Raptors coach Nurse calls out Barnes' slow starts to games

Jan 5 2023, 4:40 pm

Toronto Raptors sophomore Scottie Barnes has a reputation as a second-half stud: a guy who’s not afraid to take a game over in the third and fourth quarters, and occasionally go on an 8-0 scoring run all by himself.

Unfortunately for Toronto, Barnes also has a reputation for occasionally pulling off the opposite of that in the first half, as he’s known to shoot (and score) too often night-and-day amounts in the game’s opening 24 minutes.

In the 2022-23 season, Barnes is outscoring himself 116-95 when it comes to made field goals in the second half (and overtime) compared to the first half.

It’s not the biggest discrepancy, but it is one that has become noticeable enough among the fanbase and media.

During last night’s contest against the Milwaukee Bucks, Barnes was sitting on zero points until the 6:45 mark of the fourth quarter.

And in one of the weirdest (ultimately failed) comeback attempts in NBA history, the Raptors and Barnes fought back from a 21-point deficit with 3:10 to go to send the game to overtime.

Though the Raptors fell in OT, Barnes, amazingly, finished the game with 19 points on the night, going 9-19 from the field while also going 1-3 from the free throw line.

While Wednesday’s game was perhaps the most extreme example of the trend, it had Raptors coach Nick Nurse wondering: where was that scoring touch for the first three-and-a-half quarters?

“We need him to be more aggressive from start to finish,” Nurse said bluntly in his post-game press conference.

For much of last night’s game, Barnes was matched up against Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, one of the game’s top rim protectors. But for Nurse, he found that the easiest way for Barnes to score was simply to go right at Lopez and attack the paint.

“I think that the thing about it is he ended up having some success right on him at the front of the rim, right?” Nurse said. “Looking back on it now, we’d explore that [earlier in the game] to just say, ‘Okay, let’s go try to get into him and challenge him.'”

And while Barnes went 0-4 from long range, Nurse encouraged his young player to keep shooting from a distance.

“Probably take a few more of the wide-open threes that he was given,” Nurse added. “We’re not telling him not to shoot those for sure. We don’t want 20 of them, but we’ve got to try to keep them a little bit honest.”

The Raptors take on the New York Knicks on Friday night at home, with tipoff set for 7:30 pm ET.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

+ Offside
+ Basketball
+ Raptors