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The Toronto Raptors 119-118 win vs. Nets, push win streak to 14

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It’s unfortunate Toronto’s Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to participate in Saturday night’s game against the Nets. After injuring his neck last night in Indiana, it was necessary for him to rest tonight; but Brooklyn’s backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert provide something of a mirror image for Lowry and partner Fred VanVleet to compete against. As it was, the three who did play each had themselves a game. The math on this (two greater than one) suggests the Nets should have won. But they didn’t thanks once again to the Raptors’ broader attack — and a defensive identity that can withstand multitudes.

When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Raptors up 119-118, giving them their 14th straight victory, far and away a franchise-record now. VanVleet called it a night with 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting, with six assists and a pair of rebounds. He did what he could to help slow Dinwiddie (21 and 11) and Caris LeVert (an eye-popping 37 on 12-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep), but as mentioned, Fred didn’t have to do it alone.

To begin with, it was Terence Davis who got the start for the Raptors, in lieu of the injured Lowry, and he came ready to play. Davis opened his night with a 4-point play on the way to 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He’s not the defender or game-controller Lowry is, but Davis can change games out of nowhere, too — a well-timed corner 3, a put-back jam, a fearless finish down the lane. It was Davis, along with VanVleet, who set the tone early for Toronto, particularly as Pascal Siakam eased into the game. To that point, it was an out-and-out guard duel, with defense largely an afterthought.

Two things defined the second quarter, though, as set up by the first. We knew eventually Siakam and Serge Ibaka would get going (and they did, scoring 8 and 6 points in the frame, respectively); but before that could happen, we saw the return of Toronto’s all-bench lineups. Coach Nick Nurse trotted out a group of Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, the long-missed Matt Thomas, and even Oshae Brissett (who’d tweaked his ankle only early this week in the G League) to finish the first and kept rolling with them in the second. What should have spelled doom for the Raptors, as the Nets’ zone defense settled in, instead turned the game around.

The Raptors began the second by going on an 11-0 run thanks to some rock solid defense and enough shot-making to blow the game open for a time. The Nets would go scoreless for the frame’s first 4.5 minutes. Along the way, Thomas scored 11 of his 15 points off the bench, going 3-of-4 from three overall, while also grabbing six (!) boards and three (!!!) steals. Thanks to the continued improvement of Ibaka as a passer, Thomas also got to show he can do some other things on the offense end as well. Namely, this:

The third quarter saw the Raptors and Nets play to a draw (34 points apiece). For most of it, Toronto was content to just keep Brooklyn at arm’s length. They’d threaten and then Davis (who scored 11 in the frame) would make something happen, or Siakam would put in another easy bucket, or VanVleet would steady the ship for a few possessions. The Raptors extended their lead to as much as 18 points in the third behind the confidence of their starters (only OG Anunoby failed to put up double digits in scoring), and the waxing-and-waning of the Nets’ three-point shooting. Toronto cracked 100 points in the third and it felt like they’d built up enough of a cushion to ease their way into another victory.

Dinwiddie and LeVert had other ideas though. Behind their play — and, let’s admit it, the tired legs of the depleted Raptors off a back-to-back — the Nets managed to come all the back to tie it late. With just 35 seconds left in the fourth, LeVert (who else?) hit a jumper to knot the score at 118. The Raptors had once again been forced to lean on an all-bench combination of players for half the frame, and now looked back to VanVleet and Siakam to make something happen in the clutch. The former was golden in the fourth, pacing the Raptors with ten points, including a clutch three-point play and long fadeaway; the latter, however, struggled down the stretch, going just 1-for-5 from the field for three of his 20 points. Still, it was that pair working together who’d get the Raptors back in front.

As the seconds ticked off the clock, a couple of pick-and-roll attempts eventually got Siakam going downhill at the rim where he was fouled. The Nets challenged the call, and may have even had a case, but Siakam went to the line anyway. He missed the first — eliciting a squeal of surprise from the crowd — before draining the second. By this point the shotclock had been turned off, giving the Nets their final chance at the win. Naturally, LeVert got the ball in his hands. With OG draped all over him, he could only put up an air-ball. Astoundingly, there was enough time for Joe Harris to get a put-back attempt up, but that missed too.

