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Atlanta bashes past Houston to claim World Series title – CBC.ca

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Most of the season, it just seemed this wasn’t their year.

They dropped their first four games, and soon injuries piled up. They lost their most dynamic player before the All-Star break. They were stuck below .500 in August.

Yet out of nowhere, suddenly, this Atlanta team transformed itself and took off.

Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman and their teammates breezed to their first World Series championship since 1995, hammering the Houston Astros 7-0 on Tuesday night in Game 6. Max Fried threw six dominant innings in a signature pitching performance to close it out.

“We hit every pothole, every bump you could possibly hit this year,” Freeman said. “Injuries, every single kind of thing that could happen, that could go wrong went wrong, and we overcame every single one of those things.”

How proud The Hammer himself would’ve been.

Even so, Atlanta’s troubles never fully went away.

Canadian general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the architect of the team’s midseason turnaround, missed this crowning achievement after testing positive for COVID-19. Born in Montreal, he was back at his home in Georgia for the clincher.

Soler, a July acquisition who tested positive for the coronavirus in the playoffs, backed Fried early with a monster three-run shot for his third homer against the Astros.

Freeman hit an RBI double and then punctuated the romp with a solo home run in the seventh that made it 7-0.

By then, it was a total team effort. Ailing star Ronald Acuna Jr., the dynamo of Atlanta’s future, bounded from the dugout to join the celebration for Freeman, the longtime face of the franchise.

When Yuli Gurriel grounded out to end it, Freeman caught the throw at first base, put the ball in his pocket, and the party was on for manager Brian Snitker’s club.

A full hour after the game, hundreds of fans packed behind the team’s third base dugout kept doing the chop and chant, causing loud echoes to bounce around the ballpark.

About 700 miles away at suburban Truist Park, thousands of fans poured into the team’s home to holler.

A mere afterthought in the summer heat among the land of the Giants, White Sox and Dodgers, but magnificent in the Fall Classic.

“This is the toughest team I’ve ever been a part of,” said shortstop Dansby Swanson, who also homered.

Soler, who was later named World Series MVP, tapped his heart twice before beginning his home run trot after connecting off rookie Luis Garcia in the third inning, sending the ball flying completely out of Minute Maid Park. Dansby Swanson also homered and by the final out, nothing could stop them.

Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson celebrates a two-run home run during the fifth inning. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

Not a broken leg sustained by starter Charlie Morton in the World Series opener. Not a big blown lead in Game 5.

Steadied by 66-year-old manager Brian Snitker, an organization man for four decades, underdog Atlanta won the franchise’s fourth title.

“They never gave up on themselves,” he said on a postgame victory platform. “We lost a lot of pieces over the course of the summer and it was just the next man up.”

Consider it a tribute to the franchise’s greatest player, Mr. Hank Aaron. The Hall of Fame slugger died Jan. 22 at 86, still rooting for his old team, and his legacy was stamped all over this Series.

“Nobody ever wanted to let Hank down,” Snitker said. “That’s just the way it was, we didn’t want to let him down. He charged us with a responsibility to make these guys better and we weren’t going to let him down.”

And note the Braves outhomered the top-scoring team in the majors by 11-2.

For 72-year-old Houston manager Dusty Baker, a disappointment. But for many fans still rooting against the Astros in the wake of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal, some satisfaction.

“Yeah, it’s tough, but you know something? You’ve got to keep on trucking, and that gives you even more incentive next year,” Baker said.

“It’s tough to take now, but this too shall pass. I mean, it really hurts, but it’s over,” he added.

Atlanta’s Jorge Soler celebrates a three-run home run during the third inning. (Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press)

Major credit for Atlanta, too, goes to Canadian general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Undaunted by Acuna’s knee injury, he pulled off a flurry of July trades that brought the Fab Four to the outfield — NL Championship Series MVP Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson and Soler.

“Thanks to God for the opportunity to be on this team,” Soler said through a translator.

Anthopoulos, of Montreal, held the same title with the Blue Jays from 2010-2015. He took over in Atlanta in 2017, but wasn’t in Houston for the victory after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 and instead choosing to stay home in Georgia.

But even in the Analytics Era, guided by a GM fully versed in new-age ways, the path this Atlanta team took wouldn’t add up in any computer. Especially with how things looked in midseason.

