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Toronto Raptors empty the tank, even series in Game 4 win – TSN

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TORONTO – As the Toronto Raptors returned to Disney’s Gran Destino Tower on Saturday night, likely exhausted but able to breath a sigh of relief for the first time in a week, the Milwaukee Bucks were in their rooms just a few floors away at the very same hotel, having an existential crisis.

The Bucks came into the postseason with the NBA’s best record, the soon-to-be two-time MVP, and championship expectations. Now, they’re dead men walking.

After coughing up a 2-0 lead and losing four straight games to the Raptors in the Conference Finals last May, they told themselves this year would be different. And it will be. They won’t even make it that far.

Just 24 hours earlier, Milwaukee fell behind 0-3 in its second-round series with Miami. They’ll tell themselves that they can survive this, that if anybody can do it it’s them, but they know how this ends, and the end is coming soon. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 playoff series deficit, and considering their head coach continues to manage must-win games like they’re regular season contests, don’t count on them being the first.

With their season – and perhaps the future of the franchise – on the line, Mike Budenholzer played Giannis Antetokounmpo 36 minutes in Friday’s 115-100 Game 3 loss to the Heat. Khris Middleton, the team’s second all-star, logged 36. There are other reasons why the Bucks are in this hole, to be sure – Jimmy Butler and the Heat are really good, and they’ve taken a page out of Toronto’s book in terms of defending Antetokounmpo.

Still, desperate times should call for desperate measures, shouldn’t they?

“It’s a high level,” Budenholzer said following Game 3. “If you’re going as hard as these guys are in a playoff game, 35-36 [minutes], I think that’s pushing the ceiling.”

The second-seeded Raptors have a different philosophy, and it’s helped produce a different result. Like Milwaukee, Toronto was down 0-2 in its series with Boston. In Thursday’s must-win Game 3, head coach Nick Nurse tightened his rotation and predominately used seven players (the eighth man, Matt Thomas, only logged six minutes).

Kyle Lowry played just over 46 minutes, all but 91 seconds of the contest, and his team needed every one of them to pull out a thrilling 104-103 victory – punctuated by OG Anunoby’s game-winning buzzer beater, which was set up by Lowry’s brilliant inbounds pass with a half-second left on the clock.

With new life and some momentum – if you believe momentum exists in the playoffs – going into Saturday’s Game 4, Nurse and the Raptors didn’t let up. They put together their most complete effort of the second round – aided by some positive three-point shooting regression – and evened the series up with Boston at two games apiece. Once more, they leaned on their best players to do the heavy lifting.

Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each played roughly 45 minutes. Meanwhile Lowry logged 44, and was sensational again.

The veteran point guard finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks – an impressive stat line, but one that doesn’t even tell the full story. As usual, Lowry threw his body around all night, drawing a couple painful looking charges and then diving out of bounds to try and secure a loose ball late in the game. In the process, Lowry appeared to throw the ball off of Jayson Tatum, which was the initial call. Although it would get overturned, the video review – triggered by a Brad Stevens coach’s challenge – actually bought him a few minutes of rest at a crucial point in the game.

“I did check with [Lowry],” Nurse said, following Toronto’s 100-93 win. “A couple times I was just joking. I asked him if he needed a sub with a smile and he chewed me out, like ‘No, I don’t need one’ and I was like, “I know, I was kinda kidding’. But we do check and ask them and tell them we’ve got some timeouts if they need a rest. You probably saw us take one with 3:50 to go there. We had one to burn, it felt like it was just a rest timeout. And I thought we got a really, really big boost with the challenge. That was a big, big point – we were playing, it was frantic, so that was another big resting point for our guys.”

“I think our guys are used to playing, I mean not this many minutes, but they’re used to playing heavy minutes and they’re certainly used to playing in this intensity in playoff games. So, they’re OK.”

Throughout the regular season, the depth of the Raptors’ bench proved to be a pleasant surprise. Just about everybody on the roster stepped up at one point or another and helped the team overcome a constant barrage of injuries to its top-seven players.

However, that’s what depth is for – to get you here, to help put you in this position. You spend all season preparing for this moment – managing the minutes of your best players, which the Raptors were able to do as a by-product of all the injuries, and the Bucks did by blowing teams out. Now, this is when your stars are supposed to shine brightest and carry you further.

