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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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Jeff Van Gundy, Ty Lue Emerge As Early Candidates For Clippers – RealGM.com

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Jeff Van Gundy and Ty Lue have emerged as the early favorites to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers parted ways with Doc Rivers on Monday.

Lue is also a candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans.

Van Gundy is a candidate for Rockets. 

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Two Canadian players are in the NBA Finals this year | Offside – Daily Hive

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And then there were two.

The NBA Finals matchup is now set, with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers taking on LeBron’s old team, the Miami Heat. The Finals tips off on Wednesday, and will include a pair of Canadians.

Heat teammates Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Alexander are both looking to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time. It’s the first time ever that the NBA Finals has featured two Canadians on the same team.

A 29-year-old Kamloops product, Olynyk went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017 with Boston, but this is his first trip to the NBA Finals. He has been a role player with the Heat during the playoffs, averaging 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game.

Milton, Ontario’s Kyle Alexander has not played in the playoffs yet and is unlikely to make an appearance as a depth player on the Heat’s roster. He’s in his first NBA season following four years at the University of Tennessee.

This is the 10th year in a row that a Canadian has been a part of a team in the Finals, with Olynyk and Alexander following in the footsteps of Chris Boucher (2019), Tristan Thompson (2015-2018), Cory Joseph (2013-2014), and Joel Anthony (2011-2014).

A total of six Canadian players have seen playing time during the NBA playoffs this year, most notably from Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray. The Kitchener product leads the NBA playoffs in total points (504), averaging 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game en route to the Western Conference Finals.

Canadians featured prominently on the Oklahoma City Thunder, as rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Toronto) averaged 16.3 points per game during the first round, while teammate Luguentz Dort (Montreal) averaged 12.5 points.

Khem Birch (Montreal) also played regular minutes for the Orlando Magic, while Boucher (Montreal) was used sparingly by the Toronto Raptors.

NBA Finals schedule

  • Game 1: Wed, Sep 30, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT
  • Game 2: Fri, Oct 2, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT
  • Game 3: Sun, Oct 4, 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT
  • Game 4: Tue, Oct 6, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT
  • Game 5*: Fri, Oct 9, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT
  • Game 6*: Sun, Oct 11, 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT
  • Game 7*: Tue, Oct 13, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT

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Clippers head coach Doc Rivers out after seven seasons – Sportsnet.ca

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The Los Angeles Clippers have mutually parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers, it was announced Monday.

Rivers’ departure comes after the Clippers blew a 3–1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the NBA playoffs, a result that stupefied many since Los Angeles had been considered one of the true contenders to win the 2020 championship.

Going all in last off-season by signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency and then trading nearly all of their future assets to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George, the Clippers not only set themselves up as a title favourite on paper, but also as a win-now team with a short window to grab gold.

Both Leonard and George will once again be free agents in 2021, meaning that both this season and the next are vital opportunities for the Clippers. While the duo could certainly re-sign with the club when the time comes, there are also no guarantees in sports, and anything could happen between now and then.

In a rather flippant comment following his team’s ousting from the playoffs, George remarked that “I think internally we’ve always felt this is not a championship-or-bust year for us.”

Evidently and understandably, the Clippers’ front office did not agree.

Rivers (who was hired by the Clippers in 2013) now joins a coaching market that has a few signature names, including Mike D’Antoni (formerly with the Houston Rockets), Brett Brown (formerly with the Philadelphia 76ers), and Nate McMillan (formerly with the Indiana Pacers), and could be considered the best of the bunch. It wouldn’t seem all that likely that he’ll be a free agent for long, and has already been contacted by the New Orleans Pelicans and 76ers, according to The Undefeated‘s Marc Spears.

Known as a prolific motivator and leader, Rivers has had many notable accomplishments both on the floor and off of it throughout his coaching career, including leading the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008 and acting as a guiding voice during the organization’s eventual removal of former owner Donald Sterling.

Among the options for potential replacements, current Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Rockets and New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy are reportedly being considered.

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