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Even in his absence, Lowry’s presence was felt in Raptors-Heat marathon –



The Toronto Raptors have yet to get the full Miami Heat experience, and they may not for a while.

But they’ve already had their share of experiences against the Heat and in Miami, with Saturday’s night’s triple-overtime duel being the latest and craziest.

Kyle Lowry would have loved it. The character that he helped the Raptors foster was on full display as they grinded away, possession after possession, in a game that seemed like it might never end.

And the grit of the organization he left Toronto to join was evident as well, as Miami had answers at every turn, seemingly more comfortable the tougher and more tense it got.

And it got tough and tense.

But for the second time in less than two weeks, the Raptors were in South Beach and once again, the Heat were without Lowry, the former Raptors star who hand-picked Miami as the place the 16-year veteran could best contend for another title.

Lowry missed his seventh straight game with the only reason given being ‘personal reasons.’ It’s believed he’s at home in Philadelphia and the details have been kept private.

“I think it’s always really important to realize basketball is second, third, if not around that area on people’s list of importance,” said Heat star Jimmy Butler, who was a big factor in Lowry going to the Heat in free agency, said on Friday. “You’ve always got to make sure the family’s good. … I miss him. We all miss him. We want him and his family to be OK.”

It’s long been expected that Lowry wouldn’t travel to Toronto to play his old team on Feb. 1 given there won’t be fans allowed at Scotiabank Arena.

The Raptors likely won’t have a chance to face their old teammate until the Heat play in Toronto on April 3.

How Miami has performed in the absence of Lowry and other key players in their lineup justifies Lowry’s decision. How the Raptors performed without Lowry proved that his influence is still being felt.

Lowry would have loved every minute of it.

And there were oh, so many minutes. It was the longest Raptors game in a decade and the first time they’ve won in triple overtime since 1998.

And they made history in a way that’s fitting: In a season where the Raptors starters have been logging some massive minutes, it was the first time since 1954 that all five starters played more than 50 minutes in a game, with Fred VanVleet clocking in at 54, Pascal Siakam at 57 and everyone else in between. They played 275 in total.

The Raptors didn’t make substation for the last 19 minutes of the game.

“Eight a.m. practice tomorrow,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse joked after the marathon was finally over.

The Raptors finally ended it when Siakam coolly knocked down a pair of three throws with 9.8 seconds to play in the third overtime period to — at last — give Toronto the 124-120 win.

The Raptors had chances to win the game at the end of regulation — though they were able to secure the tie thanks to a pair of clutch free throws with 2.9 seconds left — and at the end of both overtime periods, but finally got some separation when VanVleet made a pair of triples early in the third extra period and Toronto was able to survive what was a five-point lead with 2:17 to play, the first time either team had a lead of more than three points since the 5:15 mark of the fourth quarter.

“We tried everybody, everybody had their shot, nobody could find it, myself included, we played a lot of good basketball and then we just couldn’t make a bucket,” said VanVleet, who shot just 7-of-22 from the floor, though made five of his 14 threes, to go with eight assists. “So everybody had their chance once and it came back around to me again. And by that point, I’m gonna shoot those and if I miss ‘em we lose, if I make ‘em we win. And I made a couple and we were able to win.”

The Raptors were led by Gary Trent Jr., who had 33 points — his third consecutive game of 30 or more — and five steals while Siakam was a force on both ends as he ended up with 21 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and four blocks and four steals.

The Heat were led by Jimmy Butler who had 37 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in his 52 minutes as the Raptors otherwise held the Heat to 40 per cent shooting and forced them into 23 turnovers.

The Raptors improved to 24-23 while Miami fell to 32-18

It was a significant win for Toronto, even if Lowry wasn’t in the lineup for the Heat who are otherwise one of the deepest teams in the league.

The Heat are in first place in the East despite Butler, Lowry and Bam Adebayo missing a combined 54 starts through the first 50 games.

It’s a stretch to say they’re ‘plug-and-play’ but they do have a style, and more importantly, the depth required to remain competitive almost regardless of who is on the floor.

“It was nip and tuck and certainly could have went either way several times but we kept hanging in there and kept fighting and kept figuring it out,” said Nurse.

