DeMar DeRozan will make Toronto return with Spurs in February - Canadanewsmedia
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DeMar DeRozan will make Toronto return with Spurs in February



DeMar DeRozan will make an emotional return to the arena he called home for nine years when the San Antonio Spurs take on the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 22.

The Raptors announced their 2018-19 schedule on Friday, and anticipation is expected to be high for DeRozan's first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Spurs last month.

DeRozan was a four-time all-star and fan favourite in Toronto, but was sent to Texas in the trade that brought star forward Kawhi Leonard north in the aftermath of another disappointing playoff exit.

Former head coach Dwane Casey, another Raptors off-season casualty, makes his return to Toronto Nov. 14. He'll be coaching from the visitor's bench with the Detroit Pistons.

The Raptors open the season at home Oct. 17 against Cleveland, the team that swept Toronto out of the second round of the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. This will be a much different Cavaliers team, however, after superstar LeBron James left in the off-season to join the Los Angeles Lakers. King James makes his only Toronto appearance with his new team on March 14.

The Raptors' road debut is Oct. 20 at Washington, and they visit the Spurs on Jan 3. Leonard may get a hostile reception in his return to AT&T Center after effectively forcing his way out of San Antonio.

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Celtics Wrap: Kyrie Irving Goes Off In Thrilling OT Win Over Raptors




BOSTON — Friday night’s clash of Eastern Conference powerhouses at TD Garden lived up to the billing.

In a nonstop back-and-forth affair, the Boston Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors 123-116 in overtime.

Trailing by eight at one point in the fourth quarter, the Celtics fought back to force overtime. Once in the extra period, Boston took control, never relinquishing the lead upon taking it 49 seconds in.

Kyrie Irving had a monster game, leading the Celtics with 43 points, while Jayson Tatum (21), Gordon Hayward (15), Al Horford (11) and Marcus Morris (11) also were in double figures. Kawhi Leonard paced Toronto with 31 points and was one of six Raptors in double digits.

With the win, the Celtics climb to 9-6, while the Raptors fall to 12-4.

Here’s how it all went down:

PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Gordon Hayward
C: Al Horford

The energy was through the roof in the first, with both sides trading punches as the Celtics finished the frame ahead 30-27.

Trailing by four near the midway point of the quarter, the Celtics swung the momentum in their favor by stringing together a 9-0 run, taking their first lead of the game in the process while ultimately going up by five by the end of the stretch. Upon taking the lead, the Celtics never gave it up the rest of the quarter, despite Toronto pulling within two points on three separate occasions.

Irving led all players with 12 first-quarter points.

Both teams put together big runs in the second period, with the Celtics getting outscored 25-24 in the stanza despite taking a 54-52 lead into halftime.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens sent Brown and Hayward out with the second unit to begin the frame, and for the second straight game they helped kick things into gear. The Celtics went on an 8-1 run in the first 1:49 of the frame to up their lead to nine, and by the 7:36 mark they had extended their edge to double digits.

The Celtics’ lead wouldn’t last, however. Toronto showed great resolve, posting a 10-0 run over 2:30 to give it a one-point lead with 90 seconds to play in the half. Boston responded, however, by posting the half’s last three points on a free throw and a layup to take the lead just before the break.

Four players had six second-quarter points, including Irving and Morris. Irving led all players at the half with 18 points.

Although the Celtics went into the half with most of the momentum, it was the Raptors who came out of the break firing. The visitors outscored the Celtics 30-24 in the third to take an 82-78 lead into the final frame.

Boston saw its halftime lead quickly evaporate, as Toronto scored seven unanswered over the first two minutes of the third to grab a five-point lead, but the Celtics roared back with a 9-2 run of their own to edge back in front.

The Raps took over in the second half of the frame, though.

After Toronto took a one-point lead, the Raptors opened up a 9-0 run to go up 10, their biggest lead of the game, with 3:25 left in the quarter.

The Celtics trimmed down the deficit to four in the final few minutes, but couldn’t push through enough to equalize before the end of the frame.

Leonard scored eight third-quarter points.

Early on in the fourth it looked like the Celtics may fold, but they fought back to force overtime, outscoring the Raptors 29-25 in the final 12 minutes.

After clawing their way back from an eight-point deficit, the Celtics tied the game at 90 at the 7:26 mark on a deep 3-pointer from Irving, then took the lead on a layup from Irving 20 seconds later.

