TORONTO – OG Anunoby didn’t blink. He barely cracked a smile as he was mobbed by his teammates.
“Someone hit me in the nose,” the Raptors forward said after the game. “I’m mad about that, but it’s cool.”
You might expect that kind of reaction in the middle of December, after a player hits an inconsequential free throw in the first half of some forgettable regular-season contest. But from somebody who had just drained the biggest shot of his life – a buzzer-beating, game-winning, season-saving, series-shifting dagger? Even Kawhi Leonard let out a primal scream after his iconic four-bouncer.
But that’s OG.
“I know he’s excited,” said Fred VanVleet, shortly after Anunoby’s walk-off three-pointer gave Toronto a 104-103 victory in Thursday’s Game 3, and new life in its second-round series with the Celtics, which Boston now leads 2-1.
“I think that’s just his nature. I don’t think he’s a guy that’s going to run around the court. I mean, that’s just not his personality. So, that was true OG form right there, to knock down the biggest shot of his life and act like nothing happened.”
What happened will ultimately go down as a seminal moment in the history of a franchise that has produced quite a few of them over the past 16 months. The Raptors were a half-second away from certain elimination. Their remarkable, feel-good season was on life support. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit, and it’s unlikely that they would have been the first.
Game 3 was a must-win, and after Kemba Walker’s spectacular pass set up a Daniel Theis dunk to put Boston in front by two points, it came down to one final possession and 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
The play was one that head coach Nick Nurse borrowed from an old Hubie Brown videotape. It was initially drawn up for VanVleet to take the shot, with Pascal Siakam as the second option. Appropriately, it was executed to perfection by the team’s two best and most important players on the night, and through the first three games of the series.
Gazing over the outstretched arms of the Celtics’ seven-foot-five giant Tacko Fall, who was brought in specifically to guard the inbound, six-foot Kyle Lowry sailed a perfectly thrown pass to an open Anunoby in the opposite corner. With Jaylen Brown closing out hard, Anunony – who barely had time to catch the ball – released a high-arcing jumper that danced around the inside of the rim and fell through the net.
In normal times, you would have felt the energy of the crowd – in this case, more than 19,000 Celtics fans gasp and groan, and Boston’s TD Garden would go eerily quiet. In the NBA bubble, players create the atmosphere, and in that very special moment, they all ran over to Anunoby to celebrate.
“When I took that shot I expected to make it,” said the ever-stoic 23-year-old. “I don’t shoot trying to miss. Every shot I shoot I try to make it. So, I wasn’t going to act surprised because I wasn’t surprised.”
“That’s OG’s moment, man,” Lowry said. “That’s a great moment for that kid and I’m so happy and so proud of him, man. Don’t take away – that pass was nothing, that shot was everything.”
“He’ll get a lot of text messages and he needs the credit. He deserves all the love and celebration he’s getting tonight, that kid works extremely hard and, like I said, it’s his moment. Let him live in it and then I’ll ruin it tomorrow when we’re watching film and I tell him what he messed up on.”
Humble as he may be, Lowry’s pass was impressive and, notably, the Raptors aren’t even in the position to win that game if not for their veteran point guard and most valuable player.
Lowry – who came into Game 3 shooting 10-for-28 in the series, including 1-for-12 from three-point range – got a text from a close friend earlier in the day.
It read: “Stop waiting”
“That was pretty much the game plan for me tonight,” said Lowry. “Just stop waiting and be aggressive from the jump. He was correct.”
Although his shot still wasn’t falling – he hit just two of his eight attempts – Lowry was in attack-mode early. He scored eight of Toronto’s first 10 points and 11 in the opening quarter – all of them coming in the restricted area or at the free-throw line.
The game was a slog. Eventually, the Raptors’ lockdown defence would clamp down, holding Boston to 38 per cent in the third quarter. At some point late in the evening, Siakam would get it going and the slumping VanVleet would knock in a pair of big threes.
But for most of the night, Lowry carried them on his 34-year-old shoulders, despite playing all but 90 seconds of the game, including the entire second half. Defending Brad Wanamaker at the rim late in the third quarter, Lowry took a knee to the midsection and crumpled to the court in pain. He played through it, and through the noticeable fatigue he was feeling in the final minutes, to put together an all-time performance.
“I mean, obviously I got balls of steel,” said Lowry, who put up a game-high 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting.
Nurse likened Lowry’s night to his masterpiece in last year’s title-clinching Game 6 win over Golden State.
The team’s performance was reminiscent of that double-overtime Game 3 win over Milwaukee in the Conference Finals. They were in a similar situation – down 0-2, fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. That could have been the end of the line, and at times it both looked and felt like it was going to be, but they found a way to pull it out and it sparked an unlikely turnaround – four straight wins and a trip to the NBA Finals.
“We’ve had a lot of gutsy performances from this crew,” said an emotional Nurse after the win. “It’s kind of what this group is. It’s Kyle and Fred and Pascal and Norm [Powell]. There are a lot of guys who have fought their whole lives to get to where they are, amid other expectations. We got to the half down 10, and just weren’t catching any breaks. The ball wasn’t going in. The ball was bouncing funny. It was just like, man, to reach in and find that gutsiness for that second half… I’m not sure that doesn’t rank up there with our gutsiest performances.”
