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Raptors open as slight favourites over Celtics – TSN

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It was clear both the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics were no match for their first-round opponents.

Missing Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and a flurry of other rotation players, Toronto made quick work of the Brooklyn Nets en route to the first playoff sweep in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Celtics took advantage of a discombobulated Philadelphia 76ers team playing without Ben Simmons.

It’s been an easy road thus far for the Atlantic Division rivals, but it’s about to get a lot tougher as they’ll meet in the conference semifinals beginning on Thursday. It will be the first-ever meeting between these two clubs in the postseason.

The Raptors open as the slight favourite, coming in at -125 compared to +105 for the Celtics, according to SportsBetting.ag.

Despite the slight advantage at the sportsbooks, the Celtics are one of the few teams Toronto has had trouble with this season. Boston handed the Raptors their only loss in the bubble thus far with a 122-100 drubbing back on Aug. 7. The green and white also took home two of the three regular season meetings before the NBA paused in mid-March, including a lopsided victory in Toronto on Christmas Day.

As for the odds to win it all, the Raptors (13/2) and Celtics (15/2) sit fourth and fifth, respectively, behind the Los Angeles Clippers (3/2), Los Angeles Lakers (3/2) and Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee is also a heavy favourite to emerge out of the Eastern Conference, sitting at 10/11 compared to the Raps (3/1) and Celtics (7/2).

Here are some other odds from around the NBA, including how likely Gregg Popovich is to return to the San Antonio Spurs in light of rumours tying him to the Brooklyn Nets, and whether or not the Sixers will make a drastic roster move in the off-season following their meek first-round exit.

Will Gregg Popovich be Spurs head coach next season?
Yes -600
No +425

Nets Next Head Coach
Gregg Popovich          5/2
Jacque Vaughn           5/2
Tyronn Lue     5/2
Mark Jackson  3/1
Jason Kidd      4/1
Jeff Van Gundy          7/1
Darvin Ham    10/1
Ime Udoka      10/1
Rick Pitino      10/1
Mike Krzyzewski       12/1
John Calipari   15/1
Tom Izzo         15/1
Juwan Howard            15/1
Jay Wright      18/1
Adam Harrington        20/1
Tim Duncan    50/1

76ers Next Head Coach
Ime Udoka      3/1
Kenny Atkinson          4/1
Tyronn Lue     4/1
Jay Wright      5/1
Wes Unseld Jr.            6/1
Jeff Van Gundy          15/2
Mark Jackson  15/2
Stan Van Gundy         15/2
Adrian Griffin 8/1
Darvin Ham    8/1
Juwan Howard            10/1
Jason Kidd      10/1
Becky Hammon          15/1
Phil Jackson    33/1
Charles Barkley          66/1
Allen Iverson  125/1

Will Elton Brand be fired or resign as 76ers GM?
Yes +225
No -350

Will Ben Simmons be on 76ers roster next season?
Yes -500
No +300

Will Joel Embiid be on 76ers roster next season?
Yes -800
No +425

Will Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid be on 76ers roster next season?
Yes -300
No +200

Will Al Horford be on 76ers roster next season?
Yes -1500
No +600

Series Odds
Celtics +105
Raptors -125

Game 1
Celtics PK
Raptors PK
Over/Under 216

NBA Finals
Los Angeles Clippers 3/2
Los Angeles Lakers    3/2
Milwaukee Bucks       7/2
Toronto Raptors          13/2
Boston Celtics 15/2
Houston Rockets         10/1
Miami Heat     20/1
Dallas Mavericks        25/1
Utah Jazz        33/1
Portland Blazers         100/1
Oklahoma City Thunder         150/1
Denver Nuggets          200/1
Indiana Pacers 500/1
Orlando Magic            500/1

Eastern Conference
Milwaukee Bucks       10/11
Toronto Raptors          3/1
Boston Celtics 7/2
Miami Heat     15/2
Indiana Pacers 250/1
Orlando Magic            250/1

Western Conference
Los Angeles Clippers 3/2
Los Angeles Lakers    3/2
Houston Rockets         11/2
Dallas Mavericks        12/1
Utah Jazz        15/1
Oklahoma City Thunder         66/1
Portland Trail Blazers 66/1
Denver Nuggets          100/1

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Blue Jays blow chance at higher seed with loss to Orioles in regular season finale – CBC.ca

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Feeling healthy, confident and ready for the next challenge, the Toronto Blue Jays capped their regular season Sunday by tuning up for their first playoff appearance in four years.

