Sometimes it’s a game of inches.
That’s what the Toronto Raptors learned Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics.
After squandering an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, the Raptors had a chance to tie it up late. They went to their lead scorer Pascal Siakam in the final seconds, hoping to erase a three-point Celtics lead, but Siakam’s foot was one size too big. As he turned tried to maneuver in the left corner, his foot came down just out of bounds, allowing the Celtics to clinch a 2-0 series lead with a 102-99 victory in Game 2.
None of it would have been possible for the Celtics if not for a herculean fourth quarter from Marcus Smart. The Celtics’ 26-year-old wing started the game 1-for-5 from beyond the arc but came out to start the fourth quarter on fire, nailing five straight 3-pointers to turn an eight-point Raptors lead into a one-point Celtics advantage.
“It’s tough, he got five threes,” Kyle Lowry said. “We played a well-energized game, we just didn’t close it out. We just didn’t finish the game defensively as we should have.”
It was a classic performance from Smart one of the most hot-and-cold players in the NBA.
“I ain’t never met nobody like Smart,” Jayson Tatum said. “He is one of a kind.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Tatum had a chance to put the Celtics up six with just over a minute to go, but with OG Anunoby guarding him, he extended his arm, pushing off and getting called for the offensive foul. Upset by the call, he turned around in frustration, gesturing in disgust and getting called for a technical.
It was the lone lowlight for Tatum in an otherwise remarkable 34-point performance. The mistake opened the door for a Raptors comeback, as Lowry pulled Toronto to within three by converting the technical.
But that comeback was not to be.
Siakam’s first attempt to tie the game was snuffed out by Smart, who appeared to foul the Raptors’ forward on the drive, but touched the ball out-of-bounds giving the Raptors one more chance.
“I think Smart fouled the sh*t out of him on the one,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Lowry subsequently took the ball out of bounds and found Anunoby on the inbound, but when the ball was swung to Siakam, he stepped out of bounds, turning the ball over to the Celtics.
It was the lone turnover from Siakam, who looked impressive as a facilitator at times, but again continued to struggle with his shot. He went 6-for-16 from the field and just 1-for-4 from 3-point range.
“We just tell him our confidence is in him,” Lowry said. “We know how good he can be and how dominant of a basketball player he can be, he has to figure it out and play, make some shots, if he makes some shots it’s a different game, he makes some layups it’s a different game, it happens sometimes, it just happens, he’s missing some shots that he’s used to making.”
The loss squandered an impressive scoring performance from Anunoby who set a playoff-high with 20 points, the most of any Raptors player Tuesday evening. He nailed four 3-pointers in the game and looked fluid scoring at the rim.
The problem for Toronto was their 3-point shooting from their starting guards who combined to shoot 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
“I think my shots feel good, but you want to see them go in a little bit more,” Lowry said. “I haven’t shot the ball extremely well, and I know I can shoot, so it’s kind of like just being in the mindset of alright, there it is, there it is, keep getting a feel for it.”
The big Raptors’ fourth-quarter lead came thanks to an 11-0 run in the third quarter, sparked by a Serge Ibaka 3-pointer and culminating in a transition layup from Fred VanVleet and a free throw from Siakam after Nurse got a foul call overturned.
Free Throw Disparity:
The free throw disparity in the first half was certainly a little questionable for the Raptors. Boston got to the line nine times before the break while Toronto recorded zero free-throw attempts.
Tatum alone went to the free-throw line 14 times, nearly as many as the Raptors as a team who took 19 free throws.
“He shoots 14 free throws which is as much as our whole team shoots,” Nurse said. “That’s the frustrating part.”
It wasn’t too long ago that the Raptors were down 0-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals and clawed back to win four straight.
“I mean we’re pretty pissed right now we’re down 0-2, but you know we have to go back and look at the film and understand what we’ve done wrong and what we can do better,” Lowry said. “This is not a situation, we’d like to be in but you know it’s not a normal situation in the playoffs where we last two home games. We just lost two games. We got a chance to get enough to get one game. That’s all gotta do is get one game and take one day, one game at a time and know that the Celtics have been playing extremely well so we got to find a way to, you know, get our ourselves going.”
Though Kawhi Leonard won’t be stepping onto the court for Toronto in this playoffs, the Raptors are an experienced group who knows how to overcome playoff adversity.
Siakam ended the first half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Jaylen Brown from way behind the arc.
Moment of the pre-game:
Prior to the game, the Sportsnet broadcast showed Fred VanVleet’s daughter Sanaa waiting to presumably her father before Game 2.