There’s that old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. As it turns out, with this win streak now up to 14 for Toronto, the Raptors may actually be both. It’s not a bad place to be — provided they can get some injury luck to go along with all the winning. Lowry deserves another chance at the Nets. Hmm, maybe in April?

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Flames open road trip with win for Sutter against his former team – Sportsnet.ca

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LOS ANGELES — Sitting in the bowels of a Staples Center arena in which he raised two Stanley Cups, Darryl Sutter was asked about the drive to win another one.

“It’s, like, all that matters to me,” said the Flames’ singularly-focused coach. “You’re trying to translate that to the players, to get to that level that it takes. And the difference it makes in a career and their lives.”

The difference Sutter helped make in Los Angeles was recognized seven minutes into Thursday’s Flames win when he and Trevor Lewis were saluted in a Jumbotron video that drew a standing ovation from a sparse crowd of 13,241.

Guiding the Kings to the franchise’s first Cup win in his first season as their head coach in 2012, Sutter became just the 19th coach in NHL lore to win multiple titles when he won again in 2014.

He’s had a similar, early impact in Calgary where his Flames continue to be the talk of the league, improving their record to a best-in-the-west 14-4-5 with a 3-2 win over his former team.

He wouldn’t say it afterward, but you can bet it meant just a little bit more for him to see his club win one at Staples.

“Some of the players that went through here before told me they probably would,” shrugged Sutter of the video. “It’s good. Good for Trevor, and good for my family.”

Although he did his best to downplay it before and afterwards, this game was important to Sutter.

And the players knew it.

“We wanted to win it for our coach, we wanted to win it for Lewis and his return, and we wanted to get our first win in our division,” said Milan Lucic, whose second power play unit played a big role in the win, with two first period goals.

“Those are all important things for us tonight. It’s always nice to start a four-game trip off in the win column.”

Lucic went five-hole for the fourth time this season to put the Flames up 2-1 in a first period that also saw Andrew Mangiapane score with the man advantage.

“I looked up and saw defence and went back to it — it’s a high percentage shot,” said a smiling Lucic of the between-the-wickets shot that has helped him score the majority of his seven goals.

“If it misses it hits the pads and stays alive, as opposed to a shot in the glove. It seems to be working out. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’d love to tell you how I set it up, but I don’t want the goalies to know what my thought process is. So we’ll just leave it at that.”

Not surprisingly, Lucic got the starting nod alongside fellow Kings alumni Lewis and Brad Richardson as part of Sutter’s gritty All the King’s Men Line.

“My buddies call us the Full Pension Line, which I thought was funny,” laughed Lewis of a nickname offered up by childhood friend and former Flame, Shane O’Brien.

“But whatever you guys want to call it.”

An Alex Iafallo redirection gave the opposition the opening goal for just the fifth time in 23 games — and first on the road — five minutes in.

Mangiapane responded with his 16th before Lucic struck.

Minutes after taking the lead Matthew Tkachuk did his best to resurrect his feud with Drew Doughty with a gritty shift on which he knocked the Kings defender down with a reverse hit before punctuating the whistle with a pair of net-side punches to Doughty’s face.

The second poke drew a penalty the Flames killed off as part of yet another perfect night that saw the unit stop both of L.A.’s man advantages.

Even scoreboard urging from Snoop Dogg couldn’t spur on the Kings.

Tkachuk wound up with the last laugh as he used Doughty as a screen to score his 11th of the season — a top-shelf beauty that stood as the winner early in the second.

“Whoever the defenceman was on that side I just tried to shoot it through him, and it worked out,” said Tkachuk. “I’m sure if you asked (Sutter) he wouldn’t want us to be extra motivated for him. He’d say he wanted us to come in here and get off on this road trip on the right foot and don’t worry about his homecoming. But it was big to get them the win.”

