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Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 130, Oklahoma City Thunder 121 – RaptorsHQ

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Well, that ended up being a little more stressful that it should have been, didn’t it? The Toronto Raptors once again turned a strong first half into a discombobulated second half, only this time — unlike against San Antonio and Portland — they were able to hang on for the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

If you were following this game on Twitter at all last night, you know where we’ve go to start, right?

Let’s Get the McCaw Slander out of the Way

The Patrick McCaw experiment continues, and man is it some weird science.

Look, it really wasn’t all that bad. The Thunder got Toronto’s lead to single digits late in the third quarter last night, and a McCaw-at-point unit (featuring Marc Gasol, Terence Davis, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell) went on a 10-0 bridging the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth; that group ended up outscoring OKC 27-14.

The lead stood at 21 when Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam came back. With Anunoby and McCaw still out there, the Thunder went on a sudden 22-4 run.

That, obviously, cannot all be on McCaw. Yes, McCaw was bad in this stretch; he had a brutal turnover in the backcourt that led to a three-point play, and he was almost inexplicably bad on defense, allowing multiple blow-bys. But, much like the case on Sunday, the Raptors offense really fell apart when both Lowry and Siakam were on the floor.

And maybe we can chalk that up to Siakam’s rust. I’m not too worried about that, yet.

The question really is, what is McCaw doing on the floor at that point in the game?

With Fred VanVleet sidelined, I get that McCaw has to play that playmaker role when Lowry and Siakam are off. Fine. What is his role in that closing unit, though? You don’t need him to handle the ball there, with both Siakam and Lowry on the floor. (Why he was bringing the ball up when he made that aforementioned turnover?) He can’t (and often won’t) shoot, so teams can leave him and crowd Siakam.

Surely Davis (who all the numbers favour at this point) is a more legitimate threat who opens up the floor for others? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a better defender and rebounder if you want size. Marc Gasol needed a rest, but Chris Boucher was an option if the Raptors wanted to stay really big. Heck, if you want to really space the floor, Matt Thomas is on this team too.

Some of McCaw’s minutes and usage I can understand. Him spending four minutes on the floor with the starters in a close game when there are multiple options that fit better with that unit behind him on the bench? I just can’t.

Going Big

All right, let’s talk about the big lineup that started the game. OKC is one of the teams that employs a big traditional centre in Steven Adams, so it makes some sense. And outside of Adams, OKC is small, so it creates a mismatch somewhere on the floor at all times (see Chris Paul guarding Pascal Siakam). It also makes sense in a “play your best guys” approach, with VanVleet still out.

And it seemed to work! By putting long defenders on OKC’s perimeter players, the Raptors got their hands on multiple passes in the first quarter, creating several fast-break opportunities; the Raptors scored 14 points off of eight Oklahoma City turnovers in the first quarter.

Gasol looked great. He hinted before the game he might start being more aggressive on offense, and he delivered, taking nine shots in his 31.5 minutes, scoring 15 points. Welcome back Big Spain!

Now, I don’t think this should be a regular starting unit or anything, but I’m more than OK with Nick Nurse trying it out from time to time. If the Raptors end up facing Philadelphia in the postseason, you know it’s going to be necessary.

Start OG at the Two Every Game

OK, that’s not realistic, but OG Anunoby, who started at the shooting guard spot for the first time, had a sensational opening quarter. Anunoby (who’s “chiseled out of marble,” according to my wife) (hey, she has good taste!) did it on both ends, stealing two passes and deflecting at least two more, and preventing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from getting what he wanted — all while hitting two of his three three-point attempts on the other end.

Anunoby finished with 21 points on 13 shots, along with five rebounds and five assists. Maybe he’s been a two-guard all along!?

Also, we can’t let this game go without acknowledging this winning smile:


Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 130, Oklahoma City Thunder 121, OG Anunoby smile

NBA.com

Welcome to the “No Lead is Safe” NBA

Even when the Raptors went up 30, I was not comfortable watching last night’s game. The Raptors have blown too many leads lately, and in today’s NBA, where every team employs multiple three-point threats, it really doesn’t seem like you can ever relax. And, hey, the Raptors themselves came back from 30 down this year.

(Thank goodness they didn’t become the first time to win a game after trailing by 30 and lose a game after leading by 30 in the same season.)

