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Raptors stun Mavericks with franchise-record comeback win – Toronto Sun

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Christmas came early for the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon.

Down 23 points heading into the final quarter and seemingly out this one, Nick Nurse decided to try one last thing before calling off his main dogs and saving whatever energy was left for Monday’s game in Indianapolis.

Nurse never made that next call.

His full-court press not only changed the momentum, it changed the entire games as the Raptors started turning the visiting Mavericks over at will. About the same time, Kyle Lowry, who was as cold as any other Raptor on a day where no one was even close to luke warm from a shooting standpoint through the first three quarters, suddenly couldn’t miss.

That combination proved to be enough to turn that 23-point deficit into a 110-107 win, the fifth victory in a row for a Toronto team down two starters and its first sub off the bench.

Lowry, who through three quarters had 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, poured in 20 in the final 12 minutes, going 4-for-6 from distance and 7-for-10 overall to seal the win.

Lowry though was adamant the credit for the comeback go to the four guys around him for that game-changing frame. That none of the four were fellow starters only made the moment that much more special.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Malcolm Miller, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher started the quarter with Lowry and other than Miller, who came out with 1:37 to go for another shooter in Fred VanVleet, or Davis, who came out with a second to go in order to get Serge Ibaka in for just-in-case defensive purposes, all four were right there with Lowry the whole way.

“I didn’t do it,” Lowry said when it sounded like all the credit was headed his way. “We had a great team effort. Malcolm, Terence Davis, Rondae and Chris Boucher. I give them all the credit today. They won that game for us. Malcolm got a few steals, TD hit a couple of big threes. Chris with his deflections and blocked shots. Rondae with his putbacks and hustle effort. Give those guys the credit, man, seriously.”

Lowry isn’t wrong. That four deserve a ton of credit as well but without Lowry hitting shot after shot this comeback story doesn’t have a happy ending for the home side.

For whatever reason Lowry playing with a bench unit has historically been a good mix for the Raptors. Back in the days of the bench mob, the most effective lineups were Lowry with four subs.

Nurse even has a theory about why it’s successful.

“You know how I’m always talking about going through your primary guys first and then those (other) guys have to be opportunity scorers and I think that’s really what it turned into,” Nurse said. “Kyle, make the play, take the shot or find the kick out or find the cutter or whatever. I think that just organizes you. They were all like, do your thing and we’ll chip in where we can and we had just enough cuts and Terence makes a three and Rondae a lay-up here, Chris on a tip-in, just enough plays off of Kyle’s initial actions.”

Hollis Jefferson, who had six points in the turnaround fourth, summed it up a little neater.

“He’s our veteran, our leader so at the end of the day it comes down to do what you do and we going to handle all that other stuff,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “That’s pretty much the way that went.”

The Raptors went into full press mode for the bulk of that fourth quarter and it resulted in seven turnovers and 11 points off those turnovers.

With Lowry calling out the coverage, this rather unique five-man unit pulled together and were operating like attached by a single rope.

At one point in the third quarter the Raptors were down by 30, making this the largest comeback in franchise history, breaking the old mark of 25 set back in 2010 in a game against the Pistons.

According to EliasSports, the comeback was the largest in the NBA since Sacramento rallied from a 30-point deficit to defeat Chicago in December of 2009.

The 47 fourth quarter points by the Raptors were also a franchise record.

The Mavericks took the loss hard, as one would expect with head coach Rick Carlisle pointing the finger directly at himself.

“Very disappointing loss,” Carlisle said. “I take full responsibility for it. We got to a point where we lost our aggression. Give them credit, they did a great job with the trap but we didn’t respond well enough to it, and that’s on me.”

Toronto will not have long to celebrate the greatest comeback in team history. They were on a charter to Indianapolis where they will take on the Pacers tonight before returning home to take on the Boston Celtics in a noon tipoff on Christmas Day.

