Indiana Pacers first-year coach Nate Bjorkgren will try to gain a split with his former boss and Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse Monday night when the teams complete a two-game set at Indianapolis.
The Raptors won the opener of the back-to-back games 107-102 on Sunday afternoon.
The Raptors, who have won five of their past six games, were without Kyle Lowry (infected toe) and Pascal Siakam (left knee swelling). Their status for Monday was uncertain.
The Pacers have lost three of their past four games.
Bjorkgren played at South Dakota when Nurse was an assistant coach there. He coached against him in the D-League final won by Nurse’s Rio Grande team over his Santa Cruz team.
Later, Bjorkgren was an assistant coach for Nurse with the Raptors for two seasons before he took over at Indiana this season. Their time together in Toronto included the NBA championship in 2019.
“(Nurse is) great in so many ways,” Bjorkgren said. “He’s very creative. He’s got a great feel for his team. I think that is really important as a head coach. … How to manage your team. I think that’s very important. I learned a lot of that from him on the team management side.”
Both grew up in Iowa.
“We’ve shared some really cool moments, obviously,” Nurse said. “We’ve competed against each other in some cool situations. … I hope this is one of many, many (times) that we’re coaching against each other and that they’re for a lot bigger stakes than today’s game at some point.”
After trailing by 13 points during the third quarter, the Pacers led by one point in the first minute of the fourth quarter, and the game was tied at 102 with 1:09 to play.
OG Anunoby, who had a season-best 30 points, made three of four free throws in the final 44 seconds. He also matched his season best with five steals, all in the second quarter, and grabbed eight rebounds.
“They played good individual defense and played really well in the gaps,” said Pacers center Myles Turner, who had 25 points and six blocks. “I would say he (Anunoby) was aggressive, chose his spots well, got downhill and got to the free-throw line. He had a good night. … I credit their defense, but at the same time, we just missed shots.”
The Raptors held Malcolm Brogdon to 12 points on 5-for-22 shooting from the field, and Domantas Sabonis, who had 10 points and 19 rebounds, did not score in the second half, going 0-for-7 from the field.
“It’s just a funny dynamic where some of your best players are out and there’s just more opportunity for other guys,” said Toronto guard Fred VanVleet, who scored 21 points.
“Like an OG (Anunoby). The ball was finding him. He was in positions he probably wouldn’t be in if we had our full team. So it’s just a weird dynamic sometimes,” VanVleet said.
VanVleet stripped the ball from Brogdon to force a shot-clock violation with 19.6 seconds left and the Raptors leading by one point.
“I’ve been lucky to play for a lot of good coaches growing up, and one thing I always was taught was just to be in the right place at the right time, and then you’ll be able to make a play,” VanVleet said.
The Raptors have won nine of the past 11 games between the teams.
–Field Level Media