The coaching matchup
The coaching situation in Toronto and Brooklyn is an intriguing one. The two head coaches couldn’t be more different.
On the north side of the border stands Nick Nurse. A championship winner in his first year in charge of the Raptors, Nurse guided his team to the exact same spot they were in the standings last season, with one slight difference; the distinct absence of a very fun guy.
For his troubles, Nurse was snubbed for co-coach of the year honours by one measly vote, with Billy Donovan of Oklahoma City and Mike Budenholzer of Milwaukee accept co-ownership of the award. Undaunted but now with a chip on his shoulder, the Raptors’ bench boss can turn his attentions to the playoffs, where a potential matchup with Budenholzer’s Bucks further down the road could prove to be a showdown of who truly is the better basketball mind.
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Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, there is less stability. After a 19-point win over the San Antonio Spurs that saw the Nets improve to 28-34 sans Durant, head coach Kenny Atkinson was “stunningly” fired, according to the New York Post.
Rumours swirled that Irving had a hand in the dismissal. However, the team has stepped it up since Atkinson was shown the door, notching wins over the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers pre-COVID, and earning a respectable 5-3 record in Orlando.
So, all of this is to say that the Nets are still breaking in a new coach. In Atkinson’s stead has stepped Jacque Vaughn. A former Nets player from 2004-06 and the head coach of the Orlando Magic between 2012-2015, Vaughn was working as an assistant before Atkinson’s firing.
Thus, both teams are at different points in their organizational timelines when it comes to lineup construction. While Nurse rarely wavers from his established starting five, Vaughn has employed five different starting lineups in the Orlando bubble alone.
With only a total of 10 games under his belt as boss, it makes sense why Vaughn needed some time to figure out his optimal lineup. However, he can’t afford to dither much longer; Game 1 tips at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 17.
How do you think the Toronto Raptors will do against the Nets? What will be the key to pulling off the series win? Let us know in the comments below.