Nick Nurse on what went wrong on Joel Embiid's Game 3 winner

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses where the Raptors made mistakes on Joel Embiid's game-winner, failing to capitalize on multiple attempts to win in the fourth quarter, Scottie Barnes' status for Game 4 and how Toronto can get back into the series.

Video Transcript

- Nick, any official updates on Scottie's availability?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. I mean, listen, he's-- not going to rule out the possibility that he may play, but he's still doubtful. Did go through little bits of practice today, but that's where we are.

- Nick, when you look at the end of game play last night, or whenever it was-- Wednesday night-- what was in your mind as you were [? planning ?] it? Or how do you guys defend and how did it shake up from your point of view?

NICK NURSE: Well, we were concerned about a big kind of punch-in in the paint, and at the rim. And then we're supposed to switch screens, and we missed a switch on that.

- But you recognized the play when they set it up sort of thing? It was, like, a pretty standard play that they would run type of deal?

NICK NURSE: I mean, it's a pretty standard one run around the league, yeah. Again, I think we were probably more concerned that he was just going to pound his way right in front of the rim and clear everybody out and they were going to throw it up in the air down there low since it was-- you know, they didn't need a 3, right? But again, it wasn't that complicated. If we'd have just made one switch, it'd have been fine.

But we had-- listen. We had about seven other chances to put that game away in the last minute 30 seconds. Missed three out of four free throws, missed our best 3-point shooter wide open. We missed our next best scorer wide open at the elbow. I mean, we had to make one of those plays and that game's probably put away.


NICK NURSE: Oh yeah, for sure. But it makes it hard when, again, you got a really big 7-foot-plus, 300 pound guy in there that you're gonna have to use another defender. So certainly a way to do it is to put somebody on the inbounder.

I don't think it affects that pass, anyway, the one over the top to the corner, or to the wing. But maybe it does. I mean, if I could go back and do it again, I'd like to change about three things that we did. But we didn't execute it. And he had a really tough shot, right? He had a really tough shot.

- You've been on both sides of moments like that--


- How many times have you thought about that over the past two days?

NICK NURSE: Not that much, really. I mean, I think it's fairly simple if you look at it. If we just make one switch, it's not there. Mistakes are gonna happen. I mean, I'm probably more-- thought more, Tim, about the five other plays I just mentioned to you, right? That--

- I meant more in the final two minutes.

NICK NURSE: No, I mean, I'm saying like what you-- I've been in situations, too, where you can't get a shot for the last three minutes of the game and your-- those really grind you as a coach when you're thinking, man, what are we going to-- but that wasn't the case at all. Right? We got to the foul line. We got wide open shots continually all the way through to the stretch run. So--

- How do you make sense of the fact that you just-- your team just couldn't, you know, deliver when you needed it?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think that they were delivering execution-wise, and it just wasn't our turn to have the ball bounce our way. I mean, we executed almost everything the way we wanted to at the offensive end. You just-- you got to make a free throw or you got to make an open shot. That's it.

I think that, again, I'd be way more worried if we were down there dribbling in circles and the shot clock was expiring, or we were hoisting up, turn around, running 3-pointers, or things like that that were going in at the other end. Anyway, go ahead.

- Nick, you often talk about the value of experience in reps for the playoffs for these guys. Normally we think of it in terms of like the young, young guys, Scottie and Precious and those guys. But Pascal and Fred are still young vets in the league. They're relatively new their roles. How much are they still learning and growing from high leverage games like this?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think from an execution standpoint and leadership standpoint and all those things, they certainly are doing just fine, right? They're executing things. They're doing the schemes defensively. They know what needs to be done and they're getting it done. So I think OK. I mean, listen, we'd-- everybody, including those two guys more than anybody, would probably like to see the ball go in a little bit more. But that's just the way it is.

- How much different is Fred's minute-by-minute experience out there without Scottie as someone who can take some pressure off and let him run off the ball a little bit? How big of a factor has that been [INAUDIBLE]?

NICK NURSE: I mean, I don't know. I mean, it's a factor. I don't know how big a factor or how to measure that. But I certainly think that letting Scottie be out there and running. It gives us a few different wrinkles. It gives Freddie a chance to run stuff for Freddie off the ball a little bit more, take some of the heat off.

I mean, they're pressuring him up the floor all night long, right? And that takes some energy just to get us into our things. He's handled it pretty well. And we've relieved some of that pressure in the back court with some screens and things like that.

But yeah, I think-- I mean, it's a factor, Michael. I just think that Scottie's overall versatility would help us. I think it'd help us at the defensive end especially.

- Nick, to Josh's point about Pascal sort of growing into this role that he has, Pascal was just saying that, looking back at the film, he didn't realize that he only took five shots in the second half of overtime. [INAUDIBLE] being more aggressive than [INAUDIBLE]. Is that something that, you know, he's got to be more mindful of or is that something where you kind of look up and say--

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, for sure. I mean, I think that he does. We do. We gotta be more aggressive and keep feeding him that information that he needs to take shot-- I mean, he had the ball in his hands a lot, right? And so it's not like he was just running up and down, you know, and, jeez, why aren't we playing through Pascal at all? He had the ball in his hands a lot.

