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The oral history of OG Anunoby’s shot that saved the Raptors’ season –



TORONTO – OG Anunoby hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 104-103 victory in Game 3 of their second-round series with the Boston Celtics on Thursday night to help them climb back into the series, now only trailing 2-1.

Anunoby’s shot was a wild event that took place in just 0.5 seconds of game time and, essentially, saved the Raptors’ season. Here’s a look back at the most important half-second of Toronto’s 2019-20 season in the words of the men who were on the floor when the seemingly impossible happened.

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All hope looked lost

What’s key to understanding why Anunoby’s game-winner was so shocking and uplifting for the Raptors was what transpired during the final possessions leading up to it.

With 21 seconds to play in the game, Fred VanVleet, after putting a nice move on Celtics centre Daniel Theis, nailed an acrobatic layup to tie the game, 101-101. Boston then chose not to take a timeout, but instead play for what Celtics coach Brad Stevens must’ve thought would be the final shot.

So the Celtics put the ball into the hands of Kemba Walker, who at that point was enjoying a fabulous game, having scored 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

The Raptors tried to send a double team his way after he made it past half court, with both VanVleet and Marc Gasol coming up trying to trap him and get the ball out of his hands. But Walker proved too gifted a ball-handler and evaded the trap by stumbling into the paint where, unfortunately for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry stepped up to try to stop the ball while Pascal Siakam got caught ball-watching.

Walker, aware Theis was in the left dunker spot, then dropped a gorgeous dime to Theis, who slammed the ball home to give Boston a 103-101 lead with 0.5 left on the clock.

Pascal Siakam: “Obviously disappointed with the layup. And for me I was in a position where I could have taken that away. Just had to make a decision, judgment call and you can’t leave the basket. That was on me right there.”

Brad Stevens: “I thought Kemba did a nice play. Smart did a good job reading the switch when they switched onto Theis, so then Smart came up. Now you have two guys on Kemba and he’s going to find the open guy. He did a good job.”

Jaylen Brown: “That was a great play. He did his job, he drew two and found the open man. He put us up two. It was a big play for us. Point-five on the clock. We just needed one stop to win the [expletive] game and we end up losing.”

The confidence never wavered

The Raptors took a timeout after that Theis jam, but the game looked like it was over at that point. A half-second was simply too little time for the Raptors to get anything good.

Or so those on the outside-looking-in thought.

The Raptors never lost the faith, though.

Nick Nurse: “You know what? It seemed like we sat down in our chairs, and they were ready to get the play … They sat down and when I turned around they were all sitting there waiting for me to give them a play and I decided, I had two in mind, and decided on that one.”

OG Anunoby: “No one was rattled after that. Everybody just stayed confident and said, ‘Next play.’ Just focused on winning this play and getting a good shot off. We were confident [with] anyone that took a shot. So we were just looking for the next play. This group is resilient. So just next-play mentality.”

Fred VanVleet: “You sit there and try to figure out how he got so wide open for a second, then you look at the clock and see how much time you got and try to run a play to get a shot up. So it was a quick timeout. We had a quick discussion about what the play was gonna be, and we decided on one, and you go out and try to execute one. Kyle made a heck of a read and OG made the shot.

“As long as there’s time on the clock, you’ve got to believe you can win. We’ve been in a lot of these situations before. We’ve seen it all, so there was really no panic. It was moreso about trying to get a good look, and we were able to do that.”

Siakam: “We knew we had time to get a shot up. I think we just wanted to draw a play, try to get whatever was open.”

The play was supposed to be for VanVleet or Siakam

Oddly enough, though the play looked like it was for Anunoby all along with how perfectly everything fell into place, Anunoby wasn’t actually supposed to receive the ball as Nurse initially drew it all up.

However, thanks to a little miscommunication on the Celtics’ part, Anunoby was left all by his lonesome on the left side waiting for a pass — and ready to make a lot of Raptors fans very happy.

Kyle Lowry: “It was a play designed for Freddy to come off in the corner, then our second option was Pascal, but we know Boston does a great job running their inbounds and Coach Stevens is one hell of a [after-timeout] offensive and defensive guy so, me, Marc made a step and I was just waiting, just waiting for the right moment and I seen Jaylen Brown step up a little bit on Marc and I just had to make a precise pass to a heck of a shooter in OG and OG’s been shooting the ball extremely well and that’s the type of moment that an even-keeled attitude, a stay-calm moment, and he’s up for that.”

VanVleet: “I was the first option, so I was just trying to find a crease on one side of Tacko or the other. I ran into Tatum I think on the baseline so I tried to bounce back. Me and Marc were kind of fighting for position and trying to find an outlet for Kyle. I think a lot of that pulled them over and I had no idea where the ball was going. I was just following it myself, saw OG standing there with a wide-open shot so at that point you are just following the ball, man and it went in and the rest is history. It was a heck of a pass and a big shot by OG and that’s why you never give up.”

