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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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Mirtle: This may very well be the last stand for this Maple Leafs core – The Athletic

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Kyle Dubas stood in front of a small group of reporters on the NHL’s trade deadline day and offered some serious honesty about his Maple Leafs.

He swore. He called their play embarrassing. And he offered a firm “I don’t know” when asked why they were so inconsistent — or “Jekyll and Hyde,” as he put it at one point.

“The truthful answer is we don’t know,” Dubas said. “That might draw some criticism to say ‘I don’t know,’ but I’m not gonna bullshit and tell you I have some magical solution. I think we have to go through this.”

Dubas spoke for nearly 18 minutes on Monday afternoon, with long answers that followed a now familiar theme. The tale he told was about how his team still has lessons to learn and that this adversity, these brutal losses, are the path to getting there.

It seemed some came away from the speech believing it was another rousing…

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Trade grades: Oilers acquire 2020 version of Mike Green – ESPN

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Edmonton Oilers trade for Detroit Andreas Athanasiou

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This in from Gord Miller of TSN, that the Edmonton Oilers have traded for Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from Detroit. The Oilers gave up Sam Gagner and two second round picks to get Athanasiou, who will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer.

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My take

  1. It looks like Oilers GM Ken Holland wants his team to take a run at the Stanley Cup. Can you blame him? Not me.
  2. Athanasiou, 25, is a major pick up for the Oilers. He’s having an off year but he scored 30 goals in 2018-19.
  3. When it comes to even strength scoring, Athanasiou ranks 238th out of 393 regular NHL forwards this year, with 1.57 points per game.
  4. Sam Gagner ranks 284th for even strength scoring with 1.38 points per game. But Gagner lacks the wheels to play with Connor McDavid. Athanasiou has got them. Gagner was moved for cap reasons, so Edmonton can fit Athanasiou under their cap.
  5. Kuffner, 23, is a struggling AHL player.
  6. Athanasiou kills penalties and plays on the power play in Detroit. This year he’s at 1:37 per game on the PK and 2:21 per game on the PP. But his big number is that -45 NHL plus-minuus in 46 games. That’s a wretched number but it’s a number earned by the entire Detroit Red Wings team when Athanasiou is on the ice, it’s not an individual stat. We’ll see how well Athansiou plays defence when he gets here, though there are doubts about him in this regard.
  7. Athanasiou has been on the ice for 21 even strength goals for this year and 60 against.
  8. Brian Burke of Sportnset said: “All I can tell you about Athanasiou is: he makes both teams dangerous. This is a guy who has speed for sure, but he is not a fanatic about defence. I can tell you that. This one, I’ll give Kenny the benefit of the doubt. They definitely got faster but this guy is not a defender.”
  9. Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau of Sportsnet said Athanasiou would help push NHL defenders back with his speed. “I think it’s going to work out. If Connor is skating full speed and this guy can keep up to him, how do you check them”?
  10. Louie DeBrusk of Sportsnet said: “This is going to be the first time that Connor McDavid has a running mate that can actually keep up to him and be right there with him and be right on the door step waiting for those back door tap ins.”
  11. Scottie Upshall on TSN said, “I like the move. They need speed. He’s one of the fastest players in the league. And Connor needs that. He needs a guy who is going to step up and keep the pace of play and be able to move the puck, be able to create some space.”
  12. TSN’s Ray Ferraro said: “Certainly Ken Holland knows him from Detroit. He’s seen the ups and downs of AA as he’s gone from Grande Rapids to a part time pro in Detroit to a full time guy. Seen him score 30 goals. He’s there to watch him -42 this year. So I think there be a pretty direct line of communication of what’s expected from Athanasiou. He can skate. He can score. McDavid is on a line right now with Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner. That doesn’t fit. They need more there. And I think the Oilers… they’ve got a player that can play with McDavid. Will it be successful. We’ll see…. It feels like this is the type of player who has had such a crappy year that can hit lightning here playing with a guy like McDavid.” Ferraro said he’s intrigued by this for Edmonton. “I think that what concerns me is that he likes the puck. Athanasiou likes the puck. He likes to rush it. He likes to carry it. The guy he’s going to be playing with should be carrying the puck all the time.”
  13. TSN’s Craig Button wondered if Athanasiou would get to the right places at the right time on the ice. “He plays with blinders on… He’s like a drag racer. He’s not a formula one racer. He’s just straight ahead. And if you’re going to play with Connor McDavid, you better be thinking, ‘Where’s Connor so I can get him the puck?’ I don’t think Athanasiou will be a good fit for Connor McDavid. I don’t.” Buttons suggested playing Athanasiou with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and putting Drasaistl back with McDavid.
  14. TSN’s Jeff O’Neill said: “It’s going to be nice to see him in a competitive situation too. There’s not a lot of fun going on in Detroit right now and I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of fun. That would be a player who would just be drowning in that year after year.”
  15. TSN’s Mike Johnson said: “Even if it doesn’t fit perfectly, if they’re not a perfect blend, Connor McDavid is talented enough, if you have any kind of offensive instincts, or even enough to know just get out of the way, go to the net and let him do his thing, you’ll pick up points, you’ll pick up goals, you’ll feel better about yourself. There is an element of truth that if you just keep it simple even it’s not exactly your style of game, if you just keep it simple and go to to the net and get out of the way, Connor McDavid is great enough for you to have a little bit of success just like that.”
  16. I like this deal. Edmonton has a great chance to both win the Pacific division and to make the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Second round picks are valuable, but they have about a one in five chance of turning into a good NHLer.
  17. Athanasiou makes $3.0 million this year. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so Edmonton will have to make a call on him then. For now, we’ll see how he does this spring in Edmonton.

