If you found yourself having difficulty getting excited about a late January Friday night Raptors game against one of the worst teams in the NBA, I think the Toronto Raptors themselves would feel your pain.
With the least amount of effort possible, the listless Raps eventually overcame a try-hard-but-we’re-really-that-bad New York Knicks team.
These are the games I start to question, “why did I ever think writing five thoughts after every game was a good idea?” Alas.
Are the Raptors “Playing Down to the Competition”?
The Raptors are good, and the Knicks are bad, and yet this game was close into the final minute. We also saw a similar scenario play out on Monday in Atlanta. Shouldn’t this healthy Raptors squad be putting these bad teams away easily?
I do wonder if the Raptors, having climbed the highest of mountains last June, have a hard time getting up for these midseason games against bad teams. I get it, but it’s a really bad habit to get into. Sometimes the switch doesn’t get flipped so easily, for one thing, and the outcomes may not be so favourable. And if the habit carries over against good teams? That’s trouble.
Pascal Siakam came out of the gates like man possessed, with three drives and a fast-break layup in the first couple of minutes. But he didn’t get a foul call on any of those drives, and that seemed to frustrate him all night.
His energy levels definitely waned in the second quarter, but started to pick back up in the third, when he (finally) nailed a three and had an and-1, and had a nice baseline fadeaway too. And the fourth? With under two minutes to go, Siakam really picked it back up, with a late drive and an above-the-break triple to help seal the win.
It wasn’t a great Siakam game, but it was a little bit closer to the Siakam we saw earlier this season. Baby steps.
Defense Wins Championships, and January Games Against the Knicks
First, Lowry tapped a ball away from Elfrid Payton that OG nearly intercepted, but Payton recovered. A couple of plays later though, Anunoby made like a cornerback and jumped the route on a Payton pass intended for Julius Randle and took it away.
A couple of plays after that, Lowry snuck behind Randle on an inbounds play, and as Bobby Portis threw a lazy pass from the far sideline, Lowry was able to easily take away from Randle. It was Lowry’s fourth steal of the night.
The Raptors likely win even without those two steals, but, they sure did help.
I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Knicks out-rebounded the Raptors, since they employ 34 power forwards. But if the Knicks hadn’t pulled in those 14 offensive boards, which generated 28 second chance points — a number that seems almost impossible — this would have been a Raptors blowout.
A number that stands out almost as much as that 14/28 combo is 20/0. That’s how many minutes Serge Ibaka played, and how many rebounds he had. (And no, he did not get 20 rebounds in zero minutes.)
I would like to tell you that I went back and watched Serge’s minutes to figure out how he managed to avoid getting a single rebound. But I could not fathom watching any of this game again.
Just, please do better next time, Serge.
Norm Powell Dropping Dimes
Norman Powell has been a scoring machine lately, and playmaking for others remains on the back burner for him. Which is fine! But he dropped a couple dimes last night that showed us that he at least has some court vision going for him.
First, Norm threw a two handed bounce pass to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (that was alllllmost behind RHJ — gotta give a little more ooomph on the bounce Norm!) that led to a dunk.
Then he had a really nice dish to Serge Ibaka, after coming around an Ibaka screen and receiving a pass from the top of the arc. That one was clearly a set play and typically I think Powell takes that into the lane. But the Knicks’ defense is, ahem, subpar, and Ibaka was wide open on the roll — good on Norm for finding him.
The Raptors played maybe five minutes of good basketball last night, and it was enough to beat the Knicks. It won’t be enough to beat the Spurs tomorrow. Let’s hope we see a more sustained effort!
Kobe Bryant, Lakers great and basketball icon, dies in crash – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Greg Beacham, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, January 26, 2020 2:47PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 26, 2020 11:14PM EST
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant inspired a generation of basketball players worldwide with sublime skills and an unquenchable competitive fire.
He earned Los Angeles’ eternal adoration during his two decades as the fierce soul of the beloved Lakers, and he was respected by basketball fans from every place with a hoop and a dream, including his native Philadelphia and in Italy, his other childhood home.