“At that time, we were searching,” third baseman Austin Riley said before Game 6. “I think there’s no question about that.”

Minus Acuna, Atlanta wasn’t over .500 for a single day until the first week in August. It finished 88-73 for the 12th-best record in the majors and fewest victories among playoff teams; their win total was the lowest for a World Series champion since St. Louis’ 83 in 2006.

Atlanta’s Max Fried walks back to the dugout after retiring the side during the fifth inning. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Plus, the agonizing history of sports in Atlanta, a city where no team had won a title in the four major pro sports besides 1995.

The baseball team couldn’t convert a three games-to-one advantage over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series last year. The Hawks fell short in the NBA semifinals last season. And then there was the big one, the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

But not this time.

“Boy, we’re in November right now and we’ve been doing this since February. We’ve had so many ups and downs this year. For us to be world champions, that is awesome to hear,” Freeman said.

Patchwork champions

Favoured in spring training to win their fourth straight NL East title, the Braves lost Acuna to a torn knee in July. Earlier, 2020 Triple Crown contender Marcell Ozuna was injured and later placed on leave while Major League Baseball investigated him under its domestic violence policy. Projected ace Mike Soroka of Calgary never got back from Achilles injury.

Going into the playoffs, their bullpen was a crazy patchwork.

They had a guy who made his big league debut in October, a lefty who was pitching in 2019 for the Texas AirHogs in a now-defunct independent league and a righty who was stacking boxes at an appliance warehouse a decade ago. Toss in a rookie who was off the roster a week ago as he watched Game 1 at a hotel in suburban Atlanta.

For sure, plenty of fans around the country were rooting hard against Jose Altuve and the Houston crew. Many continue to heckle them as the “Cheatin’ Astros” for an illegal sign-stealing scheme on the way to their 2017 title, and those feelings might last forever.

Certainly a lot of people were cheering for Baker. A World Series winner as a player and a highly respected figure on and off the field, he wasn’t able to check the final box on his resume as a championship skipper.

First title since 1995

The franchise’s crowns have been spread out over more than a century.

The 1995 Atlanta champs featured five future Hall of Famers — rookie Chipper Jones, aces Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, and manager Bobby Cox. Those rings were the lone pieces of hardware that resulted from 14 straight division titles.

The 1957 team, located in Milwaukee, was led by Aaron in his only NL MVP season. His 44 was painted in large numbers on the outfield grass at Truist Park, and Baker and Snitker often mentioned how much he’d meant to them.

There was the 1914 Boston edition, too, dubbed the “Miracle Braves” back in the day. In last place on the Fourth of July, they surged to win the pennant, then upset a heavily favoured team — the Philadelphia A’s — to earn their nickname.

Sound familiar?

Atlanta’s previous title came at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, their first home after moving from Milwaukee to the Deep South in 1966. Then there was Turner Field before the team uprooted from downtown and decided to sprawl into the suburbs.

Truist Park was packed and the outside plazas were jammed over the weekend, and pulsating crowds filled Minute Maid Park.

Quite a change from last October. Only a limited capacity was permitted for that World Series as the Dodgers beat Tampa Bay at a neutral-site stadium in Arlington, Texas — that followed a total shutout for fans during a regular season shortened because of the coronavirus.

Now, all of baseball waits to see whether spring training is on deck in a little over three months. A squabble between owners and players threatens soon to shut down the sport.

In the meantime, the sport can savour a year in which things, slowly, started to get back to normal.

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'I'm so far from that,' Tiger Woods, his leg and back hurting, says of PGA Tour return – CBC.ca

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Tiger Woods had nothing to say about the February car crash that shattered his right leg and he had even less of an idea what his future in golf holds except that he’s a long way from deciding whether he can compete against the best.

“I can show up here and I can host an event, I can play a par-3 course, I can hit a few shots, I can chip and putt,” he said Tuesday. “But we’re talking about going out there and playing against the world’s best on the most difficult golf courses under the most difficult conditions.

“I’m so far from that.”

Woods, who was close to having his leg amputated after he lost control of his car in Los Angeles, won two of his 15 career major titles at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland and has not ruled out being in the field.

