While the Toronto Raptors‘ first-round playoff schedule has plenty of Canadians complaining, the afternoon games have at least one fan in coach Nick Nurse.
"Especially in this set up, I think it’s better than sitting around all day," Nurse said. “There’s not a lot to take up your time, sometimes. I kind of think it’s good."
The Raptors open the first round at 4 p.m. ET on Monday versus the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The rest of the schedule includes two 1:30 p.m. ET games, and a 6:30 p.m. ET game. Game 5, plus Games 6 and 7 if needed, are still to be determined.
Raptors fans griped on social media about the afternoon start times conflicting with work.
"Well, next week looks unproductive," @CJSportsNut posted.
@sjerrot wrote: "Crap! Work hour games," with a frowning emoji.
Terrible start times have been a storyline of Raptors playoffs, with the lone Canadian team traditionally playing an early afternoon game. Their bad scheduling ended last season with a 5 p.m. tipoff in Game 1 against Orlando.
Brooklyn might have seemed an easy opponent two weeks ago, but they’ve been one of the big surprises of the NBA restart at Walt Disney World. The Nets went 5-3 in the bubble and lost 134-133 to a desperate Trail Blazers team Friday.
"I watched them play a really good Portland team last night in a heck of a game and they played great," Nurse said. "They’re really playing with a lot of confidence, they’re playing fast, coach (Jacque) Vaughn has obviously got ’em dialled in. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for some guys that are pretty good players."
Nurse singled out Caris LeVert, who scored 37 points against Portland, and is a "super, super scorer and player."
LeVert has veteran players to complement him and provide a calm voice in the locker room such as Garrett Temple and Jamal Crawford.
"They’ve got a lot of guys who are playing with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence right now," Nurse said. "They certainly earned and deserve this playoff berth and we will respect them, for sure. We will have to prepare and play really well to beat them."
Nurse was an assistant to Dwane Casey when the Raptors lost to Brooklyn in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. In their first playoff appearance in six seasons, the Raptors lost 104-103 in Game 7 when Kyle Lowry’s shot at the buzzer was blocked by Paul Pierce.
"It came down to the very last possession, seven games," Nurse said. "It was thrilling at that time, wasn’t it, for the Raptors to even be in that position. I think the team was coming off (34) wins the year before. So putting … 48 wins on the regular-season board was a tremendous accomplishment. I don’t think anybody saw it coming.
"And the excitement, man, was it something. The roar of the crowd in Game 1 was amazing for our home fans. To be there for the first year, that was my first year there, it was something cool for sure."