Anunoby: “The play was for Pascal to get a shot and they switched it up top, and then Marc flashed and I think Jaylen went to him on the flash and that left me open. So it was all of those actions that took place that left me open.”

Brown: “He was wide open, right? I guess it was a miscommunication. He hit a tough shot to win the game. It’s tough. It’s tough. That’s one that we definitely wish we could have back. But you move on.”

The pass

Of course, Anunoby wouldn’t have even gotten an opportunity to be the hero Thursday night if not for the heroics of Kyle Lowry.

Lowry finished Game 3 with a game-high 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, as he was notably more aggressive than he has looked all playoffs long. The Raptors all-star also finished with eight assists — none bigger than the majestic lob he laid right into Anunoby’s shooting pocket over the outstretched arms of seven-foot-five Celtics centre Tacko Fall.

Nick Nurse: “There’s not a lot of times that you probably want, let’s call him a six-foot-one guard, taking the ball out in a late-game situation because you saw what they do, they try to put size on it and limit your vision. We would probably do something similar, right? But you say to me why is Kyle taking it out, I say because he’s got some guts, man, you’ve got to make a gutsy play every now and then.”

VanVleet: “I didn’t see it live, but watching it on replay, that’s probably one of the tougher ones we’ve seen. Given who was guarding the ball, Kyle’s size vs. Tacko, and to put it on the money, that much airtime, still give him time to get it off without the defender being in his face, it was a beautiful pass.

“And, you know, we don’t give Kyle as much credit as you guys give him. We expect those things from him, so it’s not that amazing, I guess, from [our point of view]. I’ve become accustomed to seeing him do those things on a nightly basis and couldn’t have had a better connection from him to OG tonight.”

Lowry: “I could see, actually. He stepped back a little bit, I think Freddy’s hard cut kinda moved him a little bit. I didn’t see the play, I gotta see it again, but I just felt like I had good enough touch on it to get it over his hands. So I’ll look at the play but I felt like he was a little bit further off. I moved back, also, to give myself some space but it was just a pass I made and the pass was nothing, OG made the shot, all the credit goes to the shot.

“That’s a tough shot, give OG that credit, the pass was just to get it to a guy like OG. That’s OG’s moment, man. That’s a great moment for that kid and I’m so happy and so proud of him, man. Don’t take away – that pass meant nothing, that shot was everything.”

The shot and the aftermath

The best part of Anunoby’s winning shot was seeing the contrast between the bedlam his Raptors teammates were experiencing and his calm, laissez-faire attitude to the whole event.

It also provided some incredibly quotable sound bites from Anunoby post-game.

Nick Nurse: “There’s not many options there. You’ve got to catch and shoot that thing, right? Really, really happy for him, he played his tail off, man. Nice that he gets [a] big reward for it because he played so hard all over the court.”

Anunoby: “It was cool. Just getting ready for Game 4 now.”

Lowry: “That’s just what he does, that’s him. I know deep down inside he’s excited and he’ll get a lot of text messages and he needs the credit, he deserves all the love and celebration he’s getting tonight, that kid works extremely hard and, like I said, it’s his moment. Let him live in it and then I’ll ruin it tomorrow when we’re watching film and I’ll tell him what he messed up on.”

VanVleet: “I know he’s excited. I think that that’s just his nature. And being in those situations, sometimes you don’t know what to do. You don’t know how to react. I don’t think he’s a guy that’s going to run around the court. I mean, that’s just not his personality. So that was true OG form right there, to knock down the biggest shot of his life and act like nothing happened.

“But for the rest of us, we were more excited for him probably than he was for himself. So just the joy of the game and the love of the game, you gotta have that, especially this time of year, to keep you going. So that’s probably what you saw there.”

Anunoby: “When I took that shot I expected to make it. I don’t shoot trying to miss. Every shot I shoot I try to make it. So I was not surprised. I wasn’t surprised.”

VanVleet: “I love it. I hope he continues to have that type of swag. But I’ll let him live in that persona for you guys for sure.”

How the Raptors can build from this emotional moment

A game-winning, buzzer-beating shot will certainly get the adrenaline pumping and makes for a great singular moment, but the Raptors still trail their series to a good Celtics team, so they’re going to have to look to use Anunoby’s Superman impersonation as a means to something bigger and better moving forward.

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Anunoby: “It’s definitely a momentum-changer. I believe that in Game 2 we thought that we could’ve won. We made some mistakes, we felt we could’ve won that game. So this game, same thing. We just wanted this game. So just go out do the game plan and in the next game just try to keep winning.”

VanVleet: “We just needed something to feel good [about]. It’s been a rough couple of days. The egg we laid in Game 1 and to get beat like that. Then to play really good for about 42 out of 48 minutes in Game 2 and lose … we’ve been pretty hard on ourselves the past couple of days. It hasn’t been pretty. The mood hasn’t been great but you just need a little magic and I thought we played great tonight.”

