It’s never pretty with Tristan Thompson but the veteran Canadian big man with the movie star looks (yes, he’s been mistaken for Michael B. Jordan) and the celebrity romantic relationships has never bothered with that.
In his ninth season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thompson has won a championship, played in three other NBA Finals and earned nearly $100 million and counting but his ”see ball, get ball” formula has never wavered.
“It’s just my DNA,” Thompson told Sportsnet in a near empty visitor’s locker room at Scotiabank Arena after his Cavaliers were thumped by his hometown Toronto Raptors 133-113 as the Cavs fell to 6-21 on the season.
Thompson was Thompson, though, as he put up 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists in his 33 minutes.
“At the end of the day I’m the leader of this team, it’s on me to punch the clock with these young guys and these new guys,” he says. “I have to set the tone with my energy and come in ready to play and not just on the court but off the floor, holding myself to a higher standard because they’re watching everything I do. I was lucky to break in with vets who did it the right way so it’s up to me to pay it forward.”
Over his career, Thompson has changed his free-throw shooting from left-handed to right-handed and worked some more nuanced skills into his tool box while matching a high basketball IQ with a world-class motor, but making his game glamourous or aesthetically appealing has never been on the agenda.
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So the game might be an ungainly collection of floaters and last-man-standing put-backs, but the most beautiful thing of all is you always know what you’re going to get from the Brampton, Ont., native: a battle to the end for every rebound, speed in transition and the ability and willingness to switch out and guard on the perimeter while hustling back to the paint to protect the rim and collect the scraps.
“He’s one of those guys that has an incredible motor,” says Cavs teammate Larry Nance Jr. “He doesn’t know any better. Whether it’s practice, whether it’s a game, whether it’s pick-up, he just plays hard as hell. He doesn’t know any better. It’s impressive to see but it’s not even a decision to make, it’s who he is.
Playing against him?
“It’s a total pain in the ass to be honest with you,” says Nance Jr., having matched up with Thompson in practice and pick-up games. “But that’s just who he is, and he’s made a hell of a career out of it. I wish more people had that.”
This season with the Cavaliers will provide the ultimate test and Thompson will pass it. Two years ago, Cleveland swept the Raptors for the second straight year and played in their fourth straight NBA Finals. But when LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavaliers had no choice but to rebuild, and they showed why it’s a project with no end in sight. They allowed the Raptors to shoot 58.4 per cent from the floor – not all that unusual for a team that came into the game ranked 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
But Thompson still put in work. He doggedly wrestled with Marc Gasol in the paint, giving up four inches and 30 pounds and then gave the quicker and more skilled Pascal Siakam a challenge out to the three-point line.
In good times and bad, Thompson has proven reliable. From that perspective, he’s a coach’s dream.
“He has been a Cav his entire life and he has a lot of pride so he’s working really hard to lead this young team and do the best he can,” says Cleveland head coach John Beilein, an NBA rookie at age 66 after a storied NCAA coaching career.
When unnamed Cavs were complaining recently about some of their new coach’s methods, it was Thompson who spoke up in support and quelled the mini-uprising.
“He’s been a warrior. You watch him tonight, he’ll go after virtually every rebound every single time with everything he’s got.
“So it’s a wrestling match at one end, a wrestling match at the other end and by the way he has to sprint. And he’s usually going to the basket so he’s got further than everyone else to run. He’s been a warrior on so many games and has really helped us with the successes we’ve had and some of the tough losses we’ve had we wouldn’t be in it without him.”
A pending free agent Thompson’s contract status might preclude him from playing for Canada at the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C., in June although if they make it through, the Olympics in Japan might be in play. Raptors and Canadian national team head coach Nick Nurse would love to have him.
“We hope he plays,” said Nurse, who spoke with Thompson during his pre-game warm-up. “He’s one of the best rebounding bigs in the world. We’re playing on the world stage. He’d look good on our team.”