Raptors players were allowed to have their family members join them in the NBA bubble on Monday.
The Raptors will tip off Game 3 against the Celtics on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Lightning’s Stamkos returns, scores in Game 3 of Cup Final vs. Stars – Sportsnet.ca
Steven Stamkos is back.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captain is playing his first NHL game since February as he returns to the ice for Game 3 of the team’s Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
And in his third shift of the game, Stamkos buried a goal over the blocker of Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. Stamkos took a pass in the neutral zone from Victor Hedman, glided into the Stars’ zone and sniped a shot past Khudobin to lift Tampa Bay to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Stamkos had yet to suit up in the 2020 post-season, suffering an injury before the Lightning reconvened from the season pause to begin training. The centreman’s last game came on Feb. 25 — amid a 15-game, 22-point scoring streak — after having core muscle surgery. 210 days have passed since then. The 30-year-old finished the campaign with 66 points across 57 games.
The Cup Final is level at one game apiece after the Lightning’s 3-2 win over the Stars on Monday.
Watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN NOW.
Craig Anderson’s time in Ottawa comes to an end – TSN
A few minutes into Wednesday’s video conference call with reporters, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion mentioned the club would not be offering a contract extension to veteran goalie Craig Anderson.
It was a low-key, modest announcement – almost a throwaway nugget of information in a session dominated by talk of the upcoming NHL Draft and the opening of free agency.
But in a strange twist, it was the perfect exit for the netminder who never sought the limelight of the No. 1 goalie job in a Canadian market. The 39-year-old would not have wanted a splashy farewell press conference or an emotional goodbye with fans and media.
At some point, Anderson should get an opportunity to re-connect with the Ottawa fan base for an emotional evening. His Senators resume, which boasts more than 400 games and 200 wins, has certainly etched his name as a future addition to the club’s Ring of Honour inside Canadian Tire Centre.
But beyond the dominating statistical profile – which includes virtually every meaningful goalie record in franchise history – Anderson singlehandedly transformed the way Ottawa fans viewed the position in their own market
Prior to Anderson’s arrival, Senators fans often felt nervous about their situation in the crease. Ottawa had earned the reputation of being a goalie graveyard – a place where netminders melted under the pressure of playing in a hockey-mad market.
There was Patrick Lalime’s infamous Game 7 meltdown against Toronto.
The ill-advised, splashy free agent signing of Martin Gerber.
The tumultuous tenure of Ray Emery.
The injury-plagued career of Pascal Leclaire.
Even Stanley Cup-winning goalies such as Tom Barrasso and Dominik Hasek couldn’t seem to shake the curse.
Ottawa was a place that offered job security for public service workers, not goaltenders.
But when Bryan Murray pulled off a trade in February of 2011, sending Brian Elliott – himself a victim of Ottawa’s haunted crease – to Colorado for Anderson, all of that changed.
In many ways, Anderson’s departure from Ottawa was as understated as his arrival.
Murray brought in Anderson for a test drive – hoping that he could convince the pending free agent to sign with the Senators before hitting the market in the summer of 2011.
Anderson immediately endeared himself to Ottawa fans, posting a 47-save shutout in Toronto on a Saturday night in his first start in a Senators jersey.
Anderson sparkled in his first stint with the Senators down the stretch of the 2010-11 campaign, with an 11-5-1 record and a .939 save percentage. Some fans grumbled that Anderson’s stellar play in that run cost the club the first-overall draft pick – ultimately dropping them down to the sixth spot.
But in hindsight, that was a small price to pay to land a franchise goalie.
For almost a decade, Anderson was the epitome of cool and calm in a tumultuous environment that would have tested the mental resolve of any netminder. While the roster was overhauled around him multiple times, Anderson never once publicly demanded a trade to a better situation, even as veteran teammates were being jettisoned all around him.
Anderson was at his best in the playoffs, establishing himself as a reliable postseason netminder. In 41 career playoff games with Ottawa, he boasted a .928 save percentage – a metric that should have earned him more than just one trip to the conference final.
He held his own in playoff series against the likes of Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist – goalies with Hall of Fame resumes who made nearly double what Anderson was being paid.
Even when his team would lose a playoff series with Anderson in net – and they did on four different occasions – nobody pointed a finger at the goaltending position. It was a stark departure from the previous playoff meltdowns in Ottawa, where the No. 1 goalie was often the prime culprit.
But when Ottawa fans think of Anderson’s signature performance with the club, their minds don’t immediately jump to a high-stakes playoff game.
