The seeding games inside the NBA’s Disney World bubble continued on Monday evening with a matchup between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, multiple stars were sitting out, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyle Lowry, which really diminished the importance of this game. In the end, the Toronto Raptors cruised to a 114-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The role players ran the show for Toronto. Chris Boucher threw down an incredible dunk and put up a career-high 25 points to lead the way, while seldom-used Matt Thomas came off the bench and took advantage of some extra minutes to pour in five 3-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points of his own. Norman Powell, meanwhile, went for 21.
Playing without Giannis, who had to take a trip to the bubble dentist, the Bucks weren’t exactly in playoff mode. Kyle Korver checked in off the bench to hit five triples and score 19 points, but it’s not a great sign when he’s the leading scorer at this point in his career. As a team, they shot just 39.3 percent from the field, and didn’t exactly lock in on the defensive end.
Here are three key takeaways from this game:
1. Potential ECF preview in name only
For the second straight season, these two teams finished with the best records in the Eastern Conference, and there’s a good chance they’ll meet in the Eastern Conference finals for a second straight season as well. This game, however, was a potential preview in name only.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was out after he had to see the dentist, while Kyle Lowry (back), Fred VanVleet (knee) and Serge Ibaka (knee) were all sidelined as well. If that wasn’t enough, Wesley Matthews hobbled off the floor after just a few minutes and didn’t return, while Pat Connaughton also left the game after hitting his head on the floor.
That’s six key players who missed either all or some of this game, and it’s pretty hard to draw any meaningful conclusions when that’s the case. Plus, both of these teams are already locked into their playoff spots, so they had nothing tangible to play for. All told, this was more like one of the scrimmage games than it was a playoff matchup.
2. Matt Thomas takeover
Unless you’re a diehard Raptors fan, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about Matt Thomas. The 26-year-old rookie played sparingly for Toronto this season, and the fact that he averaged four points on 10 minutes per game was honestly a bit deceiving considering he only played in 39 contests.
But with both Lowry and VanVleet out for this game, Nick Nurse called on Thomas to fill some minutes in the backcourt. He certainly took advantage, coming out on fire and basically forcing Nurse to leave him in for 37 minutes. Prior to this game, he had never played more than 22.
Thomas finished the night with 22 points and five 3-pointers, both of which were also career bests, and was a team-high plus-13 in the eight-point win. He earned his spot in the league because of his ridiculous shooting, so it wasn’t a surprise that he put it on display against the Bucks, hitting some really tough shots from downtown.
3. Injury concerns for Bucks
The Bucks have not really found their rhythm so far in the bubble, and it would be good for them if they can figure some things out in the last few seeing games, but the main goal for them at this point is just making sure they’re healthy for the playoffs. To that point, Monday didn’t go so well for them.
Giannis was out, but that was just a tooth thing he had to deal with, and shouldn’t impact him longterm. However, just a few minutes into the game, Wesley Matthews hobbled off the floor, and didn’t return. Then, late in the second half, Pat Connaughton took a tough fall and slammed the back of his head on the court.
According to head coach Mike Budenholzer, Matthews had a bit of discomfort in his thigh and groin area, and the team is “hopeful that he will be OK,” but they’ll need to see how he responds tomorrow. As for Connaughton, Budenholzer said the “early reports are that he’s fine,” but like Matthews, the next few days will really tell the story.
It seems like the Bucks luckily escaped any serious problems, and, hopefully, that will continue throughout the rest of the week.
Oilers' Leon Draisaitl captures Hart, Lindsay as NHL reveals award winners – CBC.ca
Being named the NHL’s most valuable player was a bit anticlimactic for Leon Draisaitl.
After all, for the Edmonton Oilers star, it was an odd hour when news emerged that he had won both the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay award.
“It’s about 1:15 in the middle of the night right now so my family’s sleeping,” Draisaitl told reporters on a video call from his home in Germany.
The Hart is given to the player deemed by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association to be the most valuable player to his team each year and the Ted Lindsay is passed out annually to the league’s most-outstanding player, as chosen by fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association.
WATCH | Oilers’ Draisaitl takes home pair of awards:
The NHL’s annual awards ceremony is generally a glitzy affair held in Las Vegas, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s honours were announced at an empty Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Receiving the honours was still special, said Draisaitl, who led the league with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in the regular season, earning the league’s Art Ross Trophy in the process.
“At the end of the day, it’s still the same meaning behind it. It means the same thing for me,” said the 24-year-old native of Cologne, Germany.
“It obviously would have been nice to share it a little bit more with my family and actually have the awards happening. But these are obviously weird times for everyone. So I’m just as happy with it.”
Draisaitl beat out Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for both awards.
While Draisaitl and teammate Connor McDavid were offensive juggernauts once again this year, the Oilers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the qualifying round, marking the third season in a row that the team has missed out on the playoffs.
Draisaitl would trade awards for Stanley Cup
Being MVP doesn’t take the sting out of another lacklustre season, Draisaitl said.
