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Raptors’ explosive attack builds adequate cushion to hold off Thunder –



With seven different players who scored in double-digits and by shooting a scorching 61.2 per cent from the floor, the Toronto Raptors managed to hold on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 130-121 in a shootout at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday night.

This was an evening that saw Marc Gasol return to the Raptors after missing the last 12 games with a hamstring injury and start in a jumbo-sized lineup along with Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry.

With Gasol back in the fold, the only key Raptor left still sidelined is Fred VanVleet, an encouraging sign for a Toronto team that has been decimated by injuries throughout the season.

Here are a few takeaways from a wild and entertaining win for the Raptors in OKC.

Offensive explosion

As previously mentioned, the Raptors were spectacular offensively.

Their 61.2 per cent mark from the field has only been matched or surpassed 10 times in franchise history and ranks as Raptors’ sixth-best shooting performance ever. Additionally, it was only the 18th time they’ve ever scored 130 points or more in a game, and just the 11th time in a non-overtime affair.

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With these gaudy numbers came impressive individual performances from the Raptors. Seven different players scored in double-digits. Here’s a quick glance at what each of them did:

Norman Powell: Powell had 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting and was 3-for-4 from three-point range. He was the most consistent scorer for Toronto all night and looks to not have missed a beat since his own return from injury.

Pascal Siakam: Siakam finished with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Unlike the rust that showed from the second quarter onward Sunday, Siakam looked like he had found his legs and was much more comfortable Wednesday.

OG Anunoby: Anunoby also had 21 points, but perhaps more impressive was the five assists and five rebounds he collected Wednesday. This was a nice follow-up effort after a rough outing Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Kyle Lowry: Lowry had 17 points and eight assists, and appeared to ice the game when he hit a decisive, driving lay-up right down the middle of the lane with 2:20 left to play and then hit a jumper with 1:25 left to give Toronto a seven-point cushion. This came after it looked as though the Raptors might blow what was a 30-point lead in the fourth.

If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.

Serge Ibaka: Ibaka finished with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting, but his best came in the first frame when he had 13 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting.

Marc Gasol: Gasol was excellent in his first game back from injury, scoring 15 points while dishing out five dimes. It looks like the time off did wonders for Gasol as he appeared engaged, energized and aggressive with his shot – something that will surely be music to the ears of Raptors fans.

Terence Davis: Davis had 12 points and seven rebounds Wednesday. His biggest moment in the game came in the third quarter when he hit a three-pointer near the end of the third quarter to help the Raptors maintain their lead as the Thunder threatened.

A tale of two halves

The Raptors led Wednesday’s game by as much as 30 points, but nearly saw that lead evaporate in the fourth quarter.

Toronto started the game very strong, scoring 38 points in the first quarter on nearly 70 per cent shooting before finishing up the opening half with a 73-55 advantage.

In the third quarter, the Raptors got sloppy with the ball, turning it over seven times allowing OKC to crawl back into the game and enter the fourth down only 14.

Then in the final period, it was the Raptors’ defence that let them down as they allowed the Thunder to put up a 38-point frame of their own and saw that 30-point gap shrink to as few as three points with 2:09 left to play.

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It made for great entertainment with the game turning from a laugher into a nail-biter down the stretch, but this should still be concerning for Toronto as it’s becoming a trend for the team.

Had OKC managed to complete the comeback, this would’ve been the third time in four games where the Raptors would’ve blown a fourth-quarter lead.

The two other games in question are the ones against the Portland Trail Blazers last week and Sunday’s game versus the San Antonio Spurs. In each of those matchups, it was thought that the major point of contention for the Raptors was their poor fourth-quarter offence. However, this growing issue of poor final-frame play may have more to do with the Raptors’ defence.

The offence was fine Wednesday, but the Raptors allowed OKC to score 33 points in the final quarter, something very similar to the 32 and 36 spots, respectively, in the fourth that the Blazers and Spurs had against the Raptors recently.

SGA stays hot

It wasn’t the 20-20-10 triple-double masterpiece of his previous game, nor was it a 32-point performance like he had in Toronto a few days before the calendar flipped to 2020, but Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still had himself a strong night against the Raptors on Wednesday.

The Hamilton, Ont., native concluded his evening with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists while shooting 6-for-10 from the field and 2-for-2 from deep.

