It is an unusual Labour Day Monday in Canada. In place of big end-of-summer parties, the Canadian National Exhibition or CFL rivalry games, this year there is a Game 5 between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics – NBA teams that are locked in a captivating September playoff matchup.
Boston won the first pair of games, then Toronto stole the next two, completely transforming the vibe of the best-of-seven series.
Here are some questions to ponder about Game 5 in the Orlando bubble as the last summer weekend winds down.
Will the Raptors’ key players continue playing such heavy minutes?
Toronto coach Nick Nurse has relied almost exclusively on his top seven players in the past two games. In the first two outings, there were a few minutes for bench players such as Terence Davis and Chris Boucher, but in Games 3 and 4, Nurse called only on Matt Thomas outside his main seven. The Celtics, on the other hand, are using a nine-man rotation. Each Raptor starter is averaging more minutes a game than his Boston counterpart.
A few Raptors starters have played more than 40 of the game’s 48 minutes in each of the past three outings, including Lowry, who played nearly 47 on Thursday and almost 44 on Saturday.
“You’ve got to play this somewhat situationally and I just think that those guys that we didn’t sub much [Saturday] night, they were all playing very, very well,” Nurse said. “I thought there was an appropriate amount of breaks in the game. There seemed to be a lot of timeouts, there was reviews, there was challenges, there seemed to be some kind of built-in rest time.”
How are the Raptors handling this busy every-other-day-game schedule in the bubble?
The NBA defending champs, full of veterans, chose not to practise as a team on Sunday. About half of the players took some shots for a few minutes, Nurse said. Instead players focused on recovery, working with Toronto’s sports-science professionals, with ice baths, massages and physiotherapy.
While Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he goes for a walk around the NBA’s Disney campus every morning to clear his mind, Nurse said he has no set routine. Sometimes he goes for a bike ride or a jog on the property. “Kind of like our coverages, I like to mix it up a little bit, and just go with what I’m feeling on the day,” Nurse said.
Who will be the better three-point shooting team on Monday?
Through the first 10 quarters of this series, the Raptors made only 26 of 102 three-point attempts. That changed dramatically for Toronto, starting with the third quarter of Game 3. For the past six quarters, the Raps have made 26 of 62 shots from deep.
That’s important, because the team that has shot the most threes has won each game. The Celtics won the three-point battle 17-10 and 15-11 in Games 1 and 2; the Raptors won that category 13-9 and 17-7 in Games 3 and 4. Boston was a surprisingly bad 7-of-35 from deep on Saturday, including Jaylen Brown’s uncharacteristic 2-of-11 three-point performance.
Which Pascal Siakam can we expect Monday night?
The Raps star forward had a rough start to the series, struggling to score and getting in foul trouble. But then his scoring, decision making and rebounding improved. He was huge defensively on Saturday. But there was that ugly stat in his Game 4 box score: 2-of-13 from three-point range.
“I like the kind of look on his face when he made it or missed it or when he shot it. So I think there’s some continued growth there,” Nurse said. “I just want to keep giving him chances and then hope that he makes the right play, whether it’s a shot attempt or it’s an assist attempt.”
Is Marc Gasol shooting enough?
The Raps’ Spanish big man has taken just 25 shots through four games and made 12. His defensive presence is crucial, but could he score more instead of passing so often?
“Yeah, I think there’s probably a few more shots for him. But I do feel like he’s involved more, you know, so it’s not maybe a ton more at this point,” Nurse said. “It would be great if he can make a couple of those threes and continue to get some of these rolls and some of those mid-paint short rolls and stuff. But I think he’s got a nice combination, in the last six quarters of touches, where he’s passed it and taken attempts.”
Serena Williams pulls out of French Open with injury – Al Jazeera English
US tennis star’s bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title cut short in Paris with an injured Achilles’ heel.
US tennis star Serena Williams’s search for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will extend into another year after an Achilles tendon injury forced her to withdraw from the French Open on Wednesday.
The American, who turned 39 this week, had been due to play Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round in Paris later, but after warming up for the match decided the injury was too severe to continue.
Ninth-ranked Williams, a three-time former champion at Roland Garros, said she may not play again this year.
“I warmed up and it was a very short warm-up and then I spoke to my coach and said ‘what do you think?’” she said.
“I was struggling to walk so that’s a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”
Williams had suffered the problem during her semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at the US Open earlier this month and said ahead of her French Open campaign she was not at 100 percent physically but had recovered sufficiently to play.
The 23-time major champion hands Pironkova a walkover into the third round.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) September 30, 2020
This is Williams’s earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since a second-round loss in Paris in 2014.
Her last major title came at the 2017 Australian Open before going on to give birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia.
Since resuming her career in 2018 after a maternity break, Williams has remained tantalisingly close to equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, losing in four major finals.
“I love playing tennis. I love competing,” she said on Wednesday. “It’s my job and I’m pretty good at it still… I’m so close to some things and I feel like I’m almost there… that’s what keeps me going.
“My body is actually doing really well.”
The French Open, which is usually held in May in Paris, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament has been scaled back to allow just 1,000 daily spectators.
Eugenie Bouchard books spot in 3rd round at French Open – CBC.ca
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is heading to the third round of the French Open.
Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., beat Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday.
It will mark Bouchard’s first appearance in the third round of a Grand Slam since the world’s 168th-ranked player won two matches at the 2017 Australian Open.
A former world No. 5 after reaching the Wimbledon final in 2014, Bouchard’s ranking has tumbled in recent years. But she’s made some strides in recent months, reaching the final of an event in Istanbul before being awarded a wild-card into the French Open.
WATCH | Bouchard wins in 2nd round of French Open:
Bouchard will face world No. 54 Iga Swiatek of Poland in the third round.
Meanwhile, in women’s doubles first-round play, the fifth-seeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan and Arina Rodionova of Australia 7-5, 6-3.
Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., and partner Diane Parry of France lost 6-2, 6-4 to Nina Stojanovic of Serbia and Jill Teichmann of Switzerland.
Fernandez also has advanced to the second round in women’s singles, along with No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., on the men’s side.
U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is out of the French Open in the second round.
The 10th-seeded Azarenka lost to 161st-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-2.
Azarenka’s exit means all four women who reached the semifinals in New York earlier this month already are gone in Paris. Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open because of an injured Achilles tendon, Jennifer Brady lost in the first round at Roland Garros and U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka did not make the trip to France.
Schmiedlova had lost 13 consecutive Grand Slam matches in a streak dating to 2015 until beating Venus Williams in the first round this week.
Azarenka is a former No. 1 and a two-time champion at the Australian Open.
Defending champ Nadal advances
Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the third round by beating American player Mackenzie McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
The No. 2-seeded Spaniard is looking to win his record-extending 13th French Open title and equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 major titles overall.
WATCH | Nadal aiming for 13th French Open title:
Nadal improved his record at Roland Garros to 95-2 when he sealed victory on his first match point.
He next faces either Kei Nishikori of Japan or Stefano Travaglia of Italy.
Eugenie Bouchard advances at French Open after three-set win over Daria Gavrilova – TSN
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has advanced to the third round of the French Open after defeating Australian Daria Gavrilova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
The win moves Bouchard into the third round of Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open.
Bouchard, who defeated Anna Kalinskaya, entered the tournament ranked 168th in the world. In her most recent tournament appearance, she reached the finals in Istanbul, receiving a berth into the French Open a short time later. She was ranked 330th in the WTA in August.
The 26-year-old reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2014.
More details to follow.
Serena Williams pulls out of French Open with injury – Al Jazeera English
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