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.
Toronto Raptors (20-8) at Indiana Pacers (20-9), Tonight, 7 p.m., Bankers Life Fieldhouse, TV: SNET; AM1050
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.
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.
Chicago sexual assault scandal raises culture questions for NHL – CBC.ca
WARNING: This story contains distressing details
For three weeks in 2010, they did nothing. That’s how long it took for the leadership of the Chicago NHL team to act on allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player.
Three weeks. Three weeks that — more than a decade later — rocked a once-proud franchise and raised more questions about the culture of sports.
In the span of 107 pages, featuring interviews with 139 witnesses, more than 100 gigabytes of electronic records and 49 boxes of hard-copy records, a report by an outside law firm detailed how senior leaders of the Chicago team seemingly ignored the sexual assault accusations raised with the franchise days before the team won its first Stanley Cup title since 1961.
The ramifications of the independent review, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits, stretched into several corners of the NHL, which fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”
Florida coach Joel Quenneville is slated to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is planning to talk to the commissioner on Monday. Both were with the Chicago team when the accusations by Kyle Beach were first reported to team leadership.
According to the report, Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL players’ association, was contacted twice about allegations connected to the assistant coach, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he couldn’t recall either conversation, but did not deny that they had occurred.
Beach felt ‘alone and dark’
Messages were left by the AP seeking comment from the NHLPA.
Beach, a 2008 first-round draft pick playing professionally in Germany, told TSN on Wednesday he felt “alone and dark” in the days following the alleged assault. He said he is only now beginning the healing process.
Beach, 31, had been referred to as John Doe in his lawsuit against the team. The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
In a statement attributed to the team, Chicago commended Beach for his courage in coming forward, and reiterated the organization’s “deepest apologies” for what he has gone through and its failure to promptly respond in 2010.
WATCH | Kyle Beach comes forward as ‘John Doe 1’ in Chicago scandal:
Chicago’s CEO Danny Wirtz, the son of team chairman Rocky Wirtz, met with current players Wednesday, a day after the graphic report was released, leading to the departures of president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, another top executive.
“I think the overriding message was that we, as in the organization, we’re here for you,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “The family is behind us. The organization’s behind us, and we’re going to do everything we can to move forward here.”
Rocky Wirtz said Tuesday that he and Danny were first made aware of the accusations ahead of a May filing of a lawsuit by Beach alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The team also is facing a second lawsuit by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The team said their lawyers contacted Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents John Doe and the former student in the second lawsuit, on Tuesday about possible settlements. A call was set up for early next week.
According to the report, the encounter between Beach, then a 20-year-old minor leaguer called up in case Chicago needed help in the playoffs, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010.
Beach told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations that he also detailed in his lawsuit.
Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual. Asked Wednesday about the law firm’s report, Aldrich responded: “I have nothing to say.”
About two weeks later, on May 23, 2010, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, team president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations before McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 — a delay that violated the team’s sexual harassment policy, according to Schar.
During those three weeks, Aldrich continued to work for and travel with the team. Schar said Aldrich also “made an unwanted sexual advance” toward a 22-year-old team intern.
Beach told TSN seeing Aldrich around the team made him feel sick.
WATCH | Bowman resigns amid team’s sexual assault allegations:
“I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by [Jim Gary] and nothing happened,” Beach said. “It was like his life was the same as the day before. Same every day.
“And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing.”
McDonough, Blunk and Gary are no longer employed in the NHL. Now Bowman and MacIsaac are out as well.
But the report makes clear that 11 years ago, winning the Cup took priority over taking immediate action on the Aldrich allegations; Bowman recalled that during the May 23 meeting, McDonough and Quenneville talked about the challenge of reaching the Stanley Cup Final and “a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.”
‘These are human beings’
Bowman’s description of what happened was reminiscent of scandals at Baylor University, where assault claims against football players were mishandled by school officials, or at USA Gymnastics, still reeling from its mishandling of convicted serial sex abuser and team doctor Larry Nassar.
Loggans said she hopes what happened with Chicago leads to changes across sports.
