One night at my pool hall in Halifax, where I grew up, two regulars started hurling pool balls at each other from relatively close distances. That night was approximately half as chaotic as the Toronto Raptors’ 123-117 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
This is one of those where to start situations. Perhaps with Kevin Durant. His night was allegorical, perhaps, in terms of the NBA’s malleable reaction to the pandemic in general. First Durant was held out of the game due to being placed in the health and safety protocols, though he was never officially ruled out. Then Durant checked into the game in the first quarter (and promptly set to torching the Raptors — he finished a team-high +10 in the loss) as the league insisted he was cleared to play. Finally, after being whistled for a fifth foul, which was overturned in a challenge, Durant was forced to leave the building by being placed back into the health and safety protocols.
Durant made his thoughts public via twitter, saying that he should have been allowed to play.
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) February 6, 2021
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) February 6, 2021
Apparently, Durant had been in contact with someone whose tests were inconclusive, so he was allowed to play.(Why not start, though, nobody knows.) Then during the game, one of that unnamed person’s tests came back positive, so Durant was withdrawn immediately. Durant has continued to test negative leading up to the game. And several Nets, most notably James Harden, questioned the protocols after the game, wondering why the game was even played, as Durant’s teammates were clearly in contact with him before and during the game. The Nets were furious after the game about the situation.
So, more COVID scares for the Raptors. This has become a regular occurrence in the NBA, and world at large, and the Raptors have been on the fortunate side this season in terms of avoiding the virus. It is currently unclear if they will play the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow, although Nick Nurse said post-game that he hasn’t heard anything about a postponement, and the team did travel to Atlanta last night.
By the way, the last time Durant played against the Raptors? He didn’t start the game, but when he checked in, he immediately shifted the texture of the game. Then after dominating for a few minutes, Durant was forced out again. That was game five of the 2018-19 NBA finals. Pascal Siakam noted after the game the similarities in his perspective.
Beyond the Durant situation, the Raptors spent another night voicing their disagreement with the referees. Fred VanVleet and Nurse picked up a pair of technical fouls in the second quarter, which Nurse described afterwards as “a really unpleasant portion of the game.” The Nets ended up attempting more than double the number of free throws that the Raptors attempted, 29 to 14. Toronto was shaken by the officiating, and they responded poorly in that second quarter. They had some cause, though; Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell both received bloody faces from fouls that went uncalled.
Despite it all — and this may be burying the lede somewhat — the Raptors pulled off what is probably their win of the season to this point.
Siakam had a historically dominant game in the post, albeit against Brooklyn’s malnourished defense. He finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, and zero turnovers. Those numbers perhaps understate his contributions. He was fantastic with his back to the basket. When the Nets allowed him to work against a single defender, he scored with absolute ease, no matter his defender. He hit fadeaways, drop-step layups, spinning hooks, and floaters. He use his time and was patient, staying on-balance. When the Nets sent a second defender, Siakam was fantastic at making the correct pass and hurting the Nets in other ways. His offensive output was immaculate.
Lowry was no slouch himself. He scored 30 points with 7 assists, and he took over in the fourth quarter. When the game was tight, and the Nets even took a lead with a few minutes remaining, Lowry was the best player on the court. He hit triples in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. He connected on mid-range pull-ups. He drove and dished to Siakam for multiple layups. Lowry focused on a spinning and distracting game, and he closed the door on the Nets.
That’s what it’s going to take to win basketball games this season. Focus, when so many disparate elements are screaming at players to pay attention to factors beyond basketball. Toronto didn’t cave. Their defensive game-plan was well-crafted and well-executed, as they blitzed Kyrie Irving and James Harden and forced turnovers from their teammates. Their offense was patient, putting pressure on the rim when Brooklyn had not a soul to defend it. The Nets are not a flawless team by any means, but they are a dangerous one, with three Hall of Famers, even if one was only available for half of the game. Toronto was the team whose foundations held strongest under the wave of weirdness. They earned a win on a bizarre night.