His free throws with 2:09 left in the game brought the Thunder within three points and he was instrumental in getting the Thunder back in a position to possibly make a historic comeback, dropping four dimes in the fourth quarter alone.

Despite the strong outing, this seemed like a relatively ordinary line for Gilgeous-Alexander. Perhaps, the best compliment we can now give to the rising star as he continues his breakout sophomore campaign.

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Canadian sportscaster Brian Williams retires following distinguished 50-year career –



Ask Brian Williams about his half-century long broadcasting career and he’ll rifle off player names and memorable moments with specific detail like they happened yesterday.

There was Liz Manley’s skate and the Battle of the Brians at the 1988 Calgary Games. Ian Sunter’s game-winning field goal for the Tiger-Cats at the 1972 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau’s golden performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Williams, who announced his retirement Thursday, covered just about every sport imaginable over his remarkable sportscasting career. The Olympics and the CFL were two of his mainstays as a principal studio anchor and longtime host with CBC and later CTV and TSN.

“I could sit here and talk about horse racing, car racing, World Cup skiing, tennis, so many things,” Williams said. “But those two come to mind as I’ve probably done those events more than any other.”

Knowledgeable no matter the sport, Williams also lent his voice to coverage of hockey, Major League Baseball, World Cup soccer and much more.

The Winnipeg native was named to the Order of Canada in 2011 for his broadcasting career and community and volunteer work.

“I just feel very fortunate and very happy to have worked with great people at great events,” Williams told The Canadian Press. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Williams won eight Gemini Awards, two Foster Hewitt Awards and one Canadian Screen Award. Considered one of Canada’s leading authorities on the Olympics, he covered the first of his 14 Games in 1976 at Montreal.

‘An icon’

Reached by phone on Thursday, he said he noticed that Canadian athletes had a change in attitude at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“They were going saying, ‘We’re going to do our best and we’re going to stand on top of that podium,”‘ he said. “There was a pride in this country and I remember I said on my sign-off something to the effect of the sea of red pride and love that has flowed from coast to coast to coast, from Vancouver right across this country.

“Canadians with a new pride in ourselves, our country and our athletes. There was always pride for the athletes but this was like something I had never seen. So that was special.”

Williams also co-hosted the syndicated radio show Grapeline with Don Cherry for 35 years. A longtime host of CFL coverage on both CBC and TSN, Williams estimates he covered the Grey Cup upwards of 40 times.

“An icon. Absolutely, an icon,” radio broadcaster and columnist Don Landry said on Twitter. “A brilliant interviewer, a once-in-a-generation broadcaster. And a wonderful, gem of a man.”

“There are legends and then there is Brian Williams,” tweeted Sportsnet anchor Ken Reid. “I grew up on CBC Sports Weekend. Was honoured to meet the man in London in 2012. Congrats to you Mr. Williams.”

Williams covered his first Olympics in 1976 and was the principal studio anchor for 13 Games with both CBC and CTV. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Williams was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and was given the Commissioner’s Award at the 2012 Grey Cup in recognition for more than 40 years of contributions to the game.

“It’s been coming, so we’ve known,” Williams said of his retirement. “They were going to do it at the Grey Cup in Regina but that was cancelled last year and of course then with COVID everything was delayed.

“It’s here and I [am] looking forward to years of retirement.”

Began career covering university basketball

Williams began calling university basketball play-by-play in 1967. He started his professional career in radio with Toronto’s CHUM.

After a year at CFRB Radio in Toronto, Williams joined CBLT, the CBC’s English-language flagship channel. He remained with CBC until his move to CTV and TSN in 2006.

“Brian is a true legend who has brought extraordinary knowledge, warmth, and humour to TSN broadcasts,” Bell Media senior vice-president Stewart Johnston said in a release.

“A remarkable storyteller with a generous spirit, Brian has dedicated so much of his time to causes close to his heart. We miss him on-air and around the office, but are grateful for all the incredible years he has spent with TSN.”

The network said it will celebrate Williams’ career on Dec. 12 in advance of the 108th Grey Cup broadcast.

“You have children and grandchildren and there comes a time to retire,” Williams said. “At 75, for me, it’s the right time.”

