The Guardian (Charlottetown)
CHANGES FOR RE-START Defence will be the decider for Raptors
Defence for the most part isn’t sexy. Save for maybe a huge rejection at the rim, it’s not the type of in-game play that is going to get a fan out of his seat.
But it was the backbone of last year’s championship run and how well the Raptors play it over the next few months will determine how far this year’s Raptors club goes as well.
“I think this is a big thing, and I think we’ve already showed we can play about as good defence as any team in this league before the break,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think if we get back to playing that way, that can take us about as far as we want to go. That’s a big thing, right? The way we can play defence, if we can get to that point, and play it at a playoff level, which we’ve already kind of done, too, then we oughta have a chance to figure everything else out.”
Even since arriving in Orlando and setting up shop inside the NBA campus, that defence has been on display, but only if you’re willing to overlook the final of three scrimmages where very few parts of the Raptors game seemed to be working including the defence.
In each of the first two games – against more seasoned opponents – those bursts of defensive superiority that have turned games in the Raptors favour or sealed games in their past were on display.
They might not have been as long as Nurse would like to see or that he’s going to have to see if the Raptors repeat goal is to be achieved, but they were there and there’s still plenty of time to work on extending them.
Marc Gasol almost laughed at a question yesterday when he was asked what two areas he would like to see the Raptors excel at going into the meaningful games ,which began Thursday night, with the Raptors first game that counts coming Saturday when they take on the top western conference-seeded Lakers.
“Ummm, if you play the best defence and make the most shots you are going to win,” Gasol said.
“To me if there are things you are going to ask for, those are my two things. Whoever makes the most shots and plays the best defence is going to win.”
Listening to the players and Nurse over the past few days, the major takeaway is most of what the Raptors came into this re-start looking for – conditioning, strong mental approach – is there. All that is really lacking is the rhythm and timing of certain switches and alignments that was so locked in before the Coronavirus brought the league to a screeching halt back on March 11.
“I think it’s going to be a process and obviously we feel like everyone is ready mentally and physically to go out there and play,” Pascal Siakam said.
“I just feel like obviously it’s going to take a little bit for us to be at our best, but I think I like where we are right now, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
The goal obviously is to be at their peak Aug. 17 when the seeding games and the play-in games have been completed.
We know the Raptors are planning some kind of pregame statement. We just don’t know what that will be.
“I don’t think we have come to like something we want to do right now, there’s a lot of different things swirling around,” Siakam said Thursday.
In an effort to improve on an already solid set-up for NBA games inside the NBA campus, the league has made a few tweaks.
For starters a cloth covering has been added to the referees’ whistles to prevent the spread of spittle, which makes all kinds of sense.
And this one will affect the wagering types. The injury reporting structure will change a bit. Rather than a 1 p.m. deadline to declare players out, doubtful, questionable, probable or available, there will now be five hours prior to the second game of a back-toback. This will address the earlier time slots in which a lot of these games are being played.
The seating on the players/ coaches benches will also get a tweak although it likely won’t be noticeable to the viewers at home.
“Ummm, if you play the best defence and make the most shots you are going to win” Marc Gasol