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NBA All-Star Takeways: Curry, Lillard cook competition with long threes – Sportsnet.ca

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The 2021 NBA All-Star game has come to a close and despite playing in the midst of a global pandemic, the event went ahead mostly without complication.

Cramming the usual weekend’s worth of events into one Sunday extravaganza made for a longer day than usual, but it was still as entertaining as a generally uncompetitive basketball game with the world’s best players is going to get.

Given the fact this was an All-Star Game played while COVID-19 is still very much a large part of all of our lives, here’s a look at 19 things that we felt were pretty cool from the NBA’s truncated all-star celebration.

No Embiid and Simmons

As mentioned off the top, the All-Star Game went by mostly without complication, meaning that there was still some complication.

Case in point, just hours before the festivities were set to begin on Sunday it was revealed that Philadelphia 76ers all-stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons weren’t going to be able to participate anymore because contact tracing revealed they had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 — reportedly their barber.

So, with there being so little time the NBA did the responsible thing and held the two out of the game. A grim reminder before the all-star festivities started that this was still an event that, perhaps, shouldn’t even have played in the first place.

Zion makes some history

There was some good to come about the two Sixers stars missing the event, however.

New Orleans Pelicans super sophomore Zion Williamson got to start in his first-ever All-Star Game, taking Embiid’s place, becoming the fourth-youngest player to do so behind such names as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Magic Johnson. Not bad company.

Williamson finished in the game with 10 points and threw down a few nice slams in the game, but will likely be remembered for his unfortunate blown dunk attempts.

What was James Harden wearing?

Seriously, what is this? An indoor raincoat?

Covington’s all-star moment

A big part of the all-star proceedings was the celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which is why Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington’s inclusion in the all-star events was so cool.

Covington is a proud alumnus of HBCU Tennessee State University and got to show some of his Tiger pride, representing his alma mater in the Skills Challenge.

He was eliminated in the first round, but that’s unimportant compared to the great surprise he gave to two current Tennessee State students before the event started.

Why can’t guards win the Skills Challenge anymore?

Indiana Pacers all-star Domantas Sabonis won the Skills Challenge, beating out fellow big man Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic.

With his victory, Sabonis became the fifth forward to win this particular event in six years. The last guard to win it was Spencer Dinwiddie in 2018.

Sure, bigs are more skilled than ever before, but surely a competition about dribbling fast, passing and shooting should favour the guards, no?

Mike Conley is an NBA All-Star… and a damn good shooter, too

Though it came after unfortunate circumstances forced Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker to miss the All-Star Game with a knee injury, Mike Conley — his injury replacement — was finally named to the team in his 14th NBA season.

Conley was quiet in the game proper, but that doesn’t matter because his impact was felt beforehand in the three-point contest.

Brought in as Booker’s replacement in that event too, Conley more than held his own as he pushed eventual winner Steph Curry in both rounds.

Chef Curry cooked the competition in the three-point contest

Stephen Curry is an inhuman shooter.

It’s a privilege to watch him do what he does.

Needed more Common

The HBCU marching bands in the player introductions were cool, but the meme-worthy intros from Common from a year ago were missed, particularly because he was still part of the presentation anyway.

The anthems were both fantastic

Shoutouts to Mississauga, Ont.’s Alessia Cara and the incomparable Gladys Knight for two tremendous renditions of O Canada and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Chef Curry cooked in the actual game itself

Curry had his fingerprints all over the game as he finished with 28 points, going 8-for-16 from deep, including a couple of truly outrageous triples that helped set the tone of the game for Team LeBron in the first quarter.

Schoolyard tip-off

Moments like seeing Conley and Chris Paul tip-off the second quarter is what makes All-Star Games great.

More Curry? More Curry!

In case you hadn’t noticed, there was a bit of a trend with this year’s game and Curry being involved in a lot of the game’s best moments like this ridiculous shot he hit in the second quarter.

Bet you forgot these guys could dunk, huh?

A reminder for you that all NBA players are freakishly athletic compared to any other normal human being: Seeing Curry and Paul get up for alley-oops.

Steph vs. Dame, Part 1

The two best long-range shooters in NBA history on the same team deciding to go shot for shot at the end of the first half was truly a sight to behold.

Cassius Stanley was robbed!

Halftime of the All-Star Game saw a shorter dunk contest with Indiana Pacers G-Leaguer Cassius Stanley, New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin and Portland Trail Blazers youngster Anfernee Simons making up the three-man field.

The dunk contest was actually pretty good as all these guys have serious bounce, but Stanley was robbed blind with his opening dunk only getting a 44 as it was probably the best dunk of the night.

In the end, though, Simons won thanks to his consistency and his gravity-defying bounce that notably saw him nearly kiss the rim on his final attempt, in addition to paying homage to the great Tracy McGrady.

And just one last note on the dunk contest, this dunk from Toppin — doing a windmill over his teammate Julius Randle and his dad — was cool as hell!

Giannis takes over in the third quarter

Because of Curry’s fireworks in the first half the outrageous performance from his Team LeBron teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo sort of went under the radar.

Antetokounmpo finished the first half with 24 points on perfect 9-for-9 shooting, firmly putting himself in the MVP discussion.

Then the third quarter hit and he won the award for himself right then and there as he went 5-for-5 from the field for 11 more points, including this insane heat-check three.

Antetokounmpo finished a perfect 16-for-16 in the game for 35 points and was able to easily add an All-Star Game MVP trophy to the two league MVP awards that he has in his trophy case.

Steph vs. Dame, Part 2

Unlike last year’s Elam Ending in the fourth, the lead Team LeBron built was simply too much, leaving a lot of wiggle room for those guys to try to close it out.

Case in point with Team LeBron just three points away from hitting the target score of 170, Curry tried to end it from half court, but missed, setting the stage for some patented Damian Lillard Dame Time.

Team LeBron completely dominant

Though there were some bright spots to be seen from Team Durant, Sunday’s game was all about Team LeBron, who won every single quarter and ended up raising $750,000 for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund from their play on the court in the game, alone.

As Antetokounmpo said before the game, “It’s over guys. Me, LeBron, Luka, Jokic and Steph? Man, that’s a good starting five.”

LeBron is a really good all-star GM

LeBron James has had the honour of being a captain every year since the All-Star Game went to a captain pick-em format and he’s made the most of it.

Team LeBron is now 4-0 in All-Star Games.

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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