He’d look good on a lot of teams. In the short term, the ultimate reward for Thompson might be a ticket out of Cleveland, his only NBA home, although there is talk that they should re-sign him as a pillar in their rebuild. In his last year of his five-year, $80-million contract, Thompson is the kind of veteran playoff-bound teams would love to add. Could his hometown Raptors use his blend of grit, size and smarts?
Absolutely, although price is always a big part of the equation. The Cavs may be holding out for a first-round pick for Thompson, but there are doubts they’ll get one for a role-playing rental.
Regardless, Thompson will be sought after because he brings certainty.
As one NBA executive put it when assessing the attractiveness of Thompson to a contender between now and the Feb. 6th NBA trade deadline: “You know what you’re getting.”
His teammates take note and try to follow his example. There aren’t many NBA players who don’t find a way to bring it when things are rolling and a long playoff run is in sight. But when things go south?
If there is a podcasting odd couple, this might be it. Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis don’t agree on much, but you’ll agree this is the best Toronto Raptors podcast going.
“We’re all very competitive. You don’t get to this point by losing,” said Nance Jr., who is in his third season playing alongside Thompson. “But now that you’re here, struggling, it is easy to kind of drop your head and get frustrated with what’s going on.”
But broke in with a losing Cavs team by establishing himself as one of the most energetic bigs in the NBA; Thompson earned the trust of LeBron James in Cleveland’s runs to the finals by being one of the league’s most energetic bigs and he hasn’t shifted down now that the Cavaliers are lottery bound again.
“You do it on a championship team, you do it in the playoffs, that stuff is noticed more,” he says. “But whether you’re in the playoffs or not, you have to be true to yourself. For me, what I bring to the table is play hard every night and I can’t waver regardless of what the situation is.”
Along the way he’s learned some tricks. The rookies might be drenching their waffles in maple syrup, but if they’re paying attention, they’ll notice Thompson helping himself to avocado spread on whole grain toast.
He’s the first one at the practice facility for treatment and one of the last to get more treatment after, the better to keep the motor running smoothly.
Thompson’s approach adds up. He’s one of three players to average six offensive rebounds per 100 possessions since he broke into the league; his 1,993 offensive rebounds is third in the NBA over the same period and his 17.4 total rebounding percentage is eighth among players with at least 500 games.
Thompson’s game has never been pretty and he’s never worried about making it so. The Michael B. Jordan comparisons will have to do.
“Me and Mike are cool. I know him. People always mistake us,” says Thompson.
But his consistency and commitment to his role just might earn him an elegant exit from Cleveland by the trade deadline.
Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Framber Valdez lost his perfect game and then bounced the following pitch off the next batter’s leg.
Astros manager Dusty Baker decided it was time for a chat.
“That’s the time when you’ve really got to settle him down,” Baker said. “I said `Hey, you’re the best. Just be natural and do your thing.’ I didn’t say a whole bunch to him.”
It was enough to get Valdez through the inning — and more.
Perfect through four, the Houston left-hander took a two-hit shutout into the seventh and became the first pitcher this postseason to complete eight innings, leading the Astros over Boston 9-1 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Yordan Alvarez had three hits and three RBIs for Houston, which needs could clinch a second straight trip to the World Series with a victory at home on Friday night.
The Red Sox need a win to force a deciding seventh game on Saturday.
“We came back to Boston exactly where we wanted to be: We were 1-1,” Red Sox starter Chris Sale said. “Not in a good spot going back to Houston. There’s no denying that, but this team has won two games in the playoffs back-to-back before, and we think we can do it again.”
One day after the Astros scored seven runs to break a ninth-inning tie, they hung another crooked number on the Fenway Park scoreboard, chasing Sale while scoring five runs in the sixth. Alvarez, who homered in the second and singled in the fourth, had a two-run double to break things open.
That was plenty for Valdez, who extended the staff’s shutout streak to 14 straight innings before Rafael Devers homered with one out in the seventh — one of just three hits for Boston. The left-hander departed after retiring the Red Sox in order in the eighth.
