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

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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.

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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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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena

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LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap

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In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates

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Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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