A lot of my “thoughts” over the course of a season feature things I’ve never seen before. The crooked basket from a couple of weeks ago, for example.
Well, it’s safe to say I’ve never seen anything like what we saw yesterday afternoon. Erasing a 30-point deficit? In the span of about nine minutes? I don’t even know where to start with this… well, except with eight simple words.
If ever there was a compelling case why you don’t leave or turn off a game before it’s over, this was it. Some numbers:
- It was 85-55 with 2:30 to go in the third.
- It was 95-95 with 5:30 to go in the fourth.
- A 40-10 run in nine minutes!?
During that 55-22 run, Kyle Lowry had 23 points. Yep, he outscored the Mavericks 23-22 in 14.5 minutes of game time!
And the Raptors had no timeouts for the final 2:30!
That’s a lot of exclamation points! But this game sure deserved them.
Would you ever have guessed that that 40-10 run was completed with Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Malcolm Miller on the floor? The entire run! Undrafted rookie Terence Davis? Skinny Chris Boucher!? Constantly ineffective Malcolm Miller!?
I would not ever have believed it.
The group was led, of course, by Kyle Lowry. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a Lowry + bench unit would succeed, as he’s been leading sub-heavy units to success for years, but this? No way.
Lowry + bench units, over everything, forever and ever and ever.
I gave Malcolm Miller a hard time the other day, because I felt like he was squandering his opportunity to contribute with all of the injuries. He was fantastic yesterday.
Now, he didn’t score, which, considering how much scoring the Raptors did in the time he was on the floor in the second half, is kind of amazing. But he did everything else! He had a perfect swing pass to Davis for a three that cut the lead to 20, and another assist, following a steal, that led to another Davis triple.
He had another steal that, while he didn’t get the assist, eventually turned into a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bucket, and he had three rebounds.
Most of all, he used to length and quickness to play pretty much the entire middle section of the court during the Raptors’ full-court pressure. He bothered the hell out of the Mavericks in there, and he, and that trap, were a huge part of the turnaround.
And, even though he didn’t score, he shot the ball without hesitation, which was great to see. It’s the best he’s looked all year, and I hope it’s a confidence booster going forward.
And how about that full-court pressure. Sure, the Raptors gave up a couple of easy ones, as sometimes happens with that kind of defense. But they stuck with it, which is key, and somehow found the energy to make it work over an extended period.
And when the Mavericks did get into their half-court offense, the Raptors’ D was stifling. Boucher blocked two three-point shots! Rondae guarded Kristaps Porzingis and held him to only three attempts — and kept him off the boards on the other end.
To play that group of guys for that long, without a sub, to deliver that kind of defensive energy and to score enough to make up a 30-point deficit? And their D on the final Dallas possession? After expending all that energy coming all the way back? Amazing.
Of a Champion
What else can I say about Kyle Lowry? How about just a list of some of the incredible things he did in that 55-22 run:
- Scored the deep three-pointer that (ahem) cut the 30-point lead to 27
- Hit back-to-back threes to cut it to seven
- Tossed in a floater, with the and-1 to cut it to four
- Barrelled to to the hoop to cut it to two
- Hit a signature PU3IT to give the Raptors a four-point lead
- Nailed another deep bomb to push it to five
- Delivered the game-winning assists to Chris Boucher
Kyle Lowry is an NBA champion and also the champion of my heart.
I don’t know how this shorthanded team is going to recover its energy in time to play the Pacers tonight, but we just have to hope some of that same heart shows up once again!
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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