The Raptors last order of business before embarking on a seven-game, two-week road trip out west was a film session.
Not entirely out of the ordinary at any point in the season except this time the film they were studying was of themselves, or more precisely themselves a year ago when they were actually playing some good defence.
As the offence has come back to winnable levels, it has been the defensive lapses that have turned winnable games into close losses.
And as much as head coach Nick Nurse didn’t want this information out there – Thad Young offered it up in advance of Nurse’s media availability – a film session like this one sounds like something this team needed.
Young began describing the need for more effort, but the more he talked about the film session, the more it became clear it was more about being ready to defend. Often the way you start a defensive possession will dictate how successful that defensive possession becomes and to hear both Young and eventually Nurse tell it, the Raptors this season have not been putting themselves in a good position to start too many defensive possessions.
“It was more so about effort,” Young said. “That is all the way around from when a team makes a shot, or when we make a shot and we get back on defence, picking the ball up early and showing our high walls and our high gaps. Making guys (don’t) see lanes as opposed to how it’s like the Red Sea has parted sometimes.
“We are getting back and everybody is in a defensive (crouch) and not standing straight up to where if a guy drives baseline we have a base go and a guy is rotating for that guy and another is X-ing out on the weak side. Just a lot of different things which all amount to ready basketball. (The film) showed we were always in ready mode, focus mode, effort mode – always willing to make the next play and that is what we need to get back to doing.”
Nurse, who seemed a little miffed that the meeting was even being talked about publicly eventually admitted that the biggest reveal of the film session was how prepared and ready to defend the Raptors were a year ago compared to this year.
For whatever reason, defensively the Raptors have got a little lackadaisical in their initial approach and that has led to some poor possessions.
“Like it’s something we’ve always prided ourselves on is transition and taking away the first action like just taking it out,” Nurse said. “So that boils down, like I told them in there, it’s not a 30-day process where we need to get out here and grind it out. I always say defence transition is at the top of the list. You’ve got to get your defence set up. But before that there is about 4 or 5 things like readiness, anticipation, toughness, you know, there is a bunch of little things that even start before there is a pass even made. So that’s kind of what we were talking about in my closed meeting.”
Young, said he believes a film session like that one could set the Raptors up for a good trip which begins Wednesday night in Sacramento.
“If we bring that same intensity that we had in that tape to each and every game, we put ourselves in a position to win this whole trip,” he said.
OG BACK IN THE GROOVE
The MRI results are back and O.G. Anunoby does not appear to require any more downtime with his sore left ankle.
Anunoby was back in practice Tuesday and getting up shots in anticipation of Wednesday’s game in Sacramento.
According to Nurse he had a full practice and Anunoby should be ready to assume the workload he had before sitting out Sunday’s win over New York.
KOLOKO WILL JOIN THE PARTY LATE
Rookie Christian Koloko will remain with the Raptors 905 G-League team while the team departs on their seven-game road trip starting in Sacramento.
Koloko is though expected to join the team in San Francisco in time for the second game of the trip which comes against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Nurse though left the distinct impression that Koloko would be spending as much time as possible with the G-League team in order to boost his playing time. With Precious Achiuwa back and playing at or near his form of last year’s second half, minutes for Koloko with the Raptors have been tough to come by.
A TRUE BUSINESS TRIP
Trips of this length are often referred to as bonding trips with the entire travelling party spending plenty of time together whether that’s on the court, in the hotel our out to a team dinner. Quite often full team events away from the court will be scheduled to enhance that bonding feeling.
Nurse though is more concerned with overall focus than bonding right now.
“We’ve got to really dial in on just playing a little bit better, right? That’s it,” Nurse said. “… Not to compare it, but you know how you go into a playoff run and you kind of shut out everything and just really dial in on the game plan and your team and all that kind of stuff. And that gives you the best chance. I think we’ve got to be concerned with us playing better, continually, coaching better, playing better, just being – again, I used the word readiness once already but just readiness when the ball is in play man. We’ve got to be ready to go and fight and compete and show some toughness and all those kind of things. And I think that’s all we need to focus on.”