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Sheldon Keefe Post Game, Leafs 8 vs. Avalanche 3: "I like a lot of things about our game today, but I don't leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove



Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after the Maple Leafs’ electric 8-3 blowout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday evening — their NHL-leading 17th win of the year.

On the quality of the team’s start:

We thought we needed to start quickly in the game. Obviously, playing with a lead is important always but especially against this team. To build the lead that we did was great to see. I thought we moved the puck really well in that first period which gave us a chance to get after them and attack their net. It’s nice to get that lead and start quick.

On the blowout performance overall:

I don’t think it was an 8-3 game, to be honest. We were playing a team that faced some adversity before the game with their goaltending and I thought we capitalized on that. I think that makes the game feel a lot different than it was.

It’s a tough game, I can imagine, on their side — pucks are going in like that. I like a lot of things about our game here today, but I don’t leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that.

They had the puck quite a bit — I thought we defended well as a group. The thing we really wanted to focus on was our defensive zone — we knew that they were going to spend a lot of time in our end as they usually do. That was important for us to be good there and I was happy with the job we did. For the most part, we limited them to point shots, tips, and things of that nature. Against a team of that quality, you’ll take that.

On what kept Joseph Woll from dressing as backup tonight:

He just came into the game stiff from practice yesterday to the point that he wasn’t comfortable, or [the medical staff] weren’t comfortable allowing him to skate. We’ll see how he is after a day off, both today and tomorrow now. It’s minor, so we hope he bounces back.

On Auston Matthews’ hat trick:

First of all, I thought that line really moved the puck — they were really good down below the hash marks. Those first two goals are just really good sequences by that line — just unbelievable passes by Mitch Marner in both cases and elite finishes as well. On the third one, he gets in alone and that’s a pretty good shot that kisses the post and goes in. It’s nice to see it go in — he hasn’t had many of those this season and those are ones that usually go in for him. To get it to be the one that finishes off the hat trick on home ice is pretty cool.

On Michael Bunting’s three-assist game alongside Matthews-Marner:

He did a lot of really good things off the puck today in terms of working on the forecheck. On the first goal, he’s on it and gets the first touch then goes to Mitch back to Auston.

Good example of the type of game we need from him. I looked at it as he comes away with three assists in the game. There’s maybe nothing that really stands out in terms of how he got those, but he’s a part of those sequences there leading to goals, so he’s contributing in his own way.

On whether there’s concern that the team will become complacent given their recent success:

I think with the fact that we’ve gotten to this point and things have rolled the way they have, the guys themselves have done a good job of that and assuring that we just stay on it. Am I concerned about it? No, because the players themselves have done a really good job here of late, but — at the same time — there are a number of things that we can do a whole lot better. We’re going to enjoy the day off tomorrow — the players very much need a day off and a day away. They’re still recovering from that road trip, so tomorrow’s an important day.

As a staff, we’ve already got a number of things that we want to work on tomorrow and work at in practice to help us prepare for Minnesota.

On Joey Anderson’s season debut performance:

I really liked [his] game. He was strong on the puck in terms of having it and fighting his way through traffic. He’s around the net and strong off the puck, too. He won some battles and got the puck back for us. From what I was looking to see from him, I think he delivered that and fit in well on that line.

On the termination of Kirill Semyonov’s contract:

It’s one of those situations with these guys that come over — they come over because they want to get a look in the NHL and get a chance to play in the league. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as they would hope. The organization has always been really good at working with guys on this if it’s not going to way that they’ve liked. In particular, for the Russian players coming from the KHL, they leave some pretty good situations there.

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NHL Prospect Notebook: Thoughts on Team Canada's WJC camp roster –



Hockey Canada announced a 35-player selection camp roster for the 2022 world juniors on Wednesday. Due to COVID protocols, camp will be shortened to allow for the final roster to move into quarantine before transitioning to the Edmonton bubble for the duration of the tournament. There will be two days of practice and two games against a USports team from Dec. 9-12 before final decisions are made on the 25-man roster.

NHL Content
Four players on this roster have already played NHL games in Cole Perfetti, Jake Neigbours, Hendrix Lapierre and Mason McTavish, the last three of whom have already scored their first NHL goals.

No. 1 in 2022
Kingston’s Shane Wright, the projected first overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft, will get his second crack at making the team after a disappointing camp last year where he simply couldn’t find his stride. Wright lead Canada to gold at the U18 worlds and is up over a point per game for the OHL’s Frontenacs, despite being fourth in team scoring.

