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Gameday: Wizards @ Raptors, Dec. 20 – Raptors Republic

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Shortly after losing some of their potent offensive options, the Raptors will have to gear up to play the Wizards from Washington, who have used some sort of magic and wizardry to conjure up one of the NBA’s best offenses. For the fans who have been around for awhile, this Wizards team should remind you a little bit of the last year of Jay Triano as coach of the Toronto Raptors. A whole lot of offense, and very little defense.

There isn’t a Wizard operating as the Jose Calderon of the team, but they rely heavily on the talents of Bradley Beal to lead them into the fray game in and game out. Beal has foregone all of the defensive potential he flashed as a young guard coming into the league to supercharge his offensive output, and the Wizards have taken to that style of play themselves. Their offense is a sight to see, the ball flings around the horn with abandon, as their trio of guards (Beal, Isaiah Thomas, Ish Smith) create tons of defensive penetration and sharpshooters like Davis Bertans shape up off of those drives, sliding into open 3-point shots.

It’s a unique offensive performance, and one that the Raptors could have some trouble keeping up with as they’ve been dealt another blow with injuries. But, this is also a game the Raptors should definitely win, they’re a much, much better team. The question is whether they plan to play the Wizards up-tempo game and send this thing into the 120’s or if they plan to roll out their stout defense and put a stop to all of the Wizards robust scoring.

With the Wizards relying so much on Beal’s creation, he’s hit a bit of a wall this season as he’s shooting under 40-percent from the field in his past 9 games and below 30-percent from downtown. The Wizards obviously want Beal to keep commanding so much of the offense, but few players outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden can actually handle usage rates north of 30-percent and maintain their efficiency.

Keeping a handle on Bertans and suppressing his shot total seems to be a reliable way to slow down the Wizards offense at times. He’s the go-to release valve of the offense outside of Beal, and he’s elevated himself to a top-3 shooter in the NBA in the wake of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s injuries. He’s a heat-pump, and the Raptors have to make sure that their defense that so often gives up three-pointers isn’t allowing him to be on the end of open looks.

With injuries to Thomas Bryant, Moritz Wagner, and Rui Hachimura this looks like a prime opportunity for Serge Ibaka to camp out in the offensive paint and go to town on the offensive glass. These Wizards are really short on options to deal with the Raptors front-court, and it’s more than likely that, that’s where the Raptors will win this game.

This could also potentially be a big Chris Boucher game, so keep an eye out for that. A weak rebounding team that plays fast? Sounds like a stuffed stat sheet from Boucher.

Game Info

Tipoff: 740pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050

Raptors Updates

Marc Gasol (hamstring) is out, Pascal Siakam (groin) is out, Norman Powell (shoulder) is out, Stanley Johnson (groin) is out, Fred VanVleet (knee) is a game-time decision, and Matt Thomas (finger) is out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis II

SG: Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw

SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller

PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

C: Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher

Wizards Updates

Thomas Bryant (foot) is out, John Wall (heel) is out, Rui Hachimura (groin) is out, Moritz Wagner (ankle) is doubtful, CJ Miles (wrist) is out.

PG: Isaiah Thomas, Ish Smith

SG: Bradley Beal, Jordan McRae, Justin Robinson, Garrison Matthews

SF: Troy Brown Jr., Isaac Bonga, Admiral Schofield

PF: Davis Bertans

C: Ian Mahinmi, Anzejs Pasecniks

Have a blessed day.




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Winter’s Coming. Will Canada’s Pandemic Bicycle Boom Last? – The New York Times

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Since 1992, July for me has often meant spending three weeks driving thousands of kilometers to report on the cyclists competing in the Tour de France.

Credit…Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA, via Shutterstock

So even though I’m not there this year, it has still taken a bit of adjustment to deal with the tour being in September. Delayed and being held under special pandemic protocols, the race is nevertheless going on as coronavirus cases spike in France. Indeed, Nice was declared an infection red zone just as it was about to host the opening stages.

[Read: Masks in Place, the Tour de France Puts On a Brave Face]

Within the race, it looks as if the protocols have more or less worked. No team has had two positive tests, which would have forced it to withdraw. Although there has been a sprinkling of positives, including one from Christian Prudhomme, the race director.

[Read: A Relieved Tour de France Has the Finish in Sight]

While I’m not in France to experience the tour, another development in the world of cycling — a local one — has helped offset my disappointment. Canadians have gone crazy about cycling.

