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Raptors rediscover shooting touch in laugher against Cavaliers –



Late in the third quarter Monday night, Norman Powell stretched way behind his head to connect on an alley-oop dunk from Pascal Siakam. It was Powell’s punctuation mark on another excellent outing by the Raptors guard known for his inconsistency.

Powell scored 16 of his 26 points in the third quarter, while Siakam finished with 33 points, and the Raptors cruised by the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers 133-113.

“[The ball] was kind of behind me, we were joking about it — it felt good to have a little juice in the legs still,” Powell said.

“Everybody was talking about how I was laying it up last game, and [his dunk vs. Brooklyn] wasn’t a full-blown windmill,” he added with a laugh. “So it was good to show that I’ve still got the bounce.”

Kyle Lowry notched the 110th double-double of his career with 20 points and 11 assists, pulling into a tie with Antonio Davis for third on the Raptors’ all-time list. Serge Ibaka added 14 points, while OG Anunoby chipped in with 12 for the Raptors (18-8), who were playing without injured guard Fred VanVleet for the fourth consecutive night.

WATCH | Powell powers Raptors past Cavs:

Pascal Siakam put a game-high 33 points in Toronto’s 133-113 win over Cleveland. 1:41

Powell also had six rebounds, five assists, four steals and zero turnovers, and has scored 20-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

It’s always been tough to tell what Powell would contribute on any given night. Suddenly he’s Mr. Reliable.

“Great stretch right now,” Lowry said of the fifth-year guard. “He’s shooting the ball confidently, pushing it in transition. I think he’s understanding how to play in transition a lot better now, and what we need from him.”

Collin Sexton had 25 points to top the Cavaliers (6-21), who’ve won just once in 11 games. Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

The Cleveland squad that dispatched Toronto in ugly fashion in three consecutive post-seasons used to be an exciting draw in Toronto. But with their former star LeBron James now in Los Angeles, the Cavs are one of the worst teams in the league, third-last in defence, and fourth-last on the offensive end.

Surprising spark

The Raptors had their way with the Cavs on Monday. They assembled an 18-point lead in the first half and stretched it to 104-84 by the end of the third quarter, thanks in large part to Powell, who provided a big spark on what would have otherwise been a humdrum affair for the 19,800 fans at Scotiabank Arena.

“In the open floor he’s being decisive and putting the jets on and going to the rim and he’s finishing,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think a few games ago he was looking around, trying to figure out where to go, who to throw it to and wasn’t making the right decision all the time.

“What I like is the speed at which he sees the open floor and goes for it. Reminiscent of a few years ago.”

Darius Garland’s three-pointer sliced Toronto’s lead to 11 with 4:32 to play, but that was as close as the visitors would come.

“They’re just a really good team and certainly a better team than us tonight,” said Cavs coach John Beilein.

Double-double double-take

Lowry thought he’d posted a double-double, but officials erased one of his assists. The veteran guard finally got his 10th assist on the night with a pass to Ibaka for a jump shot with 2:24 to play. Chris Bosh leads the all-time Raptors list for double-doubles with 239, followed by Jonas Valanciunas (137).

Toronto trailed for just the first minute Monday, and when Anunoby scooped up the ball from a Powell block and launched a long pass to a sprinting Siakam, who finished with an easy basket, it put Toronto up by 10. The Raptors stretched it to 18 points on a Patrick McCaw three-pointer, but the Cavs closed the quarter with a 10-0 run and Toronto led 37-29 heading into the second.

The Raptors maintained a double-digit lead in the second. Midway through the quarter, Gasol grabbed one of Cleveland’s turnovers, found McCaw heading toward the hoop with Jordan Clarkson in hot pursuit. McCaw flicked a backwards bounce pass to Powell for an easy dunk. The Raptors went into the third with a 66-54.

The Raptors visit Detroit on Wednesday then return home to host Washington on Friday before facing Dallas on Sunday.

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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job



The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.

A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.

Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.

He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.

He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.

The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.

Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.

–Field Level Media

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NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon



The NHL has asked the Canadian government for a decision by June 1 about U.S. teams crossing the border during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN reported Friday.


The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.


“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”


Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.


Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.


The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.


In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.


An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.


–Field Level Media

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Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.



As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.

Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.

The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.

Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.

Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.

As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.

“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.

“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”

-Field Level Media

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