No. 1 in 2023?
Connor Bedard will attempt to become one of a handful of 16-year-olds in history to make Team Canada’s WJC squad and join a list that includes Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros and Connor McDavid. Bedard has 17 points in 21 games for a Regina team that has endured a coaching change. Canada’s Director of Player Personnel, Alan Millar, knows the player well. With Millar having worked previously as GM for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, he not only got to see plenty of Bedard in the Regina bubble last season, but was quick to point out that Bedard produced 10 of his team-leading 14 points when it counted most for Canada in the medal round of the 2021 U18 worlds.

Canada will employ a roster composition of three goalies, eight defencemen, and 14 forwards. Typically, IIHF rules allow for 22-man rosters, but COVID protocols have made a concession for an additional three players. This was also the case last year.

Three Back
There are three returnees from last year’s silver medal-winning Canadian team in Perfetti, defenceman Kaiden Guhle and goaltender Dylan Garand. Guhle was traded from Prince Albert to Edmonton on Wednesday.

Quinton Byfield of the L.A. Kings remains on the sidelines with an injury, as do Flyers prospects Tyson Foerster and Zayde Wisdom.

Stay in the Show
In terms of WJC eligible players still in the NHL, Jamie Drysdale is playing over 20 minutes per game for Anaheim. Columbus’ Cole Sillinger, who has nine points in 20 games, is centreing Columbus’ second line. And Carolina’s Seth Jarvis has seen time on the Canes’ top line while putting up seven points in 14 games played.

Maize and Blue in the Red and White
University of Michigan’s Owen Power, the first overall pick by Buffalo in the 2021 NHL draft, will participate. Due to the time he would’ve missed last year to come to the WJC, he along with Michigan head coach Mel Pearson, decided it would be best to stay the course in his freshman season and not miss the 51 days it would have required to participate (including quarantine). Power currently sits tied for second in NCAA play with 23 points in 16 games. He won a World Championship gold with Canada last summer and now looks to become the first player ever to win a men’s senior world and a world junior gold before competing in an NHL game.

Power’s Michigan teammate, and Columbus first-rounder Kent Johnson, also earned an invite to Canada’s camp. He’s tied with Power at 23 points on the season.

Who Dat?
The two biggest surprises in Canada’s camp have to be Ryan Tverberg of UConn and Eliot Desnoyers of QMJHL Halifax. Tverberg is a seventh-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ from 2020 and leads the Huskies in scoring. Desnoyers is an Arizona fifth-rounder, also from 2020. As of Wednesday, he was fifth in league scoring with 34 points, only eight of which have come on the power play.

Three’s Company
The only competition in goal will be for the starter’s job as all three names to camp will be on the final team. Garand is the returnee and will be joined by Detroit first-rounder Sebastian Cossa and former Junior C netminder Brett Brochu, currently with the London Knights.

A few surprising omissions include WHL leading scorer Matthew Savoie, Anaheim first-rounder Jacob Perreault, Blainville-Boisbriand defenceman Miguel Tourigny, who leads all CHL defencemen with 16 goals, Barrie defenceman Brandt Clarke (who leads the OHL in defencemen scoring) and Sudbury centre Chase Stillman, who played a role Canada head coach Dave Cameron would admire with Canada’s U18 gold medal team.

Cameron last coached Canada at the world juniors in Buffalo in 2011. Canada led the gold medal game 3-0 going into the third period that year before dropping a 5-3 decision to Russia.

Boydy Boy
Nobody knows Cameron like James Boyd. The two spent years together working in Toronto and Mississauga and it’s clear the management team had a vision in coming up with the 35-player list. “This is not an All-star team, hard skill over soft skill, details, being able to overcome challenges and adversity,” were small bits of the messaging from Wednesday’s presser. The point was stressed that this team will be composed to handle playing in a variety of ways and to face a number of challenges and adversity. The final roster will be constructed as such.

Home Ice
Canada last won on home ice when the tournament was hosted jointly by Montreal and Toronto in 2015.

In the Pool
Canada, Finland, Germany, Czech Republic and Austria compose Group A. Reigning gold medalists USA will play in a pool with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland.

“We’re not building a team for Boxing Day, we’re building a team for January 5th,” said Director of Player Personnel Alan Millar.

