EDMONTON — Nick Nurse considered it a decent end to a pretty good week.
There was little complaining from the head coach, nor is there usually in pre-season competition, as the Raptors rolled over the Utah Jazz 114-92 before a sellout crowd at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“It was a good kind of round up to a week of training camp, just from a standpoint of getting a chance to see those guys but just getting a lot of things we also stressed today,” Nurse said.
“I thought there was some really good length, lot of deflections, lot of challenges at the rim, changing shots, good rebounding, even perimeter contests were pretty good,” he said focussing squarely on the defensive end where Nurse tends to focus this time of year.
The Edmonton Raptors fanbase was in mid-season form from the opening tip.
Not even getting limited minutes from some of the key Raptors like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby who didn’t see the floor much after the first quarter could quell their enthusiasm.
Chris Blucher, one of the three Canadians on the Raptors roster actually led the team in scoring with 11 followed closely by the 10 from Precious Achieuwa and still-fighting-for-a-roster-spot Josh Jackson.
Khem Birch, another of the Raptors Canadian contingent didn’t have a big scoring day but he caught the eye of his coaching staff.
“I was really happy for him,” Nurse said of he Montreal native. “The first thing I said to the staff in the locker room is Khem went out there with some energy and some fight.”
Birch is coming off a year in which his patience was put to the ultimate test with injury after injury.
Then in the off-season there was one more surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He’s only now getting back up to close to game speed.
“It’s been a long time since he played,” Nurse said. “He missed a lot of time last year, he didn’t play at all this summer, they held him out all the way to training camp so you just don’t know. I thought he came out with “listen, I’m here to fight for some minutes, too” and it’s good.
I think if they can go out there and spend as much energy as they can in five or six minutes like that and they can be productive, that’s a big bonus for us.”
But more than anything the game was about reps against live NBA competition that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
“Listen, it was a good practice, guys flying around,” VanVleet said of the game in which he only was asked to play just over 91/2 minutes. “I’m not going to try and grade by any stretch. There were a lot of breakdowns, a lot of mistakes and that’s to be expected. But I thought we played with great energy and played together, played hard and we had fun so that’s all you could ask for right now. Try to clean up some of the stuff we need, build our system and foundation for the year but I thought the guys played hard.”
The Raptors headed back to Toronto immediately after the game and will get a practice in on their home practice court Tuesday before heading back out on the road for a couple of more pre-season games in Boston on Wednesday and in Houston on Friday.
The first pre-season action in Toronto will come Sunday when they pay host to Chicago.
NICKS AND BRUISES
A couple of Raptors were held out of Sunday’s game due to soreness or injury.
Justin Champagnie, one of three partially guaranteed Raptors vying for the final spot on the roster, woke up with a sore hip after Friday’s scrimmage in Victoria and sat this one out.
More seriously is the hamstring injury which has kept newcomer Otto Porter Jr. out of action for the better part of the whole training camp.
Nurse is not quite sure when Porter will be ready to return.
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