Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 122, Minnesota Timberwolves 112 - RaptorsHQ - Canada News Media
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Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 122, Minnesota Timberwolves 112 – RaptorsHQ

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Last year, the Raptors went a long, long stretch where they didn’t have their full squad. Load management and thumb injuries were mostly to blame, but then everyone got healthy and the team… well, you know what they did.

Last night had that same kinda vibe, right? Finally, the full squad was back together, ready to do something special!

Beating the lowly Timberwolves is hardly special, but the team is definitely in a good spot right now, and with seven of their next eight against losing teams, well… that two-seed is looking very attainable.

On to the thoughts:

Rust? What Rust?

Fred VanVleet made his return last night, and the Raptors were whole once again, finally. Still, it didn’t hurt to keep expectations low, right? There’s probably rust, the team needs to find itself, there are minutes restrictions to consider…

Fred said “nah” and went out there and balled. A game-high 29 points, 7-for-8 from downtown, four boards and four steals. In 28 minutes!

This one had to be my favourite. Just calmly strolls down the court, stops on the dime and drops in the triple. Easy-peasy.

Pascal Siakam is clearly still getting his legs under him, but Powell, Marc Gasol and VanVleet came back ready to go.

Preseason Promise Fulfilled?

Remember in the preseason when Norman Powell was on fire, and we all wondered, “hmmm, is this the year Norm puts it all together?”

And then the regular season started and Powell was… well, basically, same old Norm?

It looks like preseason Norm might finally be here to stay. Over his past 14 games, a stretch that bridges an 11-game absence, Powell is averaging 20.2 points on 58% shooting, and 46% from three-point range. Heck, even if you just toss out the first seven games of the season — where Norm hit double-figures just once — he’s averaging 17.8 ppg on 53%/43% shooting.

That’s a 24-game sample size of stellar play. This Norm might be here to stay.

On the other hand…

Will the Real OG Please Stand Up

I joked the other day that perhaps OG Anunoby’s true destiny was at the two-guard spot. In his two starts in the backcourt, he shot 16-for-26, scored 39 points, had 11 rebounds, seven steals and seven assists!

Well, he shifted back to the three yesterday and it… did not go well. Two points, 0-for-4 shooting, three boards, no assists, no steals.

Move him back to the two immediately!

I joke of course, I’m certain it’s a one-game blip and he’ll be fine. But I do wonder if OG might be taking over as the “Norman Powell Consistently Inconsistent” Belt holder.

Give Boucher Some Run!

I was a bit disappointed to see that Chris Boucher was relegated to garbage time last night. With Marc Gasol still on a minutes restriction and Serge Ibaka somewhat ineffective, and Minnesota — not a huge team — doing a good job getting to the rim, it seemed like the perfect spot for him.

Alas, it appears there just isn’t room for him with Gasol, Ibaka and Pascal Siakam in the front court. It’s a shame because he played well enough during Gasol and Siakam’s absence to deserve some burn.

Get That Andrew Wiggins Garbage Outta Here

As it does every time the Timberwolves and Raptors play, talk arose about Andrew Wiggins’ role with the Canadian national men’s team. As usual, “Maple Jordan” was non-committal.

Last night, of course, was the perfect Wiggins experience — a triple double, but absolutely no impact on the game, in the losing effort.

Does Canada want or need such a player, given all the other talented players who has expressed their desire to play?

Probably not, no.

But — wouldn’t you love to see what Nick Nurse could do for Wiggins? Sure, the international tournaments may not really be long enough for Nurse to make an impact. But Nurse’s creativity and motivational abilities may be just what Wiggins needs, even in a short stint.

********

Don’t forget, tomorrow’s game is an afternoon tilt against the Hawks, 2:30 p.m. for Martin Luther King Day. Adjust your schedules accordingly!

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The real enemy of the Edmonton Oilers tonight isn't Matt Tkachuk, it's NHL's brutal schedule – Edmonton Journal

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Game Day 50: Battle of Alberta

Matt Tkachuk isn’t the real enemy of the Edmonton Oilers, it’s the brutal schedule the NHL has set out before the team in February and March.

