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NBA Playoffs 2020 five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 100, Boston Celtics 93 – RaptorsHQ

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You knew that at some point in this series the Raptors were eventually gonna hit a bunch of threes, right? Three frustrating games of sub-30% shooting finally gave way to a 17-for-44 night, and 10 more made threes than the Celtics, which made the difference in a game where the Celtics shot better overall from the field and hit more free throws than the Raptors.

Before we get to the Game 4 thoughts, I’d like to once again highlight the terrible living conditions Canada has created for our Indigenous people. After years and years of neglect and abuse, Canada’s First Nations now have some of the highest suicide rates in the world, and in fact the leading cause of death for First Nations people under the age of 44 is suicide or self-harm. Our Indigenous people deserve better mental health and wellness support.

You can learn more about this issue in Tanya Talaga’s book and lecture series, All Our Relations; meanwhile, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention remains an invaluable resource for anyone who’s had thoughts of self-harm or is worried about someone who has.

OK, let’s think some thoughts:

1. Kyle Lowry Masterclass 2.0

For the second straight game Kyle Lowry was the best player on the floor, and an absolute joy to watch. It’s almost like he gave Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam two games, and then pulled a Thanos and said “fine, I’ll do it myself.”

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How about some Kyle Lowry Winning Plays (TM) to help you wake up this Sunday morning. First, breaking up an alley-oop for a guy who’s eight inches taller:

Second, the lovely little drop-off for a trailing Pascal Siakam:

Then, diving on the floor after knocking a ball away from Jayson Tatum (and having Tatum land right on those balls of steel):

And let’s not forget the three offensive fouls drawn, including the game-sealing one on Tatum with 32 seconds to go:


NBA Playoffs 2020 five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 100, Boston Celtics 93, Kyle Lowry Winning Play

NBA.com

Lowry also finished with 11 rebounds, tying Serge Ibaka for the game high, and didn’t miss one of his game-high eight free throw attempts.

2. Threes, but Balance Please

So the Raptors finally started to get some threes to fall, which was great… but then maybe fell in love with the shot a little too much, ending up with a series-high 44 attempts.

After they finished 6-of-13 in the first quarter, the second seemed like the ideal time to try and establish an inside presence. Use one to set up the other, right? Instead the Raps shot another 13 threes in the frame, with Pascal Siakam attempting four (and missing all of them).

They course-corrected in the second half (and of course we have to credit the Celtics defense too), so here’s hoping the Raptors can find a better shot balance and shoot an even higher percentage from downtown in Games 5 and 6.

3. Responding to Celtics Small Ball

I’ve expressed my desire to see the Raptors break out the smaller, Siakam-at-centre lineup, and once again I was left hanging — though this time, it wasn’t needed, and Serge Ibaka’s scoring certainly was. I was a bit surprised, though, to see the Celtics use a centre-less lineup for more than six minutes last night, including the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Raptors did their best to take advantage; they went inside on several possessions in that stretch, and got a nice dunk from Ibaka, an offensive rebound from Ibaka, and drives from Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam. Still, the stretch ended even, with both teams scoring 10 points (and the Celtics actually out-rebounding the Raptors by one).

I’m not certain what precipitated Brad Stevens opting to sit both of Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III at once, as both have played well. But if he does it again, I like the Raptors’ chances.

4. Sky High OG

I’ve always been a big fan of OG Anunoby showing us his hops:

NBA Playoffs 2020 five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 100, Boston Celtics 93, OG Anunoby rebound
NBA Playoffs 2020 five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 100, Boston Celtics 93, OG Anunoby rebound

NBA.com

I still think there are more opportunities for Anunoby to make his presence felt on offense in this series. The Celtics have done a better job not shading as far off of Anunoby after his 20-point Game 2, but I still noticed a few plays where VanVleet and Siakam attempted to break down the D, and OG had extra space on the wings, but the ball didn’t find its way to him. I also think there are also some opportunities for cuts to be made when Marc Gasol is on the floor — although again, to Boston’s credit, I noticed Theis crowding Gasol more last night, making it difficult for him to see the floor as well.

5. Hate to Love ‘em

Generally speaking, it’s very easy to hate the Celtics as a franchise, especially when they’re playing against your favourite team. But Jaylen Brown’s activism and leadership heading into and during the Bubble made it very difficult to dislike him, and then Jayson Tatum had to go and do this:

And then Brown gave us a wonderful 4-for-18 shooting performance, including 2-for-11 from downtown! This, following Tatum’s 5-for-18 in Game 3. They’re really trying to make us love them, aren’t they?

(I’d love to give all the credit to the Raptors D here for that poor shooting, and of course they do make things uncomfortable for shooters. But Brown was just way off last night, even when he was wide open.)

