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Raptors must set sights on title defence in final third of season – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — On a night when he wasn’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye with the “selective vision” of the officials, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse huddled his players during a timeout with about five minutes to play and offered the following.

“I said, ‘I’m having as much fun as you guys are. Probably less the way I feel now,’” Nurse said after the Raptors out-paced the Phoenix Suns, 118-101, Friday night. “’But we’ve got to dig in together here and go play.’”

And so the Raptors did on a night when Nurse admits “nobody was having any fun out there.” The game certainly lacked a rhythm, a pace and an aesthetic. But it was one of only 27 — now 26 — remaining for the Raptors prior to the playoffs, and while the first two-thirds of the season has been about simply getting through all the injuries, all the jumbled lineups and all the not-so-fun nights like Friday, the final third will be about putting Toronto’s many distinct pieces in place for a championship defence.

The Raptors will spend the next eight weeks learning just what they have, what works and what doesn’t ahead of the playoffs, when Nurse’s rotation will shrink, his playbook will be more focused, and his team will face a series of do-or-die moments over the NBA’s second season.

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To that end, Nurse said this week that the Raptors would make a point of feeding Pascal Siakam a high volume of touches down the stretch, endeavouring to expose the team’s primary scorer to as many situational challenges as possible. And that began in earnest against the Suns, as Siakam took a quarter of his team’s attempts in a 25-point first half.

He didn’t have much of a break over the last week, fulfilling the many obligations and demands that accompany the honour of an all-star selection. And this year, that included taxing on-court minutes in the actual game itself, which featured a physicality and competitiveness rarely — if ever — seen before.

Of course, playing as hard as Siakam did in the fourth quarter of the all-star game is probably more benefit than detriment. Those are the kind of high-leverage repetitions against the league’s best players he needs to continue his growth. The kind he’ll be asked to excel in two months from now.

They’re also the kind he isn’t likely to get against a struggling Suns outfit relying heavily on the madcap play of Kelly Oubre Jr. But the Raptors continued to force-feed Siakam as the game went on, and he responded with 37 points on 23 used possessions, featuring sharp marksmanship from beyond the arc (he hit 5-of-9 three’s he attempted) to draw out defenders and open up room to cut toward the basket.

“It’s just being aggressive, being assertive. Making sure that I just go out there and show that type of energy every single night,” Siakam said. “Just knowing that you have to go at the other player that’s guarding you every single time. Having that mentality, I think that’s something I have to work on. And coming into the second half of the season, that’s something I want to put an emphasis on.”

On the other hand, aggressiveness is not something that’s lacked in Terence Davis’ game, and Friday was no exception as the undrafted rookie ransacked his way to a 14-point effort off Toronto’s bench.

Even though we should all understand what he’s capable of by now, Davis’ athleticism is still mind-boggling at times, like when he turns a corner on his defender as if he’s running a route downfield and, without breaking stride, finishes a one-handed, reverse lay-up over his head from beneath the basket.

It’s way too early to ponder Nurse’s potential playoff rotation, considering the ever-uncertain status of this team’s health and the different permutations that match-ups can force. But then again, how could Davis not be a part of it? Even with Norman Powell presumably back in the fold, and Nurse’s unwavering belief in Patrick McCaw’s effectiveness well established, Davis has to factor in somehow, doesn’t he?

There will surely be nights when he doesn’t have it, which is an easily managed situation considering Toronto’s depth. But on the nights that he does, Davis’ energy and fearlessness taking in-rhythm, without-hesitation three-pointers — he hit a pair Friday night — can help keep the scoreboard moving in the middle of games.

“The pace that he was playing at was opening up the floor,” Nurse said. “And he can just score, man. All he needs is a little space and he can score.”

Friday was an interesting illustration of the Raptors trying to learn what they have in terms of centre depth, as well. Marc Gasol will be on the shelf for some time, and Serge Ibaka can only play so much, which mean Chris Boucher will have plenty of opportunities over Toronto’s next several games to show the club’s front office it doesn’t need to sign a bought-out big prior to the March 1 cut-off for playoff eligibility.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and OG Anunoby will likely see some time at centre as well, undersized as they are. But the optimal situation is that those two remain fours while Boucher takes his opportunity and runs with it, leveraging his energy and athleticism to create defensive disruption like this:

You can’t really teach that. And Boucher did it again in the fourth, sending a Dario Saric three-point attempt into the second row for his fourth block of the night.

