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Raptors’ Davis, Thomas showing up when team needs them most

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TORONTO – On the very first Toronto Raptors offensive possession Saturday night, guard Fred VanVleet received an inbounds pass from the baseline, quickly crossed the time line, quickly surveyed the court and found rookie Terence Davis, who was using a Serge Ibaka screen to free himself up after curling around from underneath the Brooklyn Nets basket to the right wing.

This freed Davis up enough to rise up and get his three-point look off, but still draw a foul on the defending Caris LeVert, who ended up a step too slow chasing Davis and could only reach in on him and helplessly watch as the Toronto shooting guard brushed off the contact and drilled the triple with ease.

A four-point play and the game wasn’t even 30 seconds old.

That was how just the second start of Davis’ NBA career began.

Replacing the injured Kyle Lowry in the starting lineup Saturday, Davis immediately picked up where he’d left off Friday, when he exploded for 11 points in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers, helping spark the Raptors at a time when Lowry was forced to exit due to whiplash.

On Saturday, Davis began the game with a four-point play, then drilled another three about three minutes later and finished the opening frame with nine points and four rebounds (two coming from the offensive glass).

It was a stellar start to a game that saw Davis finish with 20 points, eight rebounds and 5-for-8 shooting from three-point range as the Raptors ran their winning streak to 14 games with a 119-118 win over Brooklyn.

And this was just the latest in what has been a strong run of late for Davis, personally.

Including Saturday’s affair, the 22-year-old is averaging 19.8 points on 60 per cent shooting from the field and 60.7 per cent from outside over his last four games, which, not-so-coincidentally, has coincided with the Raptors, once again, dealing with injury.

Taken as a whole, Davis has experienced a solid, but also typical rookie season in the sense that it has had its share of ups and downs. But upon closer inspection, you’ll see a trend that those “ups” have normally come during stretches when the Raptors have been injured the most.

He had his breakout during the Raptors’ big Western Conference trip in early November when Lowry and Serge Ibaka set the tone of the season, so to speak, going down in the same game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Then, when Norman Powell and Marc Gasol got bit by the injury bug in late December and bleeding into the new year, Davis again managed to raise his level of play.

And now, in these last four games, once again without Powell and Gasol, Davis is elevating his game and looks better than ever.

“Nothing’s changed, man. It’s just work and being ready for the opportunities,” Davis said of the four-game hot streak he’s been on. “When we had the first wave of injuries — this was back [on] our first West coast trip — opportunity came. And then I didn’t know if it would come back around, but I just wanted to be ready and I’d continue to put the work in.”

As has been said many times this season before, the silver lining to the injuries the Raptors have sustained has been the increased opportunity for a player like Davis who likely wasn’t going to get as much chance to show what he can do had the team been able to stay healthy. However, it’s not like extenuating circumstance is the only reason why Davis has been given more chances to prove himself — he’s both earned the opportunities given to him and has the advantage of seemingly having it in his DNA to rise to the occasion when required.

“I’ve always been the guy that plays and when there’s a big moment I’m not afraid of it,” said Davis. “Just by where I come from and the kind of situations I’ve been in, and the preparation. You just have to prepare yourself for those moments. So, it’s just how I think and how I go about it and the confidence is built.”

But while Davis is probably the most visible example, that confidence and fearlessness to step in and make an impact on a game he spoke of can be seen up and down the entire Raptors roster.

This was best exemplified by the five-man, all-bench lineup of Patrick McCaw, Matt Thomas, Oshae Brissett, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher that Raptors coach Nick Nurse rolled with late in the first quarter and much of the second quarter Saturday.

This was a lineup that had only played four fleeting minutes with each other once before in a game this season. But it came out and helped turn the tide for Toronto to build a sizeable lead heading into halftime.

“That group was awesome in the first half, right? They were incredible,” Nurse said. “They turned a lacklustre start to the game into an energetic game and they were great.”

Chief among the players leading this Raptors reserve rout was Matt Thomas, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter, going 3-for-3 from deep and 4-of-5 from the field in that span, including an acrobatic alley-oop layup that got the Scotiabank Arena crowd buzzing.

“You can’t leave [Thomas], and he’s actually a good cutter,” said VanVleet, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help Toronto hold for the one-point victory Saturday after blowing an 18-point lead. “He’s a good scorer, man, obviously people love him for his three but he’s a really good scorer. He’s got a knack of getting his shot off.”