Less than four years into his retirement, Bryant was seizing new challenges and working to inspire his daughters’ generation through sports and storytelling when his next chapter ended shockingly early.
Bryant, the 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career all with the Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41.
The crash occurred in the foggy hills above Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant was killed, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, and a different person familiar with the case confirmed Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died.
Both of the AP’s unnamed sources spoke on condition of anonymity because few details of the crash had been released publicly.
Authorities said nine people were on the helicopter, and all were presumed dead. No names were released.
Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California’s notorious traffic. He travelled to practices and games by helicopter before his playing career ended in 2016. He continued to use them after retirement as he attended to his new ventures, which included a burgeoning entertainment company that recently produced an Academy Award-winning animated short film.
The basketball world and Los Angeles reacted with an outpouring of pain and disbelief. Bryant is all but certain to be elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year, when he is eligible for the first time.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … but he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant’s basketball training complex in Newbury Park, California. A youth basketball tournament – the Mamba Cup – was scheduled for a second day of competition Sunday at the facility, and Bryant had attended the opening day Saturday with Gianna.
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, had four daughters. He had been a vocal booster of women’s sports since his retirement, coaching and mentoring basketball players around the world while also backing women’s soccer and other endeavours.
Bryant retired as the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points, all scored in Lakers purple and gold. The self-nicknamed Black Mamba was a prolific, gifted shooter with a sublime all-around game and a relentless, hard-edged work ethic that thrilled his fans and almost everyone else, even those who reviled him.
Taking cues from Michael Jordan, one of his idols, Bryant played with a swagger that compelled him to talk trash, to guard the toughest opponents, to play through pain and to demand the ball at the biggest moments of games.
He didn’t always hit them, but Bryant never stopped trying.
“He had zero flaws offensively,” LeBron James said Saturday night. “Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. … He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.”
Bryant held the No. 3 spot in the league scoring ranks until the day before his death, when James passed him during the Lakers’ game in Philadelphia.
On Saturday night, James said he was “happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball player to ever play. One of the all-time greatest Lakers.”
Bryant always reacted graciously to the achievements of James, his former on-court rival who joined the Lakers in 2018.
“Continuing to move the game forward â†•KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”
Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs great who also retired in 2016, is also expected to be part of the Hall of Fame class that will be announced at the NBA’s All-Star weekend next month. Duncan, now a Spurs assistant, was visibly emotional on the bench during their game against Toronto on Sunday.
Bryant had been spending more time with his daughters since leaving the league. The Bryants’ first daughter, Natalia, turned 17 a week ago. Bianka Bella Bryant is 3 years old, and Capri Kobe Bryant was born last June.
Gianna, better known as Gigi, had a promising youth career and a competitive pugnaciousness that reminded everybody of her dad. Bryant sat with her courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game late last year, clearly passing along his wisdom to his daughter.
Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and recalled how fans would often approach him saying “you gotta have a boy, you gotta someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy.”
Gianna took exception: “She’s like, ‘Oy, I got this,”’ Bryant recalled.
News of Bryant’s death inspired an outpouring of grief around the sports world and beyond, but it was felt particularly painfully in Los Angeles, where Bryant was unquestionably the sprawling city’s most popular athlete and one of its most beloved people. Buildings from downtown to Los Angeles International Airport were illuminated in Lakers purple and gold.
The Lakers’ next game is Tuesday night against the crosstown rival Clippers, but hundreds of fans – many in Bryant jerseys and Lakers gear – spontaneously gathered at Staples Center and in the surrounding LA Live entertainment complex on Sunday, weeping and staring at video boards with Bryant’s image before the Grammy awards ceremony.
“I thought he was going to live forever,” Lakers great Magic Johnson told KCBS-TV. “I thought he was invincible. … There was nobody who took more pride in putting on that Laker uniform than Kobe. Nobody. He was just special. We will miss him and we’ll remember him for his greatness, but let’s not forget how he impacted the world, too.”
Bryant retired as the Lakers’ franchise leader in points, games played, 3-pointers and steals – no small feats on a franchise that has employed many of the greatest players in basketball history.