Here’s what Edmonton is up against:

  • After a great run where the Oilers just won six of their last eight games, the team just faced ten days off between games. That long rest came because the NHL put the Oilers’ annual and mandated bye week next to the NHL’s annual All Star Game break. It’s hard to imagine that a team off ten days won’t have a considerable amount of rust in its game.
  • Following up on this stupidly long break, the Oilers have two gruelling run of games in February and March, first 12 games in 23 nights, then 17 games in 32 nights.
  • Three of those games are on the second night of back-to-backs.
  • So far this year Edmonton has a record of just 13 wins and 18 losses in games with one day between matches. With two days rest the Oilers are much better, six wins and four losses. With three days rest, the Oilers are better still, with three wins and one loss.
  • The only silver lining? For some reason, the Oilers in back-to-back games have four wins and zero losses this year.
  • The only other good news is that in March 10 of the 16 games are at home.

What to make of it all?

One would think that the NHL would realize that Western Conference teams have the most difficult travel schedules, and that those making the sked would given an Eastern Conference team, where travel is much less arduous, the annual bye week/All Star game combo. This would ensure Western Conference teams each have two much-needed and lengthy respites during the season. But not to be.

It’s hard to imagine the Oilers will be able to bring their “A” game tonight against the Flames.

Perhaps coach Dave Tippett and his players will perform some kind of minor miracle here. It’s also the case that this match against the Flames has been highly anticipated, so the players should be highly motivated. But having that kind of ten day break can’ be a good thing.

Long breaks bad

How have teams done with such long breaks? In the playoffs last year, the New York Islanders swept Pittsburgh in the first round, then got a 10 day break, only to get swept by Carolina in the second round.

Carolina then had a six day break, then got stomped by the Bruins, reported Darren Hartwell of NBC Boston, who dug into this trend before Boston faced off against St. Louis in the 2019 Stanley Cup finals.

After the 2003 Conference Finals, the Anaheim Ducks had ten days off, then lost the Stanley Cup to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. The Duck lost their first two games, outscored 6-0 in total, Hartwell reported.

How did Boston do to start Game One last year?

Reported Nick Goss of NBC Boston: “The Boston Bruins didn’t have their legs early in Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. The B’s were careless with the puck, whiffed on passes/shots, struggled on the power play and just failed to execute at a high level. This slow start had consequences for the Bruins, as the Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead a minute into the second period.”

The good and unexpected news is that the Bruins were able to storm back and win the game 4-2. So there’s hope here but don’t expect the Oilers to come out gunning.

Goss reported that the Bruins had defied the odds here:

The previous five teams with five or more days of rest than their opponent entering Game 1 of the Cup Final all lost.

Here’s a look at those teams:

1975: Sabres (six days) vs. Flyers (one day) — BUF lost 4-1
1986: Canadiens (six days) vs. Flames (one day) — MTL lost 5-2
1993: Canadiens (seven days) vs. Kings (two days) — MTL lost 4-1
2003: Ducks (10 days) vs. Devils (three days) — ANA lost 3-0
2006: Oilers (eight days) vs. Hurricanes (three days) — EDM lost 5-4
2019: Bruins (10 days) vs. Blues (five days) — BOS won 4-2

Of course, excuses are for losers.

But the NHL has done the Oilers no favours here. In fact, the opposite.

The magic act of “Whatever It Takes”


Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid after colliding with a goalpost during NHL action against the Calgary Flames on April 6, 2019.

Al Charest /

Postmedia

We’re never going to look at Connor McDavid the same now, are we?

This is Edmonton’s first game back since the airing of the “Whatever It Takes” documentary on McDavid’s injury and subsequent recovery.

The documentary showed just how badly McDavid’s knee was busted up, and just how hard and smart he had to work to get back in shape.

It packed such a powerful punch that I don’t think we’ll ever see McDavid in the same way again. It was as if the documentary performed a magic act, transforming McDavid from one thing into another.

Before, the shine of his brilliant skill overshadowed everything else about McDavid.

Now two other things come into focus: his all too human fragility and his superhuman work ethic.

The doc brought him down to our more human level, where hopes and ambitions can be crushed by bad luck and bad timing. When I watched McDavid in the All Star three-on-three game, I was suddenly hyper aware of every bad thing that might happen to him. All I could think was: Buddy, take it easy! Don’t get hurt! 

At the same time showing his astonishing comeback from injury exemplified the greatest hope for every individual, how hard work, fierce determination and support from others is the key to success. In the face of long odds it’s at least possible to succeed if we’re able to surround ourselves with good people and are willing to keep grinding, grinding, grinding, no matter what.

Staples on politics

Preaching that fossil fuels are the enemy of humanity has no place in classrooms

At the Cult

STAPLES: Tkachuk’s hit on Kassian wasn’t a cheap shot, Sheehy says

STAPLES: Benning back on Oilers blueline suddenly crowded with good d-men

STAPLES: Flames and Oilers look to super-size rosters for coming Battle of Alberta game

LEAVINS: 9 Things

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Game Recap: Toronto Raptors vs. Atlanta Hawks – RaptorsHQ

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The Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks had played just over a week ago, a game that appeared to be a runaway for the Raptors in the fourth before a late push by the Hawks tightened the final score to 122-117.