“It’s a nice personal reward, but there’s nothing that comes ahead of the Stanley Cup. It’s the same for every player in the league. And if I could hand those two or three awards back in for a Stanley Cup, I would do so in a heartbeat and I think so would everyone else,” he said.
“It’s a nice day. I’m proud and I’m happy, for sure. But my goal at the end of the day and my career is to win a Stanley Cup.”
Three other awards were doled out on Monday, including the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s best goalie as chosen by the league’s general managers.
Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck received this year’s honours.
The 27-year-old from Commerce, Mich., posted a 31-21-5 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in the regular season. He led all goaltenders in games played (58), shots faced (1,796), saves (1,656) and shutouts (6).
WATCH | Jets’ Hellebuyck wins Vezina Trophy:
Winning was almost a relief after coming second for the award in the 2017-18 season.
“This year was just such a mental grind but also so fun,” said Hellebuyck, who’s team was ousted from playoff contention by the Calgary Flames in the qualifying round.
“I would have liked for playoffs to go a little bit better, but when I’m looking back on this year, I’m going to say we did some great things.”
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning were also up for the Vezina this year.
There are a lot of good goaltenders in the NHL, Hellebuyck said, but the Winnipeg netminder is already planning to defending his title again next season.
“I’m looking forward to the fight to get back into Vezina talks next year,” he said. “And I’m going to enjoy this one while I have it.”
Preds’ Josi named top defenceman
Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators took home defenceman of the year honours on Monday, edging out John Carlson of the Washington Capitals and Victor Hedman of the Lightning.
The 30 year old is the first Swiss-born player to win an individual NHL award.
“It’s always been a dream of mine and from a personal standpoint, it’s pretty surreal that I’ve actually won this. And it’s definitely a dream coming true,” he said.
Josi led Nashville in scoring through the regular season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists).
“Personally, every year you try to prepare for the season, you try to be the best player you can be, you try to work on things in the summer,” he said. “I think if every guy tries to be the best player, that means your team’s going to have a lot of success.”
WATCH | Rookie of the year honours go to Avalanche’s Makar:
Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar took home this year’s rookie of the year title.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky announced the winner, noting in a video message that he didn’t win the award as a young player.
“It really bothers me,” Gretzky said.
For 21-year-old Makar, getting the award from Gretzky was almost as good as the honour itself.
“I’ve never met him before, so that was a pretty surreal moment for me,” he said.
Makar dazzled in his first full NHL season, registering 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists) and leading all rookies with 0.88 points per game.
He beat out Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and Chicago Blackhawks left-winger Dominik Kubalik to capture the trophy.
Makar had kind words for Hughes on Monday, saying that along with Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars, there’s an exciting group of young blueliners making their way in the NHL.
“I’m very honoured to even be considered in that group,” Makar said. “They’re both exceptional players. I love watching both of them. There’s so many things you can pick from their games to help myself as an individual. So I’m excited to see where their futures can go. And hopefully we can take d-men to another level.”
Kirk’s breakout game against Yankees comes at ideal time for Blue Jays – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – Just last week, the Yankees swept the Blue Jays in a series so one-sided that manager Charlie Montoyo started fielding regular questions about a potential mercy rule in baseball. No team in baseball history has allowed as many home runs over a three-game span as the Blue Jays did in the Bronx, and the three losses that followed in Philadelphia were perhaps not shocking considering the team was, to borrow Travis Shaw’s words, still a little ‘shell shocked.’
Even on Monday afternoon, as the Blue Jays prepared for their final series of the season against the Yankees, Bo Bichette hesitated when asked about the rivalry between the two AL East teams.
“I don’t know if you could call it a rivalry,” Bichette said. “They beat us up pretty good. Hopefully, we can make it one soon, but I wouldn’t call it a rivalry when we lost three pretty bad games. But we’re going to come out here and try to show everybody that we can compete with them.”
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For one night, at least, the Blue Jays did just that, beating the Yankees 11-5 in a game that included a few encouraging developments beyond the result itself. Most importantly, the win gives the Blue Jays a 28-26 record and lowers their magic number to three with six games to play. There are no guarantees, as last week’s skid shows, but the Blue Jays’ chances of reaching the playoffs remain in the 98 per cent range, according to FanGraphs.
Of course, not all wins are created equal, and in this case, how the Blue Jays won is also important. Alejandro Kirk, the 21-year-old catcher who had never played above Class A until this month, has now exceeded any realistic expectations the Blue Jays could have had when they made the surprise decision to promote him nine days ago. He became the youngest catcher in franchise history to homer and finished the night with four hits.
“It felt great,” Kirk said through interpreter Hector Lebron. “The satisfaction that I felt. When you make contact and sometimes you don’t even feel the ball hit the barrel. It was just unbelievable. I can’t describe it.”
Added Montoyo: “His approach at the plate has been amazing.”