FULL-COURT PRESS TURNED THE TIDE

The seeds for the Raptors franchise biggest comeback were actually sewn two weeks earlier in a loss the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly.

The Raptors entered the fourth quarter down 18 and seemingly out of the game.

Nick Nurse and his coaching staff decided with about nine minutes to go to make one last effort to press the Sixers full court and see what would happen.

They wound up cutting into the lead and almost stole it, eventually losing by six.

Flash forward to Sunday evening and the Raptors enter the fourth down 23. Again Nurse makes the call for the press as a last ditch effort to pull this one out of the fire before he waves the white flag and saves his bullets for the following night in Indianapolis.

Again the strategy was effective, only this time with a home crowd urging them on and with Kyle Lowry suddenly unable to miss, the comeback gets all the way home in a 110-107 win that will be remembered around these parts for a long time to come.

The fact that the Raptors stayed almost the entire 12 minutes with the same five players — Lowry, Terence Davis, Malcolm Miller, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher made for a very tiring quarter with all five players covering all kinds of distance.

But it was effective. The Raptors turned the Sixers over seven times in the fourth quarter alone leading to 11 points.

“Nick threw us the press and everyone just said, alright let’s do it,” Lowry said of the beginnings of the comeback. “We got in some great spots. First possession, Chris (Boucher) picked a pass off, we got a bucket. We just kept going and going and going. We stayed with it. You don’t have to say much to that group because those guys are a bunch of guys who are fighting, continuing to prove and get better.”

In that final quarter the Mavericks only managed to score 21 points collectively or one more than Lowry had for the Raptors.

Through three quarters the Mavs had been shooting 42% from the field and 39% from behind in the arc.

In the final frame they shot 28% from the field and just 10% from distance.

With 1:37 to go in the game, Nurse finally changed the mix bringing in Fred VanVleet for Malcolm MIller but that group of Lowry and four bench players were basically responsible for the comeback by themselves.

Miller had missed a wide open three and with the Raptors in possession of a lead now in a tight game, adding another money three-point shooter was the right move.

After the game the Mavericks were talking about what they could learn from such a devastating loss. All they had to do was look down the hall at the Raptors who learned plenty in that loss in Philadelphia and wound up using it to pull off the comeback of the season.

TIPOFF

Toronto Raptors (20-8) at Indiana Pacers (20-9), Tonight, 7 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse, TV: SNET; AM1050

SCOUTING REPORT

Somehow without superstar Victor Oladipo who has not played since a serious injury in a game Jan. 23 vs. Toronto, the Pacers are right with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. A big part of the reason is newcomer Malcolm Brogdon, who was deemed expendable by the Milwaukee Bucks much to the Pacers’ delight. Brogdon, a former NBA rookie of the year is averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals. The Pacers are seventh in the league in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 103.8 and sit 13th in offensive rating just behind the Raptors with 109 points per 100 possessions. The Pacers actually began the season with three consecutive losses. In their past 16 games they are 13-3.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Brogdon has been a real game-changer in Indy. He’s clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder having been cast aside by the Milwaukee Bucks and is looking to prove them wrong. He’s averaging a team best 18.7 points a game as well as a team high 7.5 assists which is seventh in the NBA. Lowry is only coming off his second 30-plus point game of the season as he led that miraculous comeback with 20 fourth quarter points over the Mavericks. The only question is how much energy he’ll have left after playing almost 42 minutes the night before.

DID YOU KNOW

Like the Raptors the Pacers will be playing on the second of consecutive nights. They were in Milwaukee last night to take on the Bucks where Brogdon made his feelings very clear telling reporters before the game he wasn’t valued as highly by the Bucks as he is in Indy … Toronto has won five of the past six meetings between the two clubs … With 13.5 rebounds a night Domantas Sabonis ranks fourth in the NBA … TJ Warrne and Sabonis are right with Brogdon in terms of points per game with both scoring just under 18 a game.

mganter@postmedia.com

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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena

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LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap

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In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates

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Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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