USA, the reigning gold medalists, feature six first-round NHL draft picks and will participate in camp in Plymouth, Mich., from December 13-15.

The US has never won back-to-back tournaments, but has three gold medals in the past nine years.

Maize and Blue in the Red, White and Blue
The Wolverines feature four players on USA’s roster in Luke Hughes (New Jersey pick), Jacob Truscott (Vancouver), Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose) and Mackie Samoskevich (Florida).

Back Again
They US returns three defencemen in L.A. Kings prospect Brock Faber and Ottawa draft picks Ty Kleven and Jake Sanderson. Up front, Seattle’s first ever draft pick, Matty Beniers, is one of three returnees. Chicago’s Landon Slaggert and Ranger pick Brett Berard are the others.

The Americans have called upon just two first-year draft eligibles, goalie Dylan Silverstein and winger Logan Cooley.

Wolves and COVID
With 12 positive test results for COVID-19, the Sudbury Wolves were forced to cease operations for at least 10 days. Team officials spent Wednesday delivering workout gear to billet homes. Players, if feeling up to it, will participate in daily workouts.

While in isolation, players will also be subject to personal meetings with coaches, team building and individual video sessions over Zoom.

Unfortunately, some of the billet families have been forced to self-isolate as well.

As of Wednesday afternoon, all who tested positive were either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.

One player of particular note is defenceman Jack Thompson. The Tampa Bay prospect was selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s U20 selection camp. Thompson is working with the Wolves, the Lightning and Hockey Canada to make sure he’s able to participate in camp, which begins Dec. 9. It is unknown as to whether or not Thompson is one of the 12 players who tested positive, but even with the mandatory 10-day waiting period, Thompson would be eligible to participate in the full camp.

Team members will re-test after seven days and if results are negative, will be able to get back to business after the mandatory 10 days.

By all accounts, local health authorities and league officials have been extremely supportive in Sudbury’s time of need.

Capital City Challenge Gold Game
This tournament, featuring three U17 teams and the women’s national team, concluded Wednesday. In a back and forth affair for the gold medal game, Riley Heidt of Prince George put Team Red ahead 5-4 with 29 seconds left only to have Team Black tie it with a goal from Winnipeg’s Zach Benson at 19:59. Oshawa’s Calum Ritchie won it for Team Black at the 9:19 mark of overtime, his 11th point of the tourney.

Team Black was led by Benson, who put up 12 points over five games, while Team Red received seven-point performances from Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) Matthew Wood and Moose Jaw’s (WHL) Brayden Yager.

Team White defeated the National Women’s team 6-1 to capture the bronze medal.

The Women’s National team was lead by Marie-Philip Poulin with four points in three games. Seven players accumulated two points apiece .

Team White was lead by Ethan Gauthier of Sherbrooke, who put up nine points in five games, including an assist on Ty Peddle’s game-winner.

Leading scorers
Team Black was led by Winnipeg’s Zach Benson, who finished the tournament with 11 points in four games. Oshawa’s Calum Ritchie finished second with nine points.

My good pal, and Flames radio analyst Peter Loubardias couldn’t stop raving about Yager, whom many have already compared to Nathan MacKinnon.

Petes New Coach
In case you haven’t seen this, it’s unreal. Peterborough Petes head coach Rob Wilson is currently with the U17s in Ottawa for the tournament that just wrapped. His Petes hosted Ottawa on Sunday, and so a new coach took the reins while Wilson was away.

By the way, the Petes won 3-2.

You can purchase t-shirts here, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Speaking of the Petes, when the third overall pick from the 2021 draft, Mason McTavish, was sent back to Peterborough, it was in the hopes he would participate in the world juniors and give the Petes a big lift. He had a hat trick in his first game back, a 5-3 win versus North Bay, and opened the scoring in aforementioned Cal Wilson’s coaching debut.

Teddy Time
It’s Teddy Bear toss season in the CHL. If you feel comfortable enough to attend a game, be sure to check your local team’s schedule and try to attend on Teddy Bear toss night. It’s a blast and it will go a long way in making a child’s holidays.

Gone Way too Soon
Deepest condolences to the Swaby family. Former Tri-City Americans and Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Matt Swaby left us way too soon. He leaves behind wife Carla and three kids. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Carla and the children.

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