The record the Raptors broke against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon — the largest comeback in franchise history — was last set when DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani were teammates in the North. That team finished finished 22-60. This Raptors team is already 21-8.
Down 30 points midway through the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks, the Toronto Raptors put Scotiabank Arena into a frenzy during a maniacal 47-21 fourth quarter that hearkened back to some of Toronto’s most classic playoff wins. When the screaming died out and the clock switched off, the Raptors had won 110-107. The engine of the comeback was Lowry, who scored 20 points alone in the fourth.
“For us it was just follow the leader,” said Chris Boucher of Lowry’s importance.
“I don’t know about everyone else, but when Kyle made a three on the right wing, I had like a vibe or a feeling…” said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. “I kind of had that vision for Kyle taking off and that’s what happened.”
“I knew we were coming back.”
That the Raptors had such a deep hole out of which to climb was perhaps a problem. It took a long time for Toronto to find balance on the offensive end. There’s a reason why scales in cartoons take cartoonishly long times to settle in the middle; balance is a difficult thing to find. For the Toronto Raptors, it took three quarters of dreary failure for them to finally hit that sweet spot. But when they did, the lunacy of their comeback was worth it.
Nick Nurse was explicit before the game that he wants his bench guys to be paint-by-numbers guys, more followers than leaders, when it comes to the offensive end. He wanted his bench to contribute around the edges of Toronto’s primary guys, namely Fred VanVleet and Lowry.
“We just gotta make sure we get that right blend,” said Nurse before the game. “[The bench guys] are all capable. But I don’t want seven possessions in a row where they’re shooting seven straight shots. They’ve gotta be a little bit more opportunity guys than maybe they have been in some games.
The right blend of offense between starters and bench, primary and fringe scorers, is something of a promise. It’s a promise that bench players will listen to the coach and stay in their own lanes. Nurse has punished players in the past for stepping outside of the minimal box that is a bench role on the Raptors. But the correct blend also necessitates a promise from the main guys that they’ll carry the lion’s share. If they’re going to play the big minutes, create the most plays, and take the most shots, that has to translate to points. For three quarters, the offensive leaders didn’t fulfill their promises.
Lowry and Fred VanVleet seemed to miss every jumper they took, and the team took its cues from those misses. Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby, who should have provided Toronto’s secondary sources of offense, were also ineffective. Ibaka had trouble creating good looks in the post, and he missed the majority of his spot-up jumpers as well. He finished with six points on three-of-11 shooting, which was a far cry from his level of dominance over the last two games. Anunoby missed his open triples, and his drives were frequently off-balanced and resulted in turnovers. He finished with six points and three turnovers.
The balance that Nurse sought between the starters and the bench was lacking in the first three quarters.
There were some fun elements in the first three quarters against the Mavericks. Pat McCaw was Toronto’s choice as the primary defender of Kristaps Porzingis, and he was brilliant. Porzingis is not a big on the offensive end, and his height means almost nothing. He whiffed on his screens, couldn’t create space in the post, and generally moped around when McCaw was guarding him. It was a great display of defensive diversity from McCaw, who also shot well, drove well, and was one of Toronto’s most pleasant surprises. Terence Davis threw some nice passes, which is a solid development as Toronto transitions him into a ball-dominant guard. Boucher had some impressive blocks, as always. Though the fun things were fun, they weren’t nearly enough to outweigh the Raptors’ lack of offensive punch.
Then everything changed in the fourth quarter. A lineup of Lowry, Terence Davis, Malcolm Miller, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Chris Boucher went on a 41-15 run over the brunt of the quarter, pulling the game within reach. That group includes three minimum salary players, all of whom were undrafted, one second draft scrap heap player, and Lowry. As always while playing with low-expectation, high-energy groups, Lowry was unbelievable. The offense was simple: give the ball to Kyle Lowry and let him do cool stuff.
He hit step-back jumpers, turned hesitation dribbles into and-one floaters, and of course hit pull-up triples in transition. He represented, on this night, the absolute peak of ref-arguing, charge-taking, post-stripping, basket-scoring, teammate-boosting, breath-taking, jumper-making, foul-baiting basketball. It was peak KLOE, both new and nostalgic, and for the first time this year but the millionth as a Raptor, he wrote and re-wrote our experience of his brilliance. Lowry finished with 32 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds.