Since then, both teams have seen their top players, Pascal Siakam and Trae Young respectively, recognized as All-Star starters. While they are even in that regard, these two teams are close in little else. Going into this one, the Raptors sat at 32-14, good for third in the East and in the midst of a seven-game win streak. For Atlanta, only the Golden State Warriors had a worse record in the NBA.

Unlike their last meeting, this game reflected that disparity and the Raptors out-executed the Hawks from top-to-bottom and finished the game winning 130-114 for their eighth straight. The Raptors took care of the ball, winning the turnover battle and losing it only 13 times while the Hawks coughed it up 18 times. They also took advantage of sloppy Hawks defense, constantly dissecting their opponent for easy buckets. The most notable part of this one, however, came when Kyle Lowry made another entry in the Raptors history books.

Lowry has spent this season cementing his status as the greatest Raptor of all time, based on his overall body of work with the team. It is fitting that the team’s record books start reflecting his greatness and productivity. In the fourth quarter, he threw a very Lowry-esque touchdown pass to Terence Davis, who had just slipped behind the defense and proceeded to catch the perfectly placed ball and finish with ease, giving Lowry his record setting 3771st assist with the Toronto Raptors.

Lowry then turned around and, clearly well aware of what he had just accomplished, flashed a genuine smile that showed how much he appreciated the moment. We’ve seen a similar smile a few times before, specifically when it was clear the Raptors would beat the Milwaukee Bucks and punch their ticket to the NBA Finals, and when he hit a half-court buzzer beater in game one of the 2016 Miami Heat series to send the game to overtime. In a sport when guys are often told to “act like they’ve been there before,” it’s nice to see a guy just enjoy and appreciate the moments where he simply has not been there before.

The tone leading up to the game made it clear that the NBA remains shaken from Kobe Bryant’s death, the tragic event that rocked the sports world on Sunday. Perhaps no person influences today’s players more so than Kobe, and the responses from the players have magnified the impact that he had. The number of players who have personal relationships with Bryant is astonishing and a testament to Bryant’s commitment to the game.

Norman Powell, who wears number 24 and is fresh off of a summer working with Kobe, wore a hoodie with “Kobe and Gigi” on the back with the infinity symbol under their names to the game – a tribute to the lasting legacy Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were both killed in the crash. Trae Young, the point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, was Gianna’s favourite player, and was devastated by Sunday’s events. He had an outstanding game on Sunday following the news, which he dedicated to Bryant.

Following a video tribute to Kobe and a moment of silence, the game was underway.

The disparity between the two teams was obvious from the jump. Defensively, the Hawks simply did not look connected, and the Raptors preyed on their lapses with cuts and ball movement on their way to 33 first quarter points. Marc Gasol, typically one to set the table rather than finish, led the Raptors with ten first quarter points. He hit two threes, and following a pump fake, took a few Spanish Steps and threw down a rare Statue of Liberty dunk. Unfortunately, Gasol would later leave the game as a result of the same hamstring that bothered him earlier this season.

In their most recent matchup, Trae Young gave the Raptors fits en route to a 42 point performance. In the first half, they bottled him up effectively, limiting him to only six points. If not for a hot start for Hawks centre John Collins, who had 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 6-of-6 from the free throw line, the Raptors’ lead would be even larger. Still, at halftime, the Raptors were up 68-56. Although Collins would cool off, tacking on only eight more for the rest of the game, he still led the Hawks in scoring with 28.

Pascal Siakam entered the third quarter in attack-mode, and carried the momentum that he built in the Spurs game into this one. He made a concerted effort to get to the rim, and was successful, with all 12 of his third quarter points coming in shots in the restricted area or on free throws that resulted from his drives. The third was the last we would see of Siakam, though it was enough for him to lead the Raptors with 24 points. Even though Trae Young was able to match Siakam’s 12 in the frame, the Raptors grew their lead to 14 by the end of the third.

Unfortunately, it was this quarter where Marc Gasol left, aggravating the hamstring injury that he sustained back in December against the Pistons. The Raptors have not lost since Gasol’s return, and the statistics suggest this is no coincidence. The Raptors are vastly better with Gasol on the floor, and another extended absence would sting a Raptors team that was finally healthy.