“I would love to play at St. Andrews, there’s no doubt it. It’s my favourite golf course in the world,” Woods said at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas where he is host of this week’s Hero World Challenge.

“Physically, hopefully I can. I’ve got to get there first. Tournament’s not going to go anywhere, but I need to get there.”

Woods addressed the media for the first time since his Feb. 23 crash on a winding road in the Los Angeles coastal suburbs. He walked into the news conference without crutches but admitted both his leg and back hurt just sitting there.

Police said he was driving at least 84 miles per hour when he crossed a median and his SUV tumbled down a hill.

WATCH | Tiger Woods injured in car crash:

Tiger Woods hospitalized after car crash

9 months ago

Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02

Doctors said he shattered tibia and fibula bones in his right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized by a rod in the tibia. A combination of screws and pins were used to stabilize additional injuries in the ankle and foot.

Asked his recollection of the accident, Woods said curtly, “All those answers have been answered in the investigation, so you can read about all that there in the police report.” When asked if he had any flashbacks to the trauma, he replied: “I don’t, no. Very lucky in that way.”

3 months immobilized

Woods said he felt fortunate to be alive and to still have his right leg and to be able to walk into the press center at Albany Golf Club without a noticeable limp. From the waist up, with biceps bulging through a black-and-gray shirt, he looked like he did a year ago.

Woods is the host of the Hero World Challenge, which starts Thursday for 20 elite players.

He said he spent three months immobilized — a makeshift hospital bed was set up in his Florida home — before he could start moving around on crutches and eventually walk on his own. Two weeks ago, he posted a video of his smooth swing with a short iron.

That raised hopes that he was on his way back. On Tuesday, Woods hit the brakes on any notion that a comeback was near. Still to be determined is whether he even wants to go through the work required to compete at a high level.

“I have a long way to go to get to that point,” he said. “Now, I haven’t decided whether or not I want to get to that point. I’ve got to get my leg to a point where that decision can be made, and we’ll see what happens when I get to that point.”

What was clear was that any golf in his future would be limited, and it already was headed in that direction before the car crash. He played only nine times during the pandemic-shortened 2020, ending the year with a fifth surgery on his lower back.

Even so, he could see a scenario of picking and choosing where to play, presumably around the majors, much like Ben Hogan did after his near-fatal car accident in 1949. Woods won the Masters in 2019 after back fusion surgery, and just two years after he could barely walk and feared his career was over.

“I got that last major, and I ticked off two more events along the way,” he said.

The other two were the Tour Championship in 2018, when he outplayed Rory McIlroy in the final round at East Lake, and the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019 for his 82nd career PGA Tour victory to tie Sam Snead’s record.

Can he win again?

“I’ve got to be good enough to do it, OK? So, I’ve got to prove to myself in practice that I’m good enough,” he said.

WATCH | Vehicle interior prevented fatal crash, sheriff says:

Interior of Tiger Woods’ car may have saved him from fatal crash

9 months ago

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alejandro Villanueva says the interior of Tiger Woods’ car acted as a cushion to survive “what otherwise would have been a fatal crash.” 1:07

5 surgeries on left knee

His right leg will never be what it once was. Ditto for his left knee, which has gone through five surgeries, one of them a week after he won the 2008 U.S. Open despite having shredded ligaments and a double stress fracture. He said his back won’t be the same either.

Woods turns 46 on Dec. 30.

“All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don’t have any desire to do that,” he said. “But to ramp up for a few events a year … there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready.

“I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning before,” he said. “So, I know the recipe for it. I’ve just got to get to a point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do that again.”

Since the accident, Woods gave an interview to Golf Digest (with which he has a financial deal) in May and a video interview with the Discovery-owned outlet that was published Monday. He also was in touch with U.S. players at the Ryder Cup and says the players with whom he’s close have kept in touch. But he hasn’t lost his intense desire for privacy, including what exactly happened when he was speeding along that suburban LA road.

He said friends kept him from what was being said and written about him, and he refused to watch anything on TV except for sports.

“I didn’t want to go down that road. I wasn’t mentally ready for that road yet,” he said. “A lot of things in my body hurt at that time, and whether I was on medication or not, it still hurt. … I didn’t want to have my mind go there yet. It wasn’t ready.”