“There has to be a change from a mentality of complete animalism, like let’s just completely ramp up the masculinity factor of these players and whatever it takes to win a game, we’ll do that,” she said. “There has to be some context, no different than being concerned about concussions in football games.
“It’s not winning at all costs. These are human beings. They’re not gladiators whose lives are going to be sacrificed in the game.”
10 Things: Fred VanVleet emerging as Raptors’ clear leader – Sportsnet.ca
One — This win was very similar to their other victory against Boston. The Raptors swarmed the Pacers which took them entirely out of their offence, won the possession battle by a landslide with a 22-10 edge in turnovers along with 16-9 in offensive rebounds, and that almost always results in a win. The Raptors kicked it into another gear defensively in the second half and basically ran the Pacers out of the gym. That effort, coupled with better shooting from their main players, resulted in a blowout win in which the Raptors stamped out every single comeback charge by the Pacers. You will see the Raptors win in this fashion regularly this season.
Two — Fred VanVleet was a charge shy of delivering a vintage Kyle Lowry game. VanVleet has been excellent since the home opener, following his career-high of 17 assists against Chicago with a career-high 10 rebounds in tonight’s win. VanVleet is emerging as the clear leader of this team, his only focus is on winning, and it shows up in the margins as much as it does in his impressive shotmaking.
There was a play in the fourth quarter where VanVleet made four rotations to cut off four Pacers drives, before the possession was ended by Chris Boucher‘s block. That’s the type of commitment it takes to win, and VanVleet is a shining example of how hard everyone else should be working.
This was also VanVleet’s best game of the year with his scoring, as he made several impressive moves off the dribble to create the space for his jumper, which was accurate both from the midrange and from 30-feet out.
Three — OG Anunoby is settling in after his frantic start. Anunoby was sensational all night on both ends, starting in the first quarter where he put up 14 points with ease. Playing out of the post has allowed him to calm down, to assess his options, before making a decisive move, and teams are having to bring double teams to slow him down because otherwise, Anunoby is burying his defender under the rim. The bully ball approach comes much more naturally than when he tries to attack from the perimeter, although he’s starting to find his bearings from there as well, and his touch from three is rounding back to form.
What cannot be questioned is his defence, which remains airtight and suffocating each and every minute he’s on the floor. Anunoby collected five steals, but his best play was on a closeout to end the first half, where he had a step inside the paint as the shot was released but was somehow still able to swat the shot out of play.
Four — Scottie Barnes keeps wowing us. You can see the maturity in his approach even as compared to Summer League and pre-season. Nick Nurse’s message is for Barnes to attack downhill and to attack every time, and he’s starting to get it. Barnes is so strong that he’s going to get to whatever spot on the floor he damn pleases, and he’ll be balanced enough to fire the shot off cleanly.
Even when he misses, Barnes has a great chance of getting the putback because the momentum of his drives often knocks his defender backwards. Case in point: Barnes took it strong to the cup against Domantas Sabonis, who stands seven-foot weighing 260 pounds, yet it was he who bounced back from the contact instead of Barnes, who collected the second chance basket off the initial miss.
Keep in mind that Barnes is only 20-years-old, and that he will continue to gather strength and agility through more time with a professional training staff. It’s genuinely scary to think about how more dominant he will be in a few years.
Five — Nurse was a man of his word and moved Dalano Banton into his rotation. Nurse dismissed Malachi Flynn‘s claim to more playing time and he benched accomplished veteran Goran Dragic because he believes in Banton and his faith was rewarded. Banton was the first player off the bench in both halves, and he was great each time in how he changed the energy of the game.
Banton mixed in two driving layups along with two catch-and-shoot threes for his 10 points in 16 minutes, which is the best guard play the Raptors have had off the bench all season. Banton’s speed really pops when you see it in person, because a six-foot-nine player handling the ball should not be anywhere close to as fast as Banton is. On one of his two layups, Banton got the inbound pass off a Pacers basket, and raced downhill so fast that he beat every single player down the court, and a helpless T.J. McConnell could only swipe at him as he dashed in for the and-one finish. Banton is the fastest player on the team changing ends with the ball.
