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Raptors’ roster flaws on full display in loss to Celtics – Raptors Republic

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Unlike the last time the Toronto Raptors played the Boston Celtics — when the Celtics ran away with it early on the back of a 40-ball from Jayson Tatum — the Raptors’ 106-120 loss to the Celtics on Thursday night was there for the taking.

With 5:12 remaining in the game — after brilliant performances from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam had willed the Raptors to within 7 points after being down by more than ten for most of the night — Aron Baynes and Norman Powell saw each of their layups get blocked on back-to-back possessions. Instead of going up strong and being aware of their surroundings, both Baynes and Powell acted nonchalantly as they took the ball to the hoop, letting 4 potential points slip off the board. After Jaylen Brown blocked Powell’s bunny, Kemba Walker hit a 3-point shot to put the Celtics up ten. The Celtics would go on to score 11 straight points before Nick Nurse pulled his starters and conceded the game. 

If the last game between these two teams was an example of one team being in a tier above the other, this one was won, and lost, around the margins.

At no point did the Raptors look overmatched. Lowry was in peak form, scoring 24 points on just 15 field goal attempts, and his counterpart Pascal Siakam bounced back from his previous poor showings against the Celtics to score 23 points on just 14 field goal attempts. Meanwhile, Tatum, Brown, and Kemba Walker were held to 17, 12, and 21 points, respectively. 

Instead of the Celtics’ stars having their way against the Raptors, who were missing their best one-on-one defender in OG Anunoby, the Raptors forced the ball out of the stars’ hands and made the Celtics’ role players make shots. Unfortunately for the Raptors, that is exactly what they did, with Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard combining for 44 points, mostly from beyond the arc. But while the Celtics outscored the Raptors 60-27 from the three-point line, that was not the only reason for the loss.

In fact, the loss was an indictment on the Raptors’ fundamentally flawed roster — one that employs only one traditional center in Baynes, who has been overmatched as of late and played 21 minutes only because Chris Boucher was in foul trouble. All season, teams have been targeting Baynes in the pick-and-roll when he is in the game, and he isn’t smart enough positionally to stay in front of ball-handlers nor does he have the speed or size to contest shots: 

Because Baynes has been so poor, the Raptors are asking Boucher, a 6-foot-9, 200 pound big man in his third year in the NBA, to play starter minutes, trying to survive playing small regardless of the matchup. 

Boucher was good, doing everything he could to battle with Celtics’ big men Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson in the post and doing a great job defending the pick-and-roll. But he isn’t a traditional center and would be much better matching up against backup centers and playing some minutes at the four. The problem with playing Boucher at center so much, especially without Anunoby in the lineup, is that the Raptors are susceptible to getting out-rebounded and out-muscled when playing that way. In this one, the Celtics’ outrebounded the Raptors 49-32, including 14-3 on the offensive boards. That was a big difference-maker. 

To make up for their lack of size on the boards, the Raptors forced the Celtics into turning the ball over 19 times, which their small-ball lineups have done all season, often leading to fast break points. Only most of them were not live-ball turnovers and the Raptors scored only scored 5 points on the fast break all night, completely erasing one of the key tenets of their offence.  

Defensively, the Raptors continue to foul in unnecessary moments and to commit too many guys to the ball because they do not trust their backline help, leading to open shots. The Celtics shot 28 free-throws compared to just 19 for the Raptors.

When looking at the game as a whole, it was clear that the Raptors lost around the margins. A couple less blown layups here, a few more defensive rebounds there, and some fast-break points could have seen the Raptors turn this one around. But win or lose tight games like this one around the margins, the roster problems remain. The Raptors either need a serviceable starting center or they need to figure out how to play small without giving up a boatload of offensive rebounds. Until then, their margin for error will remain too small to be a real contender. 

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Maple Leaf Notes: Galchenyuk, Matthews, Andersen, Campbell – prohockeyrumors.com

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When the Toronto Maple Leafs sent forward Alex Galchenyuk from the taxi squad to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL Saturday, many felt that it was just to get a few games under his belt after having sat out since Feb. 11. That may not only be the case as Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan writes the Maple Leafs intend to properly develop Galchenyuk and his lost game.

Galchenyuk, the third-overall pick in 2012, has never played a game in the AHL, having jumped straight from the OHL to the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs would have sent Galchenyuk to the Marlies right after the trade. However, the AHL squad has been on an eight-game road trip and finally has their home opener on Monday. Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe said the team intends to be patient with Galchenyuk as they try to help the forward find his game.

“Part of our plan was to get him playing and we would have made this move probably a little bit sooner had the Marlies not been out west,” Keefe said.