Meanwhile, the Masters is four months away, and to hear Woods speak about the long road ahead, anything but the Masters Club dinner for champions seemed unlikely. Woods said everything was a short-term goal.

“This year’s been a year I would like to turn the page on,” he said.

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Raptors' home woes continue with loss against Grizzlies – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Raptors‘ goals this season have been largely undefined, or at least unspoken. Are they all-in for a playoff spot? Trying to figure out if their core is good enough to build around? Waiting to see where the trade winds blow?

It’s all a little muddy at the moment.

But we can expect some clarity by the end of December — let’s just agree on that. By then the Raptors will have completed their most friendly stretch of the schedule, with 12 of 15 games played at home.

So far? It’s not trending well.

Toronto hosted the Memphis Grizzlies on the second night of a season-long seven-game homestand on Tuesday, having already dropped the opener to Boston on Sunday.

If Toronto is going to make some kind of move in what is shaping up a very deep and very competitive Eastern Conference — before the ball went up Tuesday the Raptors were in 12th place and two spots out of the play-in tournament but all 11 teams ahead of them were at least one game over .500 — the time is now.

Unfortunately, that’s going to have to wait as Toronto fell 98-91 to the Grizzlies (11-10) in a game that was the kind of ugly the Raptors like but in which they couldn’t take advantage of their own defensive effort as they struggled mightily to score against the NBA’s worst defensive team.

Instead of the Raptors marking their turf, it was Grizzlies forward and Mississauga, Ont., native Dillon Brooks who took the opportunity to play at home to heart.

The fifth-year forward spent most of the game trying to get inside the jersey — and not-so-subtly under-the-skin — of Raptors catalyst Fred VanVleet. He didn’t make the Raptors guard disappear but he made Toronto’s leading scorer work for nearly everything he got as he held him to 15 points (compared to his season average of 20.1) and otherwise fought and scrapped to take up as much of VanVleet’s brain space as possible. It’s what Brooks does best.

VanVleet played 42 minutes but got up only 13 shots. He hit six, but was 1-of-5 from deep.

“[They] limited his touches for sure,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “I thought they did a good job of that, Dillon decided to take that on, he’s physical and he works hard, obviously takes pride in that. [He] made things tough on Freddy for sure.”

Will Lou and Alex Wong talk all things Raptors live on Sportsnet 590 The FAN weekdays from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET.

It was Brooks’ pull-up three that gave Memphis an 11-point lead with 7:58 to play. Brooks then started screaming to the Raptors crowd “this is my house.”

Hey, with the way the Raptors have been playing at home, Brooks could make that argument. Brooks went on to make a pair of excellent defensive plays — picking Scottie Barnes’ pocket on an otherwise uncontested fast break and prior to that a blocked shot on VanVleet. He even flopped his way to fouling out Raptors centre Precious Achiuwa.

Brooks took it down a notch after the game.

“Fred’s an amazing player. He [has] a go-getter attitude. He sticks with it even if he’s not touching the ball, he can still find a way to score,” said Brooks later. “… He knows the game so well, so he was a tough cover. I was trying to figure out a way to limit his touches, trying to get out of his rhythm, and give us a chance to win.

And to do it in Toronto?

“This game was circled, for sure,” said Brooks, who hasn’t played here since the 2017-18 season due to injuries and the pandemic. “It’s been a dream. It’s been circled for a while.”

Stream 250+ marquee NBA matchups from around the league, including over 40 Raptors games. Plus, get news, highlights, analysis, select NBA Playoff matchups and the NBA Draft.

The Raptors refused to surrender easily.

Pascal Siakam came alive for nine fourth-quarter points and a triple by Malachi Flynn — who played a heavier than usual dose of minutes to give the Raptors another ball-handler alongside the Brooks-occupied VanVleet — with 1:42 to play cut the Grizzlies’ lead to five.

But Desmond Bane answered immediately with his fifth three to push the lead back to eight. Memphis needed all of it as Barnes hit a pair of late threes to keep things interesting, but Brooks hit a pair of free throws with 16.5 seconds left to ice it.

Nurse was looking for his club to play harder and with a little more focus at key moments in order to get the homestand rolling, and there’s little question the Raptors’ effort was there. They held Memphis to 39 per cent shooting and just 10-of-34 from deep, but the Raptors had their own problems scoring while missing starters Gary Trent Jr. (calf), Khem Birch (knee) and OG Anunoby (hip).

