with Nurse probably going to the Houston Rockets, whose G League staff he coached whereas they helped revolutionize the assault within the championship. . Each studies talked about former Celtics Ime Udoka as a training candidate in Toronto.

We do not speculate a lot in regards to the second half, aside from to say that Raptors president Masai Ujiri interviewed Udoka for the teaching emptiness that Nurse ultimately stuffed in 2018. Udoka had been concerned with Basketball With out Borders, which works intently contact Ujiri’s Giants of Africa program.

“I feel I am targeted on this job, for certain, and this sport,” the nurse informed reporters in Philadelphia on Friday (I used to be not current). “However I feel 10 years is an effective time to take a seat down and replicate a bit. I feel we’ll do all of this when the season is over.

“It has been 10 years for me, which is a fairly good experience.”

Nurse is referring to his 10 years with the Raptors, his first 5 as an assistant to Dwane Casey. He went on to name the season “troublesome” in “some ways”. No person would argue.

Let’s face it: Oddly sufficient, a supervisor is acknowledging that he will likely be implicitly reflecting on the job he presently has – and is below contract to fill subsequent yr – whereas the season is underway and his staff is taking part in significant video games. After all, there’s hardly any world the place a coach of his stature would enter the ultimate season of his contract with out an extension, as could be the case if he returned to Toronto and not using a new contract subsequent yr. The Raptors are nonetheless taking part in for one thing, although. Whereas what he mentioned is tantamount to considering of his work, it is simply sufficient of a twist from the conventional response to be noteworthy.

We’ll get extra into the way forward for nursing because the calendar progresses. The entrance workplace and training employees have not been completely aligned at some factors this yr, and the truth that the midfield assault, thought-about a weak level firstly of the season, has been as unproductive as it’s involved is an enormous downside . Whether or not you blame the entrance workplace function or blame the coach, there hasn’t been any vital enchancment there.

No means is the nurse the primary downside with the Raptors. Nonetheless, when a coach calls upon his staff’s effort and vitality as usually as he has this yr and outcomes proceed to be fairly poor, it’s clear that one thing is improper. Actually, a whole lot of issues are improper. Barring a surprisingly profitable conclusion to this season by the Raptors, a training change appears extra probably than not.


The Raptors have discovered stylistic variety however nonetheless lack the mandatory cohesion

An detached half

The Raptors did not have Jakob Poeltl to match Joel Embiid the earlier instances the Raptors had performed the 76ers. For that, they did it.

“We desire to be on the aggressive aspect,” Poeltl mentioned Thursday once I requested him about Embiid’s midrange jumpers, who’ve gotten extra environment friendly in recent times. “Sure, he tries to take the ball out of his fingers. He lets another person make a play. However I feel it is only a matter of various mindsets. Some groups will say, “Take the least efficient shot,” even when they make it with a really excessive share. Different groups will likely be extra like us.”

Poeltl understood the general defensive mentality of the Raptors. And it is nights like this that you must query that. In a 46-point second quarter, the 76ers scored on a foolish 19 of 21 possessions.

Reality be informed, James Harden and his teammates hit a whole lot of robust photographs, whereas Embiid was barely concerned. It is good.

Nonetheless, the Raptors had been playing in all places, particularly with a bench-heavy unit that includes Treasured Achiuwa and Chris Boucher. (Christian Koloko took over from Achiuwa within the rotation within the second half.) If you wish to be that aggressive, you additionally should be related. Too usually the Raptors have not been there this yr.

Within the first quarter, the Raptors had been caught incessantly lacking transitions. Even after a Raptors area purpose within the second quarter, the 76ers bought a dunk, by way of De’Anthony Melton, six seconds later.

The Raptors have been rather more strong since Poeltl’s arrival: Coming into the sport, the Raptors had the third-best All-Star defensive score because the break. However a whole lot of that has come in opposition to some weaker defensive tempos. When pushed, the Raptors can nonetheless break. Their habits and execution depart rather a lot to be desired.

The Raptors do not quit, they double up

Nurse is fond of claiming that if the Raptors’ aggression is not working, he usually desires his staff to lean much more into that mentality as a substitute of backing down. That is what impressed the Raptors’ finest play.

Nurse simplified issues: if Embiid touched the ball, the Raptors needed to ship a second defender to have him put the ball away. A few of the photographs the Sixers put up within the first half merely stopped falling, however there’s one thing to be mentioned for inflicting a staff to lose tempo by any means crucial.

The Raptors’ betting was additionally higher timed, a product of a beginning lineup that performs properly collectively. Particularly, OG Anunoby was properly attuned to find out how to shock the 76ers star. Anunoby switched to Embiid late within the first quarter and the MVP candidate has been comparatively quiet ever since.

This has introduced the Raptors into transition, one thing they all the time desperately want.

About that bench…

The Raptors’ principal downside off the bench wasn’t the offense on Friday. However on an evening of taking pictures 2-of-13 from 3 within the first half, the absence of Gary Trent Jr. was felt. He misplaced his fifth straight sport for the Raptors.

Unhealthy information: The primary 4 had been as a consequence of an elbow damage, and he sat out with again spasms in opposition to the 76ers. Trent already has a historical past of taking just a few video games after he bought injured to search out his rhythm.

Now, if he returns earlier than the tip of the season, he’ll be again from two accidents.

(Nick Nurse Photograph: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE through Getty Pictures)

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