In that second quarter, the Nets tried to stymie Toronto with a zone. But because Thomas’ shooting ability (as well as the threat of his shooting ability), they were largely unsuccessful in doing so.

As a result, Thomas played the best game of his brief NBA career, but the credit shouldn’t just go to a failed defensive scheme by the Nets.

No, like Davis has been all season long, Thomas was ready when his number was called.

Two undrafted rookies who played key roles in extending a record-breaking win streak for a defending champion.

Not exactly a new storyline to point out, but still amazing to think about, nonetheless.

It also speaks to a larger trend we’ve seen in regard to this Raptors team all season long. On Saturday it was Davis and Thomas getting it done. And on Monday and beyond who knows who else will step up and meet the task?

“I think it’s just a testament to how hard everyone works on the team,” Thomas said. “Everyone stays ready. We have a very deep and talented team and everyone’s more than capable of coming in and making plays. Also, it just shows the chemistry we have on this team. We’re all so good at playing off each other and everyone plays unselfishly and plays the right way.”

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Blue Jays blank Royals as Manoah makes marvellous Rogers Centre debut – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays celebrated a second win in two starts in their Rogers Centre return thanks to co-starring performances from rookie pitcher Alex Manoah and centre fielder George Springer.

Manoah tossed seven shutout innings while Springer smashed home runs in his first two at-bats in Toronto’s 4-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. The Blue Jays arrived back home in Toronto on Friday after 22 months away because of the Covid-19 pandemic, playing home games in Buffalo and Dunedin, Fla.

Manoah made a return of sorts, too. He injured himself two weeks ago, slipping on the rain-soaked steps of the Blue Jays dugout in Buffalo. He suffered a right-back contusion. He yielded only a pair of singles in his 89-pitch outing.

“It kind of got me pretty good,” Manoah said when asked about his fall. “It was a long couple of weeks, and I’m just so happy and so grateful to be back on that mound.

“Body felt really good; everything felt good. I was able to throw a lot of strikes and get the boys a win.”

The 23-year-old Manoah (3-1) knew he would be keyed up for his first Rogers Centre start. So he attempted to control his adrenaline with deep breaths. He didn’t have the velocity he exhibited earlier in the season.

However, he still managed four strikeouts and retired 16 Royals in a row between Ryan O’Hearn’s one-out single in the second inning and Hunter Dozier’s two-out base hit in the seventh.

“We thought he was going to be rusty,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoya said. “But he was throwing strikes.

“This kid didn’t have his best stuff, and he still can get you out.”

If Manoah can continue to chip in as he did on Saturday, the Blue Jays should have a scary starting rotation with their top four pitchers, led by Robbie Ray, Hyun Jin Ryu and newcomer Jose Berrios. The latter was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for shortstop/outfielder Austin Martin and right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson on Friday.

Berrios, scheduled to start for the Twins on Friday, was expected to arrive at Rogers Centre on Saturday evening. Montoyo plans to start his new pitcher in the series finale on Sunday afternoon if he deems himself ready.

“I’ll be waiting here for him,” Montoyo said in his post-game remarks.

The Blue Jays also had to wait for Springer to make an impact this summer. The free agent signed a six-year, $150-million US contract with Toronto last January. But a right-quadricep strain limited his playing time earlier this season.

He found his form in July. His first-pitch leadoff homer down the left-field line, for his 40th career leadoff round-tripper, and his third-inning two-run blast were his 10th and 11th home runs of the year. He now has gone 19-for-49 (.388) in his last 13 games with six doubles, six homers and 10 RBI.

“Obviously, this is where I wanted to play,” said Springer, who has reached base 50 times in his 34 outings in 2021. “This is home. For us to have a chance to come back here, to play in front of the fans, the atmosphere has been unbelievable the last couple of games. It’s exciting.”

After Manoah departed, the Blue Jays received some substantial relief pitching from lefty Ryan Borucki and Adam Cimber. Borucki got the first two outs in the eighth inning, while Cimber closed down the Royals (45-58) with four straight strikeouts to end the game.

The Blue Jays (53-48) have won three in a row and four of their last five.