Alexander Edler’s first as a King narrowed the gap late in the second, setting up a third period push that saw Lewis make a key block after Jacob Markstrom made a stunning glove save on Victor Arvidsson’s point blast — one of 40 saves on the night.

The Flames play in Anaheim Friday as part of a four-game road trip that takes them through Vegas and San Jose.

“I think it’s really good for our team, and it’s another measuring stick to see where you are at when you get into the division part of it,” said Sutter before the game when asked about the trip against division rivals.

“This trip there are two we haven’t played and two we haven’t beaten.”

Make that one they haven’t beaten.

NOTES: The Flames sent Juuso Valimaki to Stockton to get some much-needed playing time, as the 23-year-old first-rounder has only been used in eight of the team’s 23 games this season.

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Prediction Time: CFL.ca writers' Div Finals picks – CFL.ca

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TORONTO — The anticipation is building by the day as we get closer to our Eastern and Western Division Finals on Sunday.

A pair of longtime rivals are the final four teams standing and on Sunday we’ll find out which of those two make it to the 108th Grey Cup next week in Hamilton.

If you’re looking for sound, stable and successful advice, look no further than our Jamie Nye. Tied for first-place with Pat Steinberg with a 39-26 record, Jamie was the only one of the six CFL.ca writers that went 2-0 last week, wisely taking the Ticats and Riders to hold court at home. This week they’re both on the road, heading into Toronto and Winnipeg, respectively, to take on the first place Argos and Bombers.

Home field didn’t carry quite as much weight in the East with the pick-makers as it did in the West this week, despite the Argos’ 6-1 record at BMO Field. Just about everyone is on board with the Bombers hosting at IG Field, a place where they haven’t had the taste of defeat all season. The last time the Bombers lost at home was Sept. 27, 2019. That Week 16 loss to Hamilton came a couple of weeks before the Bombers traded for Zach Collaros.

The Riders have a hill to climb this week and they seem to recognize that. The Ticats have a hill of their own, having dropped three of their four meetings with the Argos this season, including their Week 15 encounter that clinched first in the East for the Double Blue.

We’re just days away from having answers and knowing who will be playing for the Grey Cup, setting up a true Sunday Funday.

RELATED
» Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Eastern and Western Finals?
» CFL Pick ‘Em: Make your picks for the divisional finals!
» Weekly Predictor: Betting on the Ticats

HAM at TOR

The Argos might have one of the most underappreciated home field records in recent league history. Standing at an impressive 6-1 — the blemish coming in a meaningless end-of-season tilt with Edmonton — they won’t be an easy out at BMO Field. There’s pressure on each side to win of course, but there’s a little more on the Ticats, who beat the Argos in their first meeting on Labour Day, then dropped their next three meetings, with encounters No. 2 and 3 being one-point losses. Still, the majority of our pick makers think the Ticats can do it, coming off of a convincing win over Montreal last week. A traveling pack of supporters making the trip up the QEW might help pack the stands on Sunday and will try to even out that home field advantage.

PICK

Writers 66% Hamilton

SSK at WPG

The Riders get one last crack at the blue and gold riddle they haven’t been able to solve on Sunday afternoon. This edition of the Bombers might stand as one of the franchise’s all-time great teams, led by a defence that feasts on turnovers and miscues, and is steered on offence by Zach Collaros‘ calm and deliberate style of play. The defending Grey Cup champs come into this game as rested as can be, will have the support of a packed IG Field and have been focused on the next game in front of them since we kicked the season off back in August. The Riders will likely have to be close to perfect to take them down. Going into the game, it feels like a very tall order.

PICK

Writers 83% Winnipeg

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Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo misses game vs. Raptors for undisclosed reason – Sportsnet.ca

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was scratched from the Milwaukee Bucks‘ lineup against the Toronto Raptors for an undisclosed reason.

Antetokounmpo was not among the Bucks’ starters ahead of tipoff. Pat Connaughton was moved into his place in the starting lineup against the Raptors.

The 26-year-old is coming off a dominant performance against the Charlotte Hornets where he had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a 127-125 victory. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists through 21 games this season.

Milwaukee’s next game is on Saturday against the Miami Heat.

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