Leading the defensive charge was Siakam, his highlight being when he turned away Heat centre Adebayo twice at the rim with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter and the Heat leading by two.

“He’s been at an All-NBA level,” said VanVleet. “We’ll worry about the accolades later and however people choose to view him and the narrative that’s based around him. I’m watching him every day, I’m watching him in practice, I’m watching him in shootaround, I’m watching him in the games, he’s been at an All-NBA level for a while now. We’re gonna need him to continue to do that, he carries a huge load for our franchise and he takes a lot of heat when he doesn’t play well, that’s the way it goes, but he’s been playing at a really high level on both ends of the floor, we’re gonna need him to continue to do that.”

The Raptors’ energy was evident from the tip. It’s amazing what two days in the sunshine can do. It meant that VanVleet — who missed the Raptors last two games with a sore knee — was back in the lineup and generally, the Raptors seemed to have more bounce.

No one more than Trent Jr., who has picked up his rhythm after missing six games with a sore ankle. He was averaging 22.5 points a game and shooting 43 per cent from deep before he hit the ground running in the first quarter. He knocked down his first three and then mixed up his offence with some attacks on the rim when the Heat tried to run him off the line. His best play was when he came back hard and picked Adebayo’s pocket before taking it the other way for a lay-up. He finished the first quarter with 11 points and the Raptors were up 28-27.

His teammates joined the fight in the second quarter as Toronto sprinted out to a 23-9 run. If the Raptors could frame those eight minutes, they would. There was no point guard on the floor, but it didn’t matter. OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes (22 points, nine rebounds) got things started with a pair of threes; Anunoby (20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, three steals) made a steal and advanced the ball with a tough pass to a sprinting Precious Achiuwa, and then Dalano Banton got his six-foot-nine frame on the floor to pick up a loose ball.

That didn’t lead to a bucket, but when a flurry of Raptors blocked out the sun as Gabe Vincent was shooting, they turned the rebound into another Barnes three, another steal — Miami’s fourth turnover in as many minutes — led to another Raptors break and Toronto was up 11 on their way to a 15-point bulge.

But the Heat have one of the league’s most dominant players in Butler, and he wasn’t about to let Miami get blown out on their own floor. Butler scored 13 points — seven at the free-throw line — as the Heat finished the quarter on a 17-7 run that was punctuated by a dunk in transition by Adebayo set up by — you guessed it — Butler as Toronto’s lead was trimmed to 59-53 to start the second half.

All Butler needed was a little bit of help. It finally arrived late in the third quarter as the Heat got out on a 20-6 run that started late in the third quarter and picked up steam in early in the fourth when Max Strus — one of the lethal members of the Heat’s collection of three-point bombers — hit three straight threes to help pull Miami within two with 10 minutes left in regulation.

And that’s the way it stayed for the next 20 minutes. There were some questionable calls — a turnover for travelling by Anunoby near the end of regulation that looked like he’d been pushed by P.J. Tucker, but was more likely due to Anunoby catching the edge of his sneaker and his ankle buckling after the Heat had gone up two after Tucker hit a three that was set up by Butler.

The Raptors still had a chance to win at the end of regulation, only for Anunoby to miss a good look from three with six seconds left. But Barnes got his hands on the rebound, got fouled and made both free throws to force the first overtime.

It only got tenser from there, but the Raptors were up for it, and got the win and made some history along the way.

Lowry would have been proud.

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Late fumble costs Tiger-Cats in Elks win on Canada Day – TSN



HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.
“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Raptors sign forward Otto Porter Jr. to 2-year deal: reports –



The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Otto Porter Jr., who was a key member of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship team.

The two-year deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports, and confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source close to negotiations.

The 29-year-old Porter averaged 8.2 points per game this past season. He’s a tenacious defender and solid long-range shooter, with a career average of 39.8 per cent from behind the arc.

Porter was selected third overall by Washington in the 2013 draft, and played the first six seasons of his career there before being traded to Chicago in 2019. Orlando then acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline, and he signed with the Warriors in the 2021 off-season.

