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Matt Thomas establishing himself as Toronto Raptors' secret weapon – TSN



TORONTO – Given all of the challenges that the Raptors present to opposing defences, it’s hard to imagine that sparingly used guard Matt Thomas was featured heavily in Milwaukee’s scouting report going into Tuesday’s battle of Eastern Conference titans.

If you’re game planning for Toronto, you’re almost certainly starting with the team’s budding superstar Pascal Siakam. From there, you’re worrying about Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka, and so on – they’re one of the deepest clubs in the NBA.

But Thomas? The 25-year-old rookie is averaging just 10.3 minutes per contest and has sat out of more games than he’s played in this season. His role has fluctuated, he’s bounced in and out of Nick Nurse’s rotation, and he missed significant time with a fractured finger.

You can understand how he would have evaded the Bucks’ radar, but his name is one they’re unlikely to forget after his brief, but impactful, stint in the first half of Milwaukee’s 108-97 victory in Toronto.

Thomas checked in to begin the second quarter. After picking up a couple quick fouls, the Raptors’ sharpshooter came off a good screen set by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to drill his first jumper, a three-pointer from the elbow. On the next possession, Lowry found Thomas open in transition and he hit another, forcing Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to call a timeout.

Clearly a topic of conversation in the huddle, the Bucks had a defender draped all over Thomas, but after using a screen from Chris Boucher a minute later, he drilled his third consecutive three. Toronto’s lead, which was two points when Thomas entered the game, grew to nine after that bucket and was as large as 12 in the quarter before Milwaukee seized momentum going into the halftime break.

“I think my minutes have been so up and down that I probably miss [coming up on] the scouting reports of some of the teams we’re playing,” said Thomas, following Toronto’s Thursday morning practice. “But as games go on, especially against Milwaukee, they defend me differently in the second half than they did in the first half. I’m sure that may continue to ramp up as the season goes on and obviously in the playoffs.”

Undrafted out of Iowa State in 2017, Thomas spent a couple seasons playing in Spain, where he became known as one of the best shooters outside of the NBA. He finally got his opportunity in the league when the Raptors signed him over the summer, and his most lauded skill has certainly translated.

Through 27 games, Thomas is shooting 34-for-66 from beyond the arc and leads the NBA in three-point percentage (52 per cent) among players that have attempted at least 50 treys.

Thomas on his game: ‘Shooters need to have a different mindset’

Nick Nurse spoke after shoot-around today about just how much Matt Thomas has improved as a player since he’s arrived in Toronto, both as a shooting threat and on the defensive side of the ball. Thomas himself spoke about what he has done to work on his game and how he feels about his usage.

While opposing teams may not be spending time preparing for him directly, most of them know what he’s looking to do – and what Nurse wants him to do – when he comes into a game. He’s out there to stretch the floor. He’s out there to shoot. Generally, that means those shots aren’t going to come easy. Teams will face-guard him and make sure he doesn’t have much time or space to square up and release the ball.

“They certainly know,” Nurse said. “Sometimes a guy will come in that hasn’t played in forever and the guys are immediately asking, ‘Hey, we didn’t cover this guy in the scouting. Who is he? What’s he do?’ And you’re saying, ‘Shooter, you got to press up on him.’ They’re going to get some information on him.”

He’s made the adjustment, though. Nurse compares him to veteran shooter J.J. Redick in the way he’s learned to move without the ball, come off screens, find separation and get the shot off.

A natural shooter, Thomas doesn’t have a strict regimen in terms of the number of jumpers he fires up per day, like some guys do. He doesn’t count them. Instead, he “listens to [his] body” and goes by feel. Some days that means getting up more shots, some days it’s less. 

Even as word is starting to spread around the league – he can shoot the hell out of the ball – Thomas doesn’t want to be typecast. He’s shown that he can capably put the ball on the floor and pull up from mid-range when his defender closes out.

But, more than anything else, he’s tried to prove himself on the defensive end. That was the knock on him coming into the league and the big question entering his rookie campaign: could he guard his position well enough to stay on the floor? It’s something he’s worked hard on throughout the year, especially when he was out with the finger injury and couldn’t shoot.