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Toronto's Penny Oleksiak makes history as Canada swims to bronze in medley relay – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


Published Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT


Last Updated Saturday, July 31, 2021 10:23PM EDT

TOKYO — Canada’s women capped Olympic swimming with a bronze medal in the medley relay Sunday and produced a historic seventh career medal for Penny Oleksiak.

Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Toronto’s Oleksiak touched in 3:52.60, a Canadian record.

Australia took gold with an Olympic-record 3:51.60. The Americans were close behind, finishing second in 3:51.73.

Oleksiak swam the anchor freestyle leg into the history books as the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history. The 21-year-old surpassed speedskater Cindy Klassen and speedskater-cyclist Clara Hughes at six medals apiece.

“Knowing that I have the best girls in the world to race with, I pretty much had a medal in the back of my mind the whole race,” Oleksiak said. “I’m racing with three of the best swimmers in the world, so why should I worry?”

The achievement says a lot about Oleksiak’s depth of talent, said Marnie McBean, Canada’s chef de mission.

“Winning one medal is hard, and multiple at one Games is all about the ability to reset and focus. Winning multiple medals at multiple Games — that is a battle against so much more,” McBean, a three-time Olympian, said in a statement.

“The notion of repeating and the burden of expectations, internally and externally, can be so disruptive. Penny figured out how to thrive all while being an amazing role model to young Canadians.”

Masse led Canada off in backstroke followed by Pickrem’s breaststroke leg and Mac Neil in butterfly.

As Mac Neil hung the medal around Oleksiak’s neck during the medal ceremony, Masse applauded and Pickrem shimmied in celebration.

“Most decorated,” they chorused during post-ceremony interviews with reporters.

Oleksiak, Mac Neil and Masse claimed their third medals at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Mac Neil, 21, also captured 100-metre butterfly gold. She and Oleksiak took silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay on the first day of finals, so Mac Neil leaves Tokyo with a complete set.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept Canada’s swim team out of the water for large chunks of the last 15 months. Mac Neil said that didn’t stop the swimmers from challenging the world in Tokyo.

“We’ve had one of the strictest lockdowns in the entire world, so it was just putting in the training that we’ve doing for the last 15 months in and showing the world what we have,” Mac Neil said.

Masse, 25, earned a pair of silver in backstroke. Oleksiak, who revealed Sunday she’d been dealing with an ongoing back injury, also claimed bronze in the 200-metre freestyle.

The women’s swim team amassed six medals in Tokyo to equal its Rio count of five years ago.

Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Pickrem, Mac Neil and Toronto’s Kayla Sanchez posted the fastest qualification time in Friday’s heats to give Canada a middle lane Sunday.

The medley relay medal was Canada’s first since 1988 and fourth in the 61-year Olympic history of race. Canadian women were bronze medallists in 1976, 1984 and ’88.

Oleksiak won 100-freestyle gold, 100-butterfly silver and anchored Canada to a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals at age 16 in Rio.

Heats, semifinals, finals and relays added up to 10 races over nine days for Oleksiak in Tokyo, where she added a pair of relay medals and the 200 free bronze to her total.

Canada’s men’s team finished seventh in the medley relay just minutes after the women left the pool Sunday.

Markus Thormeyer (backstroke), Gabe Mastromatteo (breaststroke), Joshua Liendo (butterfly) and Yuri Kisil (freestyle) finished in 3:32.42.

The U.S. took gold in the men’s event with a world record 3:26.78. Great Britain came second and Italy captured bronze.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.

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Kylie Masse won her second medal of the Summer Olympics – Sports – Castanet.net

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Make it an even dozen medals for Canada and a second for swimmer Kylie Masse at the Tokyo Olympics.

Masse won her second silver, finishing just behind Australian Kaylee McKeown in the women’s 200 metre backstroke.

She also won silver in the 100 backstroke.

Masse went out fast and led for much of the race. But, McKeown put on a strong kick over the final 25 metres to touch just ahead of Masse.

McKeown won in two minutes, 4.68 seconds, 74 one-hundredths ahead of Masse.

Masse’s time of 2:05.42 established a Canadian record in the event.

Kelowna-born Taylor Ruck was sixth in 2:08.24.

Masse joins Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak as double medalists at the Olympics.

Canada has a good chance for one final medal in the pool Saturday evening in the women’s 4×100 metre medley.

The team, which included Ruck, finished with the best time in their semi-final earlier in the day.

The roster for the team could change for the final.

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