Raptors coach Nurse dismisses comparisons to playoff struggles of previous teams
'We don't vibrate on those frequencies of the past'
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse isn't about to look back at past playoff failures for the organization.
The Raptors, who play host to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, are one win away from closing out a best-of-seven playoff series in just five games for the first time in franchise history.
But Nurse bristled on Monday when a reporter pointed out that "this team" has had trouble closing out playoff series quickly.
"THIS team doesn't? Or this organization?" Nurse said. "THIS team, let's see if they can start their own history (Tuesday).
"I'm not trying to be rude in any way, I just want this team to form its identity. What's happened in the past has no bearing or relevance to what's happening now, to me. I like to steal (longtime baseball manager) Joe Maddon's line and say we don't vibrate on those frequencies of the past."
This team is already dialed into its own frequency. Sunday's 107-85 rout of the Magic put Toronto up 3-1 for the first time in franchise history. Led by 2014 NBA final MVP Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors shot 53 per cent — a franchise playoff record for a road game.
WATCH | Leonard leads Raptors to romp of Magic:
Nurse and the Raptors were back at OVO Athletic Centre on Monday studying film in advance of Tuesday's game at Scotiabank Arena.
The key is to keep any sense of complacency at bay. As point guard Kyle Lowry has said so many times in the past, the Raptors will treat Tuesday night as a Game 7.
"Close-out games are probably the hardest ones because the other team has everything to lose. And they are fighting for their lives," Danny Green said. "We know they don't want their season to end and the hardest part mentally is not getting too fat and happy or too satisfied because we are up 3-1 and feeling comfortable and being lackadaisical."
A loss Tuesday would send the series back to Orlando, which the Raptors would like to avoid.
"You're adding miles, adding stress, whatever it is, to your team. It does make it important, and hopefully we'll realize that," Nurse said.
The Raptors are riding momentum into Game 5, particularly on the defensive end. While Nurse said the team showed flashes of stifling, lock-down defence in the regular-season, they stepped it up the past three games.
"I just think that our team, they were upset Game 1 (a 104-101 loss) watching themselves, guys driving to the rim from 35 feet away, laying it in, dunking, and decided not to let that happen any more," Nurse said.
The rookie NBA head coach — whose voice was still hoarse Monday from hollering at players and officials on Sunday — was asked if he's enjoying the coaching chess matches that play out in the post-season.
"I think you don't really have much choice to like it or not. That's the job," said Nurse, who was Dwane Casey's assistant before the latter man was fired last off-season.
"I'll tell you what I do like, these games are awesome. I'm not just talking about our series, I'm talking about you turn on Brooklyn-Philly or whatever, the juice in the arenas, how hard the players are competing. I know when I'm walking out on the court before for the game it's like man, if you wanna compete, here it is, it's coming. That's something I really enjoy."
The Raptors have faced some adversity through four playoff games, including the upset loss in Game 1, Marc Gasol sitting with foul trouble in Game 2, and Leonard playing through flu-like symptoms in Game 3.
Green said a little adversity is good for them.
"If we are able to win games as we are going through this adversity, it definitely helps us become a stronger, more deep, more character-built team with a pretty good foundation that we have been through these situations and know how to handle them a little bit better," Green said. "So when the time comes, if we make it to that stage, we'll be prepared even more."
Meanwhile, OG Anunoby was at the team's practice facility on Monday. The sophomore forward had an emergency appendectomy two days before the Raptors tipped off the post-season. There's no schedule for his return.
"Looks good," Nurse said. "He was smiling and happy and moving around, which is a heck of a lot better than the last time I saw him. The last time I saw him, at the hospital, they said 'Let's take him for a walk,' and that wasn't a good idea.
"He's walking around and moving right now, and has got a smile on his face. That's good to see."
Game 6, if necessary, would be Thursday in Orlando.