Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic says he misses Cup competition because of his days roaming the benches in Europe.

He will try something similar when Toronto hosts the Boston Celtics on Friday in its first game of the new NBA Season Tournament. The Atlantic Division foes met last Saturday, when the Celtics defeated the Raptors by 23 points.

“We are very motivated going into this match,” Rajakovic told reporters at practice on Thursday. “The Season Tournament is something that everyone looks forward to playing. I’m excited to see the court.

“I miss the European Cup. I think this brings more excitement to the league. We had a talk today with our guys and we understood that every possession matters… every point matters.

“Obviously, after a tough loss in Boston, we’re very motivated to get another shot at that team and try to play our best basketball tomorrow night.”

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The tournament is an idea the NBA had discussed for a few years but introduced for the 2023-24 season.

Each conference is divided into three groups of five teams, and each team plays four games within its group (two at home and two on the road) for a chance to advance to the knockout rounds.

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Group play began on November 3rd and ends on November 28th. Brooklyn, Chicago and Orlando are the other teams in Group C of the East along with Toronto and Boston.

Eight teams from the league, consisting of six group leaders and two wild card teams, will advance for a shot at the NBA Cup.

The quarterfinals will take place on December 4 and 5 in the NBA team markets and the semifinals on December 7 and the championship on December 9 will be played at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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All games except the championship also count in the regular season standings.

There will also be a tournament MVP award and an all-tournament team, plus a prize pool based on team performance, including $500,000 for each player on the winning team.

So far, with group games being played on tournament nights, group play has seen its share of high-intensity action and fights. Three players were ejected and one suspended in a game between Golden State and Minnesota on Tuesday.

It’s something Rajakovic is enjoying.

“I love it. I love the intensity. I love the pressure. I love games that are competitive,” he said. “I think the fans are enjoying it. You know, every game matters is a very good motto and I’m looking forward to it.” ”.

Toronto is coming off a tough 128-112 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Bucks led by as many as 33 points without superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

When asked if he was excited about the tournament, Toronto forward Pascal Siakam expressed more concern about bouncing back from Wednesday’s loss.

“I think I’m excited about winning a game right after losing one. We want to recover,” he said. “Last night we didn’t play well. “I’m excited about that, having the opportunity to play in a game and having the opportunity to win after a loss.”

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For Siakam, every game has meaning.

“I don’t think that moves the needle, but I think it’s just playing basketball,” he said of the prize money. “Every time I have the opportunity to play and compete, it’s always exciting for me.

“I don’t think money makes me say, ‘Oh my God, I have to kill myself.’ I have to commit suicide every night because I want to be great. It’s not that those games don’t count.

“All those games are important. For me, I don’t try to put extra pressure on that. Anyway, we have to win every game we try to play. So it’s like, why not try (the same thing) with those?

However, Raptors guard Dennis Schroder did not echo a similar sentiment.

“If you know there is $500,000 at stake for the winner, do you have motivation? There you have it,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2023.

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