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10 things: Raptors lose another close game in Norman Powell's return – Yahoo Canada Sports



Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 122-117 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

One — Repeat: This game was a microcosm of the entire season. The Raptors were competing, went toe-to-toe with a superior opponent, but they ran into a wicked cold stretch, and tried desperately to catch up but it wasn’t enough. That is the most frustrating part of this entire season, because you’re always watching with bated breath to see where the Raptors drop the ball. They have enough ability and talent to compete against most opponents, but they can’t seem to string together 48 consistent minutes to close out the game. The big picture lesson of the season is that there is a very thin line between winning and losing, and the Raptors have been tripping on that line ever since they touched down in Tampa Bay.

Two — Nasty: The Raptors fell apart in the third quarter where they managed just 10 points while conceding 23 to Portland. Pascal Siakam was strong early and got to the basket but it all fell apart once he subbed out. Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby weren’t able to carry the offense, and it didn’t help that the entire team fell into a cold streak. The Raptors were 0-for-13 from three in the quarter with Anunoby and VanVleet combining to miss eight, and it took Stanley Johnson of all people to snap them out of it. VanVleet said it came down to dead legs, but also took accountability for not getting his team better shots.

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Three — Aggressive: Siakam was determined to attack the Blazers on every trip down and it got him 26 points with 11 trips to the free-throw line. Siakam liked the matchup against Robert Covington, who is a diligent defender that was able to meet the challenge a few times, but Siakam wore him out and got whatever he wanted in the paint. The only time Siakam wasn’t able to get downhill was when the Blazers camped out in the lane with one of their bulky centers, which was made possible when Aron Baynes was on the floor. That has to factor into the Raptors’ thinking in how they approach signing future centers. Siakam’s life becomes so much easier alongside a floor spacing five because one player alone isn’t keeping him out of the paint.

Four — Force: There was a lot to like about Anunoby’s night. First, the Raptors only ever looked solid when Anunoby was involved in the play defensively, and he took shifts against just about every player on the Blazers. Second, it was great to see Anunoby demand the ball in the post and his general activity around the basket. The Blazers stashed their weaker guards on Anunoby, and it’s important for him to be able to punish the mismatch, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be through post-ups or isolations. Anunoby scored three putbacks by getting after the offensive glass because he’s too big and strong to be boxed out by guards on a regular basis.

Five — Measured: The key for Anunoby is learning to channel his strength in a productive way. As he looks to become more of a focal point of the offense, the onus is on Anunoby to pick his spots. Seven of the Raptors’ 12 turnovers were made by Anunoby, and most of his mistakes are avoidable. Anunoby tried to take Nurkic off the dribble on back-to-back plays, which just isn’t smart especially when the jumper is available because the big is sagging back. There was another mistake where Anunoby muscled to his spot, but wasn’t strong with the ball as he went up and got stripped. Then there was a post-up against Damian Lillard where the defender just flopped, which happens often when guards are on him. These reps are important learning moments for Anunoby, who is already making good strides in his ability to get to create shots at the rim.

Six — Muscle: Chris Boucher is a very capable bench contributor who plays like a starter half the time, but his physical limitations make him a target on defense almost every time down. In order to hide Boucher from Enes Kanter’s brute strength, the Raptors had Anunoby or Johnson guarding the center, while Boucher took a wing player, but that’s still a mismatch. The Blazers made Kanter a main focal point of the offense for the second unit, and the Raptors just couldn’t secure defensive rebounds or keep Kanter out despite sending multiple bodies at the play. Again, this circles back to the main problem all season, which is that the Raptors just have no capable centers and it costs them every single game.

Seven — Intriguing: Rodney Hood gave the Raptors a much-needed spark off the bench, scoring eight points in his first four minutes before finishing with 13 on the night. Hood’s play doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but he is clearly NBA-caliber, which can’t really be said about most of the Raptors’ bench players. Hood knocked down open threes, got to the paint a few times, and while he isn’t close to being acclimated to the Raptors’ system, it’s already clear that he is one of the Raptors’ best bench pieces. Don’t take competence for granted.