That bizarreness could, of course, impact the Raptors going forward. They will, as usual, have multiple COVID tests today before playing the Hawks, and if everything goes as planned, then great, the safety protocols are working effectively. But the Durant yo-yo was more than a distraction; his playing constituted a possible breach in the membrane of the bubble that the league attempts to create to separate its players from any exposure to the virus.
“It is what it is,” was the response of a few different Raptors after the game, most literally Lowry. But they seem to accept their realities.
That’s what this season is going to be, beyond just this night. And the Raptors won, despite it all. They now sit at 10-12, at sixth place in the East, and 8-4 over their last 12 games. They currently have a better offense, both in terms of absolute rating and relative positioning to the rest of the league, than they did last season. All basketball signs are pointing up.
Very little happened to the two regulars who tussled in the pool hall that night. I remember them both continuing to play there, if a little less often, in the following weeks and months. Remarkably, no one was seriously hurt. It was just a strange night. That has to be the hope for the Raptors. Take the basketball win and continue to build on it. Ignore the uncontrollables. That’s what a winning team has to do in this day and age.
Large hits three-run homer, Jays beat Phillies – TSN
DUNEDIN — Cullen Large belted a three-run home run to lead the Toronto Blue Jays past the Philadelphia Phillies 7-1 in exhibition baseball action Saturday.
Large’s blast anchored a five-run inning for Toronto, which finished with 10 hits in a contest that was halted in the seventh.
Kirby Snead (1-0) took the win, allowing no hits and no runs over a 1 1/3 innings. He had a strikeout while issuing two walks.
Toronto used six pitchers in the game. The Blue Jays, who’ve won two straight, face the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Toronto also claimed right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from the Boston Red Sox while designating right-hander Jacob Waguespack for assignment.
Toronto claimed Payamps from Boston on Feb. 11 but the Red Sox claimed him back 11 days later. The six-foot-two, 225-pound pitcher has made four career major-league appearances, allowing three earned runs over seven innings.
Payamps was originally signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and has compiled a 41-43 record and 4.15 earned-run average in 145 minor-league games.,
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.
Full transcript: Wayne Gretzky eulogizes his late father Walter – CTV News
Wayne Gretzky paid tribute to his late father Walter on Saturday in a heartfelt eulogy during the Gretzky patriarch’s funeral in Brantford, Ont. Below is a complete transcript of the eulogy, as transcribed by CTVNews.ca, edited for length and clarity.
Wayne Gretzky: Obviously, with the pandemic that we’ve had, it’s been horrible for everyone throughout the world, Canada, North America. I really want to tell everyone that my dad and my sister and our family were so conscious of it and that COVID had nothing to do with the passing of my father. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, he sustained a bad hip injury and, as I said earlier, we thought weeks ago that the end was here. He has a tremendous amount of faith. Faith like I’ve never seen, but he had a love for life and he didn’t want to leave. And we were 21 days sitting with him, and just enjoying life and we got a chance, an opportunity to tell stories.
Our grandchildren have… seen my dad after his brain aneurysm, and we were telling them all you’re thankful that you didn’t know him before his brain aneurysm because he was a lot tougher. So it’s been a tough time. I want to thank everyone in the community who dropped off food, who dropped off sandwiches, they knew we were all there for 21 days. My sister was a champ, she was beside him, each and every minute of the day. The grandkids were wonderful. My dad and mom, I know are so proud. So I thought I would tell a couple stories.
I spent the last four nights talking with my wife Janet, thinking what I was going to say and, like I usually do, I try to just kind of wing it and speak from my heart. So years ago, as everyone knows, my dad was such a huge sports fan and hockey guy, and we were playing in a hockey tournament outside of Toronto, and my dad was so proud of the fact we’re going to play against better teams than little towns in this area. On a Friday night, we were going to the tournament and my mom said, ‘No. Walter, we’re going to have this baby this weekend.’ And he said, ‘That’s OK, you can wait till we get back.’
