It’s been 10 days since Norman Powell, Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam all got hurt, and we’ve spent that time wondering which Toronto Raptors might step up in their absence — the same way Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher stepped up when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were out, and the way Powell himself did when Fred VanVleet was out.
We may have finally gotten some answers, at least for one night — a very enjoyable Christmas revenge victory over the Boston Celtics.
Patrick McCaw: Faith Rewarded
During last year’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals I worried that Nick Nurse’s faith in Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell was going to cost Toronto that series. VanVleet and Powell were terrible, and although (obviously) Toronto the series, I might go so far to say they won despite the play of VanVleet and Powell.
Then in the Eastern Finals Powell was excellent from the get-go, and VanVleet eventually turned it around (shoutout to Fred VanVleet Jr.) and was absolutely brilliant in the Finals.
If Nurse had benched those guys in Round 2, would they have contributed the same way in Rounds 3 and 4? We’ll never know for sure, but Nurse believed in them, and that belief paid dividends.
So we can, perhaps, give Nurse the benefit of the doubt that his belief in Patrick McCaw will reap similar rewards. It sure did last night; McCaw was aggressive from the tip, with a strip block and a steal in the opening minutes, along with a layup and a banked-in J. He had two more buckets and a nice swing pass to VanVleet during a 12-2 run later in the quarter.
Perhaps most notably, McCaw was on the ball at the top of the arc more, freeing up both VanVleet and Kyle Lowry to be in better scoring position. This worked brilliantly, as VanVleet and Lowry combined for 48 points and 36 shots, and McCaw finished with a career-high eight assists.
We’ll see if McCaw can be trusted to run the offense for extended periods, but for one night, Nick Nurse’s faith was rewarded — and once again he made the rest of us look pretty dumb for questioning him.
Kanter bullied Chris Boucher on Wednesday, and Nurse smartly wanted the stronger Ibaka to body Kanter up. It worked: Kanter scored 5 points and grabbed six boards in his 17.5 minutes, better (for the Raptors) than the 12 and 11 he had in his 18 minutes on Christmas.
So who saw Oshae Brisset making a difference in this game? The undrafted rookie played a career-high 15 minutes last night, and they were impactful — none moreso than a stretch at the end of the third where he hauled in two big rebounds and played great D on Jayson Tatum, all of which helped the Raptors maintain a 10-point lead heading into the fourth — and gave Nurse confidence that he could trust Brissett in the fourth.
Sure, he made some rookie mistakes (a dumb foul and missed layup at the start of the fourth) but overall his D and his hustle were much-needed factors in the win.
It’s too early to say if Brissett has found a spot in the rotation (and it’s unlikely there’ll be room for him when the team is healthy), but maybe Nick Nurse has found one more reliable guy on his bench.
Hit the Boards
The Celtics killed the Raptors with their rebounding on Christmas, so it was nice to see the Raptors respond by dominating the boards last night. On Christmas, the Celtics were +11 on the glass, and had 13 offensive boards that led to 24(!) second chance points.
Last night, the Raptors were +22(!) on the boards, and held the Celtics to just seven offensive boards and five second-chance points.
I’m Happy for Kemba
Sometimes you just root for a guy to find success, you know? Kemba Walker always seemed like a good guy and a good teammate, along with being a heck or a scorer. But he was stuck for so long on those terrible Hornets teams. So it’s nice to see him making an impact on a good team with a good coach and quality, reliable players around him.
Now, Kemba’s been a Raptor killer forever, and remains a terror (22 points on Christmas, 30 last night) so I don’t wish him too much success — not against us, anyway. Against the other 28 teams? Go get yours, Kemba.
Man, five thoughts already and I didn’t even get to Kyle Lowry, who had 30 points and seven assists last night? What does that guy have to do to get some respect around here! Sheesh.
Montreal showed they can win without Carey Price stealing the game – Habs Eyes on the Prize
After the Montreal Canadiens stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins to qualify for the 2020 NHL Playoffs, many of the plaudits went to Carey Price in net. While it’s deserved praise, many pundits and fans alike thought that the Canadiens stood no chance against the Philadelphia Flyers unless Price was god-like between the pipes. Two things are true with that after Friday’s game: Price has been out of this world through two games of this series as well, and also didn’t need to be in Friday’s 5-0 shutout.
It sounds strange to say given Price’s shutout, but the Flyers rarely seemed to put Price in a position of danger. Even their few good chances were casually brushed aside by the Montreal netminder. He was mostly great, but based on the play of the Flyers, he wasn’t the biggest factor in Montreal securing a huge victory.
Right from the outset, Montreal dominated possession of the puck. It took Philadelphia 17 minutes to register a shot on net, and in that time Montreal had built up a two-goal lead, and would add another early in the next period. In short, the Habs’ offence came to play in all facets.
Looking at the above chart, at no point in time did the Flyers mount an even remotely threatening attack, while Montreal jumped into the game and never took their foot off the gas.
This was the best we’ve seen the Canadiens in a long time, and certainly in this post-season. Their Achilles’ heel has been a lack of elite finishing talent, and in Friday’s game they just wore down the Flyers like a river erodes its banks. Sooner or later things break down, and in the case of the Habs it was in the form of goals against Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.