The Raptors shot just 40 per cent from the floor and were 10-of-38 from deep. They were beaten off the offensive glass 18-11 and committed 18 turnovers.

The Raptors were led by Siakam’s 20 points while Barnes chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals.

None of it was enough as Toronto (9-13) lost its third straight and dropped to 2-8 at Scotiabank Arena.

The season is only a quarter over but already there is some urgency for the Raptors, or there should be. Normally, a seven-game homestand and a stretch of 10-of-11 at home would be cause to rejoice. Good teams use those kinds of schedule gifts as springboards to bigger and better things. Given the Raptors arrived home on a 3-9 slide — including the first game of their homestand on Sunday, Toronto rightly should be looking at it as a lifeboat; a season preserver.

The only problem? The Raptors’ poor record at home. If it’s a trend, it’s a problem.

If it’s a weird, early-season anomaly? Time to fix it.

“Yeah, we gotta fix that,” said Siakam, who added six rebounds and five assists. “It’s not acceptable. We can’t play like that at home. We have this fan base and all that, but like we have to show up at home. I think we have to make it part of what we do. No excuses and that can’t happen. It’s unacceptable. We have to be better at home for sure.”

The first half wasn’t what anyone was looking for as the Grizzlies led 50-39 heading into the break, on merit. The Raptors have played over their heads at times this season by scratching out advantages on the offensive glass and forcing opponents into high-volume turnovers. It’s papered over their own shooting woes and lack of bench production.

But the Grizzlies turned the tables on Toronto and jumped out to a 27-18 first quarter lead after the Raptors turned it over five times in the period, leading to 10 Memphis points. Memphis only coughed it up to Toronto twice for two points.

In the second quarter, it was the bigger Grizzlies’ dominance on the offensive glass that was the issue as Memphis turned five offensive rebounds into five second-chance points (the Raptors had none) as they threatened to blow Toronto out early. At one point they led by 17 points before a quick 7-0 run sparked by Siakam and finished with a Svi Mykhailiuk triple reeled Memphis in at least a little bit.

The good news is the Raptors have a lot more chances at home to get this right. The bad news? Their next chance comes against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

Three-point Grange

1. Nurse texted former Raptor (and former Grizzly) Jonas Valanciunas after the big man went off for a career-high 39 points and knocked down seven-of-eight threes for the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night. “I told him all those threes we shot eight, nine years ago in Lithuania, finally you’re taking them, you know. Jiminy Christmas … I’ve always said that from Day 1 when we got him, he has really good shooting touch .. he was really feeling it last night. It was really cool.” Valanciunas is now 30-of-58 from deep this season and has shot 40.3 per cent from three over the past three seasons.

2. The Grizzlies haven’t been in Toronto for a long time. Their last game here was on Jan. 19, 2019 — long enough that Marc Gasol was still playing for Memphis. The Raptors didn’t trade for him until February 2019. For Brooks, it’s been even longer as he wasn’t in the lineup in 2019. His last game in his hometown was Feb. 4, 2018.

3. Raptors assistant coaches Nate Bjorkgren and Nathaniel Mitchell were both back on Toronto’s bench after spending the previous week coaching the men’s national team in the first window of qualifying for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. After two wins against Bahamas in the Dominican Republic, Mitchell and Bjorkgren had a 3 a.m. wake-up call and a 6 a.m. flight from Santo Domingo to Newark, N.J., and from there were on their way to Toronto. They made it to Scotiabank Arena in time for pre-game warm-ups about two hours before tip-off.

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Quick Reaction: Grizzlies 98, Raptors 91 – Raptors Republic

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Tough one.

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P. Siakam30 MIN, 20 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 9-19 FG, 1-6 3FG, 1- FT, 3 BLK, 2 TO, -1 +/-

Unquestionably the most difficult matchup on both sides of the floor. Had to navigate the newly dominant defender, ‘JJJ’, and hold up the back end of the Raptors motion heavy defense. He was great navigating inside the arc offensively, and really needs to hit his C&S threes. Overall an impressive game, but the foul trouble brings a knock, where he has to strike the balance of how to stay on the floor. Lots of things to like, but you need more minutes from him in close games.

P. Achiuwa29 MIN, 5 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-8 FG, 0-1 3FG, 4- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -2 +/-

The offensive warts have been aplenty this year, and this game was no different. His moment as an offensive hub was a fever dream of terrible possessions and he still didn’t move well to assist teammates. The defense is still really solid, though. No one contests the rim like he does on this squad. The rebounding really hurt in this one.

S. Barnes38 MIN, 19 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 8-16 FG, 3-6 3FG, 0- FT, 4 BLK, 4 TO, -11 +/-

What a rollercoaster from the rookie. The ‘look back’ is generating its first negative reviews, and ‘JJJ’ swatted the hell out of him while hot dogging. A few defensive gaffes, but some fantastical scrambles for steals and blocks. The NBA’s best 3rd quarter player, still, and those threes in the fourth quarter were inspired. This game had everything, and I’m inclined to take away more positives.

F. VanVleet42 MIN, 15 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 6-13 FG, 1-5 3FG, 2- FT, 0 BLK, 4 TO, -2 +/-

I don’t envy his workload. Another 42 mins for the league’s minutes leader, and it was an absolute grind. Started out the game carrying with some shotmaking, but that subsided as the game wore on. Very little punch from him in the set actions, and didn’t hurt the Grizzlies as a spacer. Still though, his defensive presence was incredibly important to the Raptors getting back in this thing. Not his best, but he’s everything for this team right now.

S. Mykhailiuk18 MIN, 7 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-8 FG, 1-4 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -2 +/-

Still looking for the shot to come around. One of his better defensive games this year as he paired well with others in impromptu doubles and traps. Failed a little bit as a ball mover offensively though, and still isn’t meeting the level of play the team needs from him, and that he should be able to provide.

C. Boucher7 MIN, 6 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 3- FT, 2 BLK, 0 TO, -8 +/-

Wild 7 minutes. Got a step on ‘JJJ’ for an And-1, had a thunderous dunk to close a quarter, but was also out at sea for numerous defensive possessions where the Raptors surrendered points. Particularly in the pick n’ roll.

Y. Watanabe29 MIN, 11 PTS, 6 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 4-9 FG, 3-8 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -2 +/-

This scoring output, if replicated, is something that would make everyone extremely happy. Opportunistic as a cutter, definitely as a shooter, and an unbelievably dependable defender. Great game off the bench for Yuta.

M. Flynn22 MIN, 5 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2-8 FG, 1-7 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -13 +/-

It was great to see him reach back and hit that 3 late, but it was couched in a performance that was below average. When the ball is in his hands the Raptors just don’t create, and the drop off from Fred to him (although they shared the floor tonight) is colossal.

D. Banton15 MIN, 2 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 1-3 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, +3 +/-

Grab and Go. Always. He pushes the Raptors into spots that few other players do, and they rest of the roster doesn’t fail him when they all start running. His length and activity was a positive defensively and on the glass. All you could hope for from him in games like these.

I. Bonga11 MIN, 1 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 2 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, +3 +/-

The offensive limitations are very on display, but a terrific stretch of defense, and two separate occasions where he put pressure on the rim gave the Raptors enough in his minutes.

Nick Nurse

It’s tough to critique a coach in a game like this. The non-Fred+Pascal’s started the game 6-27, and on a lot of good looks. That’s not coaching. And the team played good defense basically all game, despite getting bludgeoned on the glass to start. If you have qualms about Fred and Pascal sitting at the same time in the first half, that’s fair, but Siakam nearly fouled out anyway. Tough to say.

Things We Saw

  1. Per Michael Grange, JJJ weighs in at roughly 270, putting Siakam at almost 40 pounds lighter – yikes. Got blocked going to his left 3 separate occasions, and many other players just don’t make that play. He’s arrived defensively for the Grizzlies, and he helped so much tonight. And his movement at that size is incredible – he beat the Raptors stunts off the dribble on a few different occasions.
  2. Too many minutes for Fred every game. His body needs a rest.
  3. Love it or hate it, Scottie’s look backs are going to grace Shaqtin A Fool and other lowlight segments. Personally, I think it’s super funny and speaks to his effervescent personality. But, he might catch a fade some day because of it.

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