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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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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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