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Offensive diversity on show as Raptors beat Knicks – Raptors Republic



The Toronto Raptors’ offense can take on the qualities of an entire solar system. There are all sorts of different planets, different ways to enter sets. There are different orbits, different groupings of players who function together. There is the gravitational push and pull of various movements, designed to always be rotating around one another. And in Toronto’s 118-112 win over the New York Knicks, the sheer diversity of Toronto’s offensive profile was on display.

The Raptors opened the game by establishing its best offensive scorer, Pascal Siakam. He drove twice, easily twisting his way to the rim for layups. Though it seemed the Raptors would find easy offense, they actually stumbled after the first few minutes of the game. New York opened a double-digit lead as their shooters hit everything they flung towards the rim.

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When the starters allowed New York to build a big lead, it was Toronto’s bench that closed the gap. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s defensive intensity seemed to lift the Raptors out of the mud. His closeouts against shooters and twitching, maniacal energy solidified a defense that was leaking every which way.

The bench offense, on the other hand, used a variety of different entries into the offense. Toronto ran Norman Powell off of staggered screens, letting him launch as soon as he caught the ball. When he wasn’t open running around off-ball screens, he would toggle into a simulated pick-and-roll with the second screener, usually Serge Ibaka, and Powell picked up a few assists throwing flashy bounce passes for buckets. Powell finished with 16 points on 11 shots, as well as three assists. He is at the point where he provides an entire system of offense unto himself.

Ibaka offered offense of his own. He and Marc Gasol, whoever was playing center, would frequently station themselves at the top of the arc, acting as a release valve outside of whatever was taking place on the wings. If New York cheated in to take away the drive, Toronto would whip the ball to Ibaka or Gasol, and they launched from above the arc. The two combined to shoot four-of-six from deep, as Ibaka especially was aggressive and efficient. Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with nine assists, many of them coming to his bigs, either popping for jumpers or rolling for layups.

As the third quarter began, the Raptors began to build a double-digit lead as their starting guards took over the game. Kyle Lowry and VanVleet traded triples, Lowry in the half-court and VanVleet in transition. Both guards do such an excellent job pulling up in the pick-and-roll, or relocating for jumpers around other actions, that their every motion creates space for teammates.  Lowry and VanVleet combined to shoot six-of-15 from deep.

Lowry also knew when to grift his way to the free throw line when Toronto needed easy points. Lowry is a master of allowing opponents to bowl him over, often by hitting the breaks while dribbling, so that a bigger man runs him over from behind. He shot 13-of-14 from the line and led Toronto with 26 points on 12 shots. He also had an unbelievable zero turnovers.

When Toronto needed to vary the offense, trying to create paint touches, they would enter the ball into Siakam or even Hollis-Jefferson in the post. Siakam hit one gorgeous turnaround fade-away in the post, while Hollis-Jefferson used bully-ball to overpower guards when given the opportunity.

When the dust settled, every Raptor who saw time on the court scored at least two field goals.  It was Lowry and Siakam who finished with the most impressive scoring numbers of the night, acting as twin suns around whom the rest of the bodies orbited, but it was the collective rather than individuals who pushed Toronto over the top. The Raptors were outscored by six points during the 32.5 minutes that Siakam and Lowry shared the floor. It was the darkest reaches of the planetary systems, the nether worlds and far-flung comets, the Hollis-Jeffersons and Terence Davises, who contributed just as much to Toronto’s win. Both massively won their minutes; Hollis-Jefferson was plus-18 in the win, and Davis was second on the team at plus-nine.

The win wasn’t without its flaws. Toronto allowed New York to score 28 second-chance points. And though New York is one of the worst-shooting teams in the league, they connected on 13 triples; Toronto had numerous defensive miscommunications and breakdowns. But when Toronto needed to win, it buckled down and won. That’s what good teams do.