Still, Boucher’s minus-five in a 17-point win is telling, as was the fact he played only 14 minutes on a night when Ibaka picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. Boucher struggled at times in an admittedly lopsided matchup with Phoenix’s much thicker, much stronger centre tandem. But he’ll keep getting his opportunity, and it’ll be up to him how far he carries it.

“I want Chris to carve out this role and keep it,” Nurse said before the game when asked how he’d deploy Boucher in Friday’s unideal match-up. “We’ll give him his chance. And if it looks good, we’ll let his stint roll and we’ll give him a second stint. If it doesn’t, we start shifting around.”

Now, if the Raptors are at full health during the playoffs, Boucher likely doesn’t leave the bench during meaningful minutes. Maybe if Nurse wants to match up with an uber big lineup. Maybe if Gasol or Ibaka are in critical early foul trouble. Brass tacks, it would take an “if.”

Thing is, the Raptors being at full health is a pretty big “if,” too. It really hasn’t been the case at any point this season. The club’s obviously hoping it’s getting the worst of its adversity over with now. But a heavy workload and previous injuries are fairly reliable predictors of future injury. And the Raptors, who played more games than anyone last season and have been hurt for most of this one, satisfy those criteria. There’s no guarantee Toronto will suddenly hit a run of better injury luck come playoff time.

So, keeping a down-bench player like Boucher well accustomed to Toronto’s on-court rhythm and familiar with the in-game tendencies of his teammates could be a boon sometime this spring. Only so much of that can be accomplished on the practice court. In-game repetitions are paramount. Even against a team still half on vacation like the Suns were Friday night.

And even with Gasol and Ibaka healthy, Toronto’s rebounding at both ends has been a quiet, lurking issue all season. Entering Friday, the Raptors ranked No. 22 across the NBA in offensive rebound percentage and a much-more-concerning No. 26 defensively. Opponents had come down with 29 per cent of available offensive rebounds, which led to the Raptors surrendering an average of 13.9 second-chance points per 100 possessions, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

The problem hasn’t necessarily been put-backs or unnecessary opportunities beneath Toronto’s basket, as the Raptors are actually the second-best team in basketball at limiting opposition paint points, averaging 41.4 per 100 possessions coming into Friday night. Rather, it’s the long rebounds off missed shots that have ended up in the hands of an opponent on the perimeter and created a fresh, 14-second possession.

A lot of that’s luck. You can’t control the behaviour of the ball when it’s out of your hands. It’s going to bounce where it’s going to bounce, and sometimes that’ll be right into the grasp of an opponent. But it’s also a product of Toronto’s run-and-gun approach in transition, as all Raptors know that if they get a head start in the opposite direction off a stop, one of the team’s facilitators is liable to push the ball up to them. An added emphasis on staying home and securing the rebound may be necessary going forward.

Boucher ought to be able to help improve those rebounding numbers, considering his urgency and craftiness beneath the basket. But he’ll have to play better to remain on the floor to do so. Friday, he came up with only one offensive rebound and two on the defensive end. Meanwhile, the Raptors surrendered 10 offensive boards.

So, some of what the Raptors wanted to work on Friday came through. Some didn’t. What matters is a win, and making the most of an opportunity to continue putting the pieces in place for an impending title defence. Regardless of how much fun the head coach is having or not.

“I didn’t have much fun out there tonight coaching. It wasn’t very enjoyable,” Nurse said. “But when I sit here and look back on it right now, I don’t mind that it got a little tough and tight and we had to bounce back and respond and guard and execute down the stretch.

“It’s a nice little learning moment, I guess. Confidence booster, actually. So, I’m getting happier as I keep talking here. And I know you’re all concerned about my happiness.”

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Online Games in Canada – The Ultimate Guide

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Looking for the best online games in Canada? Read this ultimate guide and learn how to earn more money when gambling.