“I’ve always had the ability to make shots, and all the footwork and flying off screens,” Thomas said. “I’ve done that stuff for a number of years. Defence, I still have a lot of room to improve and I know that and I’m going to continue to work on that side of the floor. But I think I’ve made good strides this year in that area.”

“I don’t really notice him being a big problem [on the defensive end],” said Nurse. “He plays great team defence, he plays hard, he’s not afraid to go up and challenge and pressure the ball. That’s what we’ve wanted him to do, so he’s been good. They try to go at him a bit and I haven’t really noticed it being a big problem.”

Sometimes Thomas will ask a teammate to play one-on-one after practice to help him work on his defence. He also watches plenty of film. But there’s another important part of his routine that he brings up: meditation.

“I need to be more consistent, but it’s one thing I try to do in the morning,” he said. “It helps me with my clarity and my decision-making. I feel like my interactions with people are better and how I feel about my day when I’m in tune with myself.”

How much has Thomas’ role fluctuated this season? Just take the last six games, for instance. With the team undermanned, he’s gotten a chance to play in each of them – his longest stretch of consecutive appearances since November. However, in three of those contests he logged fewer than three minutes, with all of his run coming in garbage time. In the other three, he totalled 41 points in 49 minutes, shooting a remarkable 11-for-16 from three-point range.

On Thursday, Nurse indicated that Thomas’ recent play should earn him more time. Although, it could be difficult to find him minutes with a couple players at his position nearing a return from injury. Patrick McCaw, who has been out with an illness, is expected back on Friday when Toronto hosts the Charlotte Hornets, and Norman Powell, who’s missed the last month with a broken finger, shouldn’t be far behind (he’s listed as questionable for Friday’s game).

At full strength, Thomas probably slots in as the Raptors’ 11th or 12th man, but Nurse has shown a willingness to tinker with his rotation and keep things fluid, especially when somebody is performing well enough to force his hand. Thomas’ role will likely continue to be situational. Still, as the season rolls on and even going into the playoffs, having one of the best shooters in the world sitting on your bench, ready to come in and potentially shift the momentum of a game at a moment’s notice, is a pretty nice luxury.

“I said it when I first got here – I’m open to anything,” Thomas said. “I’m just here to help this team win. Whether I’m on the bench supporting and waving a towel and cheering guys on, or I’m on the court competing and trying to knock down shots and defend. Whatever my role is that day, I’ll make sure I’m ready to contribute.”​

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Jays (Finally) Win One – Bluebird Banter



Jays 6 Orioles 1

It is about time.

This is just a space holder for the recap, my tennis went long.

Ross Stripling was amazing. Just 1 hit allowed in 6.1. He threw 72 pitches and was in control.

And the offence finally broke through for 6 runs in the 8th (imagine the Hallaluah chorus playing here). And George Springer got his 1000th hit.

Life is good again.

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Here are the Raptors games you don’t want to miss in the 2022-23 season –



The Toronto Raptors will open their 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 19 at Scotiabank Arena. Their regular season will conclude on April 9 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are some things to highlight in the Raptors’ schedule this season.

Facing off against familiar foes

As has become customary, former beloved Raptors — especially those from the 2019 championship team — are likely to receive heroes’ welcomes upon their return to Toronto. If you’re looking to join in on the festivities, here’s a list of notable players and their arrivals back at Scotiabank Arena:

Demar DeRozan: In his second season with the Chicago Bulls, DeRozan is scheduled to pay two visits to Toronto: First on Nov. 6, and then on Feb. 28.

Serge Ibaka: Now with the Milwaukee Bucks, Ibaka is slated to return to Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 4 and the season finale on April 9.

Kawhi Leonard: The 2019 Finals MVP missed all of last season recovering from a partial tear in his right knee. He will, hopefully, be available when his Los Angeles Clippers come to town on Dec. 27.

Kyle Lowry: The return to Toronto for perhaps the most beloved Raptor of all time, and his Miami Heat, will be on Nov. 16 and March 28.

Norman Powell: Now a member of the Clippers, Powell will be accompanying Leonard when Los Angeles visits Toronto on Dec. 27.

Jonas Valanciunas: The well-liked New Orleans Pelicans centre and his team will be visiting on Feb. 23.

January could prove to be a pivotal month

Looking at each individual month of the schedule, January stands out since it features both the longest homestand the team will enjoy as well as the start of its longest road trip.