“I mean, if you’re ever going to do it now’s the time to do it,” said VanVleet, who scored 17 points on Saturday. “There’s nothing to be resting for, there’s no tomorrow. Coach is putting his trust in us and communicating to a level where if you need a rest you get one, if you need him to call a timeout you get one. But right now, I think he’s rolling with the big guns and that’s the way that we like it.”

Lowry’s logged 90 minutes over the past two games, despite spraining his ankle in the final game of the first-round sweep over Brooklyn – he was questionable heading into the opener against Boston. He’s 34-years-old. Antetokounmpo, who is also dealing with an ankle sprain, is 25.

Less than seven per cent of the teams to ever lose the first two games of a best-of-seven playoff series have come back to win that series. The Raptors were the last ones to do it, when they sent Milwaukee packing last year, and now they’ve got a chance to do it again.

They’ve emptied the tank and willed themselves to a couple of season-saving wins. Now, it’s a brand new series, a best-of-three, and the Celtics are the team doing the soul searching going into Monday’s Game 5.

Meanwhile, the Bucks are about to get plenty of rest.

“I’m just trying to do what I gotta do in the moment,” Nurse said on the eve of Game 4. “I’m not sure I went into [Game 3] thinking I wasn’t going to make any subs [in the second half]. The season was on line, and I’m coaching that way.”​

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Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat Game 5: Live score, updates, news, stats and highlights – NBA CA

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With their backs against the wall, the Boston Celtics looked to be in trouble in the first half.

Coming out of halftime looking like a completely different team, the Celtics went on a 20-3 run in the third quarter to swipe the lead from the Miami Heat. Boston wouldn’t surrender the lead thereafter, picking up the win to force a Game 6.

For more on this thrilling Game 5, we had you covered with live updates, highlights, stats and more below.

Final: Boston Celtics 121, Miami Heat 108

In a tale of two halves, the Celtics have kept their season alive. Jayson Tatum (31 points) and Jaylen Brown (28 points) combined for 59 points to help Boston force a Game 6. The Heat would shoot 3-for-18 (16.7%) from 3 in the second half, being out-scored 70-50 and out-rebounded 28-12 to alter the outcome of this game.

Miami had six different players score in double figures, led by Goran Dragic’s 23 points and Jimmy Butler‘s strong stat line of 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Celtics’ second half charge.

The Celtics have not let their foot off the gas. A pair of Jaylen Brown 3s highlight’s their hot start to the fourth quarter as they’ve built their lead up to 16 at 107-91. Brown now has 24 points shooting 10-for-19 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point land.

End of third quarter: Celtics 92, Heat 83

From down seven at the half to up nine heading into the fourth quarter, the Celtics have life. It was a complete team effort from Boston to win the third quarter 41-25, but Jayson Tatum’s 17 points in the frame kept the foot on the gas. If not for a 13-point quarter from Goran Dragic, the Heat could be in much more trouble.

It’s a 20-3 run for the Celtics! They have come out of the half on fire to take a 71-63 lead with a Jayson Tatum 3-pointer forcing the Heat to take a timeout.

We have a ballgame on our hands! The Celtics look much more engaged to start the second half, locking up defensively and getting to the 50-50 balls that went Miami’s way all first half. Just like that, it’s a tied game at 60 with Boston taking a 9-2 run to start the third quarter.

Halftime: Heat 58, Celtics 51

The Heat hold a seven-point lead heading into the half behind Duncan Robinson’s 17 points. Jimmy Butler has kept the wheels turning on both ends of the floor with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have 10 points apiece, while Enes Kanter gave the team a strong 10 minutes in the first half, tallying eight points, four rebounds and two assists.

Something worth noting: Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker each have three fouls here in the first half.

And Jayson Tatum gets his first 3-pointer of the game to fall! The Celtics still trail 52-47 with under two minutes to go in the half, struggling to come up with consecutive stops. Tatum now has 10 points in the first half.

Jaylen Brown is giving the Celtics a little bit of life. The star forward knocked down a 3, followed by an emphatic dunk to cut the deficit to seven at 44-37. He is the first Celtic in double figures with 10 points.