After getting blown out by Boston in the series opener last weekend and then playing well enough to win but falling apart down the stretch of Game 2, the Raptors seemed down and out. It’s through Lowry’s sheer will and Anunoby’s clutch shot-making that they have this new life. Maybe this is what galvanizes them. Maybe this is what they needed to start feeling like the defending champions again.
“With all due respect to Brooklyn, I don’t think that got us ready to play at the level we needed to be ready for Game 1,” VanVleet said. “I think the transgressions of those few days, [not knowing] whether we were gonna sit or play, coupled in with laying that egg in Game 1 – it was a lot. Then we played our butts off in Game 2 and didn’t come out with a win. We expect a lot of ourselves, so to be down 0-2, I mean we knew it wasn’t over, but nobody was happy. People were pissed off, the mood wasn’t great. All we needed was one [win] to get the juice back, a little magic [to] get the momentum going on your side. We’ve got to try and tie this thing up Saturday.”
Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees – CBC.ca
The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.
Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.
“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”
Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.
Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.
The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.
And then there was one! ☝️ <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreBlueJays?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeAreBlueJays</a> <a href=”https://t.co/druwv41Bmw”>pic.twitter.com/druwv41Bmw</a>
Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.
With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.
Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.
Ray earns timely outs
Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.
New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.
“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”
“That seals the deal. I am no longer a Danny Jansen fan 😤” – that baseball <a href=”https://t.co/ijJMJ3UZwV”>pic.twitter.com/ijJMJ3UZwV</a>
Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.
The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.
New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.
Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.
Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.
Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.
Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter
Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.
It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.
We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.
Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.
Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.
The MLB record for greatest run differential in a save is 27: Wes Littleton was given a save for his three innings of effective relief in the Rangers’ 30-3 win against the Orioles. https://t.co/E1I8CfV58u
— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) September 24, 2020
We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:
- Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
- Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
- Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
- Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
- Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
- Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
- Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
- Joe Panik only managed a walk.
- Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).
Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).
No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.
Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.
We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.
Lightning’s Stamkos secures place in Cup lore with Game 3 goal vs. Stars – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — Seven seconds.
That’s how much time the puck spent on Steven Stamkos’s stick blade on this night, and perhaps that’s all it will spend there throughout the entirety of this Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run.
That’s all the hard-luck captain needed to secure his place in Stanley Cup lore. Seven freaking seconds.
Somehow, after spending 60 days as a practice-only player inside the NHL bubble and going 210 days between games, Stamkos scored the biggest goal of a career overflowing with them.
He was in full stride down the right boards when Victor Hedman hit him in the neutral zone. He blew past Esa Lindell, who defended the play poorly and managed to settle a bouncing puck in time to tuck it up under the crossbar behind Anton Khudobin.
The Lightning bench exploded. Jon Cooper said the reaction was “just a little bit louder” than any of the others during a playoff run that has included five overtime goals. The coach saw it as a sign his team wouldn’t be denied, and they weren’t while grabbing a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars with a 5-2 victory Wednesday.
“It was pretty damn cool,” said Cooper.
Stamkos called it a dream come true.
Forget the unfortunate timing of the injuries that have cost him big playoff games and a chance at playing for Team Canada at the Olympics in recent years. Just being trapped inside the bubble with no guarantee of playing would be agony for someone who has given as much to the Lightning as Stamkos.
And then to get in for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and only be able to play five shifts and score on one of them after not playing for seven months?
Hollywood might not accept that script.
“At this time of the year, you want to do anything you can to help your team win,” said Stamkos. “I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true and I’m so proud of these guys. And to be able to share that moment with them and just even be on the bench and watch how well we played tonight, I have told these guys before: It’s inspiring.
“It was great to be part of.”
Quickly, the backstory: Stamkos underwent core muscle surgery on March 2 and was supposed to be recovered in time for the second round of a normal playoffs. Then we had the COVID-19 pause, he had some kind of setback while preparing for the NHL’s return to play and the Lightning have gone on a run without him.
But he’s remained a large figure in the shadows.
You could see him dousing Brayden Point with water after he scored a quintuple overtime goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 and he was summoned to the ice to help the Lightning accept the Prince of Wales Trophy after they eliminated the New York Islanders.
Everything he had to endure in order to even play for two minutes 41 seconds of Wednesday’s game has happened behind the walls. And based on the fact he sat on the bench while not taking a shift for the final 46 minutes here suggests we might not see him in uniform again for the rest of this series.
So that goal? That was something.
“He’s worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he could play,” said Brayden Point. “Just seeing him day in and day out — the positivity that he brings, and the leadership that he brings. It’s nice to see him work that hard to get back into the lineup. And then to score one? It’s pretty inspirational for everyone.”
Added Victor Hedman: “This is how much he means to us as a teammate and as a leader and as a friend. We were just super happy for him.”
Stamkos played six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Final and didn’t manage to score. In this situation, the Lightning put him on the fourth line alongside Cedric Paquette (zero goals this playoffs) and Pat Maroon (one goal this playoffs) and he produced one in limited minutes before his injury forced him to become a spectator.
What happens next will determine what this means historically.
But what it meant to Stamkos and the Lightning won’t change no matter what. He’s only going to get so many chances like this one.
“It was amazing to be a part of a huge win for us,” he said. “I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn’t play too much.”
This was a kid who used to go to shooting school twice per week and fire 500 pucks per session. That’s a skill that endured the injuries, the layoff, everything.
It made this moment possible.
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