A series against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays was locked in when the Blue Jays dropped a 7-5 decision to the Baltimore Orioles in a game that meant little for either team.

The Blue Jays and Rays will play Game 1 on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET, and Game 2 on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. Should the series go to a Game 3, it will be played on Thursday.

Toronto gave slugger Teoscar Hernandez the day off and rested most of its relievers so they’d be fully charged for Game 1 on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The Rays have been the class of the American League but did have some trouble with the Blue Jays at times, making this best-of-three wild-card series all the more intriguing.

“They’re looking forward to the challenge and I love that about our kids,” said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo. “They really want it.”

By losing to Baltimore, the Blue Jays — who sealed a post-season berth last Thursday — secured the eighth and final seed.

At the start of the day, Toronto had a chance to rise to the No. 5 seed. Potential outcomes existed that could have seen first-round matchups against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians or the Chicago White Sox.

‘It’s going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes’

Toronto was 4-6 against Tampa Bay this season. Four of the Blue Jays’ losses were by one run.

“They’re a good baseball team, they do everything well collectively,” said Toronto starter Tanner Roark, who gave up two earned runs to the Orioles over four innings.

“I think it’s going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes in that series (will) win it. We’ve played them tough all year. We’ve lost a lot of one-run games and we’ve won a lot of one-run games.”

Toronto looked like it was on its way to closing the 60-game season on a five-game win streak after homers by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in the third inning. But the Orioles scored three runs in the fourth and tacked on three more in the fifth.

Shun Yamaguchi (2-4) shouldered the loss after working two frames. Gurriel had four hits and scored three runs.

Toronto right-fielder Jonathan Davis made an all-world play in the second inning to take a home run away from Cedric Mullins. Davis extended his left arm over the top of the wall near the foul pole and managed to squeeze the ball as he crashed to the warning track.

Davis drove in the game’s first run in the bottom half of the frame as his sacrifice fly scored Gurriel, who led off with a double. An inning later, Guerrero hit a solo shot for his ninth homer and Gurriel hit a no-doubt two-run blast for his 11th homer of the season.

Mullins helped the Orioles (25-35) cut into the lead with a two-run triple in the fourth inning and Austin Hays drove him in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Yamaguchi gave up three straight hits at the start of the fifth and the Orioles pulled ahead to stay.

‘Our confidence right now is great’

Travis Lakins Sr., (3-2) worked two innings for the victory. Cesar Valdez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

The Blue Jays finished the pandemic-shortened 60-game campaign with a 32-28 record. Toronto was 17-9 at Sahlen Field, normally home of the team’s triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons.

“Our confidence right now is great,” Gurriel said via translator Hector Lebron. “We have pretty much everybody healthy. From one through nine, the lineup is good and everybody is feeling great right now which is what you want going into the playoffs.”

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will play in the post-season. Division winners are seeded Nos. 1-3 in each league, second-place teams are seeded fourth through sixth and two wild-card teams get the seventh and eighth spots.

The Blue Jays last reached the post-season in 2016 as a wild-card entry. Toronto went on to reach the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.

Toronto’s last World Series victory came in 1993. A long playoff drought followed until the Blue Jays returned to the post-season in 2015.

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Led by Adebayo, Heat’s young talent instrumental in securing Finals berth – Sportsnet.ca

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Bam Adebayo scored a career-high 32 points while grabbing 14 rebounds and dropping five dimes as the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 125-113 Sunday evening to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.

Awaiting Miami will be a familiar face in LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who closed out the Denver Nuggets in five games Saturday.

The NBA Finals will begin Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Miami last made the NBA Finals with James still in the lineup as part of the celebrated team that made four straight Finals and won two, led by the current Lakers superstar, retired Heat legend Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.

The Heat hadn’t advanced past the second round since James’ departure, but in just six seasons since he decided to head back home to Cleveland they’ve managed to re-tool and rebuild on the fly to once again compete for a championship.