 

There are several aspects to consider when looking for the best online games in Canada. If you’ve ever browsed any casino’s library, you’ve noticed the many available options. There’s a reason for that. Naturally, gambling wouldn’t be so thrilling if all games were the same. It’s the variety of options that makes online gambling so tempting.

While some games are built to be fun, others can also generate loads of money. In the end, it all depends on your personal goals. But, for the most part, people are in it for the money. Registering at Slotbox Casino and claiming the €200 cash bonus and 200 free spins is one way to bring such objectives to fruition. It is a legitimate tactic to improve your odds.

However, here comes an exciting master plan: combining a generous bonus (such as the one we just described)  with a perfect game, producing results beyond belief. This brings us to why we give you this guide: learn how to use casino games and bonuses to craft the perfect earning strategy.

 

Most Popular Online Games in Canada

Whether you’re looking for fun or making gambling your bread and butter, you have a plethora of options. Still, despite being spoilt for choice, players from Canada somehow always end up playing a ring-fenced group of games. In the lines that follow, we’ll cover Canadians’ favourite picks in more detail.

 

Slots

Online slots are among the most fascinating games you’ll ever encounter. These features require little to no strategy. As a result, you can enjoy the gameplay despite lacking gambling experience. The popularity of slots stretches beyond Canada as video slots are the usual first choice for many less-experienced punters worldwide—not to mention the minimal investment requirements.

One of the reasons for its immense popularity lies in the game’s simplicity. There are no fancy strategies or money-building tactics. It all comes down to clicking one button and enjoying the thrills—and massive payouts—only slots can produce. Namely, slots are among the highest-paying games in the history of online gambling.

If you ever question slots’ popularity, remember that Mega Moolah paid out $21.7 million to a player from Belgium. When it comes to fellow Canadians, bear in mind one player grabbed C$16,496,347 in 2020.

All things considered, online slots can be quite rewarding. However, if you’re not careful with your money, slots can produce a real punch-in-your-teeth experience. For this reason, a casino with a generous free spins bonus can help you make your dream come true: winning the ultimate jackpot.

 

Online Games in Canada: Table Games

This category encompasses a much broader spectrum of games. It includes different features like:

  • Poker
  • Blackjack
  • Roulette
  • Baccarat

Table games come in video and live versions. Video games run on the Random Number Generator, an algorithm that makes every outcome independent from one another. When playing live versions of table games, you can enjoy a traditional casino atmosphere where all games are led by professional dealers. In Canada, it seems that live versions are the most prevalent. We’ll cover each game in the sections below.

 

Poker

This is by far the most popular game in casino history, both online and land-based. This card game requires a lot of strategy and understanding of its mechanics. In poker, you’re playing against others, and your goal is to have the most valuable hand. This is a highly competitive game that includes strategy, knowledge, and psychology.

Poker does not offer insane payouts like slots. However, you can always join exclusive high-roller tournaments and win more money. One of the reasons why this game is popular lies in its potential to make you rich and a legend at the same time. Look at Phil Ivey, for example. Phil is considered one of the best players in the world. Simultaneously, he is one of the richest poker players, boasting a $125 million net worth thanks to poker.

 

Blackjack

Blackjack is a more pacey game in comparison to poker. The rules are less complicated than in other table games. Here, you’re not playing against other players but against the house (dealer). Your goal is to reach the maximum value of the hand (21)  without exceeding that limit.

Furthermore, one of the reasons why blackjack is among the most popular online games in Canada lies in its house edge. The house edge against less-experienced players is around 2%. As for experienced punters, the house advantage swings between 0.5-1%.

What does this mean? In simple words, it means that on every C$100 you wager in blackjack, you can expect between C$99.5 to C$99 in return on average. Of course, some sessions will result in big profits for you.

To improve your chances in the long term, you can use different blackjack strategies and combine them with a great live casino bonus. There are approximately 200 tactics for blackjack, so we advise you to pick the one you like the most very carefully. Start with the basic strategy, and once you memorize the charts, look for more advanced ones.