The Heat just want it more so far. Leading 40-28, Miami is playing hard on defence, getting to all the 50-50 balls and just out-hustling their opponent. Jimmy Butler is doing a little bit of everything with six points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal.

End of first quarter: Heat 26, Celtics 18

The Heat controlled the entire first quarter behind Duncan Robinson’s hot start. The sharpshooting forward already has 12 points through one frame, shooting 2-for-4 from 3-point range. The Celtics are struggling to get consistent looks on offence, shooting just 25.0% from both the field and beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum has been held to three points shooting 0-for-3 from the field.

The Heat extended that lead to 17-5, but the Celtics are charging back. An 8-0 run has Boston right back in it, trailing 17-13 with 3:10 to go in the first. They’re still shooting just 3-for-15 from the field and 3-for-10 from beyond the arc.

The Celtics are forced to take a timeout early in this one as the Heat jump out to an 11-5 lead in the first four minutes. Boston has made just one of their first nine field goal attempts with two turnovers – a less than ideal start for a team playing for their season.

Pregame

Same starting five for the Heat as well: Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Bam Adebayo.

The same starting five for the Celtics: Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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Shattenkirk scores in OT, Lightning one win away from Stanley Cup after downing Stars – TSN

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EDMONTON — The Tampa Bay Lightning moved to within one win of the Stanley Cup on Friday, beating Dallas 5-4 on an overtime power-play goal that left the Stars livid.

Kevin Shattenkirk fired the puck from the right face-off circle through traffic and past Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin at 6:34 of overtime.

Stars captain Jamie Benn was in the box for tripping after getting tangled up with Lightning forward Tyler Johnson at the Tampa blue line.

“I don’t have a ton of time for a (penalty call on a) play where Tyler Johnson steps in front of Jamie Benn that has no real effect on the play,” said Dallas forward Joe Pavelski.

“Jamie breathes on him and the guy falls over.

“(In the playoffs) it’s overtime, we expect five-on-five to battle it out.”

The Lightning have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NHL final series and could lift the cup for the second time in franchise history with a win in Game 5 Saturday night at Rogers Place.

Brayden Point, with two goals, Yanni Gourde, and Alex Killorn also scored for Tampa Bay. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots for his 17th win of the post-season against six losses.

Pavelski, with two goals, John Klingberg, and Corey Perry replied for Dallas. Khudobin made 30 saves. His playoff record falls to 13-9.

It was a back-and-forth game, with Tampa Bay rallying back twice from deficits and torching Dallas with three power-play goals.

“We stayed persistent,” said Killorn. “On a couple of (power plays), it seems like the first minute isn’t great, but the second unit comes on (and) they’re ready.

“All the goals are kind of I don’t want to say greasy, but we’re working for these goals. They’re not back-door passes or anything like that.”

Tampa had to kill a penalty of their own in overtime before Shattenkirk got the winner.

“I think it was just sticking with the process,” said Point. “We were working. We weren’t focused on the end result, just that next shift and it worked out for us tonight.”

Dallas coach Rick Bowness, looking to spark his team after a 5-2 loss in Game 3, broke up his top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, mixing and matching them in various combinations with Joel Kiviranta, Perry, and Pavelski among the top six.

The strategy worked early on.

Dallas had just three shots in the first period but scored twice. Klingberg scored first, then Benn dished to a streaking Pavelski in the slot, who zipped the puck blocker-side low on Vasilevskiy.

Point got his first goal in the dying seconds of the first period on a perfectly executed 200-foot breakout.

Shattenkirk, at his own end line, fired a bounce pass off the boards that Ondrej Palat corralled at centre and in turn relayed to Point in full flight, who deked out Khudobin on the backhand.

Point tied the game 2-2 early in the second period on the power play, standing beside the Dallas net and bunting a puck out of mid-air.

Dallas took a 3-2 lead midway through the second period when Vasilevskiy stopped a close-in shot from a streaking Seguin, but Perry sailed in to jam home the loose puck.

Tampa replied again on the power play with a minute to go in the frame. Gourde jumped on a rebound that came right to his stick in the slot.