And when Toronto needed to win, it turned to its twin suns: Siakam and Lowry. With 24 seconds left in the game, Siakam dribbled around a screen. New York chose to send Siakam’s defender underneath, and Siakam buried the pull-up bomb without hesitation. On the other end, New York threw a desperate inbounds lob to Julius Randle, and Lowry read the play. He knew what was coming, so he waited behind Randle until he caught the ball, and then he bolted unseen from behind, stealing the pass and closing the door on the game. Toronto won with offensive brawn from Siakam and defensive brain from Lowry. Those two plays sealed the game for Toronto. But it was Toronto’s diversity, the sheer variety of planets revolving in the solar system, that separated the Raptors from the Knicks. Toronto can initiate offense from as many different players as they have on the floor, and that can be as devastating a weapon as any single superstar player.

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Bedard, Fantilli headline Canada’s selection camp roster for 2023 World Juniors –



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Recap: Brazil vs South Korea – World Cup 2022 – Al Jazeera English



Neymar has returned from injury to help Brazil thump South Korea 4-1, setting up a World Cup quarter-final clash against Croatia.

Four unanswered Brazilian goals in the first half at Stadium 974 on Monday set an imperious tone for a team with their sights firmly on a sixth World Cup title.

And while the game settled in the second period, it was never sluggish or scrappy, and a spirited South Korea fought hard to score a consolation goal in the 76th minute.

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It took just seven minutes for Brazil to get off the mark, with Raphinha picking up the ball just outside the box and rushing in on the right side, sending in a pass to Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain number 10 was brought down by his marker and the ball ended up at the feet of Vinicius Jr, in acres of space.

The Real Madrid star steadied himself before placing it to the right of Kim Seung-gyu in the South Korean goal.

Brazil celebrating their third goal, with goalscorer Richarlison in the centre [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Just three minutes later, Richarlison was brought down by Jung Woo-young inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar, who had reportedly flown his barber out to Qatar to dye his hair blonde following previous victories over South Korea with bleached hair, wasted no time in slotting it into the bottom-right of the net. Brazil was up two-nil with less than 15 minutes on the clock.

South Korea had their share of chances, with Hwang Hee-chan, fresh off scoring the winner against Portugal, having a go from a distance but sending the ball comfortably over the bar. Moments later, Allison was forced to make a diving save to his left, his first save of the tournament.

But Paolo Bento’s men were simply outclassed in every part of the pitch.

A remarkable piece of skill in the 26th minute saw Richarlison juggling the ball, heading it to himself three times while evading defenders on the edge of the South Korean box. He then passed the ball before running through on goal to receive the return, firing the ball in for Brazil’s third.

Just 10 minutes later, Vinicius Jr set up Lucas Paqueta with a cheeky chip, and the midfielder shot low and right. Kim Seung-gyu could do little but look at the ball nestling in the back of the net.

With four goals before half-time, Brazil was putting down a marker for any teams who think they might have a chance of lifting the trophy on December 18.

Son Heung-min nearly clawed one back for South Korea straight after the restart, but Alisson — who must, through this game alone, be in contention for the Golden Glove — got enough of his arm onto the shot to tip it wide.

Faced with the intensity of Brazil’s onslaught, South Korea tried to slow the game, but more chances for Raphinha and Vinicius Jr followed despite the best efforts of the men in red.

Then came the 77th minute, and out of nowhere, Paik Seung-ho scored from outside the box. A free kick for South Korea was bundled clear by the Brazilian defence, falling to Paik, who belted it past Alisson’s dive to find the top-right corner. Finally, the South Korean fans had something to cheer about.

South Korea continued to work hard in defence and create chances in attack, but that goal was to be their only score, and they head home having been soundly beaten by one of the best teams in the world.

Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals at Education City on Friday.

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Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson reveal pro Canadian women's soccer league set for kickoff in 2025 – CBC Sports



Professional women’s soccer is coming to Canada.

Christine Sinclair and former national teammate Diana Matheson announced on Monday plans to kick off a domestic professional women’s league in 2025, featuring eight teams throughout Canada.

The two players sat down with The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault to reveal the news.

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After the duo helped Canada capture bronze at the 2012 Olympics — Matheson scored the medal-clinching goal — Sinclair expected progress. After all, the team had just snapped Canada’s 108-year podium drought in the sport.