We’ve seen the Raptors’ shooting “regress to the norm” in this series, so after a couple of bad shooting performances, I’ll admit I’m worried about the Celtics wings turning things around in Game 5. (Tatum and Kemba Walker remain terrifying whenever they turn the corner on the pick and roll up top, too — it feels like it leads to a score 100% of the time.)

If that happens, at least it’ll be a little easier to dislike them again.

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So, there’s still a lot of series left to be played, and I don’t think the Celtics are going to go down easily. I’m glad this is going (at least) six games, though — I truly wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the 2019-20 Raptors yet.

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Nate Pearson active for Blue Jays vs. Yankees, expected to pitch in relief – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Blue Jays activated right-hander Nate Pearson before Thursday night’s home game against the New York Yankees.

Pearson spent just over a month on the injured list due to right elbow tightness. The 24-year-old rookie, who didn’t record a decision over four starts this season, will most likely serve as a reliever.

“If he comes out and he looks good out of the ‘pen, throwing 98, 97, I wouldn’t mind using him in high leverage,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said on a pre-game video call with reporters. “But he could also open for us if we need him.”

To make room on the roster, the Blue Jays designated reliever Wilmer Font for assignment.

The Blue Jays occasionally use openers, a term for pitchers who start the game but only throw an inning or two.

Toronto entered the finale of the four-game series against the Yankees with a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot. The Blue Jays, who last reached the post-season in 2016, will close out the regular season with a three-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles at Sahlen Field in Buffalo.

Selected 28th overall by Toronto in the 2017 draft, Pearson is considered one of the top prospects in the major leagues. The six-foot-six right-hander can reach 100 m.p.h. with his fastball.

Pearson opened the season on the three-man taxi squad. He spent last year with class-A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo.

His presence would give a boost to an injury riddled bullpen that has been uneven over the last couple weeks.

Closer Ken Giles is out for the season (elbow) while Jordan Romano (finger) of Markham, Ont., and Julian Merryweather (elbow) are on the IL. Rafael Dolis, who has served as closer and a setup man this year, is nursing a tender knee.

Over 16 1/3 innings this season, Pearson had 14 strikeouts, 12 walks and a 6.60 earned-run average.

Romano, who has been making strides in recent days, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday, Montoyo said. Merryweather, meanwhile, remains day to day.

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Steven Stamkos' comeback is something to admire – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Steven Stamkos made a surprising and dramatic return

Before last night, the injured Tampa Bay Lightning star hadn’t played since Feb. 25. That was 210 days, a core-muscle surgery and the declaration of a global pandemic ago. He’d finally started practising with his team again, but Stamkos still seemed very iffy to suit up before the end of the Stanley Cup final. And pretty much no one expected him to for Game 3.

So what a surprise when, about half an hour before puck drop, word arrived that Stamkos was taking warmups. And then he actually played. And then, on his third shift, he burned a Dallas defenceman along the boards, carried the puck in off the wing and zipped one into the top corner to put Tampa up 2-0. It was vintage Stamkos, and maybe the coolest moment of the playoffs. Watch it here as part of Rob Pizzo’s two-minute game recap.

Unfortunately, his comeback didn’t last long. Stamkos played five shifts for a total of 2:47 of ice time before appearing to be in discomfort on the bench and leaving the game. He didn’t play again, but he sat on the bench and took some quick twirls on the ice during stoppages. Tampa didn’t need him anyway: they led 5-1 after two periods and autopiloted to a 5-2 win that gave them a 2-1 series lead over Dallas.

We’re not supposed to glorify playing through pain anymore — as the NHL was reminded this week when it got dragged on social media for posting a (since-deleted) video showing guys blocking shots with the message that the “price” is “worth it.” There’s a dark side to that type of mythology. But there’s also beauty in what Stamkos did last night, sacrificing his personal well-being to help his team accomplish a goal they’ve been working their whole lives toward.

If the Lightning go on to win the Cup, Stamkos will join the pantheon of athletes who made dramatic returns from injury and helped their teams win a championship by playing hurt. Hockey fans who weren’t even alive at the time talk about the Leafs’ Bobby Baun scoring the OT winner in Game 6 of the 1964 Cup final on a broken ankle. Willis Reed is still revered for limping out of the tunnel to help the Knicks win Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Curt Schilling has become a problematic figure, but his bloody sock will always be part of Red Sox lore as a symbol of his pitching through an ankle injury to help Boston snap its 86-year World Series title drought in 2004. One of the greatest moments in Olympic history is Kerri Strug’s sticking her final vault on a sprained ankle to seal gold for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Kirk Gibson’s “I don’t believe what I just saw!” pinch-hit walkoff homer on one good leg in Game 1 of the ’88 World Series still gives me chills every time I watch it.

