Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-104 to the Detroit Pistons.
One — Empty: There are only two outcomes when you tune into a Raptors game. They either battle hard but come up short in some new and bitter way, or they are just completely gassed and get blown out in shameless fashion. Toronto’s three losses to the Pistons over the last month covers the entire spectrum from depressing to despondent. This entire season is lost, and the players know it. Having received no help whatsoever from the front office in the offseason and again at the trade deadline, the message was to roll over and tank, and you’re witnessing what that looks like.
Two — Angst: You know things are bad when even “Steady Freddy” is flipping out. Fred VanVleet was the only one keeping the Raptors afloat early on, sinking deep threes, slashing into the paint for kickout threes, and even converting a few difficult layups, but nobody joined in. The deficit grew to 21 points midway through the second quarter, and VanVleet couldn’t resist kicking the stanchion out of disgust. VanVleet tried his best to will the team back to life, but it mostly resulted in bricked layups and a jammed right knee. VanVleet taking twice as many shots as any other player is a huge red flag that things are broken, because that’s not his game at all.
Three — Lost: It was a miserable night for Pascal Siakam, who battled foul trouble all night and couldn’t get anything easy to drop. Siakam picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter, and while he scored a pair of tough layups over the Pistons’ rookie center, it had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the game. Siakam isn’t always going to dominate, especially against beefy frontlines like the Pistons, but he also can’t completely bottom out like this. The Raptors are short enough as it is, and without Siakam they have nobody who can impact the rim. It’s not like there is someone off the bench who can even give you a fraction of what Siakam is paid to do.
Four — Hurt: Kyle Lowry was held to only 24 minutes and he might as well not played at all. Lowry clearly wasn’t fit, and what sense is there to ride a 35-year-old on a lingering foot injury? That reeks of desperation more than anything else. It’s not as if the result will be any different if he guts it out, and if he sits that opens more reps for rookie Malachi Flynn to find his footing. It’s not entirely clear why Lowry is still on the roster to begin with. The front office made three sell-now trades, but stopped short with their most valuable piece. And while the trade market obviously fell short of the Raptors’ expectations, there is even less value in making Lowry suffer through this lost year.
Five — Trying: OG Anunoby is trying his best to expand his game to meet the Raptors’ needs. It’s not really in is game to be a featured scorer, yet Anunoby is calling for the ball and trying to make something happen. These reps will help his development in the long run, and it’s worth suffering through his pubescent awkwardness to get the fully actualized version of Anunoby in a few seasons. One small improvement from yesterday was Anunoby choosing a short pull-up while driving against Mason Plumlee instead of forcing it against a bigger center as he did against Jusuf Nurkic on Sunday. Half of being a good offensive creator is to make the right reads on a consistent basis, and that requires repetitions to develop.
Six — Encouraging: Gary Trent Jr. had his most promising game since arriving at the trade deadline. It’s clear that he’s learning how to play within the team, and that the team is also learning how to play with him, but the skillset is there. Trent Jr. nailed two threes to start, which got him going, and he found ways to contribute over the rest of the night. Trent Jr.’s best play was on a cut to the basket, where he received the pass and whipped his body in a full rotation while hitting Anunoby in the corner with the extra pass before landing on his jump. He’s a smart role player who will slot in fine when things are right with the team.
Seven — Regress: It’s disappointing to watch Chris Boucher regress after such a brilliant start to his breakout year. He wasn’t going to score 20 points every night or block every three in the state of Florida, but the Raptors don’t need him to be a star. What the Raptors have needed more than anything this season is a solid defensive center who can contest shots without fouling while also collecting misses, and on both fronts Boucher has failed. Slotting him in as a power forward isn’t so bad if Aron Baynes and Stanley Johnson weren’t the other options at center, but some of this is also on Boucher. He is the only player who is consistently singled out by coaches and fellow teammates for his defensive gaffs, and these interactions are caught on the broadcast at least once per game.
Eight — Pop: It won’t change the outcome of these games, but Yuta Watanabe needs to see the floor more often just on the simple fact that he plays harder than anyone and because he is always active in rebounding, which is a huge weakness for the team. Watanabe’s minutes have been hard to come by since Boucher made the switch to power forward, and he’s too unwilling to shoot which makes him a liability offensively, but he deserves another shot. Nurse’s preference has been to deploy Aron Baynes for his bulk, but given the choice between Baynes’ inactivity and Watanabe’s hyperactivity, there isn’t much of a difference.
Nine — Weakness: The Raptors cannot be taken seriously until the front office signs a starting-level center. Even if it’s just a temporary option with a veteran stopping by on a buyout, every little bit will help. It’s not fair to ask Siakam and Anunoby to grapple with centers who are often 20 or 30 pounds heavier than them, and it’s a bad move long term to have two of the most important development pieces to be playing out of position. The fact that the defense falls apart when the two fill-in centers check out speaks volumes about just how dire the center position actually is.
Ten — Unacceptable: You could sympathize with the Raptors for being down on themselves this season given all the circumstances that have cut against them, but it’s still not an excuse for being checked out. Look at the Pistons — they’re in the second year of a rebuild and hold the second-worst record in the league, but they still battled as if they were in a playoff chase. There’s no excuse for not playing hard, not competing, not being focused, and for not executing the basics. There is a standard of professionalism that needs to always be maintained, and too many times the Raptors have failed to meet it this season.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada
Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona
Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.
Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.
By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.
In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.
No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match
Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.
Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.
(Field Level Media)
Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19
(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.
The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.
“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.
“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”
The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.
“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.
“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”
The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.
“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”
Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.
“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)
Nick Foligno hopes to make Leafs debut Thursday vs. Jets
Former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is eyeing Thursday as his potential debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said on an NHL.com podcast.
The Maple Leafs acquired the left wing on April 11 in a three-team trade with Columbus and the San Jose Sharks, with each team retaining a portion of Foligno’s salary so he can join the North Division leaders for their Stanley Cup pursuit. Toronto visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
Because he moved from the U.S. to Canada, Foligno was required to quarantine for seven days before joining his new team for practices and games, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
“Seven days of just nothing, and then you jump right into it, it would be nice to probably have a practice, but I rather just that — let’s go,” Foligno said on “The Chirp with Darren Millard.” “I’m here to play for them and get this thing rolling, so I probably prefer just to jump right into it and get going.”
If the Leafs put Foligno in their lineup Thursday at Winnipeg, he’ll get to play against his former Columbus teammate, Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Foligno played eight-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets and his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 950 career games, he has tallied 203 goals and 279 assists.
The Maple Leafs sent their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder to Columbus and their 2021 fourth-rounder to San Jose in order to add Foligno to their stacked group of forwards, which includes NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
Foligno’s father, Mike Foligno, was an NHL veteran who played parts of four seasons for the Leafs
(Field Level Media)
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