TORONTO — The Raptors lost the NBA’s premier defensive player in free agency this summer, but have not lost their defensive prowess. The Raptors not only entered Wednesday’s game against the Knicks with a 12-4 record, but have gained some acclaim as star stoppers.
Toronto held Joel Embiid scoreless Sunday and earlier this season limited LeBron James to 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting. As a team they are ninth in the league in points allowed per game, but first in opponents effective field goal percentage.
“First thing is give the credit to the guys to go out there, the desire to want to play defense,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s an effort to go at those guys, to actually look out there and [LeBron] James is coming at you and you think, I’d just as soon not have to take him on here. But you’ve got to accept it and go through it.
“There’s obviously a defensive scheme that now takes the rest of the team to execute as well. I think they’ve been doing that very well. I’d like to say we’re right all the time with those schemes, but sometimes we try one and we scrap it pretty quick and move to plan B or whatever and they’ll execute that one for a while. Sometimes the change of pace is beneficial. Got to give the players credit. They’re the ones out there playing hard.”
No call-up for Allen
While the Knicks still wait on Elfrid Payton to return to action and have seen Frank Ntilikina play while banged up and with Dennis Smith working his way into shape, there remains a holdover from last season in the system who has not gotten the call. Kadeem Allen split time between the Knicks and their G League affiliate in Westchester last year. After working his way through his own knee injury, he has played five games for Westchester and is averaging 11.8 points and six assists per game. It doesn’t sound like that call-up is coming soon.
“We always want to bring them back, even if he’s going to play or not, just to get them back around the group and experiencing NBA life and being with his other teammates and stuff like that,” Fizdale said. “But right now he’s in a good groove and he’s starting to get his legs underneath him and we’ll take it from there.”