"I gotta get that one home, somehow, from a coaching standpoint."
Those were the words of Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse following the team's heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Hawks to open the second half of the season.
After going down by as many as 19 points in the first half, the shorthanded Raptors used a spirited third quarter to give themselves a 10-point lead heading into the game's final frame. With just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, an and-one from Chris Boucher extended Toronto's lead to 15, seemingly putting the game out of reach. When the Hawks came charging back, the Raptors couldn't come up with what they needed to close out the game.
TAKEAWAYS: Tony Snell's game-winning buzzer-beater spoils Raptors comeback
"We just needed one more play. One more bucket probably puts the game away, or one more stop, but we unfortunately didn't find it," Nurse told the media postgame.
Atlanta's star guard Trae Young, who had a game-high 37 points on the night, had the ball in his hands with a chance to decide the game's outcome. With all eyes of the Raptors' defence on him, Young managed to find his teammate Tony Snell wide open on the perimeter, who knocked down the heroic game-winning buzzer-beater to hand Toronto a loss.
Tony called GAME. https://t.co/0wfDS12MJP pic.twitter.com/UDrdxATfdT- Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) March 12, 2021
"We were pretty determined not to let Young take the last shot. I think that probably makes sense. ... I thought for sure time was going to run out. ... It's just tough," Nurse said.
"... The guys played their guts out, I'm really proud of them for that. But yeah, definitely a tough one to take after putting so much into the game."
It was Nurse's first game back on the sidelines after missing the team's last three games due to the league's health and safety protocols. And while he was able to return, the five Raptors players in health and safety protocols - Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn - were not able to take the floor with their teammates just yet.
While there has not been any update as to when those players might return, TSN's Josh Lewenberg gave some insight on the facts of the situation ahead of the Hawks game.
Players that test positive are required to be away from their teams for at least 10-14 days, and given the unpredictable nature of the virus we can't assume everybody will only miss the minimum amount of time. Siakam has been in the protocol for 12 days, FVV/OG/McCaw/Flynn for 8- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 10, 2021
Toronto will travel to take on the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, with a back-to-back in Chicago against the Bulls on Sunday, meaning those absent players will only have one day before the team takes off for what will be a three-game road trip. Their next home game doesn't come until Friday, March 19 against the Utah Jazz - something worth noting when it comes to when those players might be able to return.
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