Nick Nurse on what all good halfcourt offences need

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses the commonalities between some of the best halfcourt offences in the NBA, what's been different in the past two wins, Christian Koloko's shot-blocking and more.

Video Transcript

- What's the key to success in half-court offense?

NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, that's probably a pretty long answer, right? But, I mean, first you got to start with the most basic thing, which is taking care of the ball and getting a shot, right? Any turnover or whatever is going to be a 0.0 points per that possession. Does it seem really loud to you guys today?

- That's why the mic was moved closer.

NICK NURSE: OK. So, I mean, that's the first thing. And then I think you're playing for percentages from there, Michael. From getting to the free throw line, getting to the rim, and then obviously you got to explore the extra point that the 3-point shot gives you to boost your true shooting percentage. That's the starting point, right? Like what kind of shots are you generating, yeah.

- What's a good point per possession?

NICK NURSE: What's good--

- Points per possession.


- But what are you aiming for realistically?

NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, you guys know the numbers of the best teams and the average and all that stuff, right? So we're trying to be in the top. Trying to reach our potential there. It's been up this year, right? It's gone up a couple of clicks, which is a big deal. It's, like, funny too, when you look at the rankings sometimes, you'll look at where you're at and you'll look at the left side and see, oh, you're 17th. And you don't kind of explore that across the page a little bit and, like, one more-- going from 114 to 115 might make you 9th, you know what I mean? And it's funny, I mean, you got over 48 minutes, over 100 possessions, over 82 games, a lot of that stuff, making sure you're getting a decent--

- Like the worst offenses now, like 109 or 110 or something, and I'm old enough to remember when that was--

NICK NURSE: World beater. That was world beater.

- Given the way you guys have done really well generating possessions, if you guys can kind of land in that middle ground just in the half court, does that-- are you kind of looking at that and going, yeah, this could work for us?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean-- Yeah, I just think that-- I mean, there is certainly some benchmarks that we're looking for or goals or whatever you want to say. But I think that I always can kind of feel that the shots are right, the rhythm's right, or whatever. And it's one of the things we started exploring kind of when I first got here 9, 10 years ago, was you can't get too wrapped up if you're generating the exact right shots and for whatever reason they're not going in. You can't get too emotional about that. It's just kind of part of it.

Are you generating the correct shots enough times is really what you-- again, over 48 minutes, over 82 games, all that kind of stuff, is what you got to kind of keep focused on. Instead of PPP-- points per possession-- we started studying XPPP, expected points per possession. And they keep building that model out. There's 14 or 15, 16 factors that goes into the XPPP now.

- Is that proprietary, that one? Or is that-- XPPP, is that something you guys have built internally?


- I think for a public-- a public model--

NICK NURSE: They might have-- somebody's probably swiped it and put it out there in the public domain.

- And is it good? The XPP, is it is a trending--

NICK NURSE: I mean, yeah.

- How's it trended since--

NICK NURSE: Yeah, it's been-- as you guys know, the numbers have been really high since Jakob's got here. Yeah.

- I think-- at the end of last year, you said certain guy-- you said the [INAUDIBLE] spectrum had gotten a bit wonky-- I think was the phrase you used. Has it progressed in the right direction this year?

NICK NURSE: Not quite yet. I mean, I think we're still in some exploratory phases here, a little bit, with it. But we're working very hard at trying to get it up the level of priorities. And I think-- you guys probably understand it's not a huge, huge secret that there's a few places we got to clean up on that.

Our possessions are great. Our rim attacks are pretty good. Our free throw numbers are exceeding what we expected. But we still have too many what we call non-rim paint twos, although that's really shaping up lately, and too many non-paint twos. But you also understand that we've got a few guys to the mix here that are-- they find themselves in those areas a little more than we probably would like. But it's a little bit of a work in progress to keep them playing the rest of the game, right?

- Is it a question, too-- in your lineup, you don't have a lot of guys that just scare people from 3. You have capable 3-point shooters, guys who can on occasion. But you look at some of these teams-- they can put a couple of guys [INAUDIBLE].

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think-- I think the teams that really have the best shot spectrum numbers have two things. One, you just mentioned. They have guys that are really like, man, you got to be there on the catch or they're going to bury a three on you. And the other thing they have is a lot of dribble penetration guys. That's what expands and collapses defenses, I think.

- What's been the biggest difference between that road trip and the past two games? What's been the biggest takeaway that's a positive side?

NICK NURSE: The results.

- Outside of the results.

NICK NURSE: I know. I'm just kidding.

- What got you there?

NICK NURSE: Listen, again, I would say pretty happy with the mental stability of the team because we played pretty good in Denver to not get anything out of it. We played really great in both LA games in portions of it, to come out of those all empty.

That can wear on you a little bit. I think the Denver-- the way it ended up shook down the aftermath of all of that. That can put you in some mentally fragile spot, a little bit. You go out there, and you play great. You'd kill yourself. You totally outplay them. You do all this and that. And then somehow the game gets ripped away from you. It can mess with you a little bit.

