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Quick Reaction: Pistons 129, Raptors 105 – Raptors Republic

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Plenty of teams have dealt with goofy lineups this season because of protocols. Unfortunately, it was the Raptors turn.

Sorry, had to go manual style. The grade generator is having some technical difficulties. Fred Vanvleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Matt Flynn and Patrick McCaw missed the game due to health and safety protocols. Jalen Harris and Donta Hall were available but did not play.

Chris Boucher (Grade: B)

25 min, 18 pts (5-11 FG, 1-5 3pt), 8 reb, 2 blk

Boucher was the lone bright spot off the bench, no surprise there. Took advantage rolling on passes from Lowry and one beauty pass from Powell in the 4th quarter.

Kyle Lowry (Grade: A-)

35 min, 21 pts (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 4 reb, 6 ast

Lowry is used to playing minutes with the second unit. So essentially this game was an extension of that. Continued his hot shooting as of late with 12 points and 4 assists in the first quarter. But the team predictably fell apart when he had to take a breather. Reserves missed plenty of open shots that would have been assists for Lowry. Cloning Kyle would have been nice. One Lowry can only do so much.

Norman Powell (Grade: A)

38 min, 36 pts (14-20 FG, 5-8 3PT), 5 reb, 4 TO

Once again, starter Norm ignited the offence early with 23 first half points, 8-10 shooting and making all four of his threes. Predictably had to do even more on offence than he has been lately. Resulted in four turnovers but that was to be expected. Second straight 30-plus scoring game. Powell finished one point shy of tying his career-high.

DeAndre Bembry (Grade: C-)

27 min, 0 pts (0-1 FG), 5 ast

Bembry deservedly has been playing much more as of late, but was guilty of trying to do too much. Drove into traffic without a plan a couple times. Bembry did have five assists.

Yuta Watanabe (Grade: F)

11 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 4 reb

Yuta started for the first time in his 55-game career but was barely noticeable. Only played seven minutes in the first half. Second half wasn’t any better, air balling an open three and missing a transition layup. Unfortunately Watanabe simply wasn’t ready to provide production in a starting role.

Terence Davis (Grade: F)

21 min, 6 pts (2-11 FG, 0-5 3PT), 3 reb, 2 stl, 3 TO

Davis made his third start of the season but was a negative across the board with untimely turnovers, missed open shots and silly fouls. The most brutal foul was on Dennis Smith Jr. at half court with the Pistons in the bonus. Tipped in his own miss early third for his only made basket before garbage time. In my opinion, this was his worst performance of the season.

Aron Baynes (Grade: B-)

24 min, 13 pts (4-7 FG, 1-3 3PT), 4 reb

Good energy from Baynes against one of his former teams. Set screens to free Powell, grabbed offensive boards, and finished inside a little better than he has been this season. Solid game.

Stanley Johnson (Grade: D+)

18 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 1 reb, 1 ast

Stanley got an extended look because of Davis and Watanabe’s struggles. But he couldn’t find his corner three shot, going 0-3, including an air ball.

Matt Thomas (Grade: C)

22 min, 11 pts (4-7 FG, 2-4 3PT)

Thomas is simply in a funk. He came in shooting 3-16 since January 31 and missed both of his three point attempts in the first half. Was also beat off the bounce by Rodney McGruder for a and-1 and was subbed out right after. Did manage to make a couple of threes in the fourth. Hopefully that’s a turning point because Thomas needs to make shots to stay on the court.

Paul Watson (Grade: C-)

19 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-3 3PT), 4 reb, 1 ast

Watson got 19 minutes of run. Did one of the better jobs of closing out on Detroit’s surprisingly potent shooters. But like almost every other Raptor reserve, he couldn’t make an open three.

Sergio Scariolo (Grade: C-)

Scariolo was acting head coach for the second straight game. It’s asking a lot to be on the same page defensively without three of your best defenders in Siakam, Anunoby and VanVleet. Detroit put up 43 first quarter points, tied for the most the Raptors have given up this season. Had to play a box-and-one on Wayne Ellington at one point to temporarily slow him down. Key word: temporarily. As for the offence, the Raptors got plenty of open looks but couldn’t make them. One can argue that Scariolo should have taken out Davis earlier, but for who? Mama said there would be days like this.

Things we saw:

  1. Only four Raptors made a field goal in the first half, even though the Raptors did manage 60 points. Lowry tried to get some of his struggling teammates involved, but his efforts were in vain. Overall, Raptors not named Powell, Lowry, Boucher, Baynes or Thomas shot 2-21.
  2. Wayne Ellington shot only 26% from three in February. Safe to say that slump is over. Despite that, he was still at 41% from deep this season. Ellington tied a career-high with eight threes in this game, so that percentage is about to go back up.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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