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Quick Reaction: Wizards 111, Raptors 140 – Raptors Republic

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WAS Wizards111Final
Box Score
140TOR Raptors

S. Ibaka26 MIN, 15 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 6-9 FG, 1-2 3FG, 2-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 11 +/-

Just keeps on ticking, Ibaka posted another quietly impressive statline. Serge will never be a high-end passer, but he is so much more comfortable finding corner shooters and cutters at the dunker spot when rolling towards the paint. Also, that flagrant he was called for on Beal’s three-point shot was one of the more absurd calls of the season.

P. Siakam25 MIN, 12 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 3-9 FG, 1-3 3FG, 5-6 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 6 +/-

It was one of those offensive nights for Siakam today. He couldn’t buy a bucket. Fortunately given the comfortable lead and other contributors pouring on the points, Spicy P wasn’t required to hunt shots to rediscover a groove. Despite this, there were a few instances of Siakam’s continued playmaking growth out of the post and when feeling the oncoming double team.

M. Gasol29 MIN, 20 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 7-9 FG, 6-7 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 26 +/-

Soo… I was hoping for another positive step returning from injury. That wasn’t just a step, but a damn two-footed leap back to prominence from the Big Paella/Big Spain/Big Boss from Barcelona/my icon. Gasol hasn’t looked laboured at all. He is aggressively stepping into his outside shot and as soon as they go down, it’s game over. The charisma and swagger that he plays with just oozes into every facet of Gasol’s game; scything passes, fluid behind-the-back dribbles, the smooth sauntering up court after knocking down another triple. Given how both bigs are playing, the twin-tower lineup isn’t just a gimmick lineup anymore to thwart Philly’s size. That wink he gave after beating the third quarter buzzer with a smooth triple impregnated half of Barcelona.

K. Lowry22 MIN, 11 PTS, 3 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL, 4-9 FG, 2-6 3FG, 1-1 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 5 +/-

Phewf. Lowry had a brief injury scare, and in that moment I was fully prepared to sacrifice my left leg. You’d expect KLOE to take it lightly when he returned, but that isn’t how he operates. Lowry pushed the ball on every Washington miss, actively sought contact, and finished around, above, and through defenders. It’s not a new observation, but the way Lowry gets others in rhythm is so refreshing in a league that is heavily turning towards score-first point guards.

O. Anunoby26 MIN, 18 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 8-13 FG, 2-6 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 4 TO, 8 +/-

Anunoby is an entirely different player when he doesn’t have the offensive burden on his shoulders. He was a walking bucket in the opening half with a game-high 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. O.G. walked onto the floor, grabbed Bradley Beal, and neatly put him in his pocket, silencing the All-Star for much of the game. There isn’t many better one-on-one defenders in the game today.

N. Powell30 MIN, 28 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 10-17 FG, 4-9 3FG, 4-5 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 22 +/-

Somebody tell Norm this isn’t the playoffs! The dude absolutely crucified some gangly centre who looked to be the lovechild of Andris Biedrins and Jan Vesely. Powell has been on a hot streak shooting the ball but more impressive has been how smoothly he has assumed the number one scoring role with the bench unit and Gasol. Now this version of the Raps bench mob is fun. It is telling that Powell has become Nurse’ go-to guy for ATO plays, and he rarely misses on those looks.

T. Davis24 MIN, 23 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 9-16 FG, 5-7 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 21 +/-

Wasn’t an ideal start for Davis, coughing up the ball in a few pick-and-roll scenarios and a brainless and-one hack in transition during the first half. However, in the second half Davis didn’t stutter, confidently stepping into triples and swooping down the court for a beautiful finish in transition. It is really impressive to see how short Davis’ memory for such a young player. He then went scorched earth during garbage time which is always fun.

P. McCaw22 MIN, 2 PTS, 0 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1-3 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 20 +/-

Let’s keep this space positive. McCaw was fine, he moved the ball well to open shooters and took care of the ball. Not much else to note.

R. Hollis-Jefferson19 MIN, 4 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST, 3 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-2 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, 22 +/-

Hollis-Jefferson is such a luxury in this end of bench role. He doesn’t need heavy minutes to find a rhythm and fits nicely next to Gasol on the bench, who masks his shooting deficiencies. Hollis-Jefferson is always brimming with energy and feeds off of the team’s flowing offence, his five assists a testament to his passing ability.

M. Thomas5 MIN, 3 PTS, 0 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 1-1 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 1 +/-

Garbage time, not much to note.

S. Johnson5 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 0-0 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 1 +/-

Garbage time, not much to note.

C. Boucher5 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 1 +/-

Garbage time, not much to note.

M. Miller5 MIN, 2 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 1 +/-

Garbage time, not much to note.

