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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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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Andreescu splits with coach Bruneau after French Open exit

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World number seven Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday announced she has split with longtime coach Sylvain Bruneau, a week after falling in the first round of the French Open.

The pair had worked together for four years as Andreescu made her breakthrough with three titles in 2019, including the U.S. Open.

“It is with a heavy heart that I would like to inform my fans that my long time coach, mentor and friend, Sylvain and I, have mutually decided to end our incredible coaching relationship,” Canadian Andreescu wrote on Twitter

“Our friendship will live forever … I am very grateful for everything we accomplished together and all of our great memories.

“Sylvain was more than a coach… he is family.”

Andreescu, 20, returned to action at this year’s Australian Open, having missed 15 months due to a knee injury.

A positive COVID-19 test subsequently ruled Andreescu out of both Madrid and Rome before an abdominal injury forced her to pull out of Strasbourg at the quarter-final stage.

Her most recent appearance at Roland Garros ended with a 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 defeat by Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.

 

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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