7:58 PM ET
MILWAUKEE — Much has been made of Kawhi Leonard‘s occasional limp during Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. And yet, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Game 5 at Fiserv Forum, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse maintained that his star will be ready when the ball goes up.
“He’s feeling good,” Nurse said. “No concerns at this point. He’s good.”
Nurse wasn’t quite ready to say the same, however, about star point guard Kyle Lowry, who has been battling a thumb injury on his left (non-shooting) hand that he suffered during the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Lowry has been wearing a specially designed oven mitt since to try to speed the healing process, but Nurse admitted the All-Star guard is playing through pain.
“Kyle’s hand is not great,” Nurse said. “You know, he’s — it’s hurt and it’s sore and it causes him a lot of pain. But he seems to be able to manage it through the game and do what he can do.
“He’s obviously scoring and playing great on top of the other things he always does, and we’re really [seeing] a heck of a lot of toughness and again, the spirit that he just wants to be out there and help his team any way he can.”
For Lowry on Tuesday night in Game 4, that meant scoring 12 quick points in the first quarter to help the Raptors get a lead, then another six late in the second quarter to help Toronto preserve that advantage at halftime.
Those early points helped lead a wave of scoring from Toronto’s supporting cast. That was particularly useful for the Raptors, given that the two players who played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller in Game 3, Leonard and Pascal Siakam, both showed signs of fatigue at times in Game 4.
“I think you just don’t know how people are going to react,” Nurse said. “I think kind of the main narrative is that Kawhi was super tired and extra minutes and all those kind of things. I think we kind of had that in the back of our minds, but you know, you just don’t know how guys are going to react when the ball goes up, their adrenaline kicks up, etc.
“I do think Kyle feels like he sees opportunities for himself in these series, and I think Kyle is usually an early, early scorer. He knows leads are precious and he’s trying to jump-start that. He was humongous last night. We didn’t get off to a great start, and I think he automatically changed that by himself.”
Forward OG Anunoby, on the other hand, remains “a ways away” from contributing after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last month.
“OG does not have a timetable for coming back,” Nurse said. “He is being more active every day. I think we are getting closer to a point where we’re — you know, unpack is the next step for him. He’s moving pretty good, he’s shooting, etc., but still a ways away from being able to take hits and contact in the areas that he needs to test out, I guess.”
The Raptors, though, remain focused on the task at hand, which is to find a way to do what they couldn’t in the first two games of this series: get a win in Milwaukee. (The Bucks have only lost twice in a row all season; they have never lost three times in a row.)
That is the goal for Toronto — one that, if the Raptors can accomplish it, would allow them to have a chance to clinch a trip to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history Saturday night back at Scotiabank Arena.
Nurse, though, said that there has been very little talk of the possibilities down the road for the Raptors. Instead, he said the focus has been on the task that it is immediately at hand — one that won’t be easy to solve.
“I think there’s been very little,” he said. “I’m trying to think of things I’ve heard and I can really only remember Kyle through the Philly series was immediately over, we were in the locker room and he kind of quieted everybody down and said, ‘Hey, listen, you know, enjoy this game, but we’ve still got a ways to go where we’re trying to get to, so let’s get back here tomorrow and let’s get back to work.’ You know, that kind of mentality.”