Nick Nurse

I loved Nurse’s decision to maintain the massive starting lineup. Ibaka is on a tear right now and kept Toronto afloat, it is just that (for now) he gets those minutes. This game was a blow-out from the beginning so there wasn’t many tough decisions for Nurse to make.

Things We Saw

  1. The new norm for Norm?
    The majority of Powell’s five years in Toronto has been defined by inconsistency. We’ve gotten Playoff Powell in the biggest moments, but there have equivalent disappearing acts. He is no doubt a quality player, it is just those ‘wow’ moments have teased us for years. I’m not ready to fully conclude that this is Powell’s norm (excuse the pun) now, but I’m really intrigued. The difficulty of his three-point shots has increased yet his efficiency hasn’t dropped.
  2. The injury gods love teasing us…
    Anyone who denies having tears well up in their eyes the moment Lowry collapsed to the floor and writhed in pain is a liar. Injuries have been an unwanted storyline for much of Toronto’s season, and it felt inevitable that Lowry would go down the moment the Raptors patch together a semblance of health. Thankfully, it was just knee knock and the entire fanbase can let out a collective sigh of relief.
  3. Smooth sailing from the start
    Toronto blew the game open early, torching the porous Wizards defence to the tune of 68% from the floor in the first quarter. They thrived in transition, generating 12 quick points off of eight turnovers, mainly courtesy of Anunoby. Once the Raptors get out on the run it’s game over. Other than a small blip during the third, Toronto dominated in every conceivable way. What a way to start the weekend!




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Daily news and chat: The last Leafs game before bye-week is tonight – Pension Plan Puppets

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The Maple Leafs are getting ready for vacation. The team will be released from any immediate obligations shortly after playing tonight against the Blackhawks for their annual bye week. This year the end of the bye week coincides with the All-Star Game break, so there is extra time off, except for Frederik Andersen, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews who will be participating in that game.

Yes, it’s going to be a long time until the next gamen on Monday January 27th, so enjoy tonight while you can.

We’ll have a preview of the game out later this morning. And don’t worry, we have lots of interesting things planned for you to read here next week.

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‘Sometimes it’s tough love’: Bond among Leafs’ Kapanen, Keefe pays off – Sportsnet
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OG Anunoby returns to dominant ways as nearly healthy Raptors blow out Wizards – Raptors Republic

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Certain elements of the game of basketball, at first glance, are unsolvable mysteries. Kyle Lowry’s endless success. Andrea Bargnani’s very existence. Included in that list can be the contextual aggression of OG Anunoby.

Anunoby was a revelation to begin the season for the Raptors. In the first eight games, when Toronto was practically fully healthy, Anunoby averaged 13.8 points per game on a ridiculous 68.8 effective field goal percentage. He took 9.6 shots per game, which is small, but a substantial enough share of the offense. His usage rate of 13.7 was the lowest among the starters, but he seemed to grow into his 3-D wing potential, offering lockdown defense while hitting practically everything he threw at the rim on the other end.

Then Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry were forced out of the lineup with injuries, and Anunoby’s shot attempts, minutes, and points dwindled. He was certainly still effective, but he no longer was the howitzer that shattered opponents to start the year. He took only 7.2 shots per game, scoring 9.2, over the remainder of November before Lowry and Ibaka returned to the lineup. That trend of his offensive output dipping when Toronto faces injury has repeated itself as the year has progressed.

When high-usage offensive players exit the lineup, the dream would be that Anunoby would offer more on the offensive end. He’d shift into more of an initiating role. He would be force-fed reps, and though perhaps his efficiency wouldn’t remain sky-high, his scoring would at least have to rise. That didn’t happen.

In fact, over the approximate month when some of Toronto’s most involved offensive players were injured, including Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Marc Gasol, and at times Fred VanVleet, Anunoby took fewer than nine shots per game. His scoring dipped to 10.5 points per contest.

When Toronto needed Anunoby’s offense the most, and seemingly would give him the most offensive responsibility of his career, Anunoby’s offensive game failed to rise to the occasion. The stats over the course of the entire season support that hypothesis; per pbpstats, Anunoby’s average points per 100 possessions is higher with each of the players on the floor rather than off: Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Siakam, and Gasol. During the extended absences of Toronto’s starters, Anunoby wasn’t horrible by any means, but he simply didn’t add anything with his newfound opportunity.

It took the Raptors all the way to mid-January to finally return to health, but now the Raptors are almost back to the excellent health with which they began the season. And funny enough, Anunoby returned to his dominant offensive ways as Toronto returned to health. On January 15 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he scored 21, three points off of his season high. In Toronto’s lopsided 140-111 win over the Washington Wizards, he finished with 18 points on 13 shots.