Today, we better understand and empathize with the physical, mental and emotional toll that moments like these can take on the people who performed them. And player safety is a much bigger concern than in decades past. Those are good things. But we don’t have to deny that witnessing great athletes push their bodies and minds to the limit is one of the things that makes sports so compelling.

WATCH | Stamkos strikes early for Lightning in Game 3 win:

Playing in his first game since February 25th, Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos found the back of the net on just his second shift to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead over the Stars. 1:10

Quickly…

Canada lost a French Open player, but also gained one. Milos Raonic announced today he’s skipping the final Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, which begins Sunday. At 20th, he’s Canada’s second-highest-ranked men’s singles player, behind No. 10 Denis Shapovalov. Canada now has four players in the men’s tournament: Shapovalov, 21st-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime, 76th-ranked Vasek Pospisil and 179th-ranked Steven Diez. The latter got in today by winning his third consecutive qualifying match. Two Canadians are in the women’s singles draw: 100th-ranked Leylah Annie Fernandez and 168th-ranked Genie Bouchard. No. 7 Bianca Andreescu hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury 11 months ago and announced this week she’s taking the rest of the year off. Read more about the Canadians who are in or out of the French Open here.

The Blue Jays can clinch a playoff spot tonight. If they beat the Yankees in the finale of their four-game series, the Jays will officially be back in the post-season for the first time in four years. Even if they lose, a spot in this year’s expanded playoff tournament is still all but assured. The Jays’ magic number is 1, meaning they need just one more win or one more loss by the team right behind them in the wild-card standings (currently the Los Angeles Angels) to clinch. The odds of Toronto making the playoffs are 99.8 per cent, according to ESPN’s model. The regular season ends Sunday. Read more about the Jays’ 14-1 win over New York last night here.

Tyler Herro was the hero of last night’s NBA playoff game. The 20-year-old Miami rookie came off the bench to score a game-high 37 points (17 in the fourth quarter) in another narrow Heat win over Boston that put them up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference final. Only Magic Johnson has scored more points in an NBA playoff game at age 20 or younger. Tonight at 9 p.m. ET is Game 4 of the Western final between the Lakers and Nuggets. Canadian Jamal Murray will try to follow up his 28-point, 12-assist performance from Denver’s Game 3 win.

Both WNBA semifinals resume tonight. Minnesota, which is the only remaining team with Canadians on it, trails Seattle 1-0 in their best-of-five-series. Canada’s Bridget Carleton had 14 points and four assists in the Lynx’s 88-86 loss. Top-seeded Las Vegas and Connecticut are tied 1-1 after Vegas evened the series on Tuesday night. 

And finally…

A Canadian soccer international hopes their coming out will help young trans people. Quinn, who goes only by that name or Quinny now and no longer uses Rebecca Quinn, decided to share their true identity in an Instagram post earlier this month. Part of the reason, they say, was a desire to be “a visible figure for young trans folks or people questioning their gender, people exploring their gender. Because, unfortunately, when I was growing up, and even going through that process of figuring out myself in college, I didn’t have those people in the public sphere to look up to really.” Quinn also hopes to show others how “to be better allies” to trans people. Quinn, 25, has made 59 appearances for the Canadian women’s national team, scoring five goals. They were a member of the 2016 Olympic squad that won bronze, as well as the 2019 World Cup team. Read more about Quinn here.

You’re up to speed. Get The Buzzer in your inbox every weekday by subscribing below.

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Hamilton 'sad but not surprised' at Breonna Taylor verdict – ESPN.co.uk

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Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said he is “sad but not surprised” at the verdict in the case around the killing of Breonna Taylor.

On Wednesday, a grand jury in Louisville indicted one police officer — Brett Hankison — for shooting through the walls and into neighboring apartments. Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid that resulted in the death of Taylor, a Black woman, on the night of March 13. Taylor was 26.

Hamilton wore a shirt with the message ‘”Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” ahead of F1’s most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix, and on the podium after securing his 90th career win.

On Wednesday evening, Hamilton posted on Instagram: “I’m so sad but not surprised at this outcome. Police continue to get away with murder every single day and it needs to stop! She was innocent and did not deserve to be shot and killed. Where is the justice, this clearly isn’t it!

“It hurts to know somebody was killed and nobody was held accountable. Imagine that was your mum, your brother or sister or friend, her life mattered but the system which was meant to protect her all because of her skin colour. So mad.”

The verdict prompted similar reactions across the sporting world. LeBron James echoed Hamilton’s sentiment that he was saddened but not surprised.

“I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad!” James wrote on Twitter. “We want Justice for Breonna yet justice was met for her neighbors apartment walls and not her beautiful life.

“Was I surprised at the verdict. Absolutely not but damnit I was & still am hurt and heavy hearted! I send my love to Breonna mother, family and friends! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!”

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