 

Roulette

Despite being a table game, roulette is more similar to online slots. The game of roulette comprises the dealer, a wheel, and a ball. The dealer spins the wheel, throws in the ball, and your goal is to guess on which number (or group of numbers) the ball will land.

Since every outcome in roulette is independent, there’s no need to consider complicated strategies. What you can affect, though, is the size of your potential payout. However, note that your potential reward is proportional to the amount of risk. The higher the risk, the higher your payout, and vice versa. Luckily, in roulette, you can pick between several bet types. Each has clearly displayed odds and the potential reward, making it easier to play.

 

Online Games in Canada: Baccarat

This game is primarily popular in Asia, whose players both admire and fear the game. Is it because of the amiable house edge (1.24%) or because this is one of James Bond’s favorite casino games? No matter the answer, baccarat is among the most sought-after games in Canada.

Baccarat is known as a player-friendly game. In physical casinos, a group of players would gather around the table and chat, having the time of their lives. Since Canadians are known to be very friendly, perhaps this is one of the reasons why live baccarat is so prevalent in Canada.

 

How to Choose the Right Casino Game

Selecting the perfect game is not as challenging as it may seem at first. The possibility of making a mistake is minimal as long as you follow the same pattern:

  • Choose a casino
  • Conduct proper research
  • Find online games in Canada that suit your needs and style

Luckily, you have plenty of resources at your disposal. There are many online casino review websites that can help you in making an educated decision. Here are some of the available resources:

  • com
  • guru
  • com
  • org
  • net
  • co

 

 

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Czechia upsets U.S. in World Junior quarterfinals – TSN

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Aug 17, 2022

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Petr Hauser and Matyas Sapovaliv scored in a 3:11 span of the second period and the Czech Republic upset the United States 4-2 on Wednesday night in the world junior hockey quarterfinals.

The defending champion United States dropped out after going 4-0 and never trailing in round-robin play.

Tomas Suchanek made 28 saves to help the Czech Republic set up a semifinal against Canada on Saturday night. Earlier, Canada beat Switzerland 6-3, Sweden held off Latvia 2-1, and Finland beat Germany 5-2.

Hauser gave the Czech Republic the lead at 7:34 of the second with a wrist shot to the top corner, and Sapovaliv followed at 10:45 off a rebound.

With the U.S. on a five-minute power play for Stanislav Svozil’s kneeing major, Carter Mazur pulled the Americans within a goal with 8:29 left. Jiri Kulich put it away with an empty-netter with 1:32 to go.

Logan Cooley opened the scoring for the Americans with 7:57 left in first. Jan Mysak tied it with 2:05 left in the period.

Kaidan Mbereko made 20 saves for the United States.

Canada won after sweeping its preliminary group, with Logan Stankoven scoring twice and adding an assist. Tyson Foerster had a goal and two assists, Jack Thompson, Nathan Gaucher and Will Cuylle also scored and Dylan Garand made 23 saves.

Attilio Biasca scored twice and Simon Knak added a goal for Switzerland.

Emil Andrae broke a tie for Sweden midway through the third.

Isak Rosen opened the scoring for Sweden on a power play in the first period. Gustavs Ozolins tied it late in second. Jesper Wallstedt made 12 saves for Sweden.

Roby Jarventie had two goals and two assists for Finland. Kasper Simontaival and Joel Maatta each had a goal and an assist, with Finland scoring four times on the power play.

Roni Hirvonen also scored and Leevi Merilainen made 19 saves. Bennet Rossmy had two power-play goals for Germany.

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NFL, Watson settle on 11-game ban – TSN

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BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will serve an 11-game unpaid suspension, pay a $5 million fine and undergo professional evaluation and treatment as part of a settlement with the NFL following accusations of sexual misconduct by two dozen women.

The league had sought to ban Watson for at least one year for violating its personal conduct policy. He was accused of sexually harassing and coercing the women during massage therapy sessions while he played for the Houston Texans.

Watson signed a $230 million guaranteed contract after being traded to the Browns in March. The three-time Pro Bowler will lose $632,500 in salary this season while serving the suspension, which takes effect Aug. 30.

