After an evisceration of the Washington Wizards on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors traveled straight to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. After starting the year middling near .500, the Timberwolves have fallen out of the playoff picture with a record of 15-26 coming into the game, and on a four -game losing streak.
The Raptors, meanwhile, were finally feeling healthy. Prior to the game, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star announced the starting five:
The good folks at Raptors PR keeping me up to speed, and thus you, too
They’ll go old school and start
VanVleet, Lowry, Anunoby, Siakam and Gasol in Minnesota
— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) January 19, 2020
After all the injuries, it was pleasing to see the Raptors starting the preferred lineup. Yet, the Raptors had held their own while those with injuries and they were looking to extend a short winning streak—their first consecutive wins in nearly a month—while continuing to get everyone back up to speed. Only a frisky Minnesota team, and perhaps some confusing officiating, stood in their way.
During the first quarter, both teams started hot from all over the floor. In particular, the Raptors were getting to the basket early and often as the defensive communication was off for the Timberwolves.
As the quarter neared its end, however, the defense from the Timberwolves tightened up and the shooting cooled for the Raptors, giving the Timberwolves a narrow 39-32 lead.
The hot shooting streak for the Timberwolves finally slowed in the second quarter and the Raptors slowly made their way back to a tie just under midway through the quarter. The quarter itself was mired with an increasing amount of whistles from the officials and calls that left both teams beside themselves.
At the very least, the Raptors stepped up their defense, but very little of it turned into transition baskets as the team only had two fast break points at the half.
Nearing the end of the quarter, both Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam were called for technical fouls after a couple of questionable calls and non-calls. Lowry, of all people, pulled the team aside after the exchange and got their emotions in check.
Despite the officials keeping the Timberwolves in the game—Minnesota was 15-for-18 from the line compared to the Raptors’ 5-for-6—the Raptors only trailed the Timberwolves by four at the half, 62-58.
The third quarter has been the quarter in which the Raptors have shined throughout the season and this third quarter was just the same.
The Raptors, particularly Lowry, started out with a vengeance.
Lowry hit two quick threes and suddenly they were up by a point. Additionally, the defense was homing in on Andrew Wiggins, stifling his ability to get space and forcing him to pass at times. Another three, this time from VanVleet, caused the Timberwolves to call a timeout near the nine minute mark.
The Raptors then weathered a Timberwolves run and started one of their own. It began with a three from Lowry after a quick rebound and dribble into the front court by Norman Powell. Then, Powell did some magic of his own in the lane and scored, making it 79-71. At that point, the Raptors had outscored the Timberwolves 21-9 in the third. They would go on to outscore them, 31-22.
Again, however, the Timberwolves stayed in the game and the quarter ended with the Raptors ahead 89-84. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points in the quarter and quickly became the spark in the Raptors’ offense.
In the final quarter, the Raptors continued to expand their lead as Minnesota began to collapse. Suddenly, the Raptors all started to click just as Minnesota was breaking down defensively and Toronto quickly made their way to a 20-point lead. They would lead by as many as 22 in the quarter.
VanVleet very much made his return worthwhile as he piled on the points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 29 points, four rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Furthermore, he finished with a team high plus-20 while shooting 7-for-8 from three.
Toronto finally buried Minnesota in the fourth and beat them 122-112 despite hometown officiating. Along with VanVleet, Lowry and Powell also hit the 20+ points mark, scoring 28 and 20, respectively. Siakam finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists on a relatively quiet night from him.
After a high scoring game against the Wizards, the Raptors started out slow yet finished strong. Now that they are healthy, they can make a push for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference with a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, January 20th.
With the newfound health, we may finally begin to see just how high the ceiling is for these Toronto Raptors as they pass the halfway mark in the season.
Raptors’ Powell to return vs. Hornets; Ibaka, VanVleet out with injury – Sportsnet.ca
The Toronto Raptors will be without Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet when they take on the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, however Norman Powell will make his return from injury, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game.
Nurse also stated that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Powell will start in place of VanVleet and Ibaka.
Ibaka was previously listed as doubtful due to right knee soreness. He struggled in Toronto’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, finishing with five points on an abysmal 2-for-15 shooting, including a 1-for-10 mark from three-point range.
Overall, the 30-year-old has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2019-20. He’s averaging a career-best 15.9 points to go along with 8.0 rebounds per game.