Many of those pieces that have led Miami back to this point in their history took starring roles in its Game 6 victory over Boston. Here’s a few takeaways from the Heat’s big Eastern-Conference clinching victory.

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Heat get it done when it matters most

Before diving into the Heat in the future, it’s worth looking back at what they did in the game that got them to the Finals first. And the most important moment from Game 6 followed a relatively consistent trend seen across all but one of Miami’s wins in the series.

With 9:15 to play in the fourth quarter, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown converted a fast-break layup after stealing the ball from Tyler Herro to put Boston up six and looking poised to force a Game 7.

Instead, what happened was a 35-17 Heat run to close the game and run right over the Celtics to punch their tickets into the Finals.

As part of that run all the key pieces of Miami’s rebuild were involved, with Adebayo scoring six points, rookie Herro dropping all 11 of his fourth-quarter points during it, Duncan Robinson drilling a couple of key three-pointers and Jimmy Butler closing things out with nine points.

Outside of the big free agent splash of Butler, all of these names weren’t the most highly-regarded around the league heading into this season, but they were all instrumental in Miami’s win.

And on the flip side of this, while the young talent of the Heat managed to rise to the occasion, the Celtics appeared to wilt under the spotlight all series long — conceding not just this six-point lead, but also a 14-point one early in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and a 15-point advantage in Game 2.

The Celtics have a lot of talent, but just couldn’t seem to rise to the occasion when it mattered most.

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.

Bam vs. AD

Outside of his Game 5 blip, Adebayo was the best all-around player in the series, averaging a team-high 21.8 points, 11 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 60.8 per cent shooting from the floor while also coming up with highlight of the series — his game-saving block on Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt in Game 1 — and playing just overall, consistently great defence both as a rim protector and out on the perimeter.

As such, because of his rare combination of size, length, strength, athleticism and skill, his forthcoming matchup with Lakers centre Anthony Davis – who is every bit his equal in just about every category except passing – is intoxicating.

Like an old-school matchup, but in the modern era with both Adebayo and Davis exuding “unicorn” big man qualities because of their high skill level at their sizes. Davis probably has a better handle and shooting touch – certainly from outside – and Adebayo is an absolutely brilliant passer who the Heat can, and do, play out of similar to what the Nuggets do with Nikola Jokic.

This matchup is sure to be entertaining, at the very least.

Interesting stats heading into the Finals

Here’s some interesting stats from the conclusion of the Eastern Conference Finals for you to mull over:

• Though hailed as the team’s best player – and he’s still probably their most important – Butler never led Miami in scoring all series long. This is a good indication of the impact he has that goes beyond just getting buckets – despite his nickname.

• Andre Iguodala, who came up big in Game 6 scoring 15 points on perfect shooting from the field (including drilling four triples), is headed to his sixth straight Finals now. The first five, of course, were with the Golden State Warriors.

This stat is just about as impressive as the remarkable accomplishment from James who is competing in his ninth Finals in 10 years.

• Lastly, some Canadian content here for you:

Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Alexander on the Heat will represent Canada in the Finals, marking the 10th straight year a Canadian has been in the Finals.

Only seven Canadians in history have won a championship. Can these two add their names to this list?

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Foles leads incredible comeback, Falcons collapse again in Bears win – TSN

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ATLANTA — No matter how bad things might have seemed a week ago, the Atlanta Falcons somehow managed to make it even worse.

Yep, another epic fourth-quarter collapse.

This one could spell the end for embattled coach Dan Quinn, who already carried the burden of the biggest squandered lead in Super Bowl history.

The Falcons surrendered a 16-point advantage in the final 6 1/2 minutes to the Chicago Bears, who got three touchdown passes from backup quarterback Nick Foles and pulled out a 30-26 win on Sunday.

It would have seemed downright improbable — if it hadn’t happened for the second week in a row.

Atlanta (0-3) became the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games in which it led by 15 or more points in the final period, according to STATS.

“These last two weeks have been nothing short of crushing,” said Quinn, the sixth-year coach who desperately needed a strong start to the season after two straight losing campaigns.