The Raptors regained control down the stretch, with Delon Wright knocking down a three-pointer at the 1:29 mark to put Toronto up 107-103. Tatum pulled the Celtics back within two by throwing down a dunk with 48 seconds to go. Toronto failed to convert their next trip down the floor, with Hayward drawing a loose-ball foul to get to the line. The forward tied the game by knocking down both free throws.

Leonard had a chance at the final shot, but was guarded well by Morris and missed the 17-foot jumper, sending the game to overtime.

The Celtics controlled the OT period, outscoring the Raptors 16-9.

Boston grabbed a five-point lead with 3:09 to go, and maintained control despite a valiant effort in response from Toronto. Once the game got inside three minutes, the Celtics really started to take control, swelling their lead to as many seven.

Toronto pulled the game back within five, but a Horford dunk with 18 seconds left put the game away.

The Celtics will play the second game of their home back-to-back Saturday against the Utah Jazz. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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Edmonton Oilers acquire Ryan Spooner from New York Rangers for Ryan Strome




Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner qualifies as a “change of scenery deal” just like Pittsburgh moving along the faster Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for the better hands of Tanner Pearson also this week.

Or; “We’ll take your guy who’s spinning his wheels for our guy who can’t get anything going.”

And if the money’s the same, all the better.

And so, the Edmonton Oilers dealt their third-line, right-shot centre Ryan Strome, who came here in a Jordan Eberle salary dump at the 2017 draft, to the New York Rangers on Friday for their fourth-line left-shot winger Ryan Spooner, who went to Broadway in the Rick Nash Boston Bruins’ biggie trade last February.

Both guys had two points on the season, so if this sounds like a flotsam for jetsam trade in terms of current offence, it is.

With the Oilers in salary-cap hell with Andrei Sekera on long-term injury status, they got the Rangers tooretain $900,000 of Spooner’s $4 million salary this season and next to equalize Strome’s $3.1 million, so it’s a wash.

There’s history there with Spooner, 26, and Oiler GM Peter Chiarelli and right-hand man Keith Gretzky from their days with the Bruins, of course. He’s been a centre but he will not be a plug-in centre replacement for Strome; that could go to farmhand Cooper Marody, short-term anyway. Spooner will be a winger here.

Their 2018 second-round draft Ryan McLeod, who had a good camp showing off his speed and size before going back to junior, is very much in the picture for a No. 3 centre spot in a year or so, too.

The Edmonton Oilers’ Ryan Strome (18) battles the Montreal Canadiens’ Mike Reilly (28) during first period NHL action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Tuesday Nov. 13, 2018. David Bloom / Postmedia

Obviously, Strome, a well-liked player in the room, wasn’t what the Oilers were counting on here. They hoped he could be a top six right-winger but he morphed into a third-line centre who had 36 points in exactly 100 Oiler games. Chiarelli knew off-the-hop Strome wasn’t going to be a 50-60 point, guaranteed 20-25 goal scorer as Eberle is—this was moving money as much as the player, but hoped Strome at $2.5 million, could maybe be a No. 2 RW.

While he showed flashes, he wasn’t enough of a play-making third-line centre for them. He was solid on the penalty-kill, for sure, a second-unit power-play guy and he was good three-on-three as an alternative to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. But they wanted more speed and more points. He was a right-shot centre, always a good thing, but they probably hoped he’d be a 50-55 per cent guy on face-offs like, say, Mark Letestu. He was 48.8 percent this season.

“He played a neutral game,” said Chiarelli.

He held serve but when he didn’t get a point until game 15 in Tampa, they started getting antsy.

“We expected more from him. Did he make enough offensive plays?”

It was an experiment that just didn’t work.

Spooner was very good in 20 games with the Rangers last year with 16 points and was signed to a two-year $8 million deal but was on the fourth-line a lot.

“We drafted Spooner in Boston and developed him and know him as a person,” said Chiarelli. “And that helps when there’s two players who are under-performing, but the big thing was we want to change the chemistry here. We’re looking at the secondary, bottom-half of the lineup and what Spooner has is speed and skill. He’s got deficiencies as does Strome, but we like Spooner’s speed through the neutral zone.”

New York Rangers center Ryan Spooner, left, celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings with left wing Chris Kreider during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Alex Gallardo / AP

Chiarelli certainly agreed with trying to shake things up for both teams.

“Yeah, I agree with the change of scenery component with both players” he said.

So did Rangers’ GM Jeff Gorton.

