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Johnson takes four-shot lead into Masters final round

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“I’m going to need to go out and play a really good round of golf if I want to win tomorrow.”

In other words, he’s not counting his chickens. No one knows better than he does how much can happen over the course of a single round of golf. The man with 23 PGA TOUR wins, including one major (2016 U.S. Open), has proven just as fallible as the next guy.

Or more so, at times. At the 2017 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Johnson shot 77 and became the second in TOUR history to lose a six-shot 54-hole lead.

This is the fifth time he has held the 54-hole lead/co-lead at a major. He’s 0 for 4. Three of those were U.S. Opens, the most unforgettable of which was in 2010 at Pebble Beach, where he lost his three-shot lead with a second-hole triple bogey, shot 82, and finished a distant T8.

More recently, Johnson took the lead into the final round of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in August, and while he shot 68, he lost to Collin Morikawa (64) by two.

Some of the losses are inevitable; no one puts himself in contention as much as Johnson, the reigning FedExCup champion. And it’s monumentally difficult to win on TOUR.

“I put myself in the situation a lot of times,” he said. “I know what it takes. I know how I respond in this situation. I’m very comfortable with having the lead going into tomorrow.”

After playing soft and relatively slow for the first 36 holes, the course sped up under sunny skies in round three. Rory McIlroy (67, 8 under) three-putted the 13th hole from just nine feet. Sunday won’t be easy, and Johnson, who grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, about an hour away, knows perfectly well the mystique around winning the Masters.

He has paid his dues, with four top-10 finishes here in the last five years. The other year? That was 2017, when he slipped on some stairs and hurt himself before reluctantly withdrawing.

He ranks 27th all-time with 23 TOUR wins and would tie Gary Player with one more. Johnson would be the first world No. 1 to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002, and the eighth player to win it after finishing second the prior year.

He has dialed in his distance control with his wedges (he leads the field in greens in regulation at just over 87%), still crushes it off the tee (sixth in driving distance this week), and has kept his nerve on the greens (just one three-putt so far) with reads from his brother/caddie Austin.

Heck, Johnson even got a putting lesson from Norman himself.

“It’s definitely still a long way to go,” he said before driving back to his rental house, where he said he planned to eat dinner and spend a low-key evening with Paulina and the kids. “Still got 18 more holes left. But I mean, it would mean a lot. What a great event; it’s the Masters, a major. I grew up right down the road, so this one would be very special to me.”

Source: – pgatour.com

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NBA releases first half of 2020-21 schedule; Raptors tip off vs. Pelicans – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA released the first half of its schedule for the 2020-21 season on Friday, which will be split up by an all-star break that takes place March 5-10.

The new campaign gets underway on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

The Toronto Raptors will tip off their season against the New Orleans Pelicans in Tampa on Dec. 23.

Toronto will have four of its games nationally televised in the U.S. (Feb. 5 at Brooklyn, ESPN; Feb. 18 at Milwaukee, TNT; Feb. 24 at Miami, ESPN; March 4 at Boston, TNT) and three of them on NBA TV (Jan. 2 at New Orleans, Jan. 16 vs. Charlotte, Jan. 24 at Indiana). They will also play three back-to-backs in the crunched schedule and will have a particularly arduous three-game stretch against the Philadelphia 76ers (twice) and the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in late February.

Below is the Raptors’ first-half schedule in its entirety:

Opening night of the season will feature the Golden State Warriors against the Brooklyn Nets, and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 18), a key date on the league calendar every season, will contain a 10-game slate and feature the Phoenix Suns against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Milwaukee Bucks against the Nets and the Lakers against the Warriors.

Under this season’s 72-game format, each team will play three games against each opponent in its conference (42 total games per team), with each pairing featuring either two home games and one road game or one home game and two road games.

As for the other conference, each team will play two games against each opponent (30 total games per team), with each pairing featuring one home game and one road game.

The second-half schedule of the overall 72-game campaign will be released at a later date, and will include not only the remainder of each team’s contests, but any games that are postponed during the first half that can reasonably be added in.

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Raptors Announce Coaching Staff Changes – Raptors.com

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The Toronto Raptors announced Friday that Chris Finch and Jama Mahlalela (Jah-MAH MAH-la-lay-lah) have been added to Head Coach Nick Nurse’s staff as assistant coaches. In a corresponding move, Patrick Mutumbo will take over as head coach of Raptors 905, replacing Mahlalela. Joining Mutombo in Mississauga from the Raptors staff will also be Brittni Donaldson and John Bennett. Per team policy, financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. 

Finch spent the past three years in New Orleans (2017-20), including last season as Associate Head Coach. He has also served as an assistant coach with Denver (2016-17) and Houston (2011-16). Prior to joining the Rockets, Finch had two successful seasons (2009-11) as head coach with Houston’s G League affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He guided the team to consecutive appearances in the G League Finals and amassed a record of 67-33 (.670). The Vipers captured the 2010 G League Championship and for his efforts Finch was awarded the Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year Award.

Raised in Reading, Pennsylvania, Finch played professionally overseas with the Sheffield Sharks (1993-1997) in the British Basketball League (BBL) before beginning his coaching career with the same team. Under his leadership (1997-2003), the Sharks enjoyed the franchise’s most successful run in team history and Finch was named the BBL Coach of the Year in 1998-99. He coached for 12 seasons in Europe with additional stints in Germany (2003-04) and Belgium (2004-09).

On the international stage, Finch took over a dormant Great Britain National Team in 2006 and captured FIBA’s 2007 Division B Promotional Competition. In 2009, his squad qualified for the European Championships for the first time since 1981 and qualified again in 2011. Finch also led the British National Team in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London where Nurse was one of his assistants. 

Finch graduated in 1992 as a two-time All-American from Franklin & Marshall College, and was inducted into the F&M Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Mahlalela was an assistant coach with the Raptors for five seasons (2014-18) prior to becoming the head coach for Raptors 905 where he accumulated a record of 51-42 (.548) in two seasons. Mahlalela joined the Raptors front office as director of player development, where he served for two seasons before moving to the bench. 

A native of Mbabane, Swaziland, Mahlalela grew up in the Greater Toronto Area. He played collegiately at the University of British Columbia and was as assistant coach at the University of Toronto for four seasons.

Mahlalela started with the Raptors organization on the community development staff in 2006, leading the Raptors Basketball Academy and various clinics throughout Canada. He was named director of basketball operations for NBA Asia in 2009 and oversaw the League’s clinics, youth programs and elite-level development from his base in Hong Kong.

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Raptors 905 announce Mutombo as head coach, Mahlalela to re-join Nurse – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors have hired former New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach Chris Finch and ex-Raptors 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela as assistant coaches for Nick Nurse’s staff.

Raptors assistant coach Patrick Mutumbo will take over as coach of Raptors 905, a G League team.

Raptors assistants Brittni Donaldson and John Bennett also will join the Raptors 905 staff.

Finch spent the past three years in New Orleans. Previously, he was an assistant coach with Denver (2016-17) and Houston (2011-16).

Prior to his time in the NBA, Finch guided Rio Grande to two consecutive appearances in the G League final, including a championship in 2010.

Finch also was head coach of the British men’s national team at the 2012 Olympics, with Nurse serving as one of his assistants.

Mahlalela was an assistant coach with the Raptors for five seasons (2014-18) prior to becoming head coach for Raptors 905 the past two year.

A native of Swaziland, Mahlalela grew up in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Raptors open training camp this weekend in Tampa, Fla.

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