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Toronto Raptors 115, Cleveland Cavaliers 109

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The Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, making them 3-0 against the Cavs this year, giving them their ninth straight win, solidifying their second-place standing (1.5 games up on Miami), and moving them to just one game off the pace of last year’s championship team.

So why didn’t that win feel very good?

Playing down to the Competition

I know the Raptors were missing a starter and a key reserve, but there’s no way the Raptors should have needed to cling to a late lead and need

During this nine game winning streak, the Raptors have played seven sub.-500 teams. They’ve let five of them hang around:

  • The Timberwolves were within two early in the fourth, before the Raptors ran away with it
  • The Hawks were within two with less than a minute to go (after being down by as many as 17)
  • The Knicks were within one with 1:22 to go
  • The Spurs tied the game with 1:00 to go
  • The Cavs were within one with 1:18 to go

I know it’s the dog days of the season, but I do worry about the bad habits the Raptors are developing here. Good teams won’t squander the above opportunities if the Raptors provide them.

Missing Marc

Marc Gasol only averages 6.5 rebounds per game, so you wouldn’t think his presence would make that much of a difference on the glass, right? But you can’t ignore all the little things Marc does that help his teammates get boards (using his body to move opposing players away from the rim) and even his defensive efforts, forcing opposing players to take shots farther away from the rim than they’d like.

His absence was certainly a big factor in Cleveland’s gathering 15 offensive rebounds and scoring 19 second-chance points — which in turn were a big part of helping the Cavs keep this game close.

Starring Starter Serge

On the other hand, I don’t think we can deny that Serge Ibaka relishes his starting role; he had 26 on 10-of-14 shooting last night, although he only grabbed four rebounds.

Serge gets more minutes as a starter, so you’d think, well, of course it makes sense that his raw numbers go up (+5 points, +2 boards). But his usage actually declines as a starter, from 25% as a reserve to 23% as a starter! Meanwhile his shooting improves significantly (.551 TS% as a reserve, .620 as a starter).

Given those numbers, I actually wonder if it isn’t so much starting, it’s playing more minutes with Kyle Lowry, that boosts Ibaka’s numbers. Lowry knows how to get Ibaka the ball in the right spots better than anyone, and that would certainly account for the improved shooting and scoring in the reduced usage.

So: Should Serge be starting in place of Gasol? Or should the Raptors start the double-big unit regularly?

Closing Norm

It was great to see Norman Powell break out of his funk last night, with 16 points and five rebounds. I found it most interesting that he closed the game with the starters, in place of OG Anunoby.

Anunoby had one of his better games in a while; he was 4-for-9 from the field, which while not a great percentage, at least showcased more activity on his part, after several games of passivity.

But I wonder if Nick Nurse wasn’t a bit disappointed with OG’s effort on the defensive end. He looked to be out of position on a couple of rotations, that got Kevin Love open looks and allowed Collin Sexton and Darius Garland to penetrate. Those three were a combined 24-for-36, and while that’s certainly not all on Anunoby, I think the defensive effort is what the team needs the most from OG right now.

It’s also possible Nurse just wanted Norm’s shot-making out there, which the Raptors sure needed!

Welcome to All-Star Snub Season!

Our guy Kyle Lowry was selected to his well-deserved sixth straight All-Star game yesterday, so we, as fans and bloggers, don’t have to get all up-in-arms about it. But as with every year, several player with deserving cases got left off the rosters… which means we get to see the internet, and those players’ teams and teammates, blow up in their defense.

I get it. Of course you want to defend your guy, and if Kyle didn’t make it, this probably would have been a “Five Thoughts on How All-Star Selection is Broken” column or something. But, objectively… only 12 guys make it in each conference! And I think everyone who did make it is deserving, except for Russell Westbrook. It’s inevitable that some guys will be left off — it doesn’t mean they’re not deserving, or worthy, or great players. Not everyone can make it! Being the 13th or 14th best guy in the conference (by this metric, which is already flawed) is still incredibly good!

So I feel for Bradley Beal and Devin Booker and their fans, but guys? You’re still among the best basketball players in the world. You don’t need an All-Star selection to tell you that.

********

The Raptors are right back at it tonight, against another sub-.500 team. Will they let the Pistons hang around… or put them away early?

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BKFC to up $20 million offer to Mike Tyson, Wanderlei Silva pitched as potential foe – MMA Fighting

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Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship will next week issue another offer to Mike Tyson in hopes of bringing the 53-year-old boxing legend out of retirement.

BKFC President David Feldman told MMA Fighting the contract will exceed the $20 million offered to Tyson earlier this month, adding additional sweeteners that include charitable donations. He said he wasn’t able to provide the exact value of the contract because it’s still being finalized.

“I think I know what we need to do to make this thing happen,” Feldman said.

The race to get Tyson back into the ring has heated up ever since the former champ signaled his desire to compete again, potentially in a charity match. Several promoters, including BKFC, have jumped into the mix with million-dollar offers, and fighters from across the combat spectrum have volunteered themselves as opponents.

UFC Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock were among those who expressed interest in a potential fight, regardless of the medium. On Sunday, Ortiz claimed someone close to Tyson had inquired about a potential matchup; Ortiz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Feldman said matching Tyson with “the right kind of guy” is central to BKFC’s offer, and an opponent like former PRIDE champ Wanderlei Silva, who immediately reached out to BKFC after the offer to Tyson, is right now a more desirable matchup than Ortiz.