“He was unbelievable, right? And he really didn’t have that good a game going until that point, too. Then he started firing and making and driving and and-one-ing, he was doing it all,” said Nick Nurse.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it.”
If Lowry was the frontman, Boucher was the showstopper. His incredible length and tenacity forced plenty of turnovers as Toronto used a full-court press to start the fourth quarter. When the Mavericks didn’t turn the ball over and got the ball into the half-court, the Raptors reached and scrambled and played like lunatics. They collapsed into the paint and figured out the rest from there.
“We just kept saying anything but the rim,” said Nurse. “If the ball started heading to the rim we just wanted to swarm it and make ‘em kick out and then try to do our best to get back out there.”
If they kicked it out, the task usually fell to Boucher to clean up the mess. He attacked Dallas’ shooters without hesitation. His pterodactyl arms blocked a corner jumper into the upper stratosphere, and he did a good job frightening shooters after that with his maniacal closeouts.
“Yeah, it is [unique],” Nurse said of Boucher’s closeouts. “I think they were such good plays because he was protecting the rim first. He was in there waiting, looking looking looking, and then he saw an opening, and he made a long run, and he jumps early on those. That’s how he gets a piece of [those shots]. He played a hell of a game. Hell of a game.”
Boucher finished with a career-high 21 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and four blocks.
If anything, the incredible performance of Toronto’s bench mob wasn’t so much an execution thing as an identity one. Missing so many key players, the Raptors do not have enough talent to coast through games. They’ve always been at their best this year when forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. Toronto’s bench doesn’t have the talent of the stars, but they can never be accused of trying too little. They get up on the ball, make wild decisions, and junk it up. The resulting chaos was the backdrop to Toronto’s miraculous comeback.
Despite the heart-warming victory, Toronto will remain in the trenches for the next few weeks without three of its five most important offensive players. To win, they have to lock in on defense, play ugly and slop it up, and have their ball-dominant guards catch fire from deep. Those were negotiable elements when Toronto was healthy, as a Pascal Siakam explosion or Norm Powell spree could offset any problems in a blink of an eye. But Toronto doesn’t have that room for error any longer. It took a miraculous comeback, sparked by the best game of Boucher’s NBA career, and a vintage KLOE game, for Toronto to win. They can’t always rely on such unpredictable elements.
“No, I think that was a one-off game, but you could see how hard we played, and that’s something you take from and you continue to build on, the how hard we played,” said Lowry.
The Raptors are 2-0 since Pascal Siakam, Norm Powell, and Marc Gasol were injured in the same game. Toronto just keeps winning. The factors that have informed those wins may not be repeatable in the future, but that the Raptors have won is almost unbelievable. With the second leg of the back-to-back tonight against the Indiana Pacers, the Raptors will need to make the unsustainable into a regularity to continue its most unlikely hot streak of the season.
Astros erupt for seven runs in ninth, beat Red Sox to tie ALCS – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Six outs from falling behind 3-1 in the AL Championship Series and facing elimination in Game 5 in Boston — where the Red Sox had yet to lose this postseason — the Houston Astros offence awakened.
After tying it in the eighth inning on Jose Altuve’s solo homer, the Astros bullied the Boston bullpen for seven runs in the ninth to win 9-2 on Tuesday night and even the best-of-seven playoff at two games apiece.
“This is one of the great things about baseball,” said the Astros’ 72-year-old manager, Dusty Baker. “When you’re dead in the water and things aren’t going good, and then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, and you got seven runs.
“That’s what they’ve been doing to us this whole series,” he said. “And we’re capable of doing that as well.”
Jason Castro looked off a potential third strike from Nathan Eovaldi before driving in watch-tapping Carlos Correa with the go-ahead run in the ninth, then the AL West champions kept on scoring to guarantee themselves at least one more game back home.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston, with Games 6 and 7 back in Houston on Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
The Red Sox are 5-0 after playoff losses under manager Alex Cora.
“We’re feeling pretty confident,” said Eovaldi, the Game 2 winner who made his first relief appearance since 2019. “That’s been one of our strengths is being able to turn the page and come in tomorrow.”
In a series that had been dominated by offence — especially Boston’s, which has hit 10 homers in the series, including a record-setting three grand slams to turn Games 2 and 3 into routs — the teams traded first-inning home runs.
Alex Bregman hit a solo shot into the Green Monster seats, then Xander Bogaerts topped it with a towering, two-run drive onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom half to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Then, the pitchers took over.
