Raptors coach Nick Nurse says watching the Bucks is boring because they blow everybody out

TORONTO — After the Toronto Raptors annihilated the Indiana Pacers 127-81 on Sunday, there wasn’t a lot to analyze. The Raptors started the game on a 15-1 run, went up by 25 in the first quarter and led by as many as 49 points in the fourth. It was a putrid performance by the Pacers and a terrific one from Toronto. 

Naturally, the focus shifted away from the most lopsided win in franchise history to the Raptors’ next game. The Milwaukee Bucks will visit Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday for the first time since their 2019 season ended there last May. It is a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, and a matchup between the teams with the two best records and net ratings in the East.

They’ve only met once this season (a 10-point Milwaukee win on Nov. 2), so Toronto coach Nick Nurse’s impressions of his upcoming opponent are largely from watching them from afar. And Nurse hasn’t found their games to be particularly compelling. 

“When I do watch them, it’s boring,” Nurse said. 

The problem is that the Bucks are too good. Their victories often resemble that Raptors-Pacers drubbing, in which the losing team never has a shot. Giannis Antetokounmpo is only averaging 30.9 minutes, an absurd and unprecedented number for a player on the verge of winning consecutive MVPs, because his team rarely needs him on the court late in games. 

“Hopefully we come in with the physicality and defensive mindset ’cause if you don’t, you’ve seen those guys play,” Nurse said. “Every game i watch them play it’s 32-12 at the end of one (quarter). Every single one — 32-22 at, like, the closest. So if you don’t come out ready to go, you’re going to be battling uphill. And you don’t really want to battle uphill against them.”

Nurse likes that Toronto gets to play Milwaukee three times during the stretch run. (They have a home-and-home at the beginning of April.) He just isn’t sure what to make of the Bucks’ dominance, aside from the obvious: “Nobody can even come close to ’em on most nights.” Their 119-98 win on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers was their 18th by 20 or more points and their 23rd by 15 or more. Milwaukee has won 16 of its last 18 games and is 48-8 on the season, and there is a massive gap between their league-best net rating (plus-11.8) and the second-best mark (plus-7.1, shared by the Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers). 

“They’ve got more depth than a year ago, more experience than a year ago, more size than a year ago,” Nurse said. “They’ve really got it going. So it’ll be a challenge. But we’ll be OK either way it goes next game. We’ll be fine. Keep on keeping on till we get to where we need to go.”

Toronto will be seen as the underdog despite being at home and having won 17 of 18 games. This is fair, based on the Bucks’ track record and that early-season game in Milwaukee, in which the Raptors did find themselves battling uphill: They lost the first quarter by 19 points, trailed by as many as 26 in the first half and needed to mount a furious comeback to make the final score look respectable. 

The way the defending champs are playing, though, there is reason to believe they are capable of making Antetokounmpo and the Bucks less comfortable than normal. Even without Marc Gasol anchoring their defense since late January and an assortment of other injuries (including an earlier extended absence from Gasol), they rank second in defensive rating on the season, thanks to an unconventional approach, some team-wide toughness and a frankly stunning amount of depth. And, while the personnel is different than it was on both sides in last year’s playoffs, they’ve mucked up Milwaukee’s offense before. 

For entertainment’s sake, the hope is that all of this adds up to a competitive game. As much fun as the Bucks have been having, Nurse is right about their games being boring. 

Source link