Against Washington, Anunoby found open jumpers lurking around the perimeter. He had a variety of steals on the perimeter, creating uncontested dunks and layups going the other way. He skulked along the baseline, cutting behind teammates’ drives and post-ups for open dunks. He even recorded a ponderous little drive from the corner, taking a few dribbles, spinning slowly, before lofting the ball towards the other side of the glass with his outstretched left hand. Anunoby’s driving game is a work-in-progress, but he is much better when Toronto’s best offensive players are on the floor alongside Anunoby, spreading the floor for him, putting the defense into rotation, and creating advantages that Anunoby can exploit.

Anunoby is more aggressive offensively when his team, by virtue of having more scorers available, requires less aggression from Anunoby. It’s a strange one.

I think there’s always a couple of ways to look at it and I think different players react differently,” said Nick Nurse after the game. “Sometimes you look over there and you know that you’re gonna not come out, I had those discussions with Norm a few times, Norm would be like 2-for-8 and I’d be like, ‘Norm, I can’t take you out so could you make a couple here in the fourth quarter,’ and he would. And some guys, maybe when they know they’ve got to play well or there’s gonna someone else over there that’s healthy to come in and play, some guys react to that a little better. I can’t explain it.”

Perhaps Nurse is right that Anunoby feels the pressure of competition, the heat of teammates gunning for his rotation spot, and that drives him to attack the rim, to play with more urgency, and to get up more shots.

Other players experience the same paradoxical boost in usage and efficiency when they play alongside better players. Norman Powell, for example, has always been a better and more consistent player as a starter. This is perhaps burying a different lede for a different piece here, but Powell exploded for 28 points against the Wizards. His offensive game has become one of Toronto’s most threatening weapons. He has been unbelievably consistent over the last few months. He, too, benefits from the presence of Toronto’s stars.

When asked why Anunoby paradoxically finds more shots when Toronto’s higher-usage offensive players are in the lineup, Nick Nurse found a more organic solution.

I think some nights the ball finds you, and some nights it doesn’t,” said Nurse. “I think tonight, to our players’ credit, I think they were just playing and taking what was there. There wasn’t a whole lot of trying to direct it. We were just coming down and running sets and let it free flow from there. It just so happened Pascal would drive, three guys would converge on him, OG would cut and there’s a dunk. Or Serge would cut, they’d converge on him, and OG was on the other side knocking in the 3.”

“I think it just found him tonight because we were cognizant of just making the right play.”

In other words, there’s nothing really to it; Anunoby and the rest of the Raptors played good, smart offensive basketball, and Anunoby happened to be the recipient of more shots than usual. The better the players are, the more natural will be the offense. And so a good cutter and spot-up shooter like Anunoby will naturally find himself finishing more plays when the team plays smart offense. It’s not a mystery when you dive deep into the source of Anunoby’s contextual offensive involvement.

But Anunoby and the Raptors won’t always face the Washington Wizards, and they won’t always have a full complement of talent available. On those nights, Anunoby will need to shoulder more responsibility and add to his offensive repertoire. For now, though, his offensive game fits perfectly with greater talent on the floor. Good thing the Raptors are finally returning to full health.




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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Chicago Blackhawks – 1/18/20 NHL Pick, Odds & Prediction – Sports Chat Place

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks go to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at the Scotiabank Arena. The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off of a three-game winning streak, defeating the Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, and the Montreal Canadiens in their win streak. The Blackhawks have outscored their opponents 11-5 during their winning streak as well.

The Chicago Blackhawks are 22 – 20 – 6 on the season, and are tied for last in the Central Division, but have the opportunity to skyrocket up the division if they can string a few wins together. The Chicago Blackhawks are led by their star Patrick Kane, who once again leads the team in points, goals, and assists. Kane was once again selected to the NHL All-Star Game for what is his ninth appearance in his career.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off of a loss to the Calgary Flames. The Maple Leafs have lost four of their last five games. Toronto has given up 24 goals in their last five games, as their defense continues to struggle.

The Maple Leafs have slipped recently but still find themselves third in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs have a ton of talent on their roster as they have two players selected to the NHL All-Star Game, Auston Matthews and Goalie Frederik Anderson.

Chicago is 27-21 ATS this season
Blackhawks are 5-0 in their last five vs. Eastern Conference.
Toronto is 22-26 ATS this season
Maple Leafs are 1-4 in their last five overall.

This will be a fun matchup of Patrick Kane versus Auston Matthews. I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the better team, but the Maple Leafs have struggled as of late, which makes this game so much closer. I think the Chicago Blackhawks have found some rhythm, and have become a much better team in the last few weeks. However, with the Maple Leafs playing this game at home, I give you the edge still to Toronto in this one, just slightly, though. Final Score Prediction, Toronto Maple Leafs win 4-3.
 

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