Even with that said, the game shouldn’t have been that stressful in the second half. The Raptors really need to figure out their fourth-quarter execution.

Prayers Answered

OKC does a pre-game prayer, which is a really anachronistic and somewhat offensive thing that I’m kind of surprised the NBA still allows.

That said… some prayers were being answered last night, and they were all on Toronto’s side of the ball.

First there was Norman Powell’s off-balance, double-clutch heave at the end of the third that dropped.

Then in the fourth, Marc Gasol fired a three-pointer in, high off the glass, from straight away.

And finally, a few plays later with the shot clock winding down, OG Anunoby threw a deep ball into the rafters, and it came down through the net:

The Raptors shouldn’t have needed divine intervention after being up 30, but it sure seems like they got it.

********

It may not have been the second half we wanted after that great opening 20 minutes, but hey — it’s still a quality road win against a good Western conference opponent, and not for nothing, but those 20 minutes are a reminder — this team is pretty damn good when it’s healthy.

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China’s winter sports industry hopes Olympic Games yield white gold

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China’s snow sports industry is pinning its hopes on people like Shi Haoping, 32, who takes to the slopes to de-stress from his job as head of an online education company.

“This is such a physical activity, it relieves the pressure for me,” Shi said while taking a break from snowboarding at Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou, not far from where several Winter Olympics events will be held in February.

(To see a picture package of China’s ski resorts, please open https://reut.rs/3os2F87 in a web browser.)

Shi was seated with his wife, Ding Yaohui, who works for a video production company, and their Shiba Inu dog, who had made the three-hour drive with them from Beijing. Music from an X Games snowboarding event thumped in the background.

“First we learned skiing,” Shi said. “Then last year we took up snowboarding, because it looks more trendy and cool.”

China hopes hosting the Games will springboard the country towards becoming a winter sports destination and will help deliver on a target set by President Xi Jinping to get 300 million Chinese involved in winter sports, with an aim to build a 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion) industry.

The stakes are high, and not just for China, as the global snow sports industry looks to rising incomes in the world’s most populous nation to offset what industry data shows to be stagnating participation in traditional ski markets.

China wants to build a thriving winter sports ecosystem, from success on the slopes – some of its best Olympic medal hopes are in the freestyle ski and snowboard events – to world-class resorts and the manufacture of equipment to service them.

The country has more than 700 ski areas but the industry is highly fragmented and most are tiny. Only about 20 would be considered destination resorts, including Thaiwoo and the nearby Genting Resort Secret Garden, which will host the Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions.

With snowfall scarce in many parts of China, including the winter sports hub of Zhangjiakou, the necessity of water for snowmaking https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/making-snow-stick-wind-challenges-winter-games-slope-makers-2021-11-29 limits intensive resort development.

Industry insiders say the longer-term challenge is to ensure the full experience is enjoyable – from the renting of gear to the quality and standards of teaching, and the après-ski social activities – so more beginners want to spend the time and money to become regulars.

Justin Downes, president of Axis Leisure and an adviser to the Games organisers, said the Chinese ski industry is unrecognisable from when he arrived in 2007.

Even so, he added, it takes years to build a ski culture and the infrastructure around Chinese ski areas, many in farming and mining areas, has yet to be developed.

“If you go to a ski resort in Switzerland or in Canada, you’re walking into a community of people that have been there for generations,” the Canadian said.

BIG BUSINESS?

Skiing and the Games are transforming parts of Zhangjiakou’s once-impoverished Chongli district. Chongli was connected two years ago with Beijing by a high-speed train that takes less than an hour.

Before COVID-19 jolted the industry, skier visits in China doubled from 10.3 million in 2014, the year before Beijing was awarded the Games, to a peak of 20.9 million in 2019.

On a five-year average, China ranks eighth globally in skier visits, according to the 2021 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism by industry expert Laurent Vanat, with the United States, Austria and France making up the top three.

China’s government is all in. Last month, a ministry said it was “urgent” to promote production standards for equipment such as snow makers, snow grooming machines and all-terrain snow vehicles, an industry dominated by European and American manufacturers.

Chinese private equity firm Hillhouse Capital, whose founder Zhang Lei is an avid snowboarder, owns half of the Chinese business of Vermont-based Burton Snowboards, the industry pioneer.

