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Gameday: Celtics @ Raptors, Dec. 25 – Raptors Republic

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Christmas Day is marketed as one of the premier days of the NBA calendar, and yet far more often than not the Raptors have been left out in the cold.  Today marks just the second time in the franchise’s history, and not since the days of Vince Carter.

In 2001 Toronto visited the New York Knicks as one of just two games on the Christmas schedule.  Morris Peterson chipped in 22 points to lead the Raptors on way to a 102-94 defeat.    Even then the Knicks sucked and finished with the worst record in the Atlantic Division at 30-52, and yet it was New York that came out on top.

The hope is today will be different as the Raptors take on the Boston Celtics in the first game of the Christmas slate, and the first Christmas home game in the team’s history.  Sure, it’s a 12:00pm start time, but Raptors fans finally got their wish to be included in the festive season.  

The middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is certainly crowded, and both Boston (2nd) and Toronto (4th) are fighting to be at the top of the pack.  A win today will have Toronto temporarily leapfrog Boston.  While this means virtually nothing at this point in the season, the first playoff tie-breaker is head-to-head record.  Boston currently holds a 1-0 advantage after their 112-106 victory on October 25th.

Boston was led that game by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Kamba Walker contributed 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.  What really killed the Raptors though was 21 second chance points as Boston rebounded 33.9 percent of their misses.  Only Houston (24) and Utah (21) have scored as many second chance buckets against the Raptors this season.

The Celtics have the 6th ranked offence, the 4th ranked defence, and the 3rd best net rating.  By all statistical evidence they are an elite team of try hards.  With classic Raptor killers like Kamba and Brown, Toronto will need a high level game to come out on top.

Unfortunately both teams are having to win with far from healthy rosters, which takes some of the glow out of the festivities.  Toronto will of course be without the services of Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell (all our indefinitely), as well as possibly Matt Thomas still.

Boston counters with their own list of walking wounded, with injuries to Vincent Poirier and Robert Williams.  They may also be without the services of Gordon Hayward (day-to-day) and Marcus Smart (unlikely).

With a 16-0 record against losing teams the Raptors have made their mark against the dredges of the NBA, doing exactly what successful teams should do.  Unfortunately their record against teams with above .500 records (5-9 after Monday’s overtime loss to Indiana) needs improvement.  Boston on the other hand has a record of 7-6 against winning teams.

And if things don’t work out well today than we all switch to Festivus and air our grievances.  The cycle will be complete.




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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job

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The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

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NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon

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The NHL has asked the Canadian government for a decision by June 1 about U.S. teams crossing the border during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN reported Friday.

 

The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.

 

“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”

 

Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.

 

Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.

 

The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.

 

In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

 

An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.

 

–Field Level Media

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.

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As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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