“I didn’t offer that (to Ortiz),” Feldman said. “I don’t know that it really draws. I think a Wanderlei Silva, someone of that nature. No matter how old Silva gets, he’s dangerous, and I think that would be an intriguing matchup. Something like that, but I don’t actually have anything in mind right now.”

Ortiz most recently fought this past December, submitting Alberto Del Rio inside one round in Combate America’s inaugural pay-per-view event. The ex-UFC champ has talked up a rematch with Silva, whom he defeated in the octagon in 2000. Silva most recently fought in 2018, losing a second-round TKO to rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

“First, I want to see if we can make the Mike thing happen, period, and then we’ll start talking opponents,” Feldman said. “We’re not successful yet in making that Mike thing happen. But I don’t think the door’s shut.

“He did say no immediately. But I think there’s room there.”

Tyson, who retired after quitting on his stool during a 2005 boxing match against McBride, recently talked up a charity rematch with boxing rival Evander Holyfield. Retired boxer Shannon Briggs also has claimed he’s already signed an offer to fight Tyson in an exhibition match.

“There are a lot of people out there that need help, and something like that could help a lot of people, that’s in need for help,” he told TMZ.

Feldman said BKFC will restart its event promotion schedule on June 26 with enhanced safety measures in place to address the threat of the COVID-19 virus. A location has not yet been finalized.

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Cejudo retires, vacates bantamweight title – TSN

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The UFC confirmed to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday that Henry Cejudo is considered to be retired and has vacated the UFC bantamweight title. His name was removed from the title page and official rankings on the UFC website Sunday.

Cejudo successfully defended the bantamweight belt against Dominik Cruz at UFC 249 earlier this month and announced after the bout he was retiring.

“I really do want to walk away, but money talks,” Cejudo said at the time. “It gets stagnant. I want to leave on top.”

It is unknown if Cejudo has removed himself from the USADA drug-testing pool. If he removes himself, Cejudo would not be able to return to the UFC until he puts himself back in the pool for a period of six months.

With a 16-2 record, Cejudo had not lost since 2016 and is only the fourth person in UFC history to hold titles in two different weight classes at the same time (bantamweight and flyweight). He is currently on a six-fight winning streak, which includes victories over Cruz, Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw.

The UFC has yet to announce its plan regarding a future bantamweight title fight.  

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NHLers face new normal as league prepares to ramp up toward return to play

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Before NHL players are permitted to step back inside a team facility they must first have a swab inserted roughly four centimetres into their nasal cavity.

Laboratory-based RT-PCR testing is used to detect any active or recent infection with COVID-19, and will be administered 48 hours prior.

The next stage of life in the time of the novel coronavirus for players and team staff will then include at least two more of those tests each week, plus daily temperature and symptom checks — one self-administered at home and another from medical personnel upon arrival at the facility.

All of that just to walk through the door.

You want to get on the ice? Well, there’s a pre-participation medical exam, which includes an EKG test and screening for pre-existing conditions, to be administered before that can happen.

What resonates most about the NHL’s return-to-sport protocol is how much meticulous effort will be required just to get six players working out inside the rink together, never mind what’s still to come when teams progress to training camps or actually start playing games again.

The league hopes to reopen team facilities for small-group workouts as soon as next week and has set out the requirements for doing so. The protocol distributed to teams and players early Monday leaves no detail uncovered and paints a scene unlike any that would typically play out in these buildings.

On the ice, no more than six players are allowed to participate in non-contact skates at a time. Coaches, including those for skating and skills, can’t take part (an exception will be granted for goalie coaches after the first week of training).

Off the ice, everyone must remain at least six feet apart and players are discouraged from socializing with one another. A cloth or surgical mask must be worn when entering and exiting the building and at any point where social distancing can’t be maintained. Exercise and weight room equipment is permitted for use, providing a spotter isn’t required, and players can receive individual treatment from athletic therapists and team doctors.

But they won’t be granted access to saunas, hot tubs or steam rooms and are encouraged to shower at home whenever possible.

The groups of six (or less) will remain constant and essentially be assigned a rotating shift for when they’re allowed in the facility. Where possible, teams have been told to assign a different athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and equipment manager to each group.

That will ensure any infection or exposure will be contained within the group and should help facilitate contact tracing.

The facility must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each training session. That includes locker-room areas and circuit-based training equipment. Players are required to leave all workout gear inside the facility for cleaning and can only take supplements provided in single-dispense packs.

Single-use beverages or snacks such as power bars can be consumed by players inside the facility, but any meals prepared and packaged by the catering staff must be taken home before they’re eaten.

This promises to be a different experience for players who largely haven’t been back inside team facilities since the season was paused on March 12. The small-group sessions starting in early June are strictly voluntary, but they’re viewed as an important step in trying to complete a 24-team tournament for the Stanley Cup — especially for the large number of guys unable to skate during the last three months.

The detailed nature of protocols being put in place reflect how challenging it is to contain the spread of germs in a team environment, and the NHL acknowledged in its Monday memo that they “cannot mitigate all risk.”

“A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome,” the league wrote.

Anyone who develops symptoms and/or tests positive for COVID-19, or shares a home with someone who does, must immediately notify the team’s medical staff. They will be isolated and provided treatment, if needed.

There could be serious consequences for any teams that don’t comply with the measures put in place by the league. Penalties include fines, loss of draft choices, and ineligibility to participate in the resumption of play.

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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Edited By Harry Miller

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