Eight — Short: If there is one more glaring weakness on the team, it’s that the Raptors don’t have a closer to finish games. You can clearly see the difference in how the Blazers operate in crunch time, as compared to the Raptors. Portland had two guards who could get their shots in Lillard and C.J. McCollum, while the Raptors have to still run their offense to create something. The best teams marry the two, combining talent with team play, but having that shot maker is the most important ingredient. The Raptors have clutch play finishers, but not clutch shot creators, and that’s an important distinction.

Nine — Odd: It felt so strange to see Norman Powell in a Blazers jersey after playing his whole career with the Raptors. Powell himself even felt the dissonance, as he accidentally lined up on the Raptors’ side of the floor to start before realizing his mistake. Powell wasn’t at his best and he finished the game with a ripped jersey, but he got the win, and saw plenty of love before and after the game from his former team. Powell’s fit with the Blazers figures to be a seamless one, as he will just be asked to hit open shots, attack gaps that form, and get out in transition, all of which he was already prolific in with the Raptors.

Ten — Mean: But there was also a fair bit of friendly back-and-forth with Powell. The Raptors made a point to attack Powell off the dribble, which put him in early foul trouble as the Raptors were fully aware of his defensive shortcomings. Aron Baynes even put Powell on a poster in the second quarter while also swatting him at the rim. Powell had his revenge too as he anticipated a play by his former team, got free for the breakaway dunk, before staring down the Raptors coaching staff. Powell also had the two free throws at the end to ice it.

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Canada's Vincent-Lapointe wins silver in C-1 200m – Yahoo Canada Sports



TOKYO — Laurence Vincent-Lapointe’s long, winding road to the Tokyo Olympics has led her to the podium. 

The Canadian canoeist won silver in the final of the women’s C-1 200-metre race at a sweltering Sea Forest Waterway on Wednesday. 

The 29-year-old paddler from Trois-Rivières, Que., finished the sprint in a time of 46.786 seconds. 

“I pushed until the end,” Vincent-Lapointe said. “No matter how many people I thought were catching up to me, I was just like, ‘No, no, no. You cannot drop, you cannot let go. Just push until the end.’

“It’s just crazy. I have 13 world championships, but this silver at the Games is so different.”

Nevin Harrison (45.932) of the United States took the gold, while Ukraine’s Liudmyla Luzan (47.034) claimed bronze in temperatures that felt like a staggering 44 C with the humidity on a windy Tokyo Bay. 

Katie Vincent of Mississauga, Ont., finished 8th with a time of 47.834 seconds. 

“We push each other a lot, especially on the water,” said 25-year-old. “That teamwork goes a long way on a day like today. I’m disappointed I can’t be on the podium.

“But to see a Canadian flag rise today is a huge plus and something I think all Canadians in the paddling community will remember.” 

A dominant canoeing force for more than a decade, Vincent-Lapointe had to wait for the sport’s international federation and the International Olympic Committee to make room for women to race at the Olympics. 

That finally happened in Japan. 

She had won a combined six world titles in C-1 and C-2 500 metres by the time women’s canoe was added to the Olympics in 2017 ahead of the Tokyo Games, and went on to win five more by the end of 2018. 

But then her life and career descended into controversy. 

Vincent-Lapointe had an “adverse analytical finding” in July 2019 during an out-of-competition drug test. She was suspended and missed the 2019 world championship, but battled for reinstatement. 

The International Canoe Federation cleared her to compete in January 2020, accepting that Vincent-Lapointe was the victim of third-party contamination of a banned substance. 

The ICU believed her assertion that a trace amount of ligandrol was transferred to her via her ex-boyfriend’s body fluids. 

“I had the feeling I would make (the Olympics),” Vincent-Lapointe said. “In my head … I was like probably, ‘Fake it ’til you make it.’ In my head I was trying to convince myself, ‘You’re going to be at the Games, you’re going to be at the Games.’