I don’t just write about cycling. As a low-performance athlete, I usually spend my summers putting in dismal results in time trials, races against the clock, and preparing for cyclocross, the end-of-season racing that mixes in some running and nearly every possible riding surface on its circuits, including deep mud and smooth tarmac. Lately, when I’ve been riding outdoors, I’ve been doing it with a lot more people.

Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times

By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu.

[Read: Sorry, the World’s Biggest Bike Maker Can’t Help You Buy a Bike Right Now]

In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.

Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.

The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?

To get some sense of what’s to come and how cities might keep cycling fever going, I spoke with Beth Savan, a senior lecturer and adjunct professor in the geography and planning department of the University of Toronto. Dr. Savan was the main investigator in a study published last year by researchers at her university, along with others at McGill University and Simon Fraser University, about how to increase cycling in Canada.

Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times

She said she was encouraged that people rushed out to buy new bikes rather than dust off old ones because it suggests that they may be more invested in sticking with cycling. She also noted that this is the first bicycle boom since the advent of the e-bike. (Gretchen Reynolds recently reported on studies looking at whether electrically assisted bikes are safe and if they actually provide good exercise.)

Dr. Savan has also noticed in recent months that the lines between recreational and transportation uses of bikes are blurring, another sign that the national interest in cycling might persist.

“People will now take a nice route to go on their errands to get some exercise or some pleasure along the way,” she said. “It’s kind of a new situation.”

Augmenting that effect has been the large number of people working from home who are now also largely shopping within their neighborhoods. Many of those people, she said, have discovered that bicycles are more effective than cars for those short trips.

For the winter, Dr. Savan said that Canadian cities should think about adopting the model of some places in Scandinavia, where sidewalks are cleared first, then bike paths and finally roads. Her group’s study, by the way, shows that winter cycling before the pandemic was strong in many places that bore the full brunt of the season.

Dr. Savan urged local government to view their current cycling accommodations as pilot projects to cycling rather than as temporary pandemic measures.

“To try and engineer lower a lower proportion of trips undertaken by car, that’s really where the challenge is,” she said. “As people start to feel more confident about going back to work in indoor spaces, they will be tempted to drive more.”


Credit…Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to nytcanada@nytimes.com.

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Novak Djokovic damages racket in fit of anger during Italian Open quarter-finals – CBC.ca

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Less than two weeks after getting defaulted from the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic lost his cool again midway through a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the Italian Open quarter-finals Saturday.

When Djokovic was broken at love to even the second set at 3-3, he slammed his racket to the red clay in anger in Rome.

With the frame broken and the strings all mangled, Djokovic was forced to get a new racket and received a warning from the chair umpire.

“It’s not the first nor the last racket that I’ll break in my career,” Djokovic said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again. I don’t want to do it but when it comes, it happens.

“That’s how, I guess, I release sometimes my anger and it’s definitely not the best message out there, especially for the young tennis players looking at me, and I don’t encourage that — definitely.”

WATCH | Djokovic loses his temper yet again:

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was angry after being broken at love during the 2nd set but would go on to defeat German qualifier Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the Italian Open quarter-finals. 0:34

The top-ranked Djokovic had said Monday that he learned “a big lesson” after he was thrown out of the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball in a fit of anger. Djokovic also acknowledged then “that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.”

At the Foro Italico, Djokovic had already appeared frustrated during the game before he broke his racket, glaring toward the umpire following a couple of overrules and a point that was ordered to be replayed.

“That’s just me,” Djokovic said. “Of course I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best.”

WATCH | Novak Djokovic hits line judge with ball at U.S. Open:

Novak Djokovic’s U.S. Open was cut short after he hit a line judge with a discarded tennis ball during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreño Busta. 4:17

Ruud 1st Norwegian to reach semis of Masters 1000 tourney

The 97th-ranked Koepfer, who screamed at himself in frustration throughout the match, was also warned for misbehaviour early in the third set.

Aiming for his fifth title in Rome, Djokovic’s semifinal opponent will be Casper Ruud, who eliminated local favourite Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted two hours 57 minutes.

Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach the semifinals of a Masters 1000 tournament. His father, Christian Ruud, got as far as the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters in 1997.

Shapovalov into semis

The other semifinal will feature No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., against No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Shapovalov edged No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, while Schwartzman upset clay court specialist and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5.

WATCH | Shapovalov’s 100th win sends him into semis:

21-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill earns his 100th career ATP tour-level win by beating  Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.  2:23

While fans have not been admitted to the tournament yet — Italy’s sports minister said Friday that 1,000 spectators will be allowed in for the semifinals and finals — workers, family members and other onlookers inside the picturesque Pietrangeli stadium provided some support for Berrettini, who is from Rome.