Siakam: “Needed that. Needed a good win and I think we haven’t been feeling good, really good lately and that’s a big one. That’s a big one. A big win and obviously we just worry about one game and that’s always how we worry about the games. One game at a time. Try to win the next game and that’s our focus. Next game. It’s really good that we got this one and we’ve just got to move forward.”

Lowry: “It’s still an uphill battle; I mean, those guys are extremely talented, they’re really, really good. So get back to that film room tomorrow, tonight rest up, get your bodies right, get your minds right, get some food in you, hydrate, just focus on the next day we have tomorrow and figure out what we’re going to do tomorrow. And then go forward.”

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Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees –



The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.

Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.

“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”

Toronto (29-27) trimmed its magic number to one with the victory and can secure its first post-season spot since 2016 with a win in Thursday’s series finale.

Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.

The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.

With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.

Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.

Ray earns timely outs

Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.

New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.

“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”

Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.

The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.

“Today was a big game after yesterday,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what they’ve done all year — come back from top losses. It was great to see, facing another good pitcher like Tanaka, coming back tonight and scoring all those runs. A big win for us.”

New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.

Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.

Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.

Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.

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Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter



Yankees 1 Blue Jays 14

Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.

It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.

We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.

Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.

Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.

We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:

  • Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
  • Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
  • Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
  • Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
  • Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
  • Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Joe Panik only managed a walk.
  • Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).

Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).

No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.

Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.

We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.

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Lightning’s Stamkos secures place in Cup lore with Game 3 goal vs. Stars –



EDMONTON — Seven seconds.

That’s how much time the puck spent on Steven Stamkos’s stick blade on this night, and perhaps that’s all it will spend there throughout the entirety of this Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run.

That’s all the hard-luck captain needed to secure his place in Stanley Cup lore. Seven freaking seconds.

Somehow, after spending 60 days as a practice-only player inside the NHL bubble and going 210 days between games, Stamkos scored the biggest goal of a career overflowing with them.

He was in full stride down the right boards when Victor Hedman hit him in the neutral zone. He blew past Esa Lindell, who defended the play poorly and managed to settle a bouncing puck in time to tuck it up under the crossbar behind Anton Khudobin.

The Lightning bench exploded. Jon Cooper said the reaction was “just a little bit louder” than any of the others during a playoff run that has included five overtime goals. The coach saw it as a sign his team wouldn’t be denied, and they weren’t while grabbing a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars with a 5-2 victory Wednesday.

“It was pretty damn cool,” said Cooper.

Stamkos called it a dream come true.

Forget the unfortunate timing of the injuries that have cost him big playoff games and a chance at playing for Team Canada at the Olympics in recent years. Just being trapped inside the bubble with no guarantee of playing would be agony for someone who has given as much to the Lightning as Stamkos.

And then to get in for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and only be able to play five shifts and score on one of them after not playing for seven months?

Hollywood might not accept that script.

“At this time of the year, you want to do anything you can to help your team win,” said Stamkos. “I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true and I’m so proud of these guys. And to be able to share that moment with them and just even be on the bench and watch how well we played tonight, I have told these guys before: It’s inspiring.

“It was great to be part of.”

Quickly, the backstory: Stamkos underwent core muscle surgery on March 2 and was supposed to be recovered in time for the second round of a normal playoffs. Then we had the COVID-19 pause, he had some kind of setback while preparing for the NHL’s return to play and the Lightning have gone on a run without him.

But he’s remained a large figure in the shadows.

You could see him dousing Brayden Point with water after he scored a quintuple overtime goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 and he was summoned to the ice to help the Lightning accept the Prince of Wales Trophy after they eliminated the New York Islanders.

Everything he had to endure in order to even play for two minutes 41 seconds of Wednesday’s game has happened behind the walls. And based on the fact he sat on the bench while not taking a shift for the final 46 minutes here suggests we might not see him in uniform again for the rest of this series.

So that goal? That was something.

“He’s worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he could play,” said Brayden Point. “Just seeing him day in and day out — the positivity that he brings, and the leadership that he brings. It’s nice to see him work that hard to get back into the lineup. And then to score one? It’s pretty inspirational for everyone.”

Added Victor Hedman: “This is how much he means to us as a teammate and as a leader and as a friend. We were just super happy for him.”

Stamkos played six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Final and didn’t manage to score. In this situation, the Lightning put him on the fourth line alongside Cedric Paquette (zero goals this playoffs) and Pat Maroon (one goal this playoffs) and he produced one in limited minutes before his injury forced him to become a spectator.

What happens next will determine what this means historically.

But what it meant to Stamkos and the Lightning won’t change no matter what. He’s only going to get so many chances like this one.

“It was amazing to be a part of a huge win for us,” he said. “I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn’t play too much.”

This was a kid who used to go to shooting school twice per week and fire 500 pucks per session. That’s a skill that endured the injuries, the layoff, everything.

It made this moment possible.

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