TORONTO – Down 26 points with 43 seconds left in the third quarter to the Dallas Mavericks Sunday afternoon in a game that saw them trailing by as many as 30, Malcolm Miller checked in for the Toronto Raptors.
Miller replaced OG Anunoby – who struggled Sunday, going 3-for-8 from the field for six points and a team-worst minus-27 on the day – took his spot in the bottom left hash marks and watched as Canadian Dwight Powell converted his second free throw attempt to pump the Mavericks’ lead to 27.
On the floor for the Raptors for what appeared to be a ceremonial free-throw of death for Toronto at the time was Miller, Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher.
An extreme case of the vaunted Lowry-and-the-bench lineups of the yore, this appeared to be something that Nurse would throw out at the end of the quarter and then likely wave the white flag in the fourth as the Raptors were scheduled to play in Indiana Monday on the second night of a back-to-back.
Well, that would’ve been the case had it been just about any other team than the Raptors.
“I would say we have always been a team that fights,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “In my time here, we hardly ever mail it in. It’s a good characteristic to have.”
In a sleepy Sunday afternoon game that saw the team shoot 23-of-69 from the field and put up only 63 points through three quarters, those old good Raptors habits kicked into overdrive in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors made the biggest comeback in franchise history, outscoring the Mavericks 47-21 in the fourth and walked away with a miraculous 110-107 victory.
Here’s a closer look at that record-breaking fourth quarter at how, exactly, the Raptors pulled off a pre-Christmas miracle.
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Scrambling, trapping, pressing defence
Thanks to four free throws that Hollis-Jefferson made at the end of the fourth, the Raptors entered the fourth trailing by 23 – obviously not great, but better than before.
But more important than the made free throws from Hollis-Jefferson was what was seen from the Raptors’ defence after each attempt: A now-familiar sight of the Raptors scrambling, trapping and picking up full court to try to speed the Mavericks up, and create turnovers.
This proved to be the blueprint that set in motion the enormous comeback to come in the next quarter, and it was largely thanks to the somewhat patchwork Lowry-and-bench lineup Nurse came upon when Miller replaced Anunoby at the end of the third.
Nurse ended up riding this lineup until 1:37 left in the fourth where, by that time, the Raptors had taken a three-point lead and had all momentum on their side to finish off the job.
“We stayed with it a long time, we probably called it off a little bit early to be honest with you,” said Nurse of the pressing defence and the lineup he was utilizing with it. “There really wasn’t any reason [to stop].”
When you force a team to turn the ball over seven times and hold them to 5-of-19 shooting in a single frame, why would you change what was so clearly working?
Nurse found a solution, and Dallas had no answer for it, ultimately.
”We’re gonna make one charge here at this thing”
Obviously, the results went the Raptors way, but to even get in the mood to attempt the desperation trapping defensive scheme Nurse employed in the fourth still takes a lot of buy-in.
This is a team that clearly doesn’t quit, though, and even as things seemed grim at the end of the third quarter, the spark remained.
“The mood was really bad to start the fourth quarter,” said Nurse. “We were getting our butts kicked. But we just had a little recent success with pressing in Philly down late, so I said, we’re gonna make one charge here at this thing. Let’s air it out for a few minutes and see. We immediately worked and chipped into it.”
Added Lowry: “We were just like, ‘Look we’re going to try.’ Nick threw us the press and everyone just said, ‘Alright let’s do it.’”
This never-say-die attitude from the Raptors was infectious and the Scotiabank Arena crowd definitely appeared to respond to it as you could literally hear the fans get back into the game as early as 1:10 into the fourth quarter.
At that point, the Mavericks called timeout after a Hollis-Jefferson tip-in, and the crowd rose to their feet sensing a comeback in the air despite Toronto cutting the lead to a still sizeable 18 points.
“We were challenging everything they were doing hard, and again, that’s energy, that’s the crowd,” said Nurse.