VanVleet had not previously been on the injury report, however he is also listed as out due to left shoulder pain.
The 26-year-old is averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game in 48 appearances this year.
Powell, who hasn’t played since Jan. 31 due to a fractured fourth metacarpal on his left hand, figures to shoulder a heavy minutes load right off the bat due to VanVleet’s absence.
Earlier this season, Powell also missed a stretch of 11 games after dislocating his shoulder.
Through 38 games this year, the 26-year-old is averaging a career-high 15.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
The Raptors will also be without Marc Gasol, who continues to be sidelined with a left hamstring injury.
Zamboni driver turned NHL goalie David Ayres given his own hockey card – CTV News
The Toronto-area Zamboni driver who became famous after suiting up at the last minute for the Carolina Hurricanes has now been awarded a hockey card in his honour.
David Ayres, a 42-year-old from Whitby, Ont., joined the Hurricanes as an emergency goalie on Saturday after both their regular goalies left the game due to injury. Ayres went on to make eight saves on 10 shots to help the Hurricanes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.
Since the win, Ayres has become an internet sensation, leading to appearances on the TODAY show and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, to name a few. He was went to Raleigh, N.C., where he celebrated “David Ayres Day” in the city by signing autographs from Hurricanes fans and ringing the “siren sounder” before the game.
The stick Ayres used in the game has also been sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame, due to the fact he is now the oldest goalie to win in their NHL debut and the only emergency goalie to ever record an official win in the league.
Ayres’ 15 minutes of fame is not yet over, however, as the trading card company Upper Deck has created a hockey card in his name.
“When we saw the moment, we were blown away by how special it was,” Chris Carlin, head of customer experience at Upper Deck, said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca.
Ayers is featured in Upper Deck’s “Game Dated Moments” collection, which are cards unveiled on a weekly-basis that highlight notable performances from the past week. Ayres’ card features him standing in the Hurricanes’ net, wearing the team’s jersey and Maple Leafs equipment, while the back of the card tells the story of the game.
Other cards in Ayres’ pack include an Alexander Ovechkin card highlighting his 700th career goal and one about Los Angeles Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi, who scored his first NHL goal just 10 seconds into his first shift.
Carlin said the cards for each week are chosen based on fan requests and that calls for an Ayers card were “like something we’ve never seen before.” It’s already one of their top-performing weekly designs.
“We knew it was a special moment, so it was important for us to dedicate all the resources we had to acquiesce to our fans,” he said.
“There is surprisingly huge demand for a 42-year-old rookie.”
Creating the card didn’t come without its own challenges, however. Because Ayres is not a member of the NHL Players Association, Upper Deck had to secure a deal with Ayres directly for permission to make the card.
“I was surprised myself that we were able to get this done in three days,” Carlin said. “Our window is so tight on these ‘Game Dated Moments’ cards that it’s really a tough one to get done. It’s not the hardest thing to go out and get an image rights deal with someone, but to get it done within three days is pretty much unheard of.”
Carlin said Ayres will also have a “Young Guns” rookie card in his name, which is set for release in mid-May and some autographed cards at a later date.
“We disputed perhaps calling it an ‘old guns’ given his age, because typically the players are anywhere from 18 to 20,” he joked.
Carlin added certain versions of Ayers’ rookie card will only be printed 10 or 100 times, meaning they could hold some serious value.
Oilers' Green (sprained MCL) out 3-4 weeks – TSN
EDMONTON — Newly acquired Edmonton Oilers defenceman Mike Green will miss three to four weeks with a knee injury.
The Oilers announced Friday that Green has a sprained MCL. He was hurt in a loss against Vegas on Wednesday.
The Oilers acquired Green in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings early Monday, hours before the NHL’s trade deadline.
Green was playing his second game with the Oilers when he suffered the injury.
The 34-year-old Calgary native has three goals and eight assists in 50 combined games with Detroit and Edmonton this season.
According to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, Kailer Yamamoto and Kris Russell will be game-time decisions tomorrow after being re-evaluated. Both players took regular reps in practice.
Trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou, who left last game with a lower-body injury, is good to go. James Neal skated but is still a ways away from playing and defenceman Oscar Klefbom didn’t skate with the main group.
Zack Kassian returns tomorrow from a seven-game suspension and Mike Smith is expected to start on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Oilers (33-23-8) entered Friday night’s action holding the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.
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