In case you’re wondering about the value of draft picks, Brad McPherson has dug into this a this website, the Blue Bullet Report:

Essentially, he’s found that a forward taken in the various rounds has the following average career value:

  • 1st overall: 102 value
  • 10th overall: 26.2
  • 20th: 13.2
  • 30th: 8.9
  • 40th: 4.8
  • 50th: 4.2
  • 60th: 3.6
  • 70th: 3.4
  • 80th: 2.2
  • 90th: 1.8
  • 100th: 1.5
  • 110th: 0.9
  • 120th: 0.9
  • 130th: 0.8
  • 140th: 0.8
  • 150th: 0.8
  • 160th: 0.8
  • 170th: 0.6
  • 180th: 0.6
  • 190th: 0.5
  • 200th: 0.5
  • 210th: 0.5

The first overall pick has an average career value four times greater than the 10th overall pick and more than 10 times greater than the average 30th overall pick, and more than 20 times greater than the average second round pick.

Sometimes lower round picks turn into fine players, like Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. Most often, they do not.

Major recent trades:

  • Edmonton gets Athanasiou for two second round picks and Sam Gagner.
  • Pittsburgh gets Patrick Marleau for a third round pick.
  • Carolina Hurricanes get Vincent Trochek for forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark and two prospects (Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen).
  • Washington Capitals acquire Ilya Kovalchuk for a third round draft pick.
  • New York Islanders get Jean-Gabriel Pageau for first round draft pick in 2020 (lottery protected), 2nd in 2020 and 3rd round pick in 2022 if Islanders win the Cup.
  • Colorado gets Vlad Namestnikov for a fourth round pick in 2021.
  • Boston Bruins get Ondrej Kase, traded for a 2020 first-round pick along with David Backes and defensive prospect Axel Andersson, Bruins retaining 25 per cent of Backes’ contract.
  • Vegas Golden Knights get Alec Martinez, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 2nd-rd pick
  • St. Louis Blues get Marco Scandella, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Washington Capitals get Brenden Dillon, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Winnipeg Jets get Dylan DeMelo, D – Traded for ’20 3rd-rd pick
  • Vancouver Canucks get Tyler Toffoli, RW – Traded for Tim Schaller, Madden, picks
  • Tampa Bay Lightning get Blake Coleman, LW – Traded for Nolan Foote, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • New Jersey Devils get David Quenneville, D – Traded w/ ’21 2nd-rd pick for Andy Greene
  • Pittsburgh Penguins get Jason Zucker, LW – Traded for Alex Galchenyuk, Addison, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • Los Angeles Kings get Trevor Moore, LW – Traded w/ picks for Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
  • Buffalo Sabres Michael Frolik for 4th -round pick (2020)
  • Montreal Canadiens Marco Scandella for 4th-round pick (2020)
  • Arizona Coyotes Taylor Hall and Blake Speers for 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, 2021 conditional third-round draft pick, Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley Kevin Bahl

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