Nicola Pietrangeli, the 1957 and 1961 Rome champion and the man the stadium is named after, was also among those sitting on the white marble stands.

“There would have been a lot more adrenaline with fans,” Berrettini said.

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NBA Playoffs 2020: The Boston Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever – NBA CA

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8h ago


Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics could be up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals just as easily as they are down 2-0.

Blowing double-digit leads in each of the first two games of the series, the Miami Heat have out-hustled the Celtics for 48 (and some change) minutes in back-to-back games to give themselves a commanding lead.

With Boston on the brink of the infamous 3-0 deficit that no NBA team has ever come back from, Game 3 becomes a must-win if the Celtics are going to continue their push for their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

There’s been a common thread in Games 1 and 2 (aside from the double-digit comebacks) that have placed Boston in this situation: Miami’s 2-3 zone defence. Our Scott Rafferty analyzed that issue in detail, and it’s been a glaring weakness for Boston’s offence all season.

But luckily for the Celtics, they still haven’t used all the cards up their sleeve. They still have a weapon stored away that could present itself at any moment now, as former All-Star forward Gordon Hayward‘s return is on the horizon.

https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/NBA_Global_CMS_image_storage/fa/57/brown-hayward-ftrjpg_1nnap1z3ortjr1dinz8y8cfwxl.jpg?t=1390428030&w=500

Hayward, who suffered an ankle injury in the Celtics’ first game of the postseason and has been out since, was upgraded to “doubtful” before Game 2. While that wasn’t much of an update, it showed he was getting closer to returning to the floor. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss confirmed that following Thursday’s loss, stating that Hayward is “progressing toward a return for Game 3,” adding that he felt good after Wednesday’s practice and will “get more on-court work Friday with the hope of playing Saturday.”

On Friday, he was officially listed by the team as “questionable” for Game 3.

It will surely take some time for Hayward to get back into the flow of things after missing one month of action, but he immediately helps Boston take steps toward breaking that impenetrable zone defence.

His 19.0 points per game in the bubble speaks for itself, giving the Celtics an extra scoring threat that the Heat will have to worry about. He can shoot from the perimeter (converting 38.3% of his 3s this season), he’s a solid slasher with the ball and cutter without the ball, and he’s a strong midrange shooter, pairing well with sharp playmaking skills that should help dissect that zone.

Most importantly, Hayward loves working in the soft spot of the 2-3 zone (right at the foul line), which should give Miami’s defence more trouble than its seen thus far.

https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/NBA_Global_CMS_image_storage/eb/42/shotchart-4png_kyt48ogz4yd0161k9got88xdi.png?t=-1561273676&w=500

In Games 1 and 2, the Celtics elected to go with Marcus Smart or Daniel Theis to try and pierce the heart of that zone. Smart’s passing makes him an OK option for that middle spot, but he’s better off on the perimeter, where he’s converting 42.1% of his 3s this series. The Heat will live with him or Theis taking that midrange pull-up, whereas it becomes a much more efficient source of offence for Boston with Hayward taking that shot.

According to NBA Stats, Hayward shot 49.3% on midrange jumpers and 43.4% on shots in the paint (non-restricted area) this season. Having him in the middle will prevent the zone’s two defenders up top from expanding so far out, shrinking that long and athletic defence even just a tad bit more.

The Heat will be forced to collapse on Hayward, where he can showcase his playmaking ability to find open shooters on the perimeter. That makes Miami much more reliant on perfect and quick rotations to challenge Boston’s 3-point shooters.

If the Heat’s defenders don’t collapse on him or the centre (typically Bam Adebayo) doesn’t take a step up, Hayward will gladly take looks like the one below over and over again.

Even though he misses that particular jumper, it’s a shot Miami is much less likely to live with compared to Smart or Theis pulling up from there. Even when Hayward attacks from the perimeter, he has no problem stopping short of that centre defender for little pull-up jumpers like this one against the Heat earlier this season:

The Celtics have been dependent on quick passes for (often contested) 3-pointers, which has also developed into bad decisions for live ball turnovers or long rebounds going the other way to spark Miami runs off of offensive droughts. Having someone that can hit shots like the ones above makes that zone defence much more vulnerable than it has been so far.

Hayward’s return wouldn’t just be a luxury for the Celtics, it’s essential for them to keep their season alive in trying to even the series.

The Celtics need Gordon Hayward now more than ever if their title pursuit is going to continue.

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