“Even the darkest moments I just clung to it, to that feeling. It was so relieving when I finally got my spot in. It was just like, ‘All right, I had the right to believe in myself that I would make it to the Games.’ But once I came here I was like, ‘All right, you made it to the Games, now do your best.'” 

And while COVID-19 was a devastating gut-punch to sports and society around the world, it gave Vincent-Lapointe an opportunity to get back in the groove. 

Missing the 2019 worlds, however, meant she still had to qualify for Tokyo, and the global pandemic didn’t allow her to travel to North American qualifying events. 

Vincent-Lapointe also lost to Vincent in the women’s C-1 200 metres at March’s national trials in Burnaby, B.C. 

Canoe Kayak Canada declined to send paddlers to international World Cups this spring because of the pandemic, but ultimately awarded Vincent-Lapointe an Olympic quota spot following a performance review. 

Next up for Vincent-Lapointe and Vincent is the women’s C-2, where they are medal contenders, on Friday and Saturday. 

In other races involving Canadians on Thursday, kayakers Brian Malfesi of Maple Ridge, B.C., and Vincent Jourdenais Ste-Basile-le-Grand, Que., were sixth in the ‘B’ final of the men’s K-2 1,000 metres, while Toronto’s Nicholas Matveev was sixth in the ‘B’ final of the men’s K-1 200 metres. 

But the day — clearly — belonged to Vincent-Lapointe.

“Going through all I had to go through the last two years, if you’d ask me if I’d do it again, even knowing a silver medal comes at the end of this, I’m not sure I would say yes,” she said in French. “It was extremely difficult. 

“Everybody told me this week that with all I went through, I must be mentally the strongest here.”

Now she has a silver medal to prove it.

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Canada’s Damian Warner sets Olympic record, claims decathlon gold in Tokyo –



Damian Warner became the first Canadian to ever win gold in the decathlon in Tokyo on Thursday, setting an Olympic record in the process as the only athlete to eclipse the 9,000-point plateau at the Games.

The 31-year-old capped off the arduous 10-discipline event with a fifth-place finish in the 1,500-metre race, cementing his place in history with a total of 9,018 points. No other Canadian, and only three other athletes ever, have broken the 9,000-point barrier in a decathlon.

The previous Olympic record was 8,893 points, shared between Ashton Eaton of the United States (2016) and Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic (2004). Kevin Mayer, who won silver in this year’s Games, holds the world record of 9,126 points.

“It’s been a long two days,” Warner said after the race. “When you go through the whole battle of the decathlon and finally finish and you get the result you were looking for, there is no greater feeling. This is a dream come true.”

Canada had two men in the decathlon. Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., competing in his first-ever Olympics, finished fifth after 10 events with a personal-best score of 8,604.

Warner, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was a force to be reckoned with at Tokyo. He set Olympic decathlon records in the long jump and 110-metre hurdles, and tied his decathlon world mark in the 100 metres. He also set a personal best in the pole vault.

Warner crossed the finish line of the 1,500 metres in four minutes 31.08 seconds. The time and fifth-place finish gave him 738 points in the final event, enough for the Olympic record.

“When I came around 1,200, I think I was 3 seconds off the pace and I was just like ‘if I’m gonna get those 9000 points I have to go now,'” Warner said after the race. “I just gave it everything I had. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”

In the track and field community, Olympic decathlon winners are considered the “world’s greatest athlete” and, draped in the Canadian flag with a broad smile on his face, Warner was met by his peers with congratulations befitting that description.

“By definition, he’s Canada’s greatest ‘Athlete,'” Adam van Koeverden, an Olympic gold medalist in sprint kayaking who is now an MP, tweeted. “Extraordinary achievement!”

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Damian Warner extends decathlon lead by running to an Olympic best in the 110m hurdles –



Damian Warner of London, Ont., won the 110m hurdles portion of the decathlon by running to an Olympic best time of 13.46 seconds. After six events Warner sits in first place, with fellow Canadian Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., in third place.

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