“If a guy’s dealing, you just let him keep dealing,” Baker said. “Today, it was in the hands of Framber. Everybody talks about momentum, but momentum is controlled by the pitcher. If the pitcher’s dealing, all that momentum’s gone.”
In all, Valdez gave up one run on three hits, one walk and a hit batter, striking out five. He was also the first opposing pitcher to last eight innings in a postseason start at Fenway since Cleveland’s Charles Nagy went eight in the 1998 Division Series.
Ryne Stanek pitched a perfect ninth while the rest of Houston’s relievers rested. Astros starters had not lasted three innings all series, pitching to a 18.90 ERA in the first four games and giving up 10 homers — including a record three grand slams.
Valdez was not much better, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 1.
“I didn’t get frustrated at all. I wasn’t down on myself,” Valdez said. “What I did was I decided I’m going to work really hard so that when I come out here for the next outing, I’m going to be as 100% ready as I can be, to demonstrate to my team what I’m capable of, to demonstrate to my team that I can come out here and compete with any team in the league.
“So I just worked the entire time and I had my mindset set that I was just going to come out and have a way better outing,” he said. “And that’s what I was able to do tonight.”
Valdez retired the first 12 batters on Wednesday — eight on grounders, four on strikeouts. Devers singled to lead off the fifth, then Valdez bounced the next pitch off J.D. Martinez’s leg. The Astros escaped when Hunter Renfroe grounded into a double play and Alex Verdugo bounced out to first.
Sale started almost as well, allowing just two hits — both to Alvarez — in his first five innings. But he walked Jose Altuve to start the sixth, then Michael Brantley nubbed one toward third. Devers fielded it and made the throw in time but Schwarber dropped it at first; after sliding into second, Altuve popped up and took off for third, which was uncovered.
Brantley moved up to second on a groundout to the pitcher, then Alvarez doubled to left, scoring two to make it 3-0 and chasing Sale. Ryan Brasier struck out Carlos Correa before giving up an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel and a two-run single to Jose Siri that made it 6-0.
Brantley added an RBI single in the seventh, and Gurriel singled in two more in the ninth.
Sale was charged with four runs — two earned — on three hits and two walks, striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings.
“I was good for five, and then I sucked for one,” he said. “I told myself coming into this game I had a job to do; obviously didn’t get it done. But I left (it all) out there on that mound tonight, that’s for damn sure.”
The Red Sox had won seven straight postseason games at home — dating to the 2018 ALCS — before blowing an eighth-inning lead on Tuesday night. They had never lost back-to-back postseason games under manager Alex Cora.
Nathan Eovaldi, who won Game 2 but came on in relief and lost in Game 4, will start Friday for Boston. Baker said he had not decided on a starter.
Nine thoughts from the Toronto Raptors season opening loss to the Washington Wizards – NBA CA
With plenty of new faces on the roster, the young Raptors trailed for most of the game and despite a late rally in the fourth quarter where they got it to within 10 points, their poor shooting caught up with them.
For more on this game, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Scottie Barnes is as advertised
The No.4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft was inserted into the starting lineup and made his presence felt from the jump.
The 20-year-old was aggressive looking for his shot as he attacked the rim, not settling for jumpers and while he only finished with one assist, his passing really stood out as he facilitated the offence for stretches at the elbow.
…Not to mention this skyhook!
Scottie got that ol’ school in the bag pic.twitter.com/jjq5n9p2N9
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, one assist and one steal, and was tied with Fred VanVleet for the most field goals on the night, hitting 5-of-13.
It wsn’t all smooth sailing for the rookie, who had three turnovers and three fouls in the first half alone, but as the game wore on, he showed flashes of his elite potential
Until Pascal Siakam returns from injury, it will be interesting to see if Nick Nurse sticks with Barnes in the starting lineup.