A saying I’ve said multiple times recently is that “goalies can’t score goals” in regard to Price having to do so much on his own. Yesterday at least, he ddin’t have to. Montreal had always put up impressive shot numbers during the season, and now they may be starting to find the back of the net.
The Canadiens can win this series against the Flyers, and they can do it without relying solely on their franchise goalie.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opts out of NHL playoffs – CBC.ca
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL playoffs.
The team announced the change on Twitter on Saturday morning, less than two hours before their third game in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family,” Rask said in a statement. “I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”
The Bruins are currently tied 1-1 in their series against the Hurricanes.
Jaroslav Halak will take over starting goalie duties for the Bruins.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLBruins?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NHLBruins</a> goalie Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL’s Return to Play: <a href=”https://t.co/r3c7wjaTwR”>pic.twitter.com/r3c7wjaTwR</a>
When the NHL first returned to play, Rask missed the start of the play-in due to COVID-19 concerns. After reports of a cough, he quarantined for two days in his hotel room before being allowed to hit the ice.
Rask hasn’t been shy about his criticism when it comes to the playoff environment in Toronto. While you’re trying to play as hard as you can, he said, the series “doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there.”
“There’s no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” he said, adding that while there can still be scrums after the whistle, “there’s no atmosphere.”
Don Sweeney, the Bruins’ general manager, said Rask’s comments weren’t related to his departure but acknowledged that he was having a “tough time being away in this environment.”
“This is playoff hockey, let’s make no mistake about it,” Sweeney said during a media availability before Game 3 on Saturday. “Tuukka, in his own right, felt that he needed to be elsewhere rather than being here in this current situation.
“He’s the same goaltender that went to the Stanley Cup finals in a Game 7 last year … and he’ll be the same player when we get up and running again next year.”
Here are Tuukka Rask’s full comments on the atmosphere up in Toronto: <a href=”https://t.co/5qQU4BDA3N”>pic.twitter.com/5qQU4BDA3N</a>
And while Rask didn’t give any indication to the team that he was “absolutely” going to opt out, Sweeney said the decision didn’t come as a surprise.
“The priority for Tuukka at this point and time — and rightfully so — has to be his family, and we support that,” he said, adding that Rask’s family is healthy and safe.
The Bruins goalie has three daughters, one of them a newborn.
Rask is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender.
Alphonso Davies just wowed the world on this goal (VIDEO) | Offside – Daily Hive
Alphonso Davies has arrived on the global stage.
The 19-year-old Canadian soccer star just wowed fans from around the world setting up a world-class goal in the Champions League quarter-final.
The former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder who now stars as a left back for Bayern Munich in Germany, Davies’ assist on Bayern’s fifth goal was truly amazing.
🚨 ALPHONSO DAVIES IS WORLD CLASS ALERT 🚨 pic.twitter.com/yjr66geZKD
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) August 14, 2020
Davies danced past two FC Barcelona players before blowing by a defender and setting up a teammate for Bayern’s fifth goal of the match. I repeat, he did this against FC Barcelona, one of the best teams on the planet.
Bayern won the match 8-2 and will play in the Champions League semi-final on August 19.
It’s been a superb season for Davies, who has taken his game to another level. A key player on Bayern’s Bundesliga championship squad, Davies is now widely considered one of the best left backs in the entire world.
Not only did Davies star on the world stage, he did so playing against one of his idols, Lionel Messi.
This is a dream come true for Davies, who said in 2018 he was most looking forward to playing in Champions League matches prior to making the move to Europe.
“At a very young age, every time you hear that [Champions League] song come on, you know something special is about to happen,” Davies told Daily Hive two years ago.
“Whoever made the Champions League is a brilliant guy… Having the top teams from Spain, England, Germany – all over Europe – to play against each other, it’s exciting to watch.”
He just made it more exciting.
ALPHONSO DAVIES 🔥🔥🔥🤮 sheeesh pic.twitter.com/GcxdRNTClF
— Bryan Zuluaga (@BryanZuluaga11) August 14, 2020
The @MLS academy product Alphonso Davies, is the best left back in the World right now.
7 months after starting in the position full-time for Bayern.
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) August 14, 2020
Alphonso Davies, a ridiculous talent. Absolutely filthy.
— Mod (@CFCMod_) August 14, 2020
Alphonso Davies breaking the internet and Nélson Semedo. All of the filth 🔥
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) August 14, 2020
Alphonso Davies is a generational talent.
That’s one of the best assists you’ll ever see! 🔥🔥🔥
— FootballFunnys (@FootballFunnnys) August 14, 2020
— EL CHAPO (@cwethein_) August 14, 2020
Four separate feints/dummies in one assist, from Alphonso Davies
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) August 14, 2020
Alphonso Davies has been better offensively than Lionel Messi today. He’s a defender.
— Marko (@MarkodoniaFT) August 14, 2020
Lisbon police have an APB on one Alphonso Davies for allegedly “swallowing a man’s soul.”
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 14, 2020
Alphonso Davies, take a bow! What a player!
— Eduardo Hagn (@EduardoHagn) August 14, 2020
The best player in the world … Getting helped up by Lionel Messi 😉 pic.twitter.com/YjoZcJ2ffc
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) August 14, 2020
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