Nurse remaining grounded as Raptors close in on NBA crown
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse knows the Golden State Warriors will not relinquish their crown without a fight as his team stand on the cusp of their maiden NBA championship.
The Raptors are only one win away from claiming the title thanks to Friday's 105-92 victory over the Warriors in Game 4 at Oracle Arena.
Kawhi Leonard led the way with 36 points and 12 rebounds to give the Raptors a 3-1 lead against the two-time reigning champions in the NBA Finals.
The Raptors are poised to make history ahead of Game 5 in Toronto, however, Nurse is not getting too carried away.
"I think it's difficult," Nurse told reporters when asked about the team's mentality amid the excitement in Toronto. "I mean, we're going to get back there, and as you know, they're going to be going crazy in Toronto.
"And my message to them is, is we have never really talked about the series score, can't let people take you someplace you aren't yet, right, and we know this is a great team and we know how hard we have to play to beat them.
"Home or away, we know how hard we have to play and just focus in on trying to be the hardest working team on the floor. If we do that, then we'll give ourselves a chance to win and go from there."
Leonard was the star of the show again, with the 2014 Finals MVP shooting five for eight in the first quarter, while the rest of his team were one for 13.
He finished the half with 13 points and the Raptors were in striking distance, just four points adrift of the Warriors.
Then Leonard really turned it on. He dropped 17 third-quarter points as part of a 37-21 frame for Toronto. It was his 14th 30-point game of the 2019 playoffs. He has scored more than 20 points in all but two of the Raptors' postseason games.
"Obviously he's playing great and he's lifted us a lot of times with big buckets or runs of buckets or just that settling bucket when the place is going crazy and he'll calmly sink one to kind of quiet the crowd," Nurse said of Leonard. "But I think more than anything, just once we saw him early in the year, I think, again, your team's vision of who they can become eventually changes.
"I say that about Marc Gasol too. When we got him, I think we started passing the ball, our assists started going way up, we became the number one three-point shooting team in the league because of the extra passes and the contagious passing, et cetera, and I think our team again thought their sense of who they thought they could become went up."