  • Sticking with the Maple Leafs, it looks like the team could be without star Auston Matthews for another game, according to TSN’s Mark Masters. The forward skated with the team Sunday in Edmonton, but didn’t skated as an extra and didn’t take any hard shots. However, Keefe didn’t rule out Matthews playing either, according to NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger. “He’s not ruled out for tomorrow,” said Keefe. Matthews missed Saturday’s game against the Oilers and now could miss Monday’s bout with them as well. If Matthews is out, John Tavares will fill in as the first-line center.
  • No word on who will start in net on Monday for the Maple Leafs. Goaltender Frederik Andersen, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, was a full-participant in practice, but it’s not looking like he will play Monday, according to TSN’s Kristen Shilton. “Ah, it’s not looking that way, if we’re being honest,” said Keefe. “Basically, where we’re at now is just waiting for him to be comfortable … & we don’t really know when that’s going to be. But today was a very positive step towards that.” To make matters worse, Jack Campbell sat out of practice for a maintenance day after returning from a leg injury on Saturday. “Between Campbell and Fred and their situations, we’ve got a lot of things to sort through that I don’t suspect will get sorted out until tomorrow night,” Keefe said.

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Kerri Einarson wins second straight Scotties Tournament of Hearts – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — Kerri Einarson’s second Canadian women’s curling championship was very different from her first.

Einarson didn’t throw her last stone Sunday in a 9-7 win over Ontario’s Rachel Homan in Calgary, in contrast to her nail-biting last draw to beat Homan in an extra end last year in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Einarson and her teammates also celebrated Sunday in the silence in an empty arena without applause and adulation of spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the skip insists it still felt sweet to repeat.

“It means the absolute world to be able to repeat,” Einarson said. “It’s something that is very hard to do.”

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur from Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club were the first to claim back-to-back titles at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts since Homan in 2013 and 2014.

Homan has lost three straight Hearts finals going back to 2019 when her team lost in an extra end to Chelsea Carey in Sydney, N.S.

Einarson had a better feel for ice conditions Sunday than Homan, who is pregnant and due in April.

“I’m unbelievably proud of these girls for battling all week and sticking with me and doing all the extra stuff I couldn’t do,” Homan said. “We had a chance right to the end, but it didn’t go our way.

“I pushed as hard as I could and went as far as we were able to go as a team. It was a phenomenal team effort to make this happen this week.”

Einarson controlled most of the game leading 5-3 after five ends and 7-4 after seven.

But Homan scored a point in the eighth and stole two in the ninth to tie it coming home.

Einarson lay two in the rings when Homan’s attempted freeze slid too deep into the rings.

“Definitely felt extremely weird not being able to run and hug my girls and my parents and family and friends,” Einarson said.

Einarson retains the Maple Leaf as Team Canada for the 2022 national championship in Thunder Bay, Ont., and picked up $100,000 in first-place prize money.

Einarson faces the prospect of missing out on a women’s world championship again.

The World Curling Federation cancelled the March 20-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, because the local Swiss health authority would not support it in a global pandemic.

Einarson and her teammates had arrived in Prince George, B.C., for the 2020 world championship when it was called off.

The WCF pulled the plug Feb. 8 on this year’s championship. An announcement has yet to be made on whether it will be rescheduled to another date and location.

“My husband said to me before I came here ‘you could be the first person to not go to worlds and win twice,'” Einarson said.

“I don’t know. Hopefully something can happen for us.”

Einarson beat Alberta’s Laura Walker 9-3 in the afternoon semifinal to earn a championship showdown with Homan.

Walker eliminated six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba with a 9-8 win in a morning tiebreaker.

Homan earned prize money of $60,000 as the runner-up. Walker collected $40,000 for third place.

The Hearts was the first of four Curling Canada events shifted to a spectator-free, controlled environment at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in an effort to have a season and get curling on TSN.

The Canadian men’s championship starts Friday, followed by national mixed doubles and the men’s world championship April 3-11.

Two Grand Slam events, which are Rogers Sportsnet’s properties, are planned for later in April.

Tourism Calgary predicts the six curling events in Calgary will inject $11 million into the local economy.

The Hearts was the first test of the curling bubble. No positive tests for the virus were reported as of Sunday.

“I think it went really smoothly. It felt good to be out there doing what we love,” Sweeting said. “Even though there were no fans, it was still special for us.”

Teams arrived in Calgary with a few games played this winter, and depending on pandemic restrictions in their region, not much practice time at their local clubs.

Homan lacked ice time to adapt her stone delivery to her changing body before arriving in Calgary.

“Can we talk for a second about skipper over here?” Homan’s third Emma Miskew said. “Unbelievable you curled that well. It’s just amazing.”

Ontario also incorporated lineup changes on the fly at the Hearts.

Homan dropped longtime lead Lisa Weagle last year for Wilkes to play second, and shifted Joanne Courtney to lead.

They didn’t have the benefit of 50 games to re-establish chemistry and communication.