So I'm proud that we've come back and continued to play. I think we've played even better since that road trip. That wasn't an easy road trip. Those teams are good. They're hot, for the most part. Denver's number one. Clippers are hot-- three or four in a row now.

And they each had two days before they played us-- all three of those games. Denver had two-day rest. Lakers had-- Clippers had two-days last [INAUDIBLE]. That stuff all factors into it. So I'm glad we just played the games, move on, play the next one, and got a couple of good results, back to the starting point of my answer.

- And Nick-- [INAUDIBLE] Christian-- and correct me if I'm wrong. [INAUDIBLE] season and going back to preseason Summer League-- was there an emphasis on him to try and block as many shots as possible to develop that timing on the shot block?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, he was, I think, the leading-- or the first or second shot blocker in the country last year, so we knew he had that capability You've heard me say this a bunch of times. We want him to take a bunch of swings at them. Don't be shy on trying to-- shot block attempts need to be high. I know it sometimes gives up some offensive putbacks and some other things, but we want him swinging at them as much as he can.

- Was he more vertical last night?

NICK NURSE: He did a couple verticals.

- In terms of being less aggressive, more just--

NICK NURSE: Well, he came in and he checked in, and about 15 seconds, blocked a shot. So that was a good aggressive start. But he had a couple of times. I think he read them pretty well. He obviously took the crack in the nose on the one he was vertical on. I think they called the foul on him, though.

- Is the fault with that--

NICK NURSE: No review. It's our second broken nose with no review this year.


- Does the thought with, block as many shots as possible-- is that like similar to Scottie last year with, shoot as much as possible? It's easier to rein of in after they've got that aggressive mindset-- that [INAUDIBLE]?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I think that-- especially defensively, we're going to err on the side of overaggressive on just about everything

- Just a quick one. Gary-- and a lot of talking with the bench and blah, blah, blah, blah. How much better is the bench when he's scoring and he's making shots?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, obviously, it's a big factor. It's a big factor. We saw it show up. And I mean, listen, again, it's like-- and this is another thing. I go back to your question again about-- Gary was under the weather the whole road trip, and he just he wanted to play. And it's just-- again, we've had a little bit of those funky things going on, and these guys are trying to play through them. And I give them credit because I think they should try to play through him sometimes. You can't always feel great. And you got to go out there and try and figure it out. And obviously, he's feeling better, as last night showed.

- I think with-- we've talked about how, with Jakob rolling, that opens up some three-point shots for guys. What is the trickle-down effect when Fred and [INAUDIBLE] are shooting the ball as well?

NICK NURSE: Well, that three-man combo you just mentioned gives you-- they've got to be up on the pick and roll because Fred's coming off a 3 ball, right? If they're up, that should give us some chance to get down. If they pull in, that gives us the next one. So like, all three pieces of those things come into play. And without the roll, none of them do.

Like, without the rolling threat, it's just up on the ball, stay home on the weak side. So it takes, like, all of it out. So it's pretty big.

- And that opens up as well for Pascal [INAUDIBLE] as well?

NICK NURSE: Well, it lets him-- I mean, it just gives us some different looks and options. I mean, he's played a bunch of pick and roll last night too. And they've got to decide what they are going to do. Usually, they're going to try to switch with him and Jakob, right, or try to go under with Pascal. And it's still-- even going under is not-- just because you-- just because you're not really like a super high 3-point threat, going under is not a great defense. Sometimes, if you can exploit that, you can keep lowering screens. You can race it to the other side, other things. So I think it gives us a little bit of variety there.

- What's the next step of development for Jak in terms of refining?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, listen, I think that-- I think that he could probably have a few more shot attempts. I think we could probably go into him a little more often, a little bit. We don't really run many sets for him. Probably could start sprinkling some of those in.

And I think I might have said this yesterday, but it's worth saying again. It's like, when teams start switching and end up with a small on him, he's got to start making those guys pay. He is on offensive rebounding. But he's just got to go down there, and get big, and start sealing a little bit, which I think that's-- it'd be a pretty nice step forward, or addition to the offense.

- Thank you.

- Scotty is not [INAUDIBLE].

NICK NURSE: One more.

- Scotty's non-rim [INAUDIBLE] 2's. Have you seen a progression in that area though?

NICK NURSE: Uh-uh. He takes a lot of non-rim paint 2's. But I like that he's doing them in an athletic fashion now. He's really gathering, getting up, getting clearance. He's making a-- he's making an early decision to shoot them. He's getting to a open space. He's really-- I mean, he's really got good clearance when he's shooting them.

Those I'm OK with. Because he's getting to a good-- well, he's just doing it confidently and with some aggressiveness. And that just sure beats like, should I be doing this or not any day of the week, right? So that's good. But I still-- still, like, he's got to-- and this is about the time of the year where he needs to-- he just needs to still be-- use his physicality, and take people all the way to the front of the rim, and knock them around, and lay it in, and dunk on them.

That's where he played really great last year at this time. I thought he just kept getting more physical and physical as we went down the stretch here. So be looking for a little more of that too.

- All right, everybody--