The Raptors went on a dominant run to start the fourth quarter. That run included Lowry’s record-breaking assist, and it virtually put the game away for good. This time, the Hawks would not mount enough of a comeback to make this one close, and the Raptors were able to coast to the finish.

It was great to see Lowry get hold of a prestigious record, and we wish Marc Gasol a speedy recovery. Here’s to hoping the Raptors can maintain this momentum into their next one against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Crash-warning device might not have saved Kobe Bryant's helicopter, experts – CBC.ca

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The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to land, but it’s not clear it would have averted the crash that killed nine when the aircraft plummeted toward a fog-shrouded hillside, U.S. regulators and experts say.

Pilot Ara Zobayan had been climbing out of the clouds when the aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 366-metre descent that lasted nearly a minute.

“This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” Jennifer Homendy of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday. “We know that this was a high-energy impact crash.”

The aircraft was intact when it hit the ground, but the impact spread debris over more than 150 metres. Remains of the final victims were recovered Tuesday, and so far the remains of Bryant, Zobayan and two other passengers have been identified using fingerprints.

Determining what caused the crash will take months, but investigators may again recommend that to avoid future crashes helicopters carrying six or more passenger seats be equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) that would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger of crashing.

FAA called for warning system

The agency made that recommendation after a similar helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76A carrying workers to an offshore drilling ship, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas, killing all 10 people on board in 2004.

The NTSB concluded if TAWS had been installed, pilots would have been warned in time to prevent hitting the water. The board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require the warning systems. Ten years later, the FAA eventually required such systems on air ambulances, but not other helicopters.

An NTSB investigator examines the wreckage of Sunday’s helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. (James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board/The Associated Press)

FAA officials had questioned whether the technology would work on helicopters, which fly lower and could trigger too many false alarms that might detract from safety.

The NTSB said FAA’s response was unacceptable, but dropped the matter.

“Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in,” Homendy said of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant.

Homendy also said it was too soon to say whether the pilot had control of the helicopter during the steep, high-speed descent, although she noted that “it wouldn’t be a normal landing speed.”

Bill English, investigator-in-charge of the agency’s Major Investigations Division, said it’s not clear yet whether “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other.”

Pilot had 8,000 hours of experience

Zobayan, 50, was well-acquainted with the skies over Los Angeles and accustomed to flying Bryant and other celebrities.

He had spent thousands of hours ferrying passengers through one of the nation’s busiest air spaces and training students how to fly a helicopter. Friends and colleagues described him as skilled, cool and collected, the very qualities you want in a pilot.

Zobayan had flown the day before the crash on a route with the same departure and destination — Orange County to Ventura County. But on Sunday, he had to divert because of heavy fog.

The chartered Sikorsky S-76B plowed into a cloud-shrouded hillside as the retired NBA star was on his way to a youth basketball basketball tournament in which his daughter Gianna was playing. Two of her teammates also were on the helicopter with parents.

Watch: Fans mourn Kobe Bryant as investigators probe crash

As a memorial to Kobe Bryant grows outside L.A.’s Staples Center, investigators are trying to determine the cause of Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend, his daughter and seven others. 2:27

NTSB investigators have said Zobayan asked for and received permission from air traffic controllers to proceed in the fog, which Homendy said was “very common.” In his last radio transmission before the helicopter went down, he reported that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.

Investigators have not faulted his decision. or determined why he made it. The FAA warns helicopter pilots that it is their job to decide whether to cancel a flight because of bad weather or other risks, and to have a backup plan in case weather worsens during the flight.

Zobayan was chief pilot for the craft’s owner, Island Express Helicopters. He also was a flight instructor, had more than 8,000 hours of flight time and had flown Bryant and other celebrities, including Kylie Jenner.

Island Express has had three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB’s accident database. All involved flights to or from the company’s main destination of Santa Catalina Island, about 20 miles off the Southern California coast.

On Tuesday, the last of the bodies and the wreckage were recovered from the weekend crash in Calabasas.

Fingerprints were used to confirm the identity of Bryant, 41; Zobayan; John Altobelli, 56; and Sarah Chester, 45. While the the coroner has not identified five other victims, relatives and acquaintances have identified them as:

  • Gianna Bryant, 13-year-old daughter of Kobe Bryant.
  • Payton Chester, 13-year-old daughter of Sarah Chester.
  • Keri Altobelli, wife of John Altobelli.
  • Alyssa Altobelli, daughter of John Altobelli.
  • Christina Mauser, helped Bryant coach his daughter’s team.

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