A week ago, Atlanta became a national laughingstock after failing to pounce on an onside kick, allowing the Dallas Cowboys to finish off their comeback from a 39-24 deficit to win 40-39 on a field goal as time expired.

“It doesn’t get no worse than this,” defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. said. “We probably found the two worst ways you can lose a football game.”

Under Quinn, the Falcons also wasted a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl after the 2016 season and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots.

Quinn faced questions about his job security after the latest debacle. He insisted that he’s only focused on turning things around.

“I need to be the same guy on our best days and on our worst days,” Quinn said. “Anything past that does not help the team. All I can focus on is us finishing better. That’s where my focus needs to be.”

This time, it was Foles who guided the improbable comeback after relieving erratic Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter, pushing the Bears to 3-0 for the first time since 2013.

The former Super Bowl MVP won it with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller with 1:53 remaining.

“Pretty special,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, who had a pair of touchdown catches. “He was out there ad-libbing a bit for sure and checking and changing some plays. There’s one play he called, I’m like, ‘We got that?’ So it was pretty cool to see and pretty cool to be a part of.”

Foles had two apparent touchdown passes overturned by official reviews — and still managed to pull out the victory.

He tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Graham to make it 26-16 with 6:20 to go. The Falcons still appeared in good shape after the Bears failed on a 2-point attempt.

But Chicago got the ball back and moved quickly down the field. Foles connected with Allen Robinson on a short pass that turned into a 37-yard touchdown when Isaiah Oliver and Blidi Wreh-Wilson both missed tackles, allowing the receiver to scoot down the sideline.

After the Falcons went three-and-out on their third straight possession, Foles heaved one down the middle of the field with a rusher in his face. Miller hauled it in for the winning score.

The Falcons still had a shot, but Matt Ryan‘s pass was intercepted by Tashaun Gipson to seal it.

Foles finished 16 of 29 for 188 yards. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, was 13 of 22 for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice.

Brian Hill and Todd Gurley each ran for a touchdown and Ryan connected with Hayden Hurst on a short TD pass that helped stake the Falcons to their seemingly comfortable lead.

Of course, no lead is safe for the Falcons.

Especially with Foles recapturing some of the magic he had in guiding the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl title three seasons ago after replacing the injured Carson Wentz.

Foles spent one injury-plagued season in Jacksonville, then was acquired by the Bears to put some heat on the disappointing Trubisky.

Trubisky set up Chicago’s first touchdown with the second-longest run of his career, a 45-yarder after the Falcons abandoned the the entire middle of the field. He connected on Graham on a 2-yard scoring pass to pull the Bears within 16-10 at halftime.

But Foles got his chance after Trubisky threw an interception in the third quarter that led to a Falcons field goal, pushing the lead to 26-10.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” Trubisky said. “I just accepted the news. I had Nick’s back like he’s had mine. The situation sucked, but it was just the flow of the game and how it happened and coach made the decision that he felt was best for the team.”

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

Foles pushed the Bears down the field on his first possession, connecting with Robinson on a play that was initially ruled a 21-yard touchdown pass even though Darqueze Dennard came away with the ball. After reviewing the replay, the officials ruled that Robinson never had control and awarded an interception to Dennard.

With just under 11 minutes remaining, Foles delivered another apparent touchdown on fourth down, connecting over the middle to Miller on a 17-yard throw. But a replay showed the receiver trapped the ball against the turf, turning the ball over to the Falcons on downs.

Turns out, Foles was just getting warmed up.

INJURY REPORT

Bears: RB Tarik Cohen left the game in the second half with a knee injury. S Sherrick McManis was knocked out by an ailing hamstring.

Falcons: The Falcons played without six starters, including WR Julio Jones (hamstring). Also missing were LB Foye Oluokun (hamstring), OT Kaleb McGary (knee), DE Takk McKinley (groin), S Ricardo Allen (elbow) and CB A.J. Terrell (COVID-19 reserve list). The Falcons then lost WR Russell Gage (concussion) in the first half, and DT Grady Jarrett (hip) hobbled off in the second half.

UP NEXT

Bears: Return home to face the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.

Falcons: Head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in a Monday night game to finish off Week 4.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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