Raptors lose in Nurse’s first return to Toronto

Also there's a potential looming elephant in the room

It only took five days into the regular season, but Nick Nurse returned to the city where he spent a decade and won a championship in 2019. As you would expect, he received a video tribute and ovation during the first timeout of the game.

It was all business from both sides after that. Nurse got his first win as a Sixer, doing it at the expense of his old team. Nurse admitted afterwards that this occurred too quick for his liking and felt a little awkward. He also appreciated the Raptors tributes.

Before the game, Nurse also said he wasn’t disappointed how last season ended and that it was the right time for him to go. In his words, everybody is where they are supposed to be.

I think it’s safe to say that Scottie Barnes couldn’t care less.

Onto some keys from this game.

1. Philly’s Dynamic Duo

With no James Harden yet (maybe never), Embiid and Maxey took turns dominating the Raptors. Maxey especially has been a thorn in Toronto’s side dating back to the 2022 playoffs. He had 34 points (7-9 from three) exactly a year removed from a 44-point night that also occurred in Toronto.

Meanwhile Embiid is simply a tough matchup. Whether it was shooting over small defenders, driving, or creating space to hit stepback jumpers, the reigning MVP did whatever he wanted. Embiid hit seven straight shots (also finishing with 34 points) during the third quarter. Maxey added an 8-9 stretch in this same timeframe.

2. The Future

Gradey Dick didn’t score in his first two games, only playing eight minutes before tonight. He caught a rhythm after checking in the first quarter with eight quick points and two threes. Gradey also did his best to keep Toronto in the game mid fourth, nailing two more treys to cut the deficit as low as five. The rookie finished with 16 points in 28 minutes.

All of Dick’s shots were in the flow of the offence off screens or catch and shoot situations. The Raptors shot 17-32 from three with many attempts above the break just like the season opener against Minnesota. The shooting disappeared for a painfully long stretch in Chicago but aside from that results have been encouraging.

Scottie enjoyed another all around game (24 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks), knocking down two threes as well. His shot mechanics have been quicker, allowing him to open up his offensive bag a bit more.

3. Incorporating Pascal Siakam

Here’s the aforementioned elephant in the room.

It’s been no secret that Siakam has been in a weird spot for quite some time. He made two All-Star and All-NBA teams from 2020-2022 despite never having a roster that maximized his potential. As the Raptors have moved away from iso plays and prioritized ball movement with Scottie having the keys, its left Pascal standing off ball in many cases.

Siakam went over a quarter without shooting in two different stretches in this game. Pascal’s eight attempts were the lowest for him since November 2021, when he was shaking off rust from a torn labrum. Barnes, Gary Trent Jr, Dennis Schroder and Precious Achiuwa all shot more. It’s not an ideal situation for a guy who hasn’t been offered a contract extension and is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Pascal finished with 11 points. Darko Rajakovic was asked about getting Siakam involved more.

Fred VanVleet wasn’t thrilled with his role change last season. Inquiring minds wonder if Pascal will eventually feel a similar way.

Other Notes

Patrick Beverley called out O.G. Anunoby (who missed this game) and Siakam before the season, saying the Raptors have nobody that scares you. Pat Bev had two points in 17 minutes, but re-iterated his point afterwards.

Toronto plays Philadelphia again on Thursday.