Added Miller: “It’s excitement. We’re getting stops. We’re getting buckets. We’re moving the ball. Kyle’s going absolutely crazy. Everything felt good. Everything was falling into place. There was a lot of energy from the crowd, energy from the bench and energy on the floor.”
And Boucher, who’s exclamation-point dunk with 25.8 seconds left to give the Raptors the lead once again, essentially iced the game: “I’m definitely going to go watch the game again and see how exciting this game was and how the fans helped us so much, just by cheering with us. We could feel down on the court, how much they wanted us to win this game. It was probably one of the best games I’ve been to, for real.”
Sometimes, all it takes to is a little belief, and momentum will follow.
The other huge reason why the Raptors made this ridiculous comeback was Lowry.
Like Miller said, he went “absolutely crazy” finishing with 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting, including 20 in the final frame, going 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range.
It was Lowry’s heroic shot-making that made Nurse’s defensive scheme work the way it did and, as a bonus, it was a lot of fun for the other Raptors to see him turn the clock back a bit to his older, more dominant days.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it,” said Nurse.
“All he said was ‘keep pushing,’” said Boucher. “He led us the right way, put us in great spots. Kyle does that every time. Even when people don’t see it. Kyle’s a great leader.”
“I mean, he’s a vet, he’s a 14-year pro and that’s what he does,” added Davis.
“Kyle is an elite player and a champion,” said Miller. “He knows what it takes to win, and he knows his game well. He’s willing to step up and hit those big shots.”
For Lowry, however, the comeback wasn’t about his own individual brilliance, it was always about the guys around him.
“I didn’t do it,” Lowry said. “We had a great team effort. Malcolm, Terence Davis, Rondae and Chris Boucher. I give them all the credit today.”
A class act to the end, the man whose nickname puts him “over everything,” put everyone else over himself.
Canucks’ Myers ejected after hit to head on Canadiens’ Armia – Sportsnet.ca
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Canadiens @ Canucks Top Six Minutes: Tyler Toffoli, Canuck killer – Habs Eyes on the Prize
For our new readers and members, the Top Six Minutes is a continuation of the discussion in the game thread. We try to keep it light and entertaining. Full recaps are up the morning after every game.
The finer points of hockey, when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, boils down to staying out of the box. They’re not very good at doing that. You do that, you go to the box… Two minutes by yourself, and you feel shame. And then you get free.
Let’s see if they can stay free more often than not tonight.
**SPOILER ALERT** NOBODY STAYS FREE TONIGHT.
- Jake Allen back between the pipes. I’ve seen some people suggesting that if he has a few more solid games there could be a goaltending controversy in Montreal.
- Maybe, maybe not, maybe shut up.
- There should be zero controversy about the following statement: Tyler Toffoli, so hot right now. 1-0 good guys
- Scratch the goalie controversy I guess… Tyler Myers. 1-1.
- If you thought that the teams would tighten up and play some defense after last night’s barn burner, THINK AGAIN YOU FOOL. BARN BURNERS. ALWAYS.
- Aaaaaaand we have an absolute joke of a penalty against Jonathan Drouin. I guess this is just a carbon copy of last night, brutal officiating and all.
- Step 1: take penalty. Step 2: Step 3: Joel Armia scores. 2-1
- Oh hey, another complete bullshit penalty against Montreal. Come on guys, it isn’t funny anymore.
- This time Vancouver does the scoring, which I assume is what the refs wanted all along. 2-2.
- Wait, a penalty being called against Vancouver, IN Vancouver? What is this sorcery?
- Montreal does not score and I will also blame that on the refs because I can.
- Another penalty against Vancouver, in Vancouver? I thought these refs were just last night’s refs in disguise but maybe I’m just an idiot.
- Montreal didn’t score on that one either so maybe it is the same jerk Zebras.
- Joel Edmundson is off to the box to begin the second. I’m not so sure these refs are Habs hunting anymore, I think they just like hearing their own voices over the PA.