The NBA kept its games on as scheduled when the news broke. The Spurs and Raptors both took voluntary 24-second shot clock violations at the start of their game in honour of Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the second half of his career.
Several other teams followed up by deliberately taking delays of 24 and 8 seconds, honouring both of his jersey numbers. Many players were seen crying before their games, and James looked emotional on the tarmac when he got off the Lakers’ team plane from Philadelphia.
Bryant’s future appeared to be limitless in retirement, whether in sports or entertainment. He opened a production company shortly after leaving the Lakers, saying he was just as passionate about storytelling as he had been about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his contributions to “Dear Basketball, ” an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN.
In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex, and the charge was eventually dropped when the women declined to testify in a trial. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.
Bryant went on to become one of the NBA’s most popular players and the face of the Lakers. Winning a record four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, he was the overall league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, but he also earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
A two-time Olympic gold medallist with the dominant U.S. team, Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honour.
Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players, most of whom grew up either idolizing Bryant or absorbing his work ethic and competitive spirit in the same way Bryant’s generation learned from Jordan. Bryant exemplified and passed on that mentality to James, Stephen Curry and the NBA’s current wave of high-scoring superstars.
After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening in awe to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.
“I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” said James, who later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing.
Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life, and he grew up from a teenager to a respected veteran in the unforgiving Hollywood spotlight.
He entered the NBA draft straight out of suburban Philly’s Lower Merion High School in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professionally. Bryant was occasionally estranged from his now-65-year-old father, but reconciled.
Bryant spoke four languages and played a major role in the NBA’s international growth over his two decades in the league, travelling the world and connecting with athletes in other sports and celebrities.
The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O’Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships.
Bryant and Gasol, the Spanish star, formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and winning two more titles.
Between those title runs and before the quiet final years of his career, Bryant accomplished innumerable feats including an 81-point game against Toronto in January 2006. Bryant’s final NBA seasons were dogged by injuries, but he still went into retirement with that jaw-dropping 60-point performance against Utah.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
Basketball star Kobe Bryant, four others dead in helicopter crash – National Post
Kobe Bryant, the basketball superstar who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning, officials said. He was 41.
Four other people died in the crash in a remote field around 10 a.m. local time (1800 GMT) about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of central Los Angeles, the city of Calabasas said on Twitter. There were no survivors.
The identity of the other victims was not released.
“This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
First responders put out the flames of the crash site, Los Angeles County Sheriff said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.
Bryant was known to use a helicopter for travel dating to his days as a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers, when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper, the celebrity news website TMZ said.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
Bryant won five NBA championships with the Lakers and was named an NBA all-star 18-times in his 20-year career with the team. He was third leading scorer in league history with 33,643 points until LeBron James passed him on Saturday.
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.
Bryant’s star power translated into the entertainment world as he mingled with show business stars in Los Angeles.
In 2018 he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.”
But he was also accused of sexual assault in 2003 by an employee at a Colorado hotel, tarnishing his reputation and leading to a media storm to cover his trial.
Bryant denied the claims and charges eventually were dropped after the woman refused to testify.
Bryant and his wife Vanessa filed for divorce in 2011 after 10 years of marriage but in 2013 the couple said they had reconciled their differences.
(Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru, Daniel Trotta, Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
LeBron James On Passing Kobe Bryant In All-Time Scoring: 'The Universe Just Puts Things In Your Life' – RealGM.com
LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant for No. 3 on the NBA all-time scoring list during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
James now has 33,655 points in his career. Karl Malone is in second place with 36,928 points, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar topping the list at 38,387 points.
“It doesn’t make sense. Just to make a long story short, now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from. The first time I ever met him, gave me his shoes on All-Star Weekend. It’s surreal. It doesn’t make no sense, but the universe just puts things in your life. And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you’re doing, things happen organically,” said James after the game.
James added that Bryant had zero flaws in his offensive game.
“He had zero flaws offensively. Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he can go around you. He shoots from midrange. He can post. He can make free throws. He has zero flaws offensively,” said James.
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