NBA

Raptors coach Nick Nurse not 'especially satisfied' despite levelling series

By Sports Desk September 06, 2020

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse did not feel "especially satisfied" despite the defending NBA champions beating the Boston Celtic 100-93 to level their series at 2-2.

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-final playoff, leading them to a crucial Game 4 win on Saturday.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lowry claimed a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Raptors had suffered back-to-back losses at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in the first two matches of the series, but following their buzzer-beating win in Game 3, they are back on level terms.

But Nurse was not getting carried away and he wants more from the Raptors as they look to take charge of the series.

"We don't think we're defending a title," said Nurse. "We're just trying to get this team to do what they can do at as high a level as they can.

"And that, to me, is the job. I don't feel especially satisfied about winning this game tonight or how we played.

"I think that's what we're supposed to do and this is what we're working for – to get these guys to play as hard as they can and play together to get the result, and just go back to work and try to do it a little better again tomorrow."

While the Raptors were grateful to tie the series, there was more than a hint of rueful thinking from the Celtics, particularly Kemba Walker.

The four-time NBA All-Star finished with 15 points and eight assists, but he shot just nine times and successfully converted one of six from three-point range as the Celtics routinely faltered from beyond the arc.

"I got to be more aggressive, I wasn't aggressive enough," he reflected. "That's unacceptable on my behalf, to be honest. There's no way I can just be taking nine shots. That's unacceptable.

"Honestly, man, I thought we had great looks. I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game.

"We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make. Like I said, we've got to make them. We have to make shots. When guys get shots, when guys are open, we've got to knock those shots down.

"We'll do better. We'll do better."

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    A unique NBA postseason has thrown up an intriguing Finals series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.

    With the coronavirus pandemic confining the league to a bubble in Orlando, Florida, there has been no home advantage and no shortage of shocks since the playoffs began last month.

    The Lakers - the top seed in the West - have managed to survive with their star power as Anthony Davis helped LeBron James to reach the Finals for a 10th time.

    In the East, meanwhile, the fifth-seeded Heat have also gone all the way, dumping out the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the second round.

    LA and Miami each dropped just three games en route to this series, which starts with Game 1 on Wednesday, but they have taken contrasting approaches to get here.

    Using Stats Perform Data, we take a look.
     

    Superstar Lakers

    The Lakers were not alone in headlining their roster with two massive names at the start of the season.

    As they traded for Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, rivals the Los Angeles Clippers put together a mammoth deal to pair Kawhi Leonard with Paul George. Russell Westbrook joined James Harden at the Houston Rockets.

    It would appear clear now the Lakers did the best business as they prepare for the Finals, having eliminated the Rockets in the conference semi-finals.

    Almost everything they have done has gone through James or Davis. Four-time MVP James has a 31.5 per cent usage rate in 35 minutes on the floor in this year's playoffs and is averaging almost a triple-double (26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists), while his team-mate has a 29.4 per cent usage rate in 35.9 minutes and 28.8 points per game.

    The Rockets rely even more heavily on their stars - Harden has 32.5 per cent of the ball in 37 minutes and Westbrook 31.3 per cent in 33 - but they do not have the same consistency. Against the Lakers, Westbrook shot four-of-15 from the field in Game 2 and four-of-13 in the decisive Game 5.

    The Clippers did not even advance to a highly anticipated meeting with the Lakers as George similarly struggled to set the standard, averaging 20.2 points.

    George's 10 points contributed to a Game 7 defeat to the Denver Nuggets, yet even their in-form pairing of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray could not match James and Davis, the league's outstanding duo.
     

    Deep Heat

    Miami will not look to put their own top performers up against James and Davis in the same way. It is the depth of this Heat team that saw them through the East.

    They remarkably have six regulars - Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson - averaging 11.0 points or more. Miami are the only team to reach the Finals with such a wealth of scoring options in the past 25 years.

    It should come as little surprise to see this production, though, as the Heat - in direct contrast to the Lakers - share the ball around. Of their nine players to make 10 or more playoff appearances this year, seven have a usage rate above 16 per cent. Six have played 27 minutes per game or more.

    That provides plenty of opportunity for the fourth or fifth man to steal the show, with Robinson top-scoring in a win against the Indiana Pacers while Herro poured in 37 points in a victory over the Boston Celtics.

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    How they match up

    So, which approach will come out on top? Well, there are also drawbacks on both sides.

    Having bet the house on James and Davis - comfortably their top two earners - the Lakers lack an obvious third option to throw at Miami.

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    Even Butler has a marginally lower points per game (20.9 to 20.7) and usage rate (27.3 per cent to 24.7) than team-mate Dragic. Neither man might at this stage be ranked alongside those big names in the West.

    They will need help from Adebayo, Herro and the rest, while Frank Vogel has to hope James and Davis alone have enough to secure silverware.

    Regardless of their flaws, the outcome of this matchup will validate more than a year's worth of work for one of these teams.

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    Anthony Davis wants to finish a crazy year with victory in the NBA Finals as he hailed the resilience of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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    Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also hailed James, adding: "He's the best leader I've ever been around, simplest way to put it, in terms of players. We've dealt with a lot, a lot of heavy emotional types of adversity that we've gone through, and he sets a great tone with his example.

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