So you know, it's a combination of all of us, as everything is. He sees what he sees out there and conveys it to us. We see what we see and we got to get him to make sure he finds areas to get a few more up, for sure.

- How do you balance that with-- he was just in here saying take what the defense gives you. You said before, once you draw two--




- Maybe he's making the right play, you know, because he's drawing that attention. But if he only takes five shots, how do you balance those two things?

NICK NURSE: Well, if he's going to take it into the paint with some force on the drive, he's probably going to draw people, right? And it's up to him to know whether he's going to get clearance to shoot it or it's going to be kicked out. When he's got it faced up out there, he's probably got a lot more shot opportunities to take.

And again, I just think that-- I mean, we-- he's turned down some in this series. And he's-- we just got to make sure that he's not turning any down. Like he's got to get on full-mode mode aggressive mode. When there's space on the perimeter, he's got to let them fly, you know?

He's always going to do the majority of his scoring and transitioning at the rim. But we've all-- I've always said, or we've always all talked about, is when he has this big games, he's always making more than three 3's. Or at least three 3's. That takes him from 20 to 30, or 21 to 30 on the game.

So I think those are there, those shot attempts are there from the 3, and he's got to have some confidence to go ahead and take them. I think they're going to give them to him until he proves otherwise. And we need to prove otherwise because then that opened up some more spacing.

- You often talk about the first for this group, first playoff series for a lot of these guys. This will be the first elimination game. Is there anything you say to them to prepare them a little bit better, a little bit differently for the consequences of a loss more?

NICK NURSE: I haven't talked about the consequences of a loss. I think they're probably fully aware, right, that this is win or be done, put the balls away for the year. Listen, I just think that we're from about this-- Well, I thought we did a really good job of making some adjustments against them the other night.

I thought we executed them a lot. I mean, listen, it's-- we got them to 90 points with 1:50 50 to go in the game, right, and a super high powered offensive team with scorers all over the place. So we certainly are doing some things right. We had-- it's not like we had a chance to win. We had several chances to win.

So we've got to do some things a little better, Doug, for sure, and we got to play as hard as we did and play as physical as we did and just try to get one on the board because we've got to get one on the board to keep this thing going. And then we'll see where it goes from there.

- There's no fear of mental let down or a mental step back?

NICK NURSE: No, not at all. They're going to come and play.

- Does the calculation change on playing Scottie if you're down 2-1 versus down to 2-0?

NICK NURSE: I don't think so. I think if he's ready to go-- I mean, if they feel like he's ready to go, we play him. I mean, like I've been saying, this team needs these games. He needs them. We haven't seen him at all, really, in this series. We need to see him and see what he's going to look like out there. So we need to get him out there and we need to get a game so we can give him some more games.

- Thad didn't-- I think he didn't play in the second half again. Is that just 'cause it's hard to find a spot for him? Or is it still, like, you're worried about his thumb? What's going on?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. I mean, I think I'm less worried about his thumb other than I thought the feel of the game. You know, I thought that OG and Gary were both providing great spacing, you know? Precious was playing pretty well as well. That probably had a factor in it.

We didn't play Chris all that much. So I didn't see. If there was any more minutes there to go, probably Chris would have got them. Doesn't say we won't see more of Thad tomorrow, but I thought the feel of the game needed some spacing on the offensive end.

- Pascal saw a lot of Embiid in the second half. But how impactful has [INAUDIBLE] been in sort of slowing Pascal down?

NICK NURSE: Well, he was pretty good last game, right? I thought Pascal has gotten his share against him and got a lot of places on him. I mean, he's doing a good job of playing him physical. He's putting a lot of bumps on him. I still think Pascal has done a pretty good job of getting that thing down to 8 or 10 feet and getting pretty good clearance on him as well.

- Nick, you talked about, with shooting, you've got to get comfortable with taking the shot or get to the place where you're making it consistently. Is that like a similar process in going from regular season comfort to playoff comfort?

NICK NURSE: Yep. Yep, that would be another stage in shooting. We got these stages that we say guys are in. But it is another stage. I think, though, too, you know, it plays into the fact that-- like in Pascal's example, I think he thinks he can beat him and get to the rim.

So he kind of sometimes doesn't want to settle because he thinks he's going to be able to use kind of his best go-to move. And if he takes the shot, he's not going to know if he could have got by him or not a little bit. But I think having a little more of a healthy mix of that would be advised.

- Just the weight of the history of the league where no team's ever come back from 0-3--


- --you've been on a staff where [INAUDIBLE] down three. How do you sort of make it meaningful to the players when everybody knows it's never been done?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think it's a heck of a challenge, and somebody's got to do it. That's the way I look at it. Somebody's got to do it. And if it gets to 3-1, it's not 3-0 anymore. And 3-1 has been done. OK.


- Thanks for coming.

NICK NURSE: All right, everybody. Thanks a lot.

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