Nick Nurse doesn’t care if reigning Raptors champion remains overlooked

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla .– The Toronto Raptors have spent their entire season as defending NBA champions saying they feel confident, despite Kawhi Leonard leaving the franchise last summer, that they can win a second consecutive title this season.

So after winning their opening game in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, do the Raptors think anyone is listening? Toronto coach Nick Nurse said he wasn’t convinced – and wasn’t too concerned anyway.

“Yeah, maybe,” Nurse said after her Raptors won 107-92 in the last game on Saturday night. “I don’t think anyone is going to pay a lot of attention, they never seem to, but it’s okay.

“Seriously man, we love to play games and we love to compete, we know we’re tough to beat, we really do, and I think there’s a cap we can still hit. ”

If there’s a higher cap for the Raptors after this one, it’ll be because Toronto shot just 41.7% overall from the field and committed 14 turnovers.

It won’t come, it’s better to play on the defensive side. The Raptors stifled that end, holding the Lakers at a dismal 35.4% of the field overall, and just 25% (10 for 40) of the 3-point lineup.

James led the Lakers with 20 points but had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and was under-20 for the game. Forward Anthony Davis, meanwhile, had 14 points and only shot 2 for 7.

“I think I remember a time out looking down, at one point in the second quarter, and I looked down and said, ‘Damn, we’re shooting at 30% and we let’s win, ”Nurse said. “And that’s kind of what a good defense is supposed to do, get you through some of those times. ”

These times are easier to get through when a team point guard is excelling, as All-Star Kyle Lowry did on Saturday night, finishing with a line of 33 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. He did it all with his usual reckless abandon for his own well-being, constantly throwing his body to both ends of the pitch.

He also said he was moved to have the ability to protest by kneeling during the national anthems of the United States and Canada before the game.

“We just want to go play,” said Lowry, one of the players most actively involved in talks with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to kick off the entire bubble project. “Some guys are here for different things, our job is to be professional basketball players. But we also want to send [a] message, uplift the black Americans out there, black people all over the world and it’s our job, to do it.

“That’s what we do, we try to win games and keep our messages and our momentum going. ”

The Raptors entered the bubble in the same kind of space – after the fact in the NBA title race – that they’ve occupied all season. The Lakers, LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks have been hailed as the title favorites by consensus, with the Raptors relegated to those in the “others receiving votes” category. That’s not a small part of that math because the Raptors don’t have that superstar – be it James, Leonard, or Giannis Antetokounmpo – that most title contenders typically have.

But after seeing a team full of league experience, long athletic defenders, and several players capable of scoring over 30 points in any given game, count one person who thinks there is at least one other team who deserves to be a part of it. Championship talk: James himself.

“They’re a great team,” James said afterwards. “No ifs, and or buts. Exceptionally well trained and championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ball club if you win a championship. And even before that, they just had guys tested in the playoffs. Guys who have not only played here in the NBA in big games, but also in FIBA ​​games. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games his entire life pretty much, it seems.

“So it’s just a great team. The media might not talk much about them or give them a lot of credit because Kawhi is gone, but the league players really know what kind of team they are. “

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