Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jan 1

Raptors’ Kyle Lowry ruled out of Jazz matchup – The Globe and Mail

“You never know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. We hope that we’re 100-per-cent full health, but you never know. You have to be able to win games and play to a very high level without certain people.”

Nurse, however, is still preaching a patient approach.

Time to turn it up?

“Not yet. Not yet. Not yet. I think we’re still in our learning phase and process and we’re still trying to keep moving forward. Again, I think I’m pleased with some of the things we’re doing, I think we’re making some huge strides in some areas,” Nurse said, and mentioned particular defensive schemes that have been added.

“Still lots to do and look at. To polish. Again, we want as big a menu as we can have going into the playoffs defensively.”

The Raptors face a tough stretch that includes a trip to San Antonio on Thursday to face former Raptor DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs. Then they head to Milwaukee to battle the Bucks, who at 25-10 have passed the Raptors to steal the league’s best record. The Raptors return home to play host to the Indiana Pacers, who are third in the East and two games behind Toronto, on Jan. 8.

Game Preview: Raptors vs Jazz | Toronto Raptors

–  2019 things: Toronto’s victory over the Bulls on Sunday moved the team to 27-11 to close out 2018. With 38 games played over 11 weeks between Oct. 17 to Dec. 31, the Raptors go into the new year knowing the remaining 44 games on the regular-season schedule will be played over 15 weeks, that they will not travel past the central time zone again, and that the bulk of their west coast trips are already out of the way. Toronto also doesn’t have a road trip longer than three games on the schedule in the new year.

–  Familiar faces: Raptor C.J. Miles was drafted 34th overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2005 NBA Draft. He spent seven seasons with the Jazz. Raptors guard Delon Wright attended the University of Utah, winning the 2015 Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard. Jazz guard Naz Mitrou-Long was born in Mississauga, Ontario.

Roles have changed for many Raptors over the last 12 months | The Star

“You know, those are just all things that are part of the journey, part of the process, and you try to have a good perspective on those things and remind yourself how blessed you are, how fortunate you are, and try to find little ways that you can be better,” VanVleet said Monday as the Raptors put a lid on 2018 with a Scotiabank Arena practice.

“A lot of those things are marginal and just try to keep the same focus and energy and keep striving to be better each day as a man and as a basketball player. (You) try to stay even-keeled. I’ve been blessed with a good temperament naturally, that’s just my personality, so I’ve been able to manage some of those things a little bit better.”

The Raptors weren’t in a particularly wistful mood as a group with the calendar about to turn, mostly because Dec. 31 is not really any different than Jan. 31. The season drones on regardless of occasion.

Raptors open New Year hosting Jazz – TSN.ca

Gobert senses that things will improve.

“I feel like everyone’s coming with a defensive mindset,” he said. “When we do that, we’re a good team.”

The Jazz were without point guard Ricky Rubio (bruised back and leg) and, in his place, Dante Exum had his first career double-double with 13 points and 13 assists. Forward Jae Crowder (bruised thumb) also missed the game Saturday. Both are listed as probable for Tuesday.

“I think that we played well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game Saturday. “And the score in this case reflected that we played well. I think in the second half, we didn’t play as well. Part of it, for our group, is continuing to maintain our discipline and consistency.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors (27-11) will again be without Lowry on Tuesday. He has been out with a sore back. It is not certain when he will return, but he should return much sooner than Valanciunas, who is recovering from surgery on his dislocated left thumb

Why Raptors’ Pascal Siakam accepted Basketball Without Borders invite – Sportsnet.ca

“I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t a basketball player,” Siakam told ESPN’s Zach Lowe during an episode of The Lowe Post podcast.

“Basketball was just like, we had an old hoop at the seminary, but it was like nobody played, it wasn’t serious.”

Siakam wound up attending the camp not because of his love of basketball, but because of an opportunity to reconnect with a family member.