2. Dalano Banton’s dazzling debut
The first-ever Canadian drafted by the Raptors entered the game with 25 seconds left in the third quarter to a big applause from the home crowd and he nearly blew the lid off the arena just seconds later.
With his first shot of the game, he connected on a half-court shot at the buzzer, that cut the deficit to 81-59 heading into the fourth.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
In his 12 minutes on court, he recorded seven points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal on 3-of-4 from the field.
His one assist found a cutting Chris Boucher for an emphatic dunk.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
“He was a big factor for the improved pace and the improved offence,” Nurse said of Banton post-game.
3. A cold shooting night
Through the first three quarters, the Raptors couldn’t buy a bucket as the Wizards led by as many as 29 points.
They eventually found a spark early in the fourth quarter with a big lineup of Banton, Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. Chris Boucher, and Khem Birch, but by then it was too late. On the night they connected on just 30-of-97 (30.9 percent) from the field and 7-of-34 (20.6 percent) from the 3-point line.
While their ball movement at times looked crisp, they simply couldn’t finish off plays.
4. Siakam’s absence felt
With Anunoby and VanVleet their two primary offensive weapons combining to shoot 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) tonight, the absence of All-Star forward Pascal Siakam was evident as the Raptors struggled to get easy looks, especially in the half-court.
Siakam is on his way back after undergoing shoulder surgery in the off-season and is expected to return to the court in mid-November.
5. The defence has some work to do
As is the case with any young team, the defensive side of the floor is always going to be a concern and the Raptors have some work to do.
Too often in the first half, the Wizards guards were able to stroll into the paint and get good looks at the rim, with Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie and Raul Neto taking advantage.
The Wizards feasted at the rim tonight, outscoring the Raptors 56-40 in the paint.
6. Achiuwa shows flashes
After an impressive pre-season, precious Achiuwa got the start at center on opening night, showing flashes of his potential as a small-ball five.
His energy and activity was evident from the outset as he deflected passes, hustled for rebounds and tried to finish at the rim, but his enthusiasm caught up with him as he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 20, 2021
7. Harrell back to his Sixth Man form
It’s just one game, but Washington Wizards big man Montrezl Harrell looked back to his Sixth Man of the Year winning form with an impressive performance off the bench tonight.
He poured in 22 points and nine rebounds on an efficient 9-of-11 from the field.
– Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 21, 2021
8. Drake in the house
Raptors Global Ambassador and No. 1 fan Drake was in the building, doing his best to help out the home team and get under Montrezl Harrell’s skin.
In the third quarter, he got into it with Harrell, who was called for a technical afterwards.
Drake got Montrezl Harrell T’d up after they exchanged words 💀 pic.twitter.com/T7Xq40Ryxp
– Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 21, 2021
9. What’s next for the Raptors?
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Braves blast four HRs, beat Dodgers for 3-1 lead in NLCS – TSN
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Behind the red-hot bat of Eddie Rosario, the Atlanta Braves are one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1999.
All they need to do is put away the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Easier said than done.
After all, the Braves were in exactly the same position last year and failed to finish the job.
Rosario homered twice in his second four-hit game of the NL Championship Series and six Atlanta pitchers combined on a four-hitter, giving the Braves a 9-2 victory Wednesday for a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff.
Game 5 is Thursday in Los Angeles. Last year, the Dodgers also trailed 0-2 and 1-3 against Atlanta in the NLCS before roaring back to win three straight games at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.
“As we saw last year, winning a game is hard, especially a veteran team like this that we’re playing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I feel good about our club just from what we experienced last year and where these guys are.”
Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves, who bounced right back from blowing a late lead in an agonizing loss Tuesday to end their 10-game skid at Dodger Stadium.
“I feel like everyone has really hunkered down and dug their heels in and everyone is really focused,” Rosario said through a translator. “That’s something that I’m really proud to be a part of.”
Rosario became the first player to have two four-hit games in a League Championship Series. He drove in four runs and scored three while continuing his torrid postseason hitting, finishing a double short of the cycle. He homered in the second inning, tripled in the third, singled in the fifth and clocked a three-run homer in the ninth.
