Coach Nick Nurses Raptors Back To Excellence
After going win-less in the Bay Area since 2004, the Raptors complete their California road trip with a sweep against the top two teams in the Western Conference -- without Kawhi Leonard.
To say the Oracle Arena is a tough place to play would be an understatement. Since 2014, the Warriors have a home-record of 155-23. Toronto was coming off a 24-point win against the LA Clippers, playing back-to-back against the NBA juggernaut Golden State. To add to the Kawhi-less-Raps obstacles, Coach Nick Nurse lost his mother a day before the road trip began, flying back to Iowa to see his family and making it back before jump ball against the Clips. The quality of this 20-point win against the back-to-back NBA champions who were likely to three-peat (until now) is beyond impressive. This game is widely-considered the greatest regular season game in Raptors franchise history and as a true Raps fan; I am going to arrogantly embrace the hell out of it.
All good things come to an end and the Golden State Warriors are starting to resemble the end of the Shaq-Kobe era. The Splash Brothers uncharacteristically combined to shoot for 2-of-13 on threes, as the Warriors team collectively shot 23.1 percent. Most people discredited Toronto's first win against GS due to the absence of Steph, however, he was nowhere to be found in Wednesday night's game either.
This is certainly not the same Golden State we have witnessed the last three years, much like this isn't the same Raps team we have watched.
We have shifted from begging for a Christmas game on national television, to being featured on all-day specials on ESPN. Although a Christmas game would still be appreciated because after watching 24 Hours of a Christmas Story more than twice, you will want to shoot your own eyes out.
The last 48 hours have been a major testament to this team, and my favourite part of all this -- Kawhi Leonard sat on the sidelines witnessing his Raps dismantle his top suitor in the Clippers and arguably the most talented team in NBA history; the Warriors. This has to significantly enhance our sales pitch to the Klaw next season as we are slowly approaching the mid-way point of Operation Re-sign Leonard. Although the Clippers are making a heavy attempt to poach him from Canada.
And if any MLSE executives are reading this (which they probably all are), I am willing to go to every Raptor game this season to spot and heckle these Clipper employees till the end of the season. No one can "accidentally" spill beer and nachos on others like myself.
Most of Raps nation was frustrated with the firing of Casey and hiring of Nick Nurse, myself included. However, he is one of the primary reasons we are experiencing this early season success, utilizing every player to their strengths and exploiting other teams weaknesses. On Wednesday night, the Green Ranger, who consistently expresses his affinity for the city and hopes of sticking around, locked up Curry on the defensive end while bullying him on the offensive end. Nick Nurse's new matchups had the Raptors feasting on the Warriors like their main dish as Chef Curry was unable to even serve up an appetizer for his team.
Hard to believe we got Danny Green as a "throw in" with the Leonard-Derozan trade.
JV is having a career-season and unfortunately after 8 minutes of play Wednesday night, he will be sitting out for at least a month with a dislocated thumb. That means more moose sightings will be happening across the NBA as veteran Greg Monroe will have to fill the big-man void. But the depth of this roster goes far beyond the bench and right into the G-League. Montreal native Chris Boucher has taken the G-Legue by storm as the early season MVP. He averages 28.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and recently broke the Raptors 905 franchise point-record with 47 points in another Wednesday win. The French-Canadian will now be auditioning for the third center position in the absence of Jonas.
But, of course, this all doesn't matter and the same narrative continues. Toronto will choke in the playoffs. But it's evident, this team is far more superior than our record-breaking season last year and Wednesday night was concrete proof of that. But I'll save that article for the end of June when our playoffs wrap up.