NBA grappling with COVID-19 cases puts Raptors struggles into perspective

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The Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors played a game. And it was a legitimate regular season NBA game where all the key characters were on the floor, the coaches had full rotations to work, and no one had to leave the bench midway through due to a test result. COVID-19 inconclusive.
In 2021, this qualifies as a win-win.

The Raptors were unable to secure a win, however, as they lost 106-105 to the Warriors to drop to 2-7 this season.

Now who actually won wasn’t decided until seconds into the final in what was a rambling contest at Chase Center, the Warriors’ new arena in San Francisco.

Kyle Lowry’s 16 points in the fourth quarter helped the Raptors come back from 17 with 11:41 left and the team appeared to be in good shape for the win after a skinny Fred VanVleet topped them with 45 seconds to play.

But Golden State’s Damon Lee knocked down a pair of free throws 4.3 seconds from time after being fouled in a mad attempt to put the Warriors in place. Next, Pascal Siakam was unable to convert after settling for an 18-foot rollover jumper above Andrew Wiggins on the buzzer.

It spoiled an otherwise excellent effort from Siakam who was on a roll after a crisis early in the season. He finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and was 9 of 18 off the floor before his last failure.

The Raptors’ biggest misses came on the free throw line, as they ended up shooting just 14 of 22 from the strip. Lowry unusually missed a pair down the home stretch and Siakam finished 5 of 9 on the night.

Poor results on the foul line ruined an impressive defensive effort as Toronto managed to hold a scorching Stephen Curry – who entered the game averaging 30.6 per game – just 11 points on 2 shots on 16.

The Raptors ended up playing small, that’s how they started. After an encouraging offensive explosion in a much-needed victory over Sacramento on Friday night, Nurse said he was still not settled on how to get the most out of his roster after a 2-6 start.

“You sure don’t want to hit the panic button, but again, [it’s] the first part of the season here for us and I’m going to need another 15 games, I would say, to keep tinkering, ”Nurse said. “I try all kinds of people doing all kinds of rotations to figure out who can play together. We try a number of schemes defensively. We have leaks [and] you have to plug them in and you can only learn them [when] you see them.

“I think we’re getting closer to who to play, how to play. Getting closer to who we think can help us off the bench, you know, that sort of thing. So I think about these little tweaks here and there again, you know, you add up, add a few games and your team starts to get over the bump. ”

For the second time in as many starts, Nurse has launched a different starting lineup. After dropping Aron Baynes as a starting center against the Kings in favor of Alex Len and receiving almost zero production from both his traditional centers all season, Nurse decided to skip them both as he started Norman Powell in a small training with OG Anunoby and Siakam like his big ones.

But even starting small and even with the return of Lowry – who missed Friday’s game for personal reasons – the Raptors struggled to get out of the gate. They didn’t score a basket before a triple Siakam almost midway through the opening period, having started 0-9.

Thankfully, they remained defensively aggressive – the Warriors handed it over to the Raptors five times, were able to limit NBA second scorer Curry to just one basket, and were able to stay in touch, not trailing. than 31. -24 despite taking 9 out of 27 from the ground.

But the Raptors’ shooting woes continued. Toronto trailed 61-51 at the half – even while containing Curry at one basket and three points – mainly because they shot just 39 percent.

For the game, Toronto shot 40.6% and held the Warriors at 40.9%.

There was some satisfaction in even playing the game. The Boston Celtics’ game with the Miami Heat was postponed Sunday night after the Heat were unable to field the eight-man minimum due to health and fitness protocols. security, while the Celtics only had eight.

This was only the second COVID-related postponement of the season, but the coming week could change that. The Celtics have three games scheduled between Tuesday and Friday and the Heat have games Tuesday and Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers – who had just eight players available in a loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

But when the daily moving average of positive tests across the United States approaches 300,000 – it was 206 on March 11 when the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season – with players being with their teams, being tested daily and monitored. closely, it could mean that keeping the season going may be safer for everyone involved who is shutting it down. There have been 63 players who have tested positive since training camps opened in early December – but 48 of them came when they returned to work after the offseason.

“The league does, I think, do a great job of testing everyone every day. I know our team has been very disciplined in following the guidelines, and then at that point you just have to hope for the best, ”said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “I know there are people on both sides of the issue as to whether we should play or not. Personally, I feel lucky to be able to coach and for our team to be able to play and I feel the league puts us in a good position where we are constantly being tested. I feel safe, but I’m also well aware of what’s going on in the country and the world and of course now with two games postponed. We must remain vigilant in everything we do. ”

The nurse’s point of view was clearer:

“But I always say this, that until someone [from the league] going to the hospital get really, really sick – I think we still don’t know what the virus means even if you don’t want to spread it… Even college football, baseball or the NFL, I don’t remember having heard anyone taken to hospital is seriously ill. So I’m going to play well, we have to do our best to stay safe, we have to try to keep going through life a little bit and be as safe as possible.

The Raptors are almost done on their four-game road trip. They flew to Portland after the game where they face the Trail Blazers on the second night of a game in a row. Assuming the game goes as planned – and nothing can be assumed this season – the Raptors will need the win to share the journey.

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