Raptors head coach Nick Nurse knows the Warriors will not relinquish their crown without a fight as his team stands on the cusp of its first NBA championship.
The Raptors are one win 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 in the NBA Finals against the two-time defending champions.
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.”
Raptors fans break out “O Canada” at Oracle
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 8, 2019
Leonard was the star of the show again, with the 2014 Finals MVP shooting 5 for 8 in the first quarter, while the rest of his team was 1 for 13.
He finished the half with 13 points, and the Raptors were in striking distance, just four points behind the Warriors at halftime.
Then Leonard really turned it on with 17 third-quarter points as Toronto outscored Golden State 37-21 to take a 79-67 lead going into the fourth quarter. 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 No. 1 3-point shooting team in the league because of the extra passes and the contagious passing, etc., and I think our team again thought their sense of who they thought they could become went up.”