The Raptors have been busy since free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, signing Canadian forward Chris Boucher to a three-year deal, and signing veteran forward Thaddeus Young to a multi-year contract extension.

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Blue Jays’ bats assist bullpen, carry the day in comfortable win over Rays –



TORONTO – The Blue Jays may have discovered the solution to their bullpen issues: score nine runs a game.

Sustainable? Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are hitting at their best right now, with an MLB-leading 170 runs scored in June to go along with 50 home runs last month. Wearing their red jerseys in front of a sellout Canada Day crowd of 44,445 Friday, some of that offensive output carried into July with a festive 9-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

“It was so special,” said starter Jose Berrios. “I’ve heard a lot about this day, but being here and pitching today was very emotional. I know a lot of Canadians enjoy it and want to be at the ballpark on a day like today.”

“It was amazing, to say the least,” added Cavan Biggio, who reached base four times Friday. “In 2020 and 2021 we definitely missed this place. Now we’re finally back and we’re experiencing that energy that we’ve all been looking forward to on a nightly basis.”

A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. home run put the finishing touch on this one, but the Blue Jays also hit six doubles, five of which came off Rays starter Corey Kluber in a five-run third inning. A three-run sixth created necessary breathing room for the Blue Jays, who were able to rest most of their high-leverage relievers on a day Berrios was not at his sharpest.

With three hits, including his fifth home run of the season, Gurriel Jr. helped drive the Blue Jays’ offence. But don’t overlook Biggio, who walked twice while also hitting two doubles on a day his season on-base percentage climbed to .385.

“Today was great,” Biggio said. “Just hit after hit. A good pitcher, a good experienced guy on the mound, but we had a plan and we were able to execute it.”

Even before a pitch was thrown, Blue Jays fans had plenty to cheer about Friday. The recently retired Russell Martin was honoured with a memorable video narrated by former teammate Jose Bautista and personal messages from the likes of former Jays manager John Gibbons and fellow Canadian Joey Votto.

As the video tributes played in centre field, most Blue Jays players watched from the dugout. The fans also responded warmly to Martin, who later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to another athletic catcher who wears No. 55: Gabriel Moreno.

“Unbelievable career,” Biggio said of Martin. “What stands out to me the most is he played 14 years in the majors and made the playoffs 10 times. That’s what this game’s all about: it’s about winning.”

As for Berrios, he was effective enough, allowing two runs on eight hits over the course of five innings. He worked in and out of trouble, though, stranding nine runners, including both of the batters he walked.

While his fastball averaged 93.6 m.p.h., the Rays weren’t often fooled by the right-hander, who generated eight swinging strikes on 98 total pitches. Still, the Blue Jays will take that from Berrios, especially considering he had allowed 14 earned runs over the course of his previous two starts.

“He’s better than what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was missing by a little bit and that made him throw even more pitches and work harder …  at the end of the day, he did the job.”

But realistically, the Blue Jays would have been in a tough spot without so much help from their offence. Adam Cimber was presumed unavailable after pitching three days in a row, and David Phelps was likely off limits given that he’d just pitched in four of five. This was not an ideal day for the Blue Jays to try preserving a one- or two-run lead.

Thanks to their lineup, they didn’t have to. With the exception of one inning from Trent Thornton, the Blue Jays were able to avoid their high-leverage relievers, putting them in a relatively strong position entering Saturday’s double-header. 

“If our pitching gives us a chance, our offence is going to go and that’s exactly what happened,” Montoyo said. “We should be better tomorrow because of that.”

Sergio Romo made his Blue Jays debut with a clean inning seventh inning that featured two strikeouts and Max Castillo pitched the final two innings without incident as Toronto improved to 44-33 on the season while increasing their lead over the Rays to 3.5 games.

All told, this was pretty close to how the Blue Jays would have drawn it up. And end of the day, they’re in Toronto again, playing at home on Canada Day for the first time since 2019. In case any doubt remained as to the day’s significance, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out in the stands as the Blue Jays closed out the win. Soon after the fans finished singing, the players completed their 9-2 win.

“The energy and pride that this country embodies was definitely on full display,” Biggio said.

Or, as Montoyo put it: “You could tell the happiness about it.”

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