It was still 2-1 when Altuve homered against Garrett Whitlock to tie it in the eighth. It was his 21st career postseason home run, breaking a tie with Derek Jeter for third-most in baseball history and trailing only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22).
Eovaldi, making his first relief appearance since he was coming back from an injury two years ago, came on for the ninth and gave up Correa’s leadoff double.
The Red Sox thought they were out of the inning when Eovaldi’s 1-2 breaking ball appeared to catch the plate for strike three on Castro. Still alive, Castro singled in Correa to give Houston the lead.
“Yeah, a lot of people thought it was a strike,” Cora said. “It was a good game until the end, right? We were one pitch away from ending that inning, and it didn’t happen, and then they scored seven.”
Michael Brantley hit a three-run double off Martin Perez. Yordan Alvarez added an RBI single. Perez’s throwing error on Correa’s infield single allowed a run to score, and Kyle Tucker singled in another run.
Houston has scored 36 runs with two outs in the postseason, including 18 of its 22 in this series.
“We knew with this team that we’re playing we wanted to pad the lead,” Baker said. “And pad the lead we did, you know what I mean? That one run might not have stood up, especially in this ballpark.”
The Red Sox, who were the first team in major league history to have double-digit hits six straight times in a single postseason, had just five on Tuesday — two of them when already trailing by seven in the ninth.
Nick Pivetta allowed just one more hit after Bregman’s homer before leaving with a 2-1 lead through five innings. Eovaldi took the loss, allowing four runs while getting just two outs.
Kendall Graveman, the fifth Houston pitcher, threw two scoreless innings for the win. The Astros had special praise for Cristian Javier, who pitched three scoreless innings to get them through five as Houston’s bullpen delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings.
“What the relievers did today was amazing,” Altuve said.
It was the third straight game the Red Sox got five or more innings from a starter, and the third straight that the Houston starter didn’t make it out of the second inning; Zack Greinke got just four outs on Tuesday.
Astros: CF Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in the Division Series clincher, was originally listed in the starting lineup but “wasn’t quite ready yet,” Baker said. Chas McCormick started in centre instead.
Red Sox: Schwarber appeared to tweak his left hamstring on a swing in the fourth inning. He limped out a groundout and remained in the game.
Game 5 is Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. Chris Sale will start for the Red Sox after allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in Game 1. Framber Valdez goes for Houston. He gave up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings during the series opener.
Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan
AmericanXander Schauffele returns this week for the Zozo Championship in Japan nearly two and half months after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games and the 27-year-old said he is looking to grab a “special” victory at the PGA Tour event.
The tournament returns to Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday after last year’s edition was moved to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The $9.95 million event will feature Asia’s first Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Schauffele, who won gold for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in August with a one-stroke victory.
Schauffele, whose grandparents reside in Japan, said winning at the Zozo Championship would be a huge honour for his family.
“I’m very excited,” Schauffele, who also won the Ryder Cup with the United States last month, said on Wednesday.
“Winning here would be really cool. It would be really special to sort of win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here.
“I think it would be a huge honour for my family if I was able to do that and I’m going to do my best this week.”
American Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, said he is looking forward to playing in front of an energetic crowd with 5,000 spectators allowed each day.
“These are some of the best fans,” Morikawa said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep.
“They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.
“They bring so much energy. I’ve said it since we returned from COVID, it’s just really good to see people out here again.”
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; editing by Kim Coghill)
NHL suspends Evander Kane for 21 games over COVID-19 vaccination status – Global News
The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about US$1.68 million of his US$7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said in a statement. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”
The Sharks have not said what Kane’s status will be after the investigations. Kane had not been around the team since the start of training camp while these investigations were ongoing in an agreement between him and the team.
“While we are encouraged by Evander’s commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA,” the team said in a statement. “We will not be commenting further on Evander’s status prior to the conclusion of the NHL’s mandated suspension.”
Kane had previously been cleared by the NHL in an investigation into allegations made by Anna Kane that he bet on hockey games, including some against the Sharks.
Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols
But the league did determine that Kane violated the COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the investigation said earlier this month that the league was looking into allegations that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t made public.
Using a fake vaccination card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, as well as against NHL rules.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that only four players on active rosters hadn’t been vaccinated.
Kane, 30, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. He’s with his third organization after being drafted by and debuting with Atlanta/Winnipeg and a stint in Buffalo.
Last season, he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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