Three years ago, Chinese athletic wear giant Anta Sports, a sponsor of the Beijing Games, led a group that paid 4.6 billion euros for Finland’s Amer Sports, whose portfolio includes venerable European ski equipment brands Atomic and Salomon, as well as high-end Canadian outerwear brand Arc’teryx.

‘I HAVE MONEY’

On a recent early season day at Thaiwoo, which has a Western-style resort village with a brewpub and shops for global brands such as Bogner and Patagonia as well as Chinese snowboard maker Nobaday, the crowd was well-attired.

Unlike in the United States and Europe, where skiers are predominant, China’s snow sports market skews towards boarders like Anthony Zhang, 31, who works in finance and was decked out in 15,000 yuan worth of gear including a baby-blue snowsuit and pink snowboard for his first time on genuine slopes.

“It’s very expensive. It’s not just equipment – it’s a big expense to hire a trainer. I take classes in an indoor simulator in Beijing, and each class costs several hundred yuan,” he said.

The expense is not a deterrent, however.

“I have money,” Zhang said, laughing.

$1 = 6.37 Chinese yuan renminbi)

 

(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

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Jets’ Pionk suspended two games for kneeing Maple Leafs’ Sandin – Sportsnet.ca

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Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk has been suspended two games for kneeing Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin.

The NHL’s department of player safety made the announcement after having a hearing with Pionk on Monday.

The incident occurred with 14:15 remaining in the third period Sunday when Winnipeg hosted Toronto. As Sandin received a pass in the Jets’ zone and proceeded to take a shot on net, Pionk attempted to line up a body check, but misjudged Sandin’s position, causing him to extend his leg and create knee-on-knee contact with the Maple Leafs defenceman.

“We acknowledge Pionk’s argument that this is an attempted full-body check, but this play cannot be classified as merely a collision between two players, where one or both move reflexively or defensively at the last moment to avoid contact,” said the department of player safety in a video explaining the punishment.

“If he wants to deliver this hit, the onus is on Pionk to take an angle of approach that ensures he’s in good position to make a legal, full-body check. Instead, having taken an angle which has him lined up outside of Sandin’s path, Pionk turns his right leg and extends his knee, jutting it forward to avoid missing the check entirely. This results in forceful, dangerous and direct knee-on-knee contact.”

Watch the full video breakdown here:

Sandin was helped off the ice and appeared as though he could not put weight on his right leg after the play. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said he had no update on Sandin’s condition on Sunday night.

Pionk, who has never been suspended or fined before this event, will forfeit $58,750 in salary.

Just two minutes after the incident, Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza retaliated with a knee of his own — targetting Pionk and catching him near the head as he slid on the ice to make a play.

Spezza is at risk of also receiving a suspension and will have a hearing with the department of player safety via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon.

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Derby winner Medina Spirit collapses, dies in California – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit collapsed and died after a workout Monday at Santa Anita.

The 3-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert had just completed five furlongs in his second workout since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a month ago at Del Mar, according to Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney.

Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman also confirmed the colt’s death.

The colt will undergo a full necropsy, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board.

Medina Spirit tested positive after the May 1 Derby for betamethasone, a legal medication that is not allowed on race day. It was Baffert’s record seventh win in the Derby.

Last Friday, Robertson released a statement saying that tests done by a New York lab have “definitely confirmed” Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid — not through an injection but due to an ointment used to treat a skin rash.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has been investigating the case, and has yet to hold a hearing that could possibly disqualify Medina Spirit.

In the $6 million BC Classic, Medina Spirit couldn’t muster the necessary late kick to threaten winner Knicks Go.

“I’m very proud of him. He ran a great race,” Baffert said last month. “To me, he’s the best 3-year-old. He showed it today. That’s what racing is all about, proving it on the racetrack. And he proved it today that he’s the real deal.”

Baffert was allowed to enter horses in the season-ending world championships, but the event’s money-leading trainer had to meet certain conditions, including stricter out-of-competition testing of his horses and greater security at his barn. He agreed to the extra scrutiny and was required to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Medina Spirit had five wins in 10 career starts and earnings of $3,545,200, according to Equibase. The colt was owned by Amr Zedan, who competes as Zedan Racing Stables.

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