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VanVleet's return buoys ailing Raptors in tight win over Wizards – CBC.ca

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Fred VanVleet’s return to action was a welcome sight for the injury-challenged Toronto Raptors on Friday.

VanVleet returned from a five-game absence because of a knee injury to lead the defending champions to a 122-118 victory over the Washington Wizards despite Bradley Beal’s impressive 37 points for the visitors.

It wasn’t the most convincing victory for the Raptors, who have won four in a row.

They led by as many as 18 points and surrendered 66 second-half points thanks to eight three-point jumpers by the Wizards. But it was an essential win, considering they lost three key players to injury in Detroit on Wednesday. Leading scorer Pascal Siakam (stretched groin), Marc Gasol (left hamstring strain) and Norm Powell (partially separated left shoulder) each are listed as out.

WATCH | Raptors hang on to beat Wizards:

Fred VanVleet made a large impact in his return from injury, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in the Toronto Raptors 122-118 win over the Washington Wizards. 1:48

As a result, VanVleet felt the time was right for his return. He was rusty at time, but good enough for 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 33:38 on the court.

“It was very important,” he said. “I was turning the corner anyway. But to have what three of our top six guys, it’s not very fortunate for our ball club. I tried to get back out there and give our guys a better chance to win. I’d like to think I increased our chances of winning tonight regardless of how ugly it was.

“There’s no magic pill for those guys to get better. We want them to take their time. We have got to band together and do our best given the circumstance.”

WATCH | Lowry, Thomas debut in The Nutcracker:

Toronto Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Matt Thomas made their debut on centre stage as they appeared as Cannon Dolls in the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of The Nutcracker. 2:25

Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 26 points, and centre Serge Ibaka certainly stepped up in Gasol’s absence. He checked in with 23 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of monster blocks in the first half. OG Anunoby added 18.

“We came out, and the ball was going in,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were flying around pretty good. We had 25 deflections in the first half, which is a huge number.

“But in the second half, we never got into a rhythm at either end.”

Nurse decided to go with a small lineup in the absence of his key players. VanVleet started at point guard, and Patrick McCaw replaced Siakam.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Lowry said. “I think guys will continue to get comfortable every game. We have to continue to have guys step up.

“Having Freddy back definitely helped.”

The Raptors jumped out to an early 11-5 advantage, led 40-23 after the first quarter, and were up 68-52 at the half.

The Wizards closed to within 96-85 after three quarters and roared back to tie the game 107-107 with under five minutes to play after Beal, Admiral Schofield and Ish Smith each hit three-point jumpers.

But McCaw and Lowry hit late three-pointers to put Toronto ahead 116-110 and provide some breathing room.

McCaw had the difficult assignment of guarding Beal.

“I know Beal had 37, but Pat was making it tough on him in some stretches during that game,” Nurse said.

The Wizards lost for the ninth time in 11 outings. Smith finished with 26 points.

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Terence Davis was drawn to Raptors’ ‘winning’ culture as an undrafted rookie – Sportsnet.ca

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No matter the stature of a player trying to make the leap from college basketball to the NBA, the transition can be challenging.

Expectations, both internal and external, skyrocket. Margins for error shrink. Obligations and temptations alike multiply.

It’s the transition from high school to university, except there are millions of people watching and life-changing sums of money hanging in the balance.

Belief in who one is and what one can accomplish are essential. Terence Davis, who rejected the idea of signing a two-way deal after being passed over at the NBA draft — opting instead to become a 22-year-old unrestricted free agent — had enough of both to spare.

“On draft night, I tweeted that I couldn’t take a two-way deal — that I was better than that,” Davis said during a phone interview on Tim and Sid Thursday. “Probably some people took it as arrogant, but it wasn’t. It was just, you know, something I really believed in.”

With that level of self-belief comes decisions, though. When draft night ended, Davis had to begin the process of finding an NBA home. As he did, the Toronto Raptors‘ history of turning players in his position into NBA-calibre talent wasn’t lost on him.

“I actually came by the tweet where Fred [VanVleet talked about having] to do the same thing,” Davis said. “I did the same thing he did, stand in front of my family and tell them that I wasn’t getting drafted. …I definitely knew that guys would come through Toronto and have pretty big careers.”

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VanVleet and Davis went on to have a dinner in Los Angeles, which would act as a building block in their friendship before he came to Toronto. But more than just that connection, it was the type of organizational structure the Raptors have created over the last decade.