- TYLER TOFFOLI. SHORT HANDED. 3-2 GOOD GUYS
- I don’t know what has gotten into Toffoli, but I like it. So. Hot. Right. Now.
- A penalty to Vancouver…
- A penalty to Nick Suzuki…
- At this rate we’ll be lucky to see more than 10 minutes of 5 on 5 hockey from here on out.
- The refs know that nobody paid to see them right?
- Wow, that was like almost four minutes before the ref just had to call a ticky tack trip on the Habs. This time it’s Phillip Danault.
- That is not a penalty. In no universe where hockey exists and is played by people with brains is that something you go to the box for. Except for this stupid game.
- Myers to the box again for Vancouver… I’d honestly like to decline it on behalf of all fans that would like these refs to chill out a little.
- This might be the longest 5 on 5 stretch of the entire game after the Myers penalty ended. It’s nice.
- JOSH ANDERSON!! 4-2
- JAKE EVANS!!!!!!!!! 5-2
- Now you will understand why I wanted to see the 5 on 5 so badly. Montreal is better at that than they are at penalty festivals.
- Joel Armia just deked around like 7 players at once including two of his teammates. 6-2 BUT WAIT, WE HAVE A CHALLENGE.
- The goal stands. Now we get to add yet another penalty to the score sheet, and this one I can’t blame on the refs.
- Given a 6-2 lead, I expect the Canadiens to be penalized anywhere from five to 73 times in the final frame.
- Well Brandon Sutter scored. I’ll be honest, I forgot he was even in the NHL still. Why does it feel like he always scores on the Habs?
- There have been no penalties and we’re over five minutes into the period. I assume the refs are from the East and like myself, they’re ready for bed.
- It’s either that or they’ve blown their whistles out and are too embarrassed to leave and get new ones.
- Paul Byron just got absolutely drilled on the foot by a shot. Please Lord, don’t take Lord Byron from us.
- He’s back on the bench. Fast Healing powers brought to you by the stores of Max Pacioretty’s blood that the Canadiens still keep on hand at all times.
- The first penalty of the period comes with 5 minutes to play, and is against the team losing 6-3. Can’t say that’s anything near what I expected from this officiating crew.
- Well, Tyler Myers just threw a completely gutless, pointless hit on Joel Armia. In a 6-3 loss with nothing to gain on either side, in the final minutes.
- I hope Tyler Myers is forced at gunpoint to walk barefoot through a hallway lined wall to wall with legos. Sharp ones. Then, and only then, do I hope the NHL suspends him. What a coward.
- Hope he enjoyed losing 6-3, that giant coward.
- Make that 7-3, just for you, you gangly Pterodactyl looking piece of shit.
- Habs win, Tyler Myers ruined my night, and I hope the Habs feed this team on Saturday night.
EOTP 3 Stars of the night
3) Practice makes perfect.
2) The hockey gods thou
ght it was so funny they decided to run it back.
1) I have assessed both Lats and Hab at Heart a penalty for merely discussing this.
And bonus stars for the good doggos:
Stu Cowan: Canadiens newcomer Tyler Toffoli a true throwback – Montreal Gazette
Article content continued
When the Stars traded Ryder back to the Canadiens during the 2012-13 season, Brendan Gallagher became one of his teammates. I also asked Gallagher Thursday if he sees similarities to Ryder.
“They’re definitely very similar,” Gallagher said. “The way they play the game, even their skating stride, their shots. It’s kind of eerie. I definitely see the similarities, for sure.”
Which brings us back to the third player to wear No. 73 for the Canadiens — and it’s a good trivia question to ask your friends.
The answer: Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher wore No. 11 in junior with the Vancouver Giants and remains that franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 136-144-280 totals in 244 games. When he first joined the Canadiens for the 2012-13 season after being selected in the fifth round (147th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Gallagher was given No. 73.
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