TORONTO — The Maple Leafs were out for redemption against Ottawa on Wednesday night, and the Senators made it as difficult as possible to find. But just 48 hours after Toronto blew a four-goal lead and dropped a 6-5 decision to Ottawa in overtime on Monday, the Leafs rebounded with a hard-fought 2-1 win to halt the first two-game slide of their regular season.
“It was clear the way the night was going, it was going to be one where you got to earn your offence, have patience, got to keep your structure,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “And I thought we did that for the most part. There’s some things we definitely want to clean up but it’s another one of those games, really close, tight, can go either way and you gotta stay disciplined and committed…to finally get our two points.”
The victory puts Toronto at 12-3-2 on the season, well atop the North Division standings with one meeting left against Ottawa on Thursday to cap off their three-game series.
That final contest feels very much up for grabs though, especially considering how the first two games have gone. Despite the Leafs coming off that brutal defeat on Monday, they didn’t start Wednesday’s game with nearly the same urgency Ottawa did. Toronto was mostly quiet throughout a sleepy first period, where neither side put any goals on the board but the Senators outshot the Leafs, 10-5.
“Our start wasn’t a good one,” acknowledged Keefe. “Ottawa was definitely the better team in the first period. It was a lot harder to get to the neutral zone, a lot harder to get to the net, lot harder to get off the wall. I think it took us some time to really adjust and Ottawa was playing extremely well and playing to their structure perfectly. So it took some time for us to stay with that.”
Toronto eventually found its feet, and Joe Thornton thought he had them on the board twice before having both goals disallowed for pushing the goalie and then for a high stick.
But just nine seconds after his second scoring attempt was waived off, Thornton’s linemate Auston Matthews broke through with the night’s first goal.
That not only spotted Toronto a 1-0 lead, it was Matthews’ league-leading 13th goal in his last 12 games, and the 17th goal of his career against Ottawa. While Thornton wouldn’t end up with any points on that play or by game’s end, he did play a season-high 18:19 in the victory, in just his second game back from a rib fracture that sidelined him for four weeks.
“Once we scored there, right after the high stick, the boys were saying, ‘the puck don’t lie,’” Matthews. “He’s been all over it, and these two games that he’s been back he’s looked completely normal. He’s playing well, he’s making plays doing things that he does, and he’s super easy to play with.”
The goal from Matthews nearly held the Leafs ahead until the final frame, but the Senators were not content to sit back. In the waning minutes of the second period, Justin Holl executed a poor pinch and Ottawa capitalized with a two-on-one rush finished off by Brady Tkachuk, accounting for the 100th point of his NHL career and sending the game tied 1-1 into the third.
That would be the only blemish on Frederik Andersen’s 27-save night. After two unsuccessful power-play efforts early in that last period, Alex Kerfoot finally put the Leafs back on top from a scramble on Matt Murray’s doorstep. It would stand as the game winner, and propel Toronto back into the win column.
“This was a huge win for us, bouncing back from a tough loss the other day,” said Kerfoot. “It’s really big in a shortened [56-game] season like this to stop that kind of negative momentum. You don’t want to let that creep into your minds or into your game and so coming right back out and winning the game in which I think Ottawa played a good game as well and didn’t give us much, that was a big win for us.”
And it came without many of the offensive theatrics of special-teams excellence Toronto often displays. Both the Leafs and Senators finished 0-for-3 on the power play, and put an equal 28 shots on net.
But in that sense, grinding out a win reminded the Leafs what they’re capable of, even when they’re not at their best. Keefe wouldn’t divulge any potential lineup changes before Thursday’s half of the back-to-back, but suffice it to say the Leafs are ready for just about anything after their last two outings.
“We’re playing good hockey for the most part, and that’s what’s great,” Kerfoot said. “Our goal is just to focus on the next game and get ready to win a hockey game regardless of who we’re playing, when we’re playing or what’s going on. We were focused all day long and had a good mindset coming in. They played a hard game [and] made it difficult on us but we were able to get the two points.”
Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca
ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.
The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.
But in the end, it had a familiar feel.
Team LeBron won again.
Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.
The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.
He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.
This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.
“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”
Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.
“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”
Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.
James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.
Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.
“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”
It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.
Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.
Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.
Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.
Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.
On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.
With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.
After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.
Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.
Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.
Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.
To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching
This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.
“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.
“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”
All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.
During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.
At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.
Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).
Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.
The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.
Bryson DeChambeau tames beastly Bay Hill to win Arnold Palmer Invitational – Golf Channel
Bryson DeChambeau captured his eighth career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s everything you need to know from the very difficult final round at Bay Hill Club and Lodge:
Leaderboard: DeChambeau (-11), Lee Westwood (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jordan Spieth (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Richy Werenski (-6)
What it means: In addition to his U.S. Open triumph, DeChambeau has now won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament (2018 Memorial) and Arnold Palmer’s. He’s also proven to be one of game’s best – if not the best – tough-course players in the world. Bay Hill was a beast on Sunday, with a field scoring average more than 4.6 shots higher than in Round 3. Add this to his dominant performance at Winged Foot and Bryson’s brawn seems best suited for the most strenuous tests.
How it happened: A four-man tournament was reduced to two front-runners when Westwood birdied the par-5 12th to tie DeChambeau. At 11 under, the final twosome was two shots clear of the field. They remained deadlocked until Westwood three-putted from 38 feet at the 14th. Conners did eagle the par-5 16th to briefly get back within one, but promptly bogeyed the 17th. Meanwhile, DeChambeau parred No. 16 and stayed one up on Westwood, who missed a 7-footer for birdie. The two parred No. 17 and when Westwood rolled in a 7-footer for par on 18, it meant DeChambeau had to make his from 5 feet for the win. After backing off once, he emphatically drilled it.
Round of the day: DeChambeau’s 1-under 71. The field averaged more than 75.5 shots in the final round and 71 was the lowest score of the day (shot by three players). After a bogey at the first hole, DeChambeau didn’t drop a shot the rest of the day, parring his final 12 holes.
Shot of the day: There was DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot on the par-5 sixth.
There was also DeChambeau’s 50-foot par save at the par-4 11th.
But the Shot of the Day was the winner, the 5-footer for par at the last.
Biggest disappointment, Part I: Spieth. With birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth was a co-leader. But there were no more red numbers. He bogeyed the eighth hole, made a string of pars, and then bogeyed Nos. 15, 17 and 18. It added up to a 3-over 75 and a T-4.
Biggest disappointment, Part II: Rory McIlroy. The past champion was four back to start the day and never gave himself a chance. He bogeyed the second hole and put two balls in the water off the tee at No. 6. McIlroy finished with 76 but still managed a top-10 when Keegan Bradley, who went 64-78 over the weekend, bogeyed the final hole.
Quote of the day: “I don’t even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer’s event. It’s going to make me cry.” – DeChambeau
Tiger Woods texts Bryson DeChambeau ahead of API final round – Golf Channel
ORLANDO, Fla. – Before he teed off in Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill, Bryson DeChambeau received a text from a certain eight-time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion.
Yes, Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles, messaged DeChambeau some words of encouragement.
“Out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’”
During the text exchange, Woods apparently told DeChambeau to “keep fighting” and “play boldly like Mr. Palmer.”
“One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down, it’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward,” said DeChambeau, who made just one bogey on a brutally tough Sunday, shot 71 and beat Lee Westwood by a shot. “And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he’s in right now.”
DeChambeau also reciprocated the well wishes: “I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and you’ll persevere through this.”
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