“I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home,” Sinclair told Arsenault. “But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country.”

And so, a decade later, Sinclair and Matheson took matters into their own hands.

The still unnamed league would begin in April 2025 with an inaugural champion crowned sometime in the fall. Each team will have at least one Canadian international, and the goal is to bring home about half of the over-100 Canadians currently playing abroad.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler examines absence of top domestic women’s league:

Canada’s greatest athletes still without a domestic league of their own

2 months ago

Duration 2:53

Host Signa Butler explains the landscape of women’s sports leagues in Canada, as some of the country’s best athletes are without a league in their own backyard.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club are confirmed as the first two teams to join the upstart league.

“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” said Stephanie Labbe, Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer. “The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting.”

The league is being built by Matheson and her business partners at Project 8 Sports Inc. Sinclair, soccer’s all-time international scoring leader, is on board as an official advisor.

“The whole idea behind this is to aim high. And like, if you’re not, what’s the point?” Sinclair said.

“So let’s go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent. And yeah, have 10 year olds watching a game that 10 years later is on the Whitecaps, for instance. That would be my dream.”

Matheson, who retired from playing in July 2021, has visions of the league pushing the entire Canadian women’s sports infrastructure forward.

“It’s health and wellness. It’s confidence. It’s tied with better academics. There’s a huge tie between women in sport and women in business,” Matheson said. “And this is about soccer, but it’s about the coaches, it’s about the referees, it’s about women in executive roles in sport.”

Part of that women’s sports fabric comes down to marketing like jersey sales. Sinclair said she can’t even get her hands on her own jersey to gift to her niece.

“I don’t know if they exist,” Sinclair said.

Pursuing diversity

Matheson, 38, said she’s been working on obtaining her Master of Business Administration, as well as partaking in UEFA programming. She’s hoping the league becomes a Canada Soccer member by 2023, with full sanctioning by 2024

Sinclair, left, and Matheson, right, at the 2012 Olympics. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

She said Air Canada and CIBC are already on board as sponsors, and that it’s especially important to have the right team owners involved in the league.

“One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this,” Matheson said.

The Oakville, Ont., native made the case that the buy-in, which is expected to be between $8-10 million, is a worthwhile investment, noting that National Women’s Soccer League clubs, which were bought for $150,000 US 10 years ago, are now valued at a minimum of $35 million US. The Orlando NWSL franchise was purchased in 2021 for about $400 million US.

Matheson said her league can compete with average player salaries across the world right now.

“We just have way more opportunities to monetize our own brand. Players can do appearances, they can work with companies, they can run camps in a way that they just can’t when they’re playing in Italy and England,” she said.

Another point of importance for Matheson and Sinclair is ensuring players in their league are protected. Reports of abuse in the NWSL last season resulted in the resignation of half of the league’s coaches.

Sinclair is captain of the Portland Thorns, whose CEO Merrit Paulson stepped down in October following reports of systemic emotional and verbal abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

“[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of. That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives,” Sinclair said.

Added Matheson: “It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems. And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.”

Sinclair autographs a fan’s ball during a men’s World Cup watch party in Toronto in November. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

Establishing pathways

At its crux, though, the league intends to establish pathways for young Canadian women to stay in soccer and work their way onto the national team — to foster future generations so that one day they could get their golden moment like Sinclair had in 2021 in Tokyo.

“It’s time to change the narrative and inspire the next group,” Matheson said. “I believe kids need to see it to believe that it’s possible to happen. And with the launch of this league, kids will be able to go into their own backyard and watch their heroes play and dream of one day representing their hometown professional club and maybe representing Canada.”

Sinclair said she was once one of those kids, watching the 1999 World Cup with a dream to be on that pitch herself one day.

23 years later, the Burnaby, B.C., native has accomplished nearly everything she could in her sport.

“We’ve inspired Canadians on the podium,” Sinclair said. “Now it’s time to actually make an impactful difference here in Canada.”

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