“The organization is one of a kind,” he said. “I’m so fortunate and blessed to have my first years in the NBA at this organization. …You got Masai [Ujiri, team president] and Nick Nurse [team head coach] and they’re all about winning. There’s a winning culture here, and the skill development is off the charts.”

Reaching a decision to join the Raptors was one step, but far from the last one. Davis signed a two-year deal with Toronto after an impressive showing at NBA Summer League. Then he turned heads with a series of strong pre-season performances and earned immediate regular season playing time in Nurse’s rotation.

By any measure, as the schedule reaches the home stretch before the playoffs, he’s exceeded expectations during his rookie season.

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In 58 games so far, he’s averaging 8.2 points on 47.4 per cent shooting from the floor — including 41.5 per cent from long range on a little under four attempts per game — and has consistently risen to the occasion when core rotation players have missed time with injury.

No one — much less someone just taking their first NBA steps — makes it by going it alone, though. And as Davis has worked through the growing pains of adjusting to NBA life, there’s one player in particular who’s been a guiding hand.

“Serge, Serge Ibaka,” Davis said. “I really leaned on him because he’s been in the league a very long time …man, he just helped me out through so many things in the season, [whether it was] eating right, or taking care of your body, putting the extra work in, the extra time in — even at home games, me and him, we go in and we get a lift in after home games.

“…not many rookies have a guy like that, a vet like that [who] they can lean on and is mentoring them. I really thank Serge for that and I hope the relationship can continue for years to come.”

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Bobby Ryan receives standing ovation after hat trick leads Senators to win – CBC.ca

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Bobby Ryan had a hat trick in his first home game in more than three months to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Ryan entered the joint NHL/NHLPA assistance program on Nov. 20 after admitting to having a problem with alcohol.

He had last played on Nov. 16 in Buffalo but had been skating on his own since late December.

Fans were quick to cheer Ryan on Thursday, giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name.

Connor Brown and Rudolfs Balcers also scored as Ottawa (22-31-12) snapped a four-game winless streak. Marcus Hogberg was solid making 32 saves.

J.T. Miller and Tyler Toffoli scored for the Canucks (34-23-6), while Thatcher Demko stopped 21 shots.

Vancouver missed out on an opportunity to gain ground in the Pacific Division as they played game two of a four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Leading 2-1 to open the third, the Senators regained their two-goal lead just 14 seconds in as Ottawa won the opening faceoff to take control offensively.

Balcers scored when he picked up a Chris Tierney rebound. Brown hit the 40-point mark (14 goals and 26 assists) for the first time in his career with an assist on the play.

The Canucks made it a one-goal game again as Toffoli tipped Miller’s point shot midway through the period, but Ryan scored his second of the night with just over two minutes remaining and then added an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick.

Hogberg was solid through the second period, but the Canucks finally found a way to beat him with 15 seconds remaining in the period to make it 2-1.

The Senators netminder had robbed Vancouver numerous times through the period, including a point blank save on Jay Beagle, but was unable to stop Miller’s point shot.

For the second straight game the Canucks gave up the first two goals as the Senators scored twice in a span of 31 seconds.

Brown opened the scoring as he took the puck at centre and came down and beat Demko with a wrist shot. Seconds later Ryan made it 2-0 with his first since the opening game of the season.

Notes: Ottawa’s Colin White and Anthony Duclair missed their second straight game due to injury. Vancouver’s Jordie Benn and Zack MacEwen were a healthy scratch.

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All-female crew to work NHL game between Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames – The Globe and Mail

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Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Leah Hextall will make up two-thirds of the all-female broadcast trio, along with reporter Christine Simpson, during the NHL game on March 8.

Leah Hextall

An all-female broadcast team will cover an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights on Sportsnet next week.

Play-by-play announcer Leah Hextall, game analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascall and reporter Christine Simpson will work the March 8 game in Calgary to cap the broadcaster’s week of programming recognizing International Women’s Day.

Sunday’s broadcast will be produced by a female production team live from Calgary, Toronto and Salmon Arm, B.C., including Rogers Hometown Hockey executive producer Alison Redmond, game producer Maria Skinner and director Dawn Landis.

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Sportsnet’s campaign will also include features on female sports trailblazers including tennis star Billie Jean King, Toronto Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Teresa Resch and former WTA head Stacey Allaster.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to inspire young women and put a spotlight on what is possible, while encouraging continued conversation and action to overcome gender-based barriers for women in the workplace,” Redmond said in a release. “I’m proud to work with highly talented women, whose skill, experience and perspective allow us to deliver sports programming at its best.”

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