Raptors coach Nick Nurse isn’t worried about his team being forgotten as they look to repeat as NBA champions this year, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.
The Raptors, who were overlooked at times before defeating the likes of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and an injury-riddled Golden State team last season, beat the Lakers 107-92 on Saturday for their first victory in Orlando. The Lakers, headlined by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are naturally one of the league’s most feared contenders.
“Yeah, maybe,” Nurse said on whether onlookers are listening to the team’s confidence this season. “I don’t think anybody’s going to pay much attention, they don’t ever seem to, but it’s OK.
“Seriously man, we love to play the games and we like to compete, we know we’re tough to beat, we really do, and I think there’s a ceiling we can get to yet.”
The Raptors currently hold the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 47-18. They trail the No. 1 seed Bucks by 6.5 games, leading the No. 3 seed Celtics by four contests. It’s no secret they’ve outperformed expectations this season, a sentiment backed by James himself.
“That’s a great team,” James said. “No ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well coached and championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ballclub if you win a championship. And even before that, they just got playoff-tested guys. Guys that played not only here in the NBA in big games, but also in FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life pretty much it seems like.
“So, that’s just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi [Leonard] is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.”
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:
- Nets guard Jamal Crawford will work out Sunday and Monday with hopes of getting his conditioning up to speed, interim coach Jacque Vaughn said, as relayed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). Crawford, a respected veteran across the league, has yet to appear in a game with Brooklyn due to his conditioning issues.
- Kyle Lowry makes the Raptors a legitimate threat for an NBA Finals berth, Mark Medina of USA TODAY opines. Lowry recorded 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the team’s win against the Lakers on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor. “He seems to get himself into incredible shape, and he seems happy,” Nurse said. “He seems focused and is really excited and ready to play. It rubs off on the other guys. That’s what makes him a great leader.”
- Celtics star Kemba Walker looked good in his first action in Orlando on Friday, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. Walker scored 16 points in 19 minutes against the Bucks, shooting 5-of-9 from the floor in limited time as he bounces back from a knee injury. “I thought [Walker] looked great,” teammate Gordon Hayward said. “Definitely showed good spurts there. Definitely brings some pace to our team. Another threat, another ball-handler, another guy that’s a competitor and a winner, and we’re happy to have him back.”