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Toronto Raptors vs New York Knicks recap

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The Toronto Raptors have developed a reputation for taking care of business. They have only lost to a sub-.500 team twice this whole season. If their game against the New York Knicks was taking care of business, however, the Raptors did so by showing up late, taking an hour and a half lunch break, falling asleep at the desk once or twice, then cobbling together just enough work in the eleventh hour to call it a productive day, pulling away late to win 118-112.

The two teams entered this game trending in two very different directions. The Raptors were in the midst of a five-game win streak, hoping to tack on a sixth in a row, while the Knicks have only won one of their last five. To make things even more difficult on the Knicks, their top rookie, RJ Barrett is out with an ankle injury for time being. On the other side, the Raptors have a few games under their belt with a fully healthy roster and are clearly gaining steam.

Barrett, the third overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft, has had an up-and-down rookie year, but has flashed enough potential to give a success-starved fan base in New York hope for the future. He is one of the few Knicks on the roster that appear to factor into their long term plans. His absence, however, is not just a disappointment for Raptors fans. Barrett is from Toronto, and one of the talented young Canadians that Torontonians are no doubt keeping their eye on.

Give the Knicks credit, as they refused to roll over as the Raptors got out to multiple double-digit leads, but this is a game that Toronto should have put to bed far earlier. The Knicks worked the Raptors on the glass, out-rebounding the Raptors 14-5 on offensive boards and 46-31 overall. Leading the Knicks on the glass and on offense were their two big, tough forwards Julius Randle and Marcus Morris, who both had close to 20-and-10 with points and rebounds, with Randle adding one more rebound and Morris one more point.

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As usual, the Raptors benefited from the steady play and leadership of Kyle Lowry, who led the team with 26 points and stellar night from the free throw line, going 13-for-14. Pascal Siakam, in his first game since being named an All-Star Game starter, had his best game since returning from injury, scoring 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and going 2-for-5 from three.

The Raptors got out to a sluggish start, lacking connectivity on offense and allowing the Knicks to crash the offensive glass. Toronto simply did not look mentally prepared in a physical first quarter, and allowed the Knicks to get out to a lead as big as 13 in the frame. As is customary for the Raptors, an injection of energy was provided by a Lowry-and-bench unit towards the end of the first.

Eventually shifting to a VanVleet-and-bench unit, this group closed the gap slowly but surely, although some hot shooting from Damyean Dotson temporarily kept the Raptors at bay. Dotson finished the half with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Serge Ibaka responded with an offensive flourish of his own, hitting two threes in as many attempts en route to 10 first half points.

To further reclaim the game, the Raptors went to the zone defense midway through the second quarter. If momentum is a game of tug-of-war, the zone defense has often been the equivalent of tying the end of the rope to a Clydesdale and sending it in the Raptors’ direction. It was effective once again, and a Lowry three-pointer punctuated a 13-0 run for the Raptors that saw them take a 43-40 lead. By halftime, they had maintained this pace for a 56-53 lead.

The Raptors came out in the third appearing ready to run away with the game. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet hit consecutive threes, and then Pascal Siakam had a five point run of his own. The Raptors’ lead grew to twelve at 67-55, but the Knicks refused to let the them start coasting and went on a run of their own to get it as close as 70-69.

Norman Powell, however, does not mess around in the second half. Showing a penchant for late-game scoring on his hot streak, Powell carried this trend into tonight’s game. He hit a couple threes, got to the rim, and threaded the needle on a nice pass to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to help get the Raptors lead to a more comfortable margin in his time on the floor.

Once again, the Knicks would not go away, tying the game at 103 late in the fourth. Moments later, however, Siakam reminded everyone why he is an All-Star starter. He got to the line, and hit both free throws, then he blew by Marcus Morris Sr. for an authoritative dunk. Following that, after a couple of Kyle Lowry free throws, Siakam came down and hit a pull-up three to make the game 115-109 with 22 seconds left, essentially ending the game.

So, it was far from pretty, but the Raptors extended the win streak to six, and escaped a lively performance by the Knicks. It is good to get one in the win column, but the Raptors will have to show up mentally for their next game, as they travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs.

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The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays? – Jays Journal

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With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.

The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.

The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

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Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.

Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings – Sportsnet.ca

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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