Without a Scotiabank Arena sellout or the rabid Jurassic Park to feed off, Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors are creating their own playoff energy.
The defending-champion Raptors lead their opening-round series with the Brooklyn Nets 2-0 following a 104-99 victory Wednesday. The NBA is playing its games without spectators in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.
“We know what fans are doing for us,” Lowry said Thursday during a videoconference. “Our team has done a great job of kind of making our floor look as fan-friendly … and ready.
“But a team like us, we create our own energy, we create our own vibe. That’s what we’ve been doing, just create our own atmosphere ourselves.”
The Raptors certainly have adjusted well to life in the NBA bubble. They went 7-1 in seeding games and are riding a six-game win streak overall, including playoffs.
“I think that we have a team that likes to be around each other for the most part,” said head coach Nick Nurse, sporting an Arkells facemask. “I think we try to do things in a professional manner, we try to have some fun along with it.
“It’s a long kind of journey and process and there’s some times when you’ve got to push and there’s some times when you’ve got to put your arms around them and relax a little bit.
“We’re trying to put a good plan together, we’re trying to give a great effort and we’re trying to do it together. That’s kind of the messaging, we’re trying to stay consistent with.”
Nurse said he hasn’t had to worry about balancing team time and quiet time for his players.
“I think that they kind of do that on their own a little bit,” Nurse said. “Even in this scenario, it’s fairly easy to be on your own if you want to be on your own, you can go back to your room.
“We’re not trying to drag them out for anything in particular other than the work-related things or occasional meal. I mean, there’s some hardships here but there’s also some things that are very nice about being here.
“We feel safe, we get to play, we’ve got a good team that loves to play and compete. There’s a lot of things that are good to stay positive about as well.”
Raptors forward Serge Ibaka said he’s had no difficulties managing his time after two months away from Toronto.
“The good thing about basketball is it’s something we love to do,” he said. “Any time when I feel like giving up, I just put my mind on basketball, try to be focused.
“I think that’s the reason why I think all of us, we are doing better.”
Ibaka loves to cook in his spare time but said a condensed basketball schedule has helped him keep his mind on the task at hand.
“We played (Wednesday) and were back at the gym working, and we’re going to play again (Friday),” he said. “Then we’ll come back the next day in the gym, and then we’re going play on Sunday.
“That’s the only way we can try to put our minds busy is to stay focused and enjoy basketball. That’s the only thing we really have here right now is basketball.”
The Raptors and Nets resume will resume play Friday. But Brooklyn will not have sharp-shooting guard Joe Harris, who left the NBA bubble for a non-medical personal matter following Wednesday’s contest.
Due to the NBA’s quarantining rules, he’ll miss at least the third and fourth games of the best-of-seven series. Harris had 14 points and 15 rebounds over 39 minutes Wednesday.
“I’m friends with Joe so it’s just unfortunate,” Lowry said. “But I don’t think it weakens them.
“I think it makes the next guy have to step up for them, whoever it may be. Whoever it is, those guys are going to step up, I’m sure. “
Nurse said Harris gives Toronto all it can handle when he’s on the floor.
“It’s too bad,” Nurse said. ”He’s really played great and has had a great series.
“You’ve got to hug him, you’ve got to chase him, you’ve got to really work and it frees up a lot of driving and rolling and all that kind of stuff when you’ve got a guy like that out there. So it’s unfortunate for him and his family and his personal situation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 20, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press