Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse was about as grumpy as we’ve seen him all season on Friday afternoon. He wanted to make one thing very clear: the Raptors performance Wednesday night was not acceptable.
“We didn’t play hard enough,” he said. “We didn’t play physical enough. Really poor communication. Really poor effort.”
The thing that makes Nurse such a good coach is he doesn’t usually get frustrated with the media. Rarely does he call a player out publicly, but when he does, his team responds. On Friday night against the Miami Heat, they did exactly that. Even without Kyle Lowry who was out due to a toe infection, the Raptors put together an impressive defensive performance, holding the Heat to just 43% shooting in a 101-81 victory in Amalie Arena.
All that miscommunication that plagued the Raptors on Wednesday seemed to be cleaned up. They rotated well, surrendering just seven 3-pointers and 44 points in the paint.
With Lowry out, Norman Powell stepped into the starting lineup and did what he usually does when he starts. He attacked the rim early and often then vaulted up to hit 3-pointers over and over again. In the first quarter alone he went 6-for-6 from the field with 14 points, finishing the night with a team-high 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting.
It was also a rare impressive performance from Aron Baynes, who logged 23 minutes for the first time in nine games. He looked stout on the defensive end, picking up three blocks and holding down the paint for extended stretches. While it’s too soon to say Baynes has finally found his groove with the Raptors, Friday night’s game was certainly promising.
Anunoby Finds Shooting Stroke
OG Anunoby has been red-hot from 3-point range lately and it continued over against the Heat. Coming into Friday, he had shot 55% from 3-point range in his previous fouir games. On Friday, his percentages jumped even higher thanks to a 5-for-6 3-point shooting night to go with four rebounds and 21 points.
Up Next: Indiana Pacers
The Raptors will get their first crack at former Raptors assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren when they take on the Indiana Pacers at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.