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Why is Pat McCaw playing so much for the Raptors? – Raptors Republic



When two people see the same thing, they still don’t always agree when asked to recount what it was. That disparity in reality is a constant in our political world today, but it’s just as visible in sports. Pat McCaw is one such guy for the Toronto Raptors, such a lightning rod of disagreement that his talent is less in the eye of the beholder than the beholder himself.

When it comes to McCaw, there is a disconnect between the Raptors coaching staff on one hand and Toronto fans and media on the other. Nick Nurse has always displayed trust and belief in McCaw as a player, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. In only the second game back after a long injury, against the Brooklyn Nets on December 14, McCaw played 29 minutes, fifth-most on the team. He followed that up with 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fred VanVleet’s absence explains the high minute totals, but McCaw seems to be a fixture in the rotation.

Though he shot one-of-seven from the field against Brooklyn, missing all five triples he attempted, the Raptors won his minutes by 11 points despite only winning the game by eight. McCaw’s contributions were a popular topic among media and on Twitter, and Nurse summarized to the media after the game why McCaw played so many minutes.

I just liked Pat’s energy on defence,” said Nurse. “[Spencer] Dinwiddie and [Joe] Harris, give him a chance to guard one of those two, probably their biggest threats out there in the game, and he was doing a really good job of fitting in on the offensive end.”

Fitting in on the offensive end? That may seem generous from Nurse, but it’s been the company line for a long time. Almost since the Raptors acquired McCaw, Nurse has consistently emphasized his intelligence.

“[I] really like Pat as a player, he’s just such a high-level IQ guy,” said Nurse in October. “He’s always making the right play on defence, he brings a little bit of juice on offence because of his cutting and his passing on offence. And he’s really got great feet. He can chase people and get underneath them and slide his feet and put some heat on some people… He’s got a really unique basketball body, right? Really fast feet, slender but strong enough to break through some things. He gets around screens, misses screens and he’s right back in his guy’s chest. He’s good, I thought it was really good to have him out there. Again, I think the IQ level for him is super high.”

Despite the praise from Nurse, there are arguments to be made against McCaw. His offensive shot-making is questionable. Despite a relative explosion against the Cavaliers, finishing two-of-two from deep, McCaw remains an unwilling shooter. Over his career, he’s shot 72-of-295 from three, which is less than 25 percent. He can’t create his own shot. He has solid numbers finishing around the rim, but he takes so few shots there that it doesn’t overcome his lack of scoring from other areas. To McCaw, though, that doesn’t completely limit what he offers.

Once my shots start falling it’s gonna be scary, but being able to make plays, be a team player, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “My defensive awareness, what I bring on the defensive end, is what our team needs. The energy, the effort that I give, each and every possession.”

That shot-making that may or may not become scary is another area of disagreement. While critics can only point to his in-game woes, Nurse and McCaw have a wealth of other data to which they can refer. Famously, the team claimed that Siakam was a good shooter long before that actually manifested in games, and Toronto could make that claim because of the data available from shooting drills, practices, and other such areas of information. None of that is available to those outside the team. But Nurse claims McCaw’s numbers outside of games are promising.

“He’s really shooting the ball well,” said Nurse earlier this season. “He’s going to get some opportunities. We’re going to see that surface at some point here, I’m sure.”

Perhaps the Cleveland game was the start of McCaw’s shooting prowess starting to show itself in actual games.

McCaw’s defensive acumen is another point of disagreement. To critics, he’s actually not fantastic at getting around screens, often smