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Celtics laugh all the way to spoil Raptors' Christmas cheer – CBC.ca

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Kyle Lowry dressed for the special occasion in shoes with the names of his sons Karter and Kameron.

The 13-year NBA veteran and the Toronto Raptors played their much-anticipated first Christmas Day game at home on Wednesday — but the one major element missing was a victory.

Fred VanVleet scored 27 points while Chris Boucher added a career-high 24, but there was no late-game heroics from the Raptors in a 118-102 loss to the Boston Celtics.

“It was a special Christmas Day treat to have an opportunity to have my kids see me play on Christmas, enjoy the moment,” said Lowry, his sons roughhousing in the lockers behind him.

“It’s cool man, it’s something that took 14 years to get to. I got to it. Unsuccessful. But it was a fun, great time.”

WATCH | Raptors find coal in 1st home Christmas game ever:

Jaylen Brown had a game-high 30 points to help the Boston Celtics spoil the Toronto Raptors first Christmas home game 118-102. 1:50

Jaylen Brown scored 30 points to top the Celtics (21-7) in their fourth consecutive victory, and first win in Toronto in nine tries.

“It was good to get a win here on Christmas,” said Brown, who had five three-pointers. “I’ve never won here period, so it was great to just get one.”

Kemba Walker added 22 points, while Enes Kanter had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in his first game outside the United States in more than a year.

The Raptors (21-10), who sorely missed the service of injured teammates Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring), and Norman Powell (shoulder), saw their 34-game winning streak against Atlantic Division opponents come to an end.

Ugly showing against festive backdrop

Played against a festive backdrop of fans dressed in Santa hats and ugly Christmas sweaters, the game itself was an eyesore. The Raptors botched easy layups and turned the ball over 17 times for 20 points, and were outscored 24-4 on second-chance points.

But playing three games in four nights — including a thrilling 30-point comeback victory Monday versus Dallas — the Raptors look spent.

“We’re pretty short on our roster,” said coach Nick Nurse. “We’ve played a lot minutes, these guys, a lot of games in a lot of days, the schedule hasn’t been very good to us. This is our third game in four days, one was an overtime game, one was a come-from-30-points-behind-game, where we used a lot of energy too. . . so I don’t know. Maybe we just need a little rest.”

After sprinting out to a 10-0 lead Wednesday, the Raptors played the gracious holiday host virtually the rest of the way.

The Celtics compiled an 11-point lead in the second quarter, and had stretched it to 19 points by the end of the third in a sloppy affair that saw 29 combined turnovers through the first three quarters.

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reacts to a referee’s call. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press )

And three nights after their franchise-record comeback, there were no late-game heroics. Trailing 88-69 to start the fourth, the Raptors pulled to within 14 points in the first 35 seconds, injecting some life into Scotiabank Arena’s 19,800 fans.

But Patrick McCaw missed on a cutting layup on Toronto’s next possession, prompting groans from the crowd, and barely a minute later the Celtics were up by 20.

‘Obviously it’s not good’

A VanVleet layup pulled the Raptors to within 17 with 4:46 to play, but Toronto couldn’t sustain any energy. Nor could the fans, who began heading to the exits shortly after.

How tough is it to dig out of big deficits?

“Obviously it’s not good,” Boucher said. “You get down and have to find a way to get back. We have to find a way to get started and be able to get a lead or something like that. It’s hard to come back from 15 or 20 down. I know we did it once, but that’s not something we want to have to do every game.”

The afternoon marked the first NBA game played outside the U.S. on Christmas, and tipped off a schedule of five marquee matchups on the day. Teams consider it an honour to play on Christmas; the Raptors had done it only once previously, in New York in 2001, while the Celtics were playing for their fourth consecutive Christmas game.

“I know that I’ve got contacts from all over the world that have said they can’t wait to open their presents and then watch the game, so I think it’s really cool to be a part of it,” Nurse said before the game.

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker drives past Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press )

The Raptors are 2-2 since losing Gasol, Powell and Siakam, and while there was no update of the threesome’s status on Wednesday, their absence is clearly posing a problem for Toronto.

“Scoring is not very easy for us right now,” Nurse said. “It’s tough.”

Kanter hadn’t played a game in Toronto in over a year after Turkey, his home country, issued an international warrant for his arrest. He received the green light for Christmas with help from the Canadian government, and arrived at the game wearing a black T-shirt with the words “Freedom for All.”

Lowry’s three-pointer just 1:53 into the game gave the Raptors a 10-0 lead and forced the Celtics to call a timeout. Boston replied with a 9-0 run and then kept the pressure on, forcing seven Toronto turnovers. The Celtics led 28-19 to start the second.

A Kanter layup 44 seconds into the second quarter put Boston up by 11. The Raptors responded with an 11-3 run to pull to within three points but couldn’t sustain any momentum, and the Celtics went into the halftime break up 55-47.

Brown led the way with 16 Celtics points in the third and a Jayson Tatum finger roll had the visitors up by 19 with a minute to play in the frame.

These two teams meet again in Boston on Saturday. The Raptors are back home to host Oklahoma City on Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on New Years Eve.

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The absurdity of medal ceremony mask-wearing at the Tokyo Olympics – Yahoo Canada Sports

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TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee on Sunday reminded athletes to keep wearing masks, especially at the one time when mask-wearing is completely unnecessary.

Dozens of athletes have now stepped up onto podiums here at the Olympics. They’ve draped medals around their necks, and listened to national anthems, with nobody within six feet of them. And in perhaps the proudest moment of their lives, with emotions washing over their faces, their families, forced to watch from home, haven’t been able to see those faces, because they’re covered by masks.

And when pictures circulated of a few swimmers posing on podiums with masks off?

A reporter asked IOC spokesman Mark Adams whether there’d been a relaxation of COVID-19 rules that require mask-wearing during medal ceremonies. “There is no relaxation,” Adams responded. “We would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”

But at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Sunday, Olympic officials made a mockery of those rules. A non-story became a story because pictures circulated of swimmers arm in arm with masks off. But multiple athletes said after their competitions that they’d been directed to remove their masks for photos.

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium ... at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium … at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

“Someone in the front was holding a sign that said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” said gold medal-winning American swimmer Chase Kalisz. “So, um, I can’t speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign that said ‘mask off’ and ‘mask on.’”

Hours later, silver medal-winning Canadian diver Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu confirmed: “At one point they said to take off masks for a picture.”

And then, after the medal ceremonies, swimmers and divers alike paraded around the pool deck, stopping for more pictures, arm in arm with their fellow medalists, masks sometimes on, sometimes off. They hugged coaches. One German diver put her mask on the ground, then in a pocket.

There are all sorts of protocol violations here. On the first night of competition, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe took her mask off for an interview with a dozen reporters in the post-match mixed zone. On Sunday, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui lined up for an impromptu video interview against a wall outside the Aquatics Center after his improbable gold medal. Reporters surround him. A Tunisian Olympic committee official literally pulled Hafnaoui’s mask off, so cameras could see his beautiful face.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold … without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Protocols are enforced inconsistently. And yet, at the most prominent moment of virtually zero danger, with swimmers who’ll soon hug maskless separated by several feet, and with nobody in their immediate line of breath, the IOC and Tokyo organizers have decided that they must wear masks. At most of more than a dozen medal ceremonies tracked by Yahoo Sports thus far, including those in archery, judo, taekwondo and fencing, athletes have been masked up.

There is an argument that doing so models proper behavior, and perhaps that’s what Adams, the IOC spokesman, meant when he said that mask-wearing “sends a strong message.” But there is an obvious counterargument, that behavior modeling must be reasonable, or else the world will see it for what it is: all for show. Hygiene theater is prevalent at these Olympics. Medal ceremony mask-wearing is just another version.

Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer contributed reporting.

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Vancouver Canucks place Jake Virtanen on waivers for purpose of buying out contract – ESPN

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The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers Sunday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed the decision in an announcement on the team’s official Twitter account.

Virtanen was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier. The organization said at the time that it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”

The suit, filed in British Columbia, alleges Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.

The Canucks said at the time they had “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. The NHL said then it would not comment until the investigation was complete.

The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.

Virtanen, 24, had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN

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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.

Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.

Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.

The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.

“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.

“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”

Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.

“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.

“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”

The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.

But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.

“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.

“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.

“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.

Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.

“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”

Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.

“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.

“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”

Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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