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Trent Jr. impresses in debut, but can’t solve Raptors’ biggest problem – Sportsnet.ca

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First impressions?

Gary Trent Jr. will have a better career with the Toronto Raptors than Gary Trent Sr., who back in 1998 — in one of those bizarre confluences of timing and numbers — was also traded from Portland to Toronto after 41 games of this third season with a career scoring average of about 10 points a game

But the elder Trent — a bruising post player who was perfectly built for rugged, no blood, no foul 1990s basketball — only lasted 13 games as a Raptor, although he went on to play 506 in the NBA over nine seasons.

Trent Jr. is equally suited for his era as a wing with some length whose specialty is stretching defences from deep and who is adept at switching to guard multiple positions on the perimeter. The Raptors are hoping to have him around for a while, given he’s only 22, and the team will be in a position to offer him a multi-year contract this coming summer.

He got the start against the Phoenix Suns, taking the departed Norman Powell’s place in the lineup alongside the Raptors’ other trade deadline ‘acquisition’ Kyle Lowry, who the Raptors didn’t trade.

That alone made Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s day on Thursday.

“I found out probably like most of you guys about three o’clock when the thing shut down that he was still gonna be a Raptor,” said Nurse about finding out he’d have Lowry to coach until at least the end of the season after it was widely assumed the pending free agent would be dealt for parts and picks. “Listen, I’m happy about it. I still think that we’re in a season that’s been tumultuous at best, but we’re not out of it or anything like that and we continue to prove we can play pretty good basketball. Just hope we can string, I’m not saying a whole bunch of wins together because I just wanna string good play together and that takes care of itself, and hopefully we can get out of seemingly there’s some little road bump or pitfall or something ahead all the time since we got here. Hopefully we can get through that and get a chance to do that.”

Next impressions? Trent Jr. alone won’t save Toronto — he looked emotionally spent after a long week where he was at the centre of the NBA rumour mill, as he finished with eight points in 31 minutes. And Rodney Hood won’t either, although he hardly looked out of place, but he can’t do much to solve Toronto’s season-long struggles against teams with quality big men.

The Raptors lost 104-100 and although they can be encouraged by a fourth-quarter defensive effort where they held the high-flying Suns to 7-of-22 shooting, they still dropped their ninth game in the past 10 to fall to 18-27 as they try to scramble from 11th place into a playoff position.

Known as a shooter, Trent finished 4-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-5 from deep, including a miss on a potential go-ahead three in transition with 59 seconds left. But the career 40 per cent three-point shooter encouragingly had some of his best moments on defence, including forcing a miss from Suns veteran star Chris Paul in a one-on-one situation in the paint a couple of possessions prior to that.

The Raptors got to within two points with 2:11 to play after trailing by nine with 3:50 to play with a quick 7-0 run, but Toronto stalled at that point, counting only a lay-up by Fred VanVleet.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists but Toronto shot just 41.1 per cent from the floor for the game. The Suns got 19 points and eight rebounds from Paul while big man DeAndre Ayton had 19 points and nine rebounds and helped Phoenix to a 58-32 edge in points in the paint as they shot 48 per cent from the floor and help a 9-7 edge in offensive rebounds.

Wearing the same No. 33 that his father wore as a Raptor, Trent Jr. didn’t take long to show that he should acclimatize quickly. On his first touch he ran a simple pick-and-roll that ended up in a wide-open three for Siakam that went down. His first basket as a Raptor wasn’t a three but an elbow jumper on the move. Defensively he was as advertised: engaged and alert, though limited in that his only exposure to the Raptors systems and terminology came in a pre-game walkthrough.

“He’s coming into his own, little bit different style than Norman,” said Nurse before the game. “Kinda the shooting’s similar, the three-point shooting’s kinda similar percentage wise. Doesn’t maybe go to the rim maybe as explosive as Norman does, but not many do. And then we’re just gonna have to see how he fits in with the rest of it.

“You guys know what’s important to me and what’s important to making our team good is can he guard, and will he guard, and can he understand the schemes, and will he be a good chemistry piece, which, you know, that’s what we’re gonna start to find out.”

Playing the first three years of his career alongside one of the most prolific backcourt combinations in the NBA in Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum was good preparation for stepping into the lineup alongside Lowry and VanVleet.

“Coming from a two-guard set I know where to find my spots to score, know my role and [about] playing that to the best of my ability,” said Trent Jr. “I’m coming here to gel with everybody, to try to help get on the winning track and win as many games as possible and be a great teammate.”

Unfortunately, there’s not much that Trent Jr. can do about the Raptors’ biggest weakness which is finishing defensive possessions with a rebound and, too often of late, simply playing good defence at all.

The Raptors trailed 53-51 at the half but it was almost an illusion. The Suns shot 56 per cent from the floor and 41 per cent from three in part because the Raptors were struggling to make shots. Their 18-of-46 shooting meant the Suns were going the other way against scrambled Raptors defenders trying to get back in transition — the Suns were five-of-five on the break. The Suns also feasted on the Raptors’ lack of size. Ayton was 5-of-6 from the floor, facing no threat as he rolled comfortably down the lane to the rim, a big reason why the Suns enjoyed a 26-10 edge on points in the paint in the early going.

Siakam gave the Suns some matchup issues as well as he attacked Ayton and scored 17 points in the first half, but otherwise the only thing going for the Raptors was that they weren’t fouling — the Suns didn’t shoot a free throw in the first two quarters while Toronto was eight-of-eight. Toronto also benefitted from 10 Phoenix turnovers.

The Suns pushed their lead to 14 early in the third quarter as they opened the second half on a 20-6 run where they seemed to be able to access the Raptors’ paint untouched and get to the rim even more easily. The Raptors finally stiffened that point as they responded with a 16-6 run of their own to pull within four before the Suns took an 83-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

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Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca

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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.

UP NEXT

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.

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Nine thoughts from the Toronto Raptors season opening loss to the Washington Wizards – NBA CA

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The Toronto Raptors couldn’t get over the line in their long-awaited return to Scotiabank Arena, going down to the Washington Wizards 98-83 in their season opener.

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!

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

9. What’s next for the Raptors?

The Raptors are back in action on Friday against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Boston is coming off a thrilling double-overtime loss to the New York Knicks in their season opener.

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

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Braves blast four HRs, beat Dodgers for 3-1 lead in NLCS – TSN

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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.

CONNECT FOUR

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.

TRAINER’S ROOM

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.

UP NEXT

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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