Six — The introduction of Banton as the backup point guard had a cascading effect on the Raptors’ defence. The smallest player on the floor became VanVleet, who is an all-word defender on account of his anticipation and his toughness. The next smallest players were Svi Mykhailiuk and Gary Trent Jr., both at six-foot-six with a combined seven steals between them, and the rest of the rotation were six-foot-nine forwards with seven-foot wingspans. Simply put, the Pacers had nowhere to go because the Raptors had a hand in every passing lane, were aggressive in their double teams, and there were no mismatches anywhere for a Pacers player to attack one-on-one.
One of the oddest sights from this game was seeing the ease in which Banton swatted McConnell’s driving layup, because not only did Banton match him for quickness which allowed him to cut off the drive, but he was also a foot taller against someone at his own position.
Seven — Nurse’s defensive scheme against Sabonis continues to be excellent. Sabonis is normally a dominant post player who is crafty with his passing while also being physical in the paint, but Nurse’s strategy of swarming him with triple teams at times completely cut him off. Sabonis went from scoring 33 points in his season opener, to only attempting four shots. The Raptors closed down on him so hard that Sabonis didn’t even score a single basket after the seven-minute mark of the first quarter.
Credit goes to Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch for bodying him up and denying him position, but the way Trent Jr., Anunoby, and VanVleet flustered him was breathtaking to watch. Even though Sabonis is an elite passer for a center, he recorded only three assists against four turnovers.
Eight — Chis Boucher finished the game much stronger than he started it. He opened his account with many of the same mistakes that drive coaches crazy, such as being late to closeout, failing to hold his position because he didn’t seal his man and taking ill-advised shots. But he did get 18 minutes tonight from Nurse because his defence came around in the fourth quarter.
Boucher recorded a block at the rim, changed a pair of shots at the rim with his length, and on his most positive sequence, he resisted his urge to leave his feet on a pump fake, kept his man in front, and forced a shot-clock violation. Boucher needs to understand that Nurse will reward him for being solid, not for the spectacular.
Nine — The only issue with the Raptors stacking up so many forwards is the lack of shooting. It didn’t hurt them tonight since VanVleet and Anunoby combined for 10 of their 14 threes, but their shooting drops off significantly when one or both players hit the bench. The spacing is especially tight for the second unit, where Mykhailiuk is often the only threat from deep, and that’s one threat that Dragic and Flynn provide which Banton ordinarily wouldn’t.
There’s not a great in-house solution to this problem outside of Boucher finding his rhythm, which is why Nurse should look to keep giving him chances. And with Banton’s length on the floor at point guard, maybe there is some more leeway defensively to where Boucher can make up the gap with his shooting.
Ten — Adding Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe back to this group will supercharge the defence. There will be a new rotation to be sorted out, both in how Siakam slots in with the starters and how Nurse wants to deploy Wanatabe with the bench, but managing the fit is simply a matter of getting enough scoring on the floor. Watanabe could either take Mykhailiuk’s minutes at shooting guard, or he can be Boucher’s replacement as the backup power forward, while Siakam joining a starting group with Anunoby, VanVleet, Barnes, and one of Trent Jr. or Achiuwa is a scary proposition in how versatile and tough the Raptors will be on defence.
Penguins’ Sidney Crosby remains out of lineup Thursday vs. Flames – Sportsnet.ca
Crosby has yet to play this season after having wrist surgery in August. On Wednesday, Sullivan told media Crosby was “real close” to returning to the lineup.
“We’ll see how he responds,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “We’ll listen to the medical staff and we’ll make decisions accordingly. But we’re really encouraged with his progress.”
Crosby has been practicing regularly with the Penguins in recent days and was a participant in the team’s optional morning skate Thursday morning.
Sullivan also provided brief updates on his two players in COVID protocol, saying Kris Letang remains symptomatic and Jeff Carter is still asymptomatic. He added that Carter could rejoin the team for practice on Friday.
The Penguins have a light schedule over the next week with a game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and then four days off before they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 4.
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