If and when the Blue Jays reach the point that they’re building a playoff roster, Kirk must now be on it. And to be sure they make the most of his discerning eye, consistently hard contact and sneaky power, the Blue Jays might even want to roster a third catcher like Reese McGuire. In theory, that would enable Montoyo to use Kirk’s bat off the bench without worrying that he’ll be caught short-handed later in the game.
Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker pitched well in his return from the injured list, going three innings against a Yankees lineup that offers little room for error. Despite missing a month with a lat strain, the right-hander was throwing harder than usual with a fastball that topped out at 95.9 m.p.h. over the course of 54 total pitches.
“I didn’t even know I hit that until some of the guys told me,” Shoemaker said. “My body’s in good shape, and maybe velocity ticks up as a result.”
Radar gun readings aside, Shoemaker felt strong during and after his start. Already, he’s looking forward to his next chance to pitch.
“It felt phenomenal,” he said. “When you’re out there on the mound, it’s where you belong. It’s so exciting. I’m so thankful to be back.”
This season, Dan picks an issue, trend, news item or story from around MLB, and digs in on it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also get fans back to all the sports going on.
His command eluded him at times, and two second-inning walks helped the Yankees score their first run of the game, but some rust is understandable after an extended absence. Holding New York to one run over three innings has to be considered a success for Shoemaker, who suddenly looks like an option to start a playoff game.
On paper, his next start would be Saturday and the one after that would be a week from Thursday when Game 3 of the wild card round would take place if necessary. At this point it’s still too early to make final calls on who pitches when, but if nothing else Shoemaker belongs in that conversation.
“If we can stretch him out enough, he’ll be in the conversation for sure,” Montoyo said. “You can count on that.”
In contrast to those positives, the Blue Jays’ bullpen looks weaker now than it has in weeks (and did even before Wilmer Font’s rough ninth-inning appearance). The club announced Monday that closer Ken Giles will undergo Tommy John surgery, officially removing him from the equation. Even beyond Giles, Rafael Dolis remains day to day with right knee discomfort and Julian Merryweather was placed on the injured list with right elbow tendinitis.
Considering Merryweather was starting to look like a valuable multi-inning reliever, his absence will hurt down the stretch and potentially into the playoffs. Perhaps Nate Pearson, who was up to 97-98 m.p.h. in a 25-pitch live batting practice session Monday, can fill that role but there are just six days remaining in the regular season and as Shoemaker’s start shows, there’s value in working through some things before the playoffs begin.
Either way, this isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have had to adapt on the fly. Many times, their momentum slowed before the Yankees stopped it completely last week. And yet here the Blue Jays are, firmly in playoff position with less than a week remaining in the season.
“Internally, we’re not surprised at all. We’re where we expected to be. Maybe even a little bit under,” Bichette said. “We’re excited to get going this last week and hopefully clinch.”
Two-time Stanley Cup winner Bob Nevin dies at 82 – ESPN
The NHL said he died early Monday but did not give a cause.
Nevin played 1,128 NHL games with Toronto, New York, Minnesota and Los Angeles, totaling 726 points (307 goals, 419 assists) while compiling just 211 penalty minutes.
“His honest, two-way play and leadership earned him the respect and admiration of teammates and fans alike,” the Rangers said on Twitter.
Nevin, one of the first NHL players to wear contact lenses, was part of one of hockey’s more surreal moments. During a 1962 game with Toronto in Chicago, he lost a lens. Time was called, and players and officials dropped to their knees to scour the ice, looking for the wayward lens. It never turned up.
He played his first full NHL season in 1960-61, scoring 21 goals as a rookie and finishing runner-up to Maple Leafs teammate Dave Keon in the Calder Trophy voting.
Nevin helped the Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup titles in 1962 and 1963 before being dealt to the Rangers along with Arnie Brown, Bill Collins, Dick Duff and Rod Seiling in a blockbuster trade that sent star winger Andy Bathgate and forward Don McKenney to Toronto.
While Bathgate helped the Maple Leafs win another championship in 1964, Nevin became an important part of the Rangers, serving as captain of the team from 1965 to 1971.
He helped the underachieving club end a four-year playoff drought in 1967. He led the Rangers to their first series win in 21 years in 1971, when New York beat the Leafs 4-2 in the quarterfinals.
Nevin was dealt to the North Stars before the 1971-72 season and spent two seasons in Minnesota before joining Los Angeles. His career was rejuvenated in his three seasons with the Kings. He had his highest-scoring campaign in his next-to-last NHL season — 31 goals and 41 assists with Los Angeles in 1974-75.
Nevin joined the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers for the 1976-77 season but broke a collarbone 13 games into the season and retired.
Nevin was from South Porcupine, Ontario, and came to the Maple Leafs via junior hockey’s Toronto Marlboros. He lived in the Toronto area after his 19-year career.
“Bob was ever-present at Leafs games and within the alumni community,” the Maple Leafs said on Twitter.
Survivors include his wife, Linda.
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