The Toronto Raptors will be looking to win two games in a row for the first time in almost five weeks when they take on the Phoenix Suns on Friday night as 4.5-point home underdogs on the NBA odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Toronto is coming off a much-needed 135-111 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night which marked the team’s first straight-up (SU) victory in 10 outings going into Friday night’s matchup at Amalie Arena.
The Raptors have struggled to overcome a COVID-19 outbreak that decimated the lineup and forced the cancellation of two games as the calendar turned to March. Overall, the team has earned SU wins in just two of its past 13 outings, covering the spread on just five occasions during that stretch according to the OddsShark NBA Database.
And that Raptors’ nine-game SU slide also put their playoff chances in very real doubt. The team now finds itself mired in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings, and 1.5 games back of Chicago in the race for 10th place and a spot in the play-in tournament that will determine the final two berths in the East.
The team kept busy ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, however, parting ways with Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, and Terence Davis. Kyle Lowry remains a member of the Raptors.
The Suns will play for the third time in four nights after suffering a 112-111 loss in Orlando as 9.5-point chalk on Wednesday. However, a hectic schedule has failed to derail Phoenix from its recent torrid pace. Since overcoming a shaky start and their own battle with COVID-19, the Suns have been dominant. Phoenix has avoided consecutive defeats during a 21-6 SU run that has lifted the team into second place in the Western Conference standings.
Phoenix has been steady in the final date when playing three games in four nights, going 4-1 SU in its past five such outings. The Suns have also earned a reputation as road warriors while compiling an NBA-leading 14-6 SU away record. However, with Wednesday’s defeat, the Suns have now lost SU in three of their past seven outings, all as betting favourites.
And while they came away with a 123-115 win over Toronto as 3-point home chalk at sports betting sites earlier this season, the Suns are winless SU in their past three road dates with the Raptors, including a pair of defeats by double-digit margins.
Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona
Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.
Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.
By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.
In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.
No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match
Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.
Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.
(Field Level Media)
Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19
(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.
The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.
“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.
“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”
The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.
“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.
“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”
The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.
“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”
Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.
“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)
Nick Foligno hopes to make Leafs debut Thursday vs. Jets
Former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is eyeing Thursday as his potential debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said on an NHL.com podcast.
The Maple Leafs acquired the left wing on April 11 in a three-team trade with Columbus and the San Jose Sharks, with each team retaining a portion of Foligno’s salary so he can join the North Division leaders for their Stanley Cup pursuit. Toronto visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
Because he moved from the U.S. to Canada, Foligno was required to quarantine for seven days before joining his new team for practices and games, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
“Seven days of just nothing, and then you jump right into it, it would be nice to probably have a practice, but I rather just that — let’s go,” Foligno said on “The Chirp with Darren Millard.” “I’m here to play for them and get this thing rolling, so I probably prefer just to jump right into it and get going.”
If the Leafs put Foligno in their lineup Thursday at Winnipeg, he’ll get to play against his former Columbus teammate, Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Foligno played eight-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets and his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 950 career games, he has tallied 203 goals and 279 assists.
The Maple Leafs sent their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder to Columbus and their 2021 fourth-rounder to San Jose in order to add Foligno to their stacked group of forwards, which includes NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
Foligno’s father, Mike Foligno, was an NHL veteran who played parts of four seasons for the Leafs
(Field Level Media)
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