“As soon as I hit that first home run I just thought to myself, ‘Wow, I feel amazing right now,’” Rosario said, “so I kind of just carried that confidence into my other at-bats going forward.”
Rosario hit for the cycle last month against San Francisco, achieving the feat on just five total pitches.
“I’ve been using that bat that I hit for the cycle with and it has not disappointed. I had that double remaining and I’m like, ‘Man, this bat has not let me down yet,'” he said. “As soon as I hit that second one out, I go, `Oh well, there goes the double.'”
The Dodgers will need to jump-start their offense to have a shot at another NLCS comeback. Their first five hitters — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, NL batting champion Trea Turner, Will Smith and Gavin Lux — were a combined 0 for 17 in Game 4.
Los Angeles, which had won 18 of 19 at home going back to the regular season, has won six consecutive postseason elimination games dating to last year.
“I feel good about it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We have a very resilient team, a very tough team, and it’s not going to get much tougher than facing Max Fried in an elimination game, but we’ve done it before.”
Rosario was acquired from Cleveland on July 30 as the Braves remade their depleted outfield before the trade deadline.
What a find he’s been.
The left fielder has hit safely in every game of this postseason, piling up 14 hits so far — including a walk-off single in Game 2 against the Dodgers. He has struck out only once.
Rosario is 10 for 17 (.588) with two homers and six RBIs in the NLCS.
“He’s been looking so good at the plate, hitting balls hard,” Freeman said.
Atlanta’s four homers tied a postseason franchise record.
Each of the series’ first three games was decided by one run in the last two innings. But when it got late this time, the wild-card Dodgers couldn’t generate any comeback magic.
Atlanta opener Jesse Chavez combined with Drew Smyly, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith to hold down the Dodgers’ offense. Los Angeles didn’t get a hit until the fifth and was limited to one the rest of the way. Smyly went 3 1/3 innings for the win.
The Braves wasted no time jumping all over 20-game winner Julio Urías, who gave up three homers in 2 2/3 innings. It was the second time he allowed that many in his career; the first time was in his second major league game in 2016.
Rosario drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field pavilion leading off the second and Duvall followed with a shot to center, the first time the Braves homered back-to-back in the postseason since Oct. 3, 2002, against San Francisco in Game 2 of a Division Series.
Freeman went deep leading off the third. Two outs later, Rosario tripled to deep right on a two-strike pitch, sliding headfirst into the bag.
“He kind of smiled at me after he hit it in there just because it was one of those things where it just, a hot hitter and he kind of knows where he’s going,” Urías said through a translator.
Duvall was intentionally walked and Joc Pederson singled, scoring Rosario for a 4-0 lead against Urías.
The Dodgers, who won 106 games during the regular season, closed to 5-2 in the fifth on pinch-hitter AJ Pollock’s two-out, two-run single. Justin Turner singled for their first hit of the game and Cody Bellinger followed with a single and stolen base.
Freeman’s RBI double in the ninth made it 6-2 before Rosario went deep.
Urías didn’t record a strikeout until the fourth, when Dansby Swanson and Freeman went down swinging back-to-back to end the left-hander’s first clean inning. Urías gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked three.
The only other player with a pair of four-hit games in a postseason series was Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis.
Braves: RHP Huascar Ynoa was scratched from his scheduled start with shoulder inflammation. He was replaced on the roster by left-hander Dylan Lee. Ynoa is not eligible to return for the World Series, if the Braves advance.
Dodgers: Justin Turner is done for the season after injuring his hamstring in the seventh, Roberts said. Turner screamed as he was retired on a double-play ball. He limped off the field and was replaced in the eighth.
Fried starts Game 5 for the Braves in his Los Angeles hometown. The Dodgers planned a bullpen game, a strategy they’ve used twice this postseason, going 1-1 in those games.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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