For six games and 11 days between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, the Raptors will play in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena as they look to kick off the new year with some wind in their sails. The Raptors will face Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Charlotte twice (but not on a back-to-back) and then Atlanta during that period.

Beginning on Jan. 25 and then lasting seven games and 12 days until Feb. 5, the Raptors will be on their longest road swing of the season with stops in Sacramento, Golden State, Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Memphis.

The contests against Golden State and Portland will be back-to-backs and are one of 12 back-to-back sets the team will play this season (two fewer than last season).

Given the scheduling quirks in January, it could be important month as a means for the Raptors to rack up wins during the homestand and test themselves out on the road still with plenty of runway until the post-season.

Other games of note

Here’s a quick list of other notable games to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23/Dec. 16 — versus Brooklyn: It’s unclear if Kevin Durant will still be a member of the Brooklyn Nets when they make their trips up north, but if he is, that will surely be a scene at Scotiabank Arena.

Nov. 26 — versus Dallas: The NBA’s brightest young star, Luka Doncic, and his Dallas Mavericks are coming to town early in the season. As a bonus, Canadian national team stud Dwight Powell also plays for Dallas.

Dec. 5 — versus Boston: The eighth annual Giants of Africa Game celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.

Dec. 7 — versus Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers make their annual visit to Toronto.

Dec. 18 — versus Golden State: Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors make their only trip to the Six.

Dec. 29 — versus Memphis: Raptors fans will be in for a treat as high-flying point guard Ja Morant will make his only trip to Toronto, but more importantly, Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke will be playing on home soil once again.

Jan. 6/Jan. 22 — versus New York: R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks will be in Toronto in January.

Jan. 8 — versus Portland: Dame time is well and good, but the real attraction with this match is the opportunity to see London, Ont., native Shaedon Sharpe live. The most mysterious pick in the 2022 draft, no one really knows what kind of player he may be.

Feb. 10 — versus Utah: Canada’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Utah Jazz will take on the Raptors in Toronto.

March 14 — versus Denver: Two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and Canadian star guard Jamal Murray will be in town with the Denver Nuggets to take on the Raptors.

March 16 — versus Oklahoma City: A game after hosting Murray, the Raptors will invite in another of Canada’s best in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort when they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

March 22 — versus Indiana: With three Canadians on the Indiana Pacers roster (Oshae Brissett and rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard), this Wednesday night in March should be a special one at Scotiabank Arena.

March 24 — versus Detroit: Canadian veterans Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph feature on this young, exciting Detroit Pistons team, but the storyline that will likely be on Raptors fans’ minds when the Pistons visit will be if Dwane Casey will, once again, get the best of his former team.

U.S. national television games

Lastly, for those who care about this kind of thing, the Raptors announced they will be on U.S. national television four times (twice on ESPN and twice on TNT). Additionally, Toronto will play on NBATV five times this season.

The Raptors will appear on two more U.S. national television games than last season.

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Czechia pulls off major upset over U.S., advances to WJC semifinal vs. Canada –



Czechia completed a 4-2 upset win over the previously unbeaten United States on Wednesday to punch its ticket to the semifinal of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton.

After the United States’ Logan Cooley opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into the game, Czechia responded with three straight tallies to take control of the contest against the defending champs.

Jan Mysak, Petr Hauser, Matyas Sapovaliv and Jiri Kulich all scored for Czechia. Kulich also recorded two assists.

Matthew Berard of the U.S. was assessed a five-minute major and a match penalty for slew-footing early in the third period. Czechia was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.

Later in the third, Czechia’s Stanislav Svozil received a five-minute major and a match penalty of his own after initiating a knee-on-knee hit with Cooley. The third-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft would remain in the game after the collision.

The U.S. capitalized on the man advantage courtesy of Carter Mazur to cut the deficit to 3-2. Kulich would later add an empty netter

Luke Hughes of the U.S. sustained an apparent lower-body injury early in the first period, he would exit the game and return for the start of the second frame.

Czechia is set to play Canada in Thursday’s semifinals. Sweden plays Finland in the other semi.

Czechia, which hasn’t won a medal at the event since 2005 when it captured bronze, went 1-0-1-2 in the round-robin stage.

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