Instead, most Ottawa fans remember the night of Oct. 30, 2016, when Anderson posted a 37-save shutout against the Edmonton Oilers. With the hockey world aware that his wife, Nicholle, was battling cancer, Anderson turned aside every Edmonton shot during the game – then had to turn aside tears as he was feted by the Edmonton crowd afterwards.
The image of his Oilers counterpart Cam Talbot cheering him on the bench remains one of the most powerful moments in Senators history.
Anderson authored so many memorable moments in the blue paint in Ottawa, but none come close to having the impact of that singular start in Edmonton four years ago.
In the months that followed, Anderson cemented his status as a fan favourite – ultimately taking the Senators to double-overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against Pittsburgh that spring.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Senators fan who put any blame on Anderson for the Chris Kunitz game-winning goal, which serves as a firm reminder of how far the pendulum has swung when it comes to goaltending in Ottawa.
Before Anderson came along, it would have been unfathomable for the Senators to suffer a crippling Game 7 loss without a significant share of the blame landing on the goaltender’s shoulders.
But over the course of a decade Anderson managed to change the narrative on goaltending in Ottawa – a feat that is more impressive than anything on his goaltending resume.
Lightning, Stars resume punishing Stanley Cup Final as Stamkos nears return – Sportsnet.ca
Steven Stamkos has been out so long, there’s probably a “believe it when I see it” element to his potential return for fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The coach of the Dallas Stars, however, is operating on the assumption No. 91 could be cocking his stick from the top of the circle any moment now.
“I bumped into him the other day in the hallway,” Stars bench boss Rick Bowness said with a chuckle before Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. “When I see him walking out to the ice surface in full gear, I know where he’s going and he can’t be that far away [from playing]. We’re prepared.”
From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper said his team’s captain is “inching closer” to skating in his first NHL game since Feb. 25. While acknowledging a lot would go into Stamkos’s return in terms of shaking the rust, Cooper also emphasized the obvious: Put a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner back in the lineup and it’s bound to move the needle.
“He’s a threat,” Cooper said. “So he’s just another thing for a team to think about when he’s out there. Whether that’s on the power play or five-on-five, you get another player who, if the puck gets on his stick in the offensive zone, it might go in the net.”
Preventing the Bolts from scoring in Game 3 could actually get easier for the Stars. Regardless of whether or not Stamkos comes back, Dallas will be the home team for the first time in the 1-1 series, giving Bowness the last-change advantage of lining up his preferred defence pair against whoever Tampa is throwing at him.
“We’ve always put more emphasis on getting the right D out there [compared to matching forward lines],” Bowness said. “Some of these matchup decisions are based on score, time on the clock, if you need a goal you put your offensive guys out. A lot of factors come into play, but the constant one will be getting the right ‘D’ out there against the top lines.”
One person Bowness hopes can become a tougher defensive matchup for the other squad is his leading goal-scorer from the regular season, Denis Gurianov. The 23-year-old Russian — though still second on the team with nine playoff goals — has hit the net just once in his past 10 outings. He played fewer than 11 minutes in Game 1 and just over 13 in Game 2.
“Nervous,” is how Bowness assessed Gurianov’s play from the most recent contest. “He was nervous.”
When people aren’t speculating about the possibility of a Stamkos sighting, much of the talk through two games has been on how punishing the series has been as both games featured over 100 hits apiece. Early in Game 2, superstar Tampa right winger Nikita Kucherov took a couple of serious knocks before setting up a pair of goals in his side’s 3-2 win. Dallas’s Blake Comeau was rocked by Ryan McDonagh in the second period and did not return. Bowness said Comeau is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s tilt.
Tampa’s Tyler Johnson was asked if the suppressed existence everyone is experiencing with bubble life could be contributing to the nastier scene once the puck drops, as the teams kick off a particularly gruelling stretch of three games in four nights.
“I think everyone is [feeling] couped up a little bit, so you let your anger out on the ice,” Johnson said, perhaps only slightly kidding. “Going into this, I think a lot of people [were wondering] what the playoff hockey would be like: I think the questions have been answered that the guys are competing and working hard and it’s been physical and guys are doing everything they can to win.”
Few in the league have a longer history of mixing it up when it matters most than Dallas veteran Corey Perry. Back in the Final for the first time since winning a ring with the Ducks in 2007, Perry had no trouble identifying the root of the acrimony.
“We’re battling for the Stanley Cup — plain and simple,” he said. “Nobody is going to give you any room on the ice, you’re going to have to earn it. They’ve been here before and we have some guys in our room who have been here before, so we know what it takes as well.”
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