Toronto Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse admitted that to get to the NBA Finals, his team needed a wake up call in the early rounds in order to get to the promised land.
That wake up call, or “punch in the gut” as Nurse said was from the Orlando Magic, who took advantage of a woeful Toronto side in Game 1 of the first round of the Playoffs to win 104-101.
Toronto went on to beat the Magic 4-1 and since then saw off Philadelphia 76ers in an epic seven-game series and came from 0-2 down to beat Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 to reach their first ever NBA Finals, where they face Golden State Warriors.
Despite the challenges that have faced the Raptors though, Nurse recalls Game 1 in the first round against Orlando as his team’s wake up call and what his team needed to do to get to where they need to be.
“We’re playing a lot harder,” said Nurse.
“It took us kind of one punch in the gut from the Orlando Magic to understand that we need to play a lot harder and we came out in Game 2 and you saw a totally different basketball team that started using their abilities to the best of their ability, and that’s really the difference.
“We’ve learned and grown as well. Our communication, scheme, switching, blitzing, our rotation, contesting shots, all these things have been growing since the start of the Playoffs.”
And boy have Toronto grown. Past the almost predicted disappointment of recent years where the Raptors lost out to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, now that he has moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto have finally become the kings of the Eastern Conference.
All that’s left is the defending NBA champion, Golden State Warriors. A team that has reached the Finals for the fifth straight year and is creating its own dynasty.
“They’re one of the greatest teams in history,” Nurse says.
“This is five straight Finals for them, there’s not a whole lot of teams that have done that, and that’s all you need to say right there.
“They have some big-time star power, a number of star players, they have great athletic, energetic role guys and guys that come off the bench, they have an experienced coach that has won a lot, not only as a coach but as a player so this will be a tall task.”