“My sister lived in South Africa at the time when Basketball Without Borders was in South Africa and for me it was like ‘I haven’t seen my sister in like five years or something…this is the best opportunity for me, I’m going to go, I’m going to see her, I’m going to hang out with her, I miss her,’” Siakam added.

In hindsight, Siakam’s last-minute decision to attend Basketball Without Borders — regardless of the initial motivation behind it — proved to be a life changing one. The forward showcased enough raw talent and potential to garner an opportunity to play in North America at God’s Academy, a prep school in Lewisville, Texas.

Raptors talk of playing with greater sense of urgency | CBC Sports

Danny Green, part of the off-season trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, agreed with VanVleet. It’s time for the Raptors step on the gas, regardless of injuries.

“For sure,” Green said. “And that comes with being able to execute and play with whoever it is we have on the floor. Obviously, we think we’re going to be a stronger deeper team when everybody gets back healthy, but this is the time where those young guys can get some good reps, good minutes, miles on the road, and get comfortable behind the wheel. All of us. And be able to play with some adversity.

“You never know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. We hope that we’re 100 per cent full health, but you never know. You have to be able to win games and play to a very high level without certain people.”

Raptors’ Kyle Lowry remains out vs. Jazz Tuesday – Sportsnet.ca

Nearing the halfway point in the season, the Raptors (27-11) are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and without all-star guard Kyle Lowry, who’s been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the visiting Utah Jazz, the team’s offence has ground to a near standstill. Over the past two games, the Raptors have shot just 33 per cent from the field, and 31 per cent from three-point range.

“We’re going to figure it out, but it’d be a lot better if we figure it out tomorrow, you know what I mean?” VanVleet said. “Obviously injuries play a part in that. But at some point we’re going to have to start building our championship habits, and I think that we have been, but I think we can do a much better job of going out there and being boring in the way we attack our details and be annoying with just being sticklers about every little thing that we know is going to pay off in the playoffs.”

Jazz continue tough schedule with visit to Raptors | FOX Sports

“The schedule was not the easiest,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert who had 25 points and 16 rebounds Saturday in a 129-97 home win over the New York Knicks. “We had a lot of road trips. We lost some games we should have won. But we fought through it and we got better.”

Gobert senses that things will improve.

“I feel like everyone’s coming with a defensive mindset,” he said. “When we do that, we’re a good team.”

The Jazz were without point guard Ricky Rubio (bruised back and leg) and, in his place, Dante Exum had his first career double-double with 13 points and 13 assists. Forward Jae Crowder (bruised thumb) also missed the game Saturday. Both are listed as probable for Tuesday.

“I think that we played well,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game Saturday. “And the score in this case reflected that we played well. I think in the second half, we didn’t play as well. Part of it, for our group, is continuing to maintain our discipline and consistency.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors (27-11) will again be without Lowry on Tuesday. He has been out with a sore back. It is not certain when he will return, but he should return much sooner than Valanciunas, who is recovering from surgery on his dislocated left thumb.

Kyle Lowry’s absence having noticeable impact on Raptors’ pace of play – Sportsnet.ca

It’s a small thing, but it’s one of many the Raptors have been missing in Lowry’s recent absence, as he’s missed seven of the last eight recovering from a back injury. The Raptors have slowed down considerably over that time. And Sunday, after his team lazily overcame the hapless Chicago Bulls, 95-89, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said he’d certainly noticed it.

“One of my bigger concerns is the pace we’re playing at,” Nurse said. “Listen, the defence is still pretty good. There’s still some pretty good work being done defensively. But when they do score, it’s several bounces of the ball. And that’s not really what we want. We just assume, once they score, forget about it, get it in, and get up the floor with a little bit of juice and energy.”

After using only 95 possessions against a purposefully slow-playing Bull outfit Sunday, the Raptors have now used fewer than 100 possessions in 10 of its last 13 games. This fall, when Toronto was playing its best and cruising to the NBA’s best record, the Raptors used over 100 possessions in 17 of its first 21 games.

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