Nick Nurse proud of how Raptors handled tumultuous season: ‘We just kept fighting’

Raptors coach Nick Nurse reflected on a hard-fought series against the 76ers following Philly’s blowout win on Thursday, praising how his team developed, improved and grinded its way through adversity all year while emphasizing that it was a lack of defensive execution which crushed Toronto’s chances in Game 6.

Video Transcript

NICK NURSE: I mean, they were really great. They shot it, they passed it really well IN three of the games, and tonight was one of them. Obviously, we don't guard at all again for the whole second half, we can't stop them. And we've been stringing up a lot of sub '30s and 25 quarters defensively. And we don't get any of them really tonight.

And Yeah, I mean, we weren't helping ourselves. Because we weren't shooting the ball well, we were playing a lot in transition. We knew that's what they talked about wanting to do. We talked about making them play against our halfcourt defense. They got too many in the transition as well. And just about everything, really.

- You guys did press a little bit. The three point shots came quick and they might have been more contested, more early on in the shot clock than you would have liked and talked about before the game?

NICK NURSE: There was a few, Doug. I think just a couple of guys probably were more anxious to make an impact on the game. Again, I always say that-- said it before the game, it's a fine line between being aggressive and a bad shot. It's a fine line sometimes, but I don't fault our guys again for the aggressiveness and spirit they've played with all season long. So I'm not going to hang that one on anybody tonight.

- I Think you wanted your guys to learn from the highs and the lows of playoff basketball and they got a lot of both. How much do you think they'll be able to take from this?

NICK NURSE: Well, they should be able to take a lot from it. I think that I spent the first halftime of the first game introducing them to physicality of the playoffs, right? And I thought we-- on a lot of occasions, were the more physical team in the series. Right? I think we weren't tonight, but a lot of times in the series we were. So we had some ups and downs with that, but I think we learned some of that as well.

And you know, I think the biggest thing, Josh, is that-- and you guys know I say this a lot too, is that you got to give yourself a chance by executing your defensive schemes. And the last three games we did that, and tonight we didn't. We got to understand that stuff has to get done to give ourselves the best chance to win. And for whatever reason, tonight we made a lot of mistakes in our schemes and we were scrambling a lot tonight.

- Early on there, you guys have kind of bottled up harden pretty good most of the series. And early on he got out and he got ten in the first quarter, [INAUDIBLE] assists. Did you come up with a little bit different coverage? Or was he just kind of had a more pep in his step, or?

NICK NURSE: No, we didn't come out in any different coverage than that we normally have with him. I know what you're talking about. I'm going to have to see where we were missing the rotation and the help because I know he got downhill right to the front of the rim. And usually we have somebody there to at least challenge him or pinch the gaps off early or whatever. So I have to take a look at that. But Yeah, again-- we expected him to be aggressive and we expected him to get off to a good start and all that stuff. And again, we just weren't quite good enough defensively in any part of the game, really.

- What has been so important in actually defending Harden?

NICK NURSE: Yeah.

- How much did that earlier, the whole trouble throw things on the line?

NICK NURSE: Well, looking at it now, it seems like it affected it a lot. And the only thing is this. I just got done talking about this with my staff, I said, maybe holding him out that whole time didn't let him get into the game. He had to sit out that whole stretch of basically, the whole second quarter.

But then when you're in a game that's a one-point game at the half, you're thinking man, we totally got away with that. We didn't lose any ground and we're right here and now-- I said we can play him the whole second half, because he only played like eight minutes or nine minutes or whatever it was in the first. But he wasn't quite-- he never really got into the game, maybe because of that. Yeah, it's too bad.

- [INAUDIBLE] second quarter, that was probably his best game in a very long time. What's it say about his ability to handle the playoffs? And it's a challenge for a guy who's not a very physical person.

NICK NURSE: Yeah I mean, listen. When he gives that relentless energy like that, Doug, he can make a lot of good things happen. I mean, he was cutting and flying around and rebounding. I think he had six offensive rebounds by himself in the first half if I remember right. Yeah, something like that. And again, it's just him-- I think he had a blocked shot on a three.

Just using his gifts like that, Doug. And doing it. We really needed him because I thought we-- again, we didn't get much from some other areas tonight. So at least we got a huge night from him off the bench. Didn't get much else off the bench tonight.

- I'm sure they're disappointed with the end result, obviously. But really good season, better than what most people could have expected. What was the mood like in the room just now? What was your message to guys?

NICK NURSE: Yeah I mean, listen. I think that-- about everything you just said-- I mean, listen, they're disappointed, for sure. Pretty heavy air in there. They're disappointed. My message was that as a whole, I thought we went through a tremendous amount this year. With a number of things. And we just kept fighting, and kept playing, and kept getting better, and kept figuring things out, and it was never really smooth.

There was always a big old bump in the road. We would win six and three guys would get hurt and we would have to reassemble. And lose three and win six and lose three. And you know, it was continually picking ourselves back up all year long. And I give them a lot of credit for that, hanging in there.

I think the other thing I said was, a lot of guys got a lot better. It's great to see Pascal back to Pascal. You know, I thought we saw some tremendous improvements from Gary, from Precious, from Chris, Scotty, obviously-- high ceiling. Anyway, so a lot of stuff. And I just said, listen, we're going to have to get this one out of our system. It may take a few days or a couple of weeks and then-- but we've got to get ready to get back to work. And this is where we expect to be this time of year is in these games and we've all individually got to get better, so that we can collectively get better and get in the hunt.

- [INAUDIBLE] the verdict that was on an offensive play these last three games [INAUDIBLE]

NICK NURSE: Yeah, he was good. And listen, they started late in the first half to send in two guys to him in the screen and roll. And they started even running guys in the ISO at him. And I thought for the most part, he made the right reads. It was the other guys that didn't make the right reads. And it's disappointing to me because it's something we work on almost every single day to start practice.

We work on blitz work, and where to go, and where to cut, and where to move on, and we just for whatever reason-- we would make the one pass and that guy would hold it and not make the next one. And we just-- and then when we did do it right, we'd miss the shot. So it was a lot of confidence lost playing against that when there shouldn't be. I was pretty disappointed in that execution from us. But kind of goes in line with a lot of stuff tonight, we weren't executing very well at either end.

- Wrap it up [INAUDIBLE] you guys have any questions [INAUDIBLE].

- See you guys soon. Thanks a lot. Yep.

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