“We like Strome’s versatility. He can play centre and kill penalties … he’s a different kind of player,” Gorton told New York media.

“When you’re a top five player overall there’s pressure to perform and do certain things with that. He’s been in the league for almost 400 games and I think we all know where he fits in. Maybe there’s a bit more there.”

Strome, 25, has played 69 more games (358-289) with Strome putting up 162 points to Spooner’s 160. Neither is a scorer; Spooner, the 45th overall pick in 2010 and an ex junior (Peterborough) teammate of Zack Kassian, is a better skater, at least to Chiarelli’s eyeballs.

Chiarelli said having only one veteran right-shot centre Kyle Brodziak remaining now with McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was no impediment. He likes what he’s seen from Marody in a small sample size, the way he finds people with passes. His skating needs work, but there’s no denying his offensive flare.

“Cooper will be an NHL centre when it’s all said and done … he has great vision and some hands to go with that, distributing the puck,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan.

McLeod, who could be on Canada’s world junior team at Christmas, is back in the OHL with Mississauga with 20 points in 17 games.


On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

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Peter DeBoer, Sharks riddled by defensive woes in loss to Maple Leafs




SAN JOSE – If you’ve seen the Sharks in the first 20 games this season, you’re well aware they aren’t playing the way they want to on many nights. At least, not for the majority of a game.

San Jose usually starts strong, but tends to move away from the all-around defensive makeup that has been its foundation for the last few seasons. The result are breakaways and odd-man rushes that, all too often, end up in the back of the net.

“The frustrating part is just that we haven’t played to our identity,” Joe Pavelski summarized Thursday after the Sharks’ 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We do it for a few minutes … and then all of a sudden there’s a breakaway, and another breakaway. [Goaltender Martin Jones], we’re just hanging him out to dry at times with these odd-man rushes and chances.”

[RELATED: Why Sharks’ tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs]

There’s a lot of finger-pointing that occurs during times like this when a team is struggling, and right now, fans are criticizing Jones. When the Sharks start giving up those second-period goals, there’s no shortage of shade thrown in his direction.

Since this continues to be a talking point, here’s something to consider: This isn’t a black-and-white situation. There’s no one single player, or one single aspect of the game for that matter, that can take full blame. This is a collective effort that needs to be addressed by all members of the team.

Both the goaltending and the defense in front of the net have to be better if the Sharks are going to get back to the identity Pavelski mentioned.

Putting all the blame squarely on Jones’ shoulders doesn’t solve anything. When his teammates come out and say they need to play better in front of him, that’s the truth.

Besides, a team that lives and dies solely on how their goaltender performs isn’t going to have long-term success.

Look at what happened to the 2015-2016 Montreal Canadiens, who notched a nine-game winning streak to start the season and then spiraled into the abyss when netminder Carey Price was injured. Or look at this current season where the struggling Anaheim Ducks got a few wins early in the season after relying heavily on John Gibson’s performance between the pipes, only to come back to reality as Gibson’s workload began to wear on him.

As far as the home team is concerned, the Sharks do need to play better in front of Jones – for a full 60 minutes, anyways. 

One of San Jose’s problems is, as coach Peter DeBoer classified after Thursday’s loss, a lack of consistency. A strong start to a game followed by bouts of loose play that lead to San Jose turning over the puck. Entering Thursday, the Sharks out-scored their opponents 24-12 in first periods, but were bested 16-25 in second periods.

“When we’re playing at our best, we see how successful it makes us,” defenseman Brenden Dillon said of the inconsistent play. “We’re really not doing that for a full 60 minutes right now, we’re doing it in spurts.”

Those spurts are letting opponents find room to score.

Now, this isn’t a clean-cut problem that rests solely on the defense either. Jones has a .894 save percentage through 15 starts and has allowed 44 goals during that span. While he’s made some crucial late-game saves to keep the Sharks chances of winning alive, he’s also let some of those game-changing chances get by him. There’s no question these are areas that need improvement. 

But again, Jones isn’t the only one to blame. Keep in mind, the Sharks’ toughest defensive outing was their 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues, and Jones wasn’t even in goal for that loss.

Speaking of St. Louis, the Blues visit the Sharks on Saturday for the first meeting since that 4-0 beatdown. Will the Sharks get revenge? Will they bounce back from their outing against the Leafs? Will they play that full 60 that puts their identity as a defensive force on display? 

They’ll need a complete defensive push from everyone, not just their goaltender, if that’s going to be possible.

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