Toronto Raptors: Nick Nurse deserves a lot of credit for winning streak

Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors and head coach Nick Nurse argue for a foul. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors and head coach Nick Nurse argue for a foul. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors extended their winning streak to 15 games despite Nick Nurse having to make several changes to the lineup.

Once again Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors get the win despite having to make some changes because another player was unable to suit up.

With Kyle Lowry making his return after a one-game absence, Serge Ibaka missed Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with an illness. With Marc Gasol also out, Nurse decided to go with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the starting lineup and the move paid off with the franchise-record winning streak reaching 15 games.

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This stretch of games has only highlighted and elevated what has been a remarkable season for the reigning NBA champions. There are a couple of reasons why this shouldn’t be as big of a surprise despite many not giving the Raptors a chance to repeat.

Well, here is the thing, while losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were tough blows for Toronto but clearly not as big of a deal as expected. One reason for that has been the work of Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and of course, Nick Nurse.

There aren’t many teams that can navigate through the injuries the Raptors have had this season especially when they come in waves. At one point, Nurse had to figure out how to deal with Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell being out of the lineup at the same time.

You might remember the Raptors making a 30-point comeback against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 22nd led by Kyle Lowry scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter. That was one of the games where the team was without Siakam, Gasol and Powell but found a way to get the win regardless.

It’s Nurse’s ability to adjust and put players in a situation to succeed that has led to an impressive season in just his second season as an NBA head coach. Not too long ago, some were wondering if Nurse was the right choice for the job. Safe to say, you won’t see anybody doubting Nurse at all.

Instead, you can easily make the case that Nurse should be the frontrunner for coach of the year. If Nurse were to win the award, it would be the third time in team history after Dwane Casey (2017-18 and Sam Mitchell (2006-07) were selected.

For those wondering how the Raptors have been able to maintain their dominance without Leonard? Just look at the 22 games they played when the NBA Finals MVP was held out for load management. In those games, Toronto went 17-5 so it’s not like they needed Kawhi to be the main contributor over 82 games.

Now, in fairness to Leonard, he played a central role in securing the Raptors first championship whether it was the shot in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers, getting them over a deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks or give the Finals, the Raptors needed Leonard.

This season, Nurse made it clear that players would have to play to a certain level to get on the court. Just look back at when he called out the bench players, now you wonder where this would have been had it not been for the contributions from Terence Davis, Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas, Patrick McCaw along with Oshae Brissett and Stanley Johnson to a lesser extent.

Considering how the NBA is driven by how much star talent a team has, the Raptors certainly deserve a lot of credit for being in the position they are in. Siakam and VanVleet are just some of the names of players that weren’t given a lot of thought from other teams and the Raptors saw the potential and made it into the core of their success.

Now, the team will look to go as far as Nurse and the rest of the team are capable of going, and right now, it’s tough to argue against them being among the elite once again.

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What do you make of the Raptors’ run lately? How much credit does Nurse deserve and can they keep it up? Let us know in the comments below.