Einarson’s advantage was an unchanged lineup from the team that bested Homan a year earlier.

Birchard and Meilleur both posted shooting percentages higher than counterparts Wilkes and Courtney in Sunday’s final.

Einarson, Sweeting and Birchard were named to the tournament’s first all-star team at their positions with Manitoba lead Weagle breaking up an Einarson sweep.

Homan, Wild Card One third Selena Njegovan, Manitoba second Jocelyn Peterman and Courtney were second-team all-star picks.

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Einarson defends Scotties title with win over Homan – TSN

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CALGARY — Kerri Einarson’s second Canadian women’s curling championship was very different from her first.

Einarson didn’t throw her last stone Sunday in a 9-7 win over Ontario’s Rachel Homan in Calgary, in contrast to her nail-biting last draw to beat Homan in an extra end last year in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Einarson and her teammates also celebrated Sunday in the silence in an empty arena without applause and adulation of spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the skip insists it still felt sweet to repeat.

“It means the absolute world to be able to repeat,” Einarson said. “It’s something that is very hard to do.”

Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur from Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club were the first to claim back-to-back titles at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts since Homan in 2013 and 2014.

Homan has lost three straight Hearts finals going back to 2019 when her team lost in an extra end to Chelsea Carey in Sydney, N.S.

Einarson had a better feel for ice conditions Sunday than Homan, who is pregnant and due in April.

“I’m unbelievably proud of these girls for battling all week and sticking with me and doing all the extra stuff I couldn’t do,” Homan said. “We had a chance right to the end, but it didn’t go our way.

“I pushed as hard as I could and went as far as we were able to go as a team. It was a phenomenal team effort to make this happen this week.”

Einarson controlled most of the game leading 5-3 after five ends and 7-4 after seven.

But Homan scored a point in the eighth and stole two in the ninth to tie it coming home.

Einarson lay two in the rings when Homan’s attempted freeze slid too deep into the rings.

“Definitely felt extremely weird not being able to run and hug my girls and my parents and family and friends,” Einarson said.

Einarson retains the Maple Leaf as Team Canada for the 2022 national championship in Thunder Bay, Ont., and picked up $100,000 in first-place prize money.

Einarson faces the prospect of missing out on a women’s world championship again.

The World Curling Federation cancelled the March 20-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, because the local Swiss health authority would not support it in a global pandemic.

Einarson and her teammates had arrived in Prince George, B.C., for the 2020 world championship when it was called off.

The WCF pulled the plug Feb. 8 on this year’s championship. An announcement has yet to be made on whether it will be rescheduled to another date and location.

“My husband said to me before I came here ‘you could be the first person to not go to worlds and win twice,'” Einarson said.

“I don’t know. Hopefully something can happen for us.”

Einarson beat Alberta’s Laura Walker 9-3 in the afternoon semifinal to earn a championship showdown with Homan.

Walker eliminated six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba with a 9-8 win in a morning tiebreaker.

Homan earned prize money of $60,000 as the runner-up. Walker collected $40,000 for third place.

The Hearts was the first of four Curling Canada events shifted to a spectator-free, controlled environment at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in an effort to have a season and get curling on TSN.

The Canadian men’s championship starts Friday, followed by national mixed doubles and the men’s world championship April 3-11.

Two Grand Slam events, which are Rogers Sportsnet’s properties, are planned for later in April.

Tourism Calgary predicts the six curling events in Calgary will inject $11 million into the local economy.

The Hearts was the first test of the curling bubble. No positive tests for the virus were reported as of Sunday.

“I think it went really smoothly. It felt good to be out there doing what we love,” Sweeting said. “Even though there were no fans, it was still special for us.”

Teams arrived in Calgary with a few games played this winter, and depending on pandemic restrictions in their region, not much practice time at their local clubs.

Homan lacked ice time to adapt her stone delivery to her changing body before arriving in Calgary.

“Can we talk for a second about skipper over here?” Homan’s third Emma Miskew said. “Unbelievable you curled that well. It’s just amazing.”

Ontario also incorporated lineup changes on the fly at the Hearts.

Homan dropped longtime lead Lisa Weagle last year for Wilkes to play second, and shifted Joanne Courtney to lead.

They didn’t have the benefit of 50 games to re-establish chemistry and communication.

Einarson’s advantage was an unchanged lineup from the team that bested Homan a year earlier.

Birchard and Meilleur both posted shooting percentages higher than counterparts Wilkes and Courtney in Sunday’s final.

Einarson, Sweeting and Birchard were named to the tournament’s first all-star team at their positions with Manitoba lead Weagle breaking up an Einarson sweep.

Homan, Wild Card One third Selena Njegovan, Manitoba second Jocelyn Peterman and Courtney were second-team all-star picks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

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