Killorn and Pavelski swapped sharp-angle goals in the third.

Seguin said while it’s a short turnaround to Game 5, Dallas will be ready.

“I think we’ve got more,” he said. “I believe in this team, believe in the boys. We’ve got another level here.”

Point has 13 goals and 17 assists this post-season, but remains behind linemate Nikita Kucherov for the NHL playoff scoring lead. Kucherov logged two assists and has seven goals and 32 points.

Pavelski leads the Stars with 12 post-season goals.

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos did not dress for the game and is questionable for the rest of the series. Stamkos started Game 3 on Wednesday and scored on his first shot but sat on the bench for the last two periods.

He had been out since late February, recovering from core muscle surgery and a lower body injury. The NHL is not releasing injury information.

All games are being played in front of no spectators at Rogers Place, and players are isolating between contests to prevent contracting COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

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Atkins says Blue Jays’ organizational changes a result of pandemic hardship

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TORONTO – Ross Atkins says restructuring the Toronto Blue Jays’ five special assistant positions, including one held by Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, is a by-product of financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that all are welcome to remain at a lower pay rate.

Alomar, his father Sandy, fellow Hall of Famer Tim Raines, Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill were all impacted by wider organizational changes that hit Thursday hours before the club clinched a post-season berth.

All five performed a variety of tasks for the Blue Jays, from attending events in the community to helping groom young players in the farm system. Their full-time positions were eliminated and the club is said to have offered them part-time spots instead.

Where things stand with them wasn’t immediately clear, although Atkins called them “incredible,” and praised “the impact and influence they’ve had long before I was here on so many different players, and obviously on the fan base and just to this organization, what they’ve meant, I think the world of all of them.”

“Really, the way that we view it is they’re helping us transition through a pandemic and through a financial hardship and through a minor-league restructure,” he continued. “We would love to have them here, to continue to be here. They will be compensated very differently. They will always be welcome. And our hope is that we look up a year from now or maybe two years from now, and they’re back into similar, if not similar, even more significant roles with us.”

All five have been with the organization for years, with Alomar among the franchise’s most recognizable figures and Hentgen part of the organizational fibre. Other clubs in the past have asked about Hentgen’s availability but he was never interested, fully committing his heart to the Blue Jays.

“A thousand per cent,” said one scout from a rival club. “All the players love him.”

The changes didn’t stop at the special assistants. The Blue Jays are also parting with triple-A manager Ken Huckaby, pitching rehab co-ordinator David Aardsma, pitching rehab coach Darold Knowles, and perhaps others. More changes are expected, too.

“Going through a pandemic with what that has meant for the industry financially, what it’s meant for the Toronto Blue Jays financially, then having a minor-league restructuring process in the industry where we’re going to all but certainly be operating with two less teams, and a significantly less number of players, it would have been irresponsible us not to think about how we could operate more efficiently,” said Atkins. “Any business has had to do that, and it would be very difficult not to.

“At least in our view, felt like it was something we had to do. As it relates to Ken, and specifically as we thought about how we could be more efficient, we had to decrease the overall number of leaders in our organization.

“It was more just circumstance. He has certainly done great things for us and will continue to do great things in baseball. He’s had a significant impact here. I feel strongly about the person, the character, his contributions, just a very tough decision that we had to make.”

 

Atkins added that Huckaby’s replacement as manager of the triple-A Bisons “will definitely be an internal candidate.”

The reduction of two minor-league teams Atkins mentioned is part of a wider Major League Baseball plan to streamline the minor leagues, triggering significant tumult among owners of teams on the chopping block.

Last November, in a list published by Baseball America of 42 teams proposed for removal from the affiliated minor-leagues, the only Blue Jays affiliate mentioned was rookie-ball Bluefield.

Their other affiliates are: triple-A Buffalo, double-A New Hampshire, advanced-A Dunedin, low-A Lansing, short-season Vancouver, the rookie GCL Blue Jays, and Dominican Summer League Blue Jays.

The draft was reduced to only five rounds this year and industry speculation is that next year’s draft will be pushed back to July and perhaps reduced to 20 rounds from the usual 40.

Source:- Sportsnet.ca

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