So, Brent was born on the Saturday. We went to this tournament in Whitby, Ontario. We played against good teams like Burlington, Oshawa, Hamilton, Toronto Marlies, Nationals. We won the tournament, we got in the car and we weren’t sure if the car to get us back from Oshawa to Brantford. So we finally got back, and the next day, mom came home with Brent, people were coming by — families, friends, sisters — congratulations on the baby, and every single person would say to my dad, ‘Walter, I can’t believe you missed the birth of your son.’ So our next door neighbour Mary Rosetto came over and she was the last person to come over. She said, ‘Walter, I can’t believe you missed the birth of Brent,’ and when she walked out the door he was so mad, he stood up and grabbed the trophy and he goes, ‘Yes, but we got the trophy.’
So, as time goes on, he was so nice to all the grandchildren. Every grandchild loved him, close to each and every one of them. They understood how important he was not only to our family but to the culture of Canada. He came here, his family as an immigrant. They came here because he wanted a better life. I don’t think I’ve ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad. And all my five children are American, born in United States, and I always tell them you should be as proud of the United States as your grandfather is of Canada, because that’s how much he loves the country.
I always tell my kids there’s nothing better in life than family. My dad would come every year to our summer house. My sons Ty, Trevor, Tristan they had a hockey school and dad would come out, he’d go to the rink, sign autographs like he always does. We were playing golf one day, and he’s picking up golf balls. And I’m like, ‘We have all these golf balls, what are these golf balls for?’
And finally the next day, Ty, Trevor, and Tristan, my friend Mike and Tom, they’re in the fairway, they’re in the rough, they’re grabbing all these balls. And I finally grab them, I said, ‘You guys got to stop grabbing golf balls.’ And they’re like, ‘What do you mean? Your dad wants them for the kids.’ I said, I know he wants them for the kids, but I got to sign them for the kids.’ So I take my dad to the airport at 5 a.m., sure enough we get to the airport and there’s two big bags, and my brother Glen he runs out of the car, he’s going to get a cup of coffee, and my dad goes, ‘You’ll sign these for the kids, right?’ I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ So there I was signing for hours, but that’s how he was.
He was a remarkable man who loved life, love family. We’d be a way better world if there was so many more people like my dad. Very special. We’re all hurting, this is a tough time. I’m so proud of the fact that so many people have reached out and given him such great tributes because he deserves it. He has a heart of gold and just wonderful. Thank you.
Ace, bunker hole-out, massive putts all part of Jordan Spieth's third round – Golf Channel
ORLANDO, Fla. – Jordan Spieth got off to a hot start Saturday at Bay Hill.
After sinking a 20-footer for birdie at the par-4 opening hole, Spieth dunked his tee shot from 223 yards at the par-3 second hole. The hole-in-one was Spieth’s third career ace on Tour, following aces at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open and 2015 BMW Championship at Conway Farms.
“I hit a 5-iron, it was 205 front, 220 hole, and the wind wasn’t blowing very hard, so I was trying to peel it left to right to hold the wind and land it a little right of the hole. I hit it a little thin but it was right on the line I wanted and knowing that the grass was wet, you get some skid, I thought in the air it was going to be pretty good. Certainly not as good as it was,” Spieth said.
Spieth’s birdie-ace start moved him to 8 under, a shot off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He then hit his next shot, a tee ball at the par-4 third, into the water, but he rallied to save par by holing a 32-footer.
The fireworks continued on the next par 3, the 201-yard seventh. No ace this time, but a birdie courtesy a 71-foot bunker hole-out.
Spieth then grabbed sole possession of the lead with this 36-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th.
Spieth would two-putt for birdie at the par-5 12th but that was the end of his scoring. He missed a 6-footer for par at the 14th and an 8-footer for par at the 17th to drop two shots coming in. He finished with a 4-under 68 and, at 9 under par, was two back of leader Lee Westwood.
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