The settlement ends months of speculation and headed off a ruling from former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey, who was appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league appealed a six-game suspension issued by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson.

As part of the settlement between the league and the NFL Players Association, Watson will have to be evaluated by behavioral experts and follow their treatment program, the NFL said.

Watson, who recently apologized for the first time since the allegations surfaced, spoke to reporters after the settlement was issued. He offered more contrition, but also maintained he’s never been inappropriate with women.

“I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said that I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone and I’m continuing to stand on that,” he said. “But at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career, and for us to be able to move forward, I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side.

“I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward, and I’ve always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone.”

As part of the settlement, Watson may return for the Browns’ game on Dec. 4 in Houston.

Along with his $5 million fine, the league and Browns are donating $1 million each to a fund that will support nonprofit organizations across the country to educate young people on “healthy relationships, promote education and prevention of sexual misconduct and assault, support survivors, and related causes.”

Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who have been widely criticized for trading for Watson, stood by the QB. They said they expect him to learn and grow from the experience.

“Since Deshaun came into our building in April, he has done everything we have asked of him and more,” Jimmy Haslam said at a news briefing with his wife and Browns general manager Andrew Berry. “And he has been the person, the leader that we expect him to be and I think he understands where he is in his life, it’s a pivotal point, and we as an organization are going to do everything we can to help him not only be the best football player he can be but more important to be the best person he can be.”

On Aug. 1, Watson was suspended six games by Robinson, a former federal judge jointly appointed by the league and union to act as an independent disciplinary officer.

Robinson found the 26-year-old Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy after reviewing an investigation into his actions and called his behavior “egregious” and “predatory.”

Believing the suspension was too light, the league appealed and pushed Watson’s case back to Goodell, who had handled all player discipline in the past. The league previously pushed for an indefinite suspension and hefty fine.

Per the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, Harvey’s decision would have constituted “full, final and complete disposition of the dispute.”

At the owners’ meetings this month, Goodell said the league’s pursuit of a yearlong ban was warranted following its investigation and Robinson’s findings.

“She reinforced the evidence,” Goodell said. “There were multiple violations that were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.”

In her conclusion, Robinson cited Watson’s lack of remorse as a factor in her decision. Watson apologized for the first time “to all the women that I have impacted” before making his Browns’ debut Friday in an exhibition in Jacksonville.

Watson was accused of being sexually inappropriate with the women during massage therapy sessions from March 2020 to March 2021 in Texas. In civil lawsuits filed in Texas, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

Two separate grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson, who has denied any wrongdoing. He recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits.

For now, the suspension ends months of speculation about whether Watson would play in 2022 for the Browns, who outbid several other teams, traded three first-round draft picks to the Texans in March and signed the QB to a five-year contract.

Watson’s case sparked strong opinions while raising questions about the league’s handling of player discipline and its spotty record of supporting women.

The Browns believe Watson could make them a Super Bowl contender. Without him, they could struggle to simply contend in the AFC North against defending conference champion Cincinnati along with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The suspension also means Watson will be idle longer. One of pro football’s elite QBs, he sat out last season in Houston after demanding a trade and before the sexual allegations surfaced.

In her 16-page ruling, Robinson found that the league proved its case that Watson violated three provisions of the conduct policy: sexual assault as defined by the league, posing a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another and undermining or putting the league’s integrity at risk.

Robinson also pointed out flaws in the league’s conduct policy, saying it was unfair to “identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is inherently unjust to change the penalties for such conduct after the fact.”

Her punishment was criticized by several organizations, including The National Organization for Women, which called it “unacceptable, insulting and dangerous — but not surprising. The NFL and the multibillion-dollar sports industry have a vested interest in enabling sexual misconduct, assault and violence.”

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all 24 women who sued Watson, and Ashley Solis, the first woman to go public with allegations against Watson, decried the original six-game suspension at a news conference in Houston in early August.

Watson has continued to practice while his case made its way through the league’s process.

All along, the Browns’ plan was to turn their offense over to veteran Jacoby Brissett, who has made 37 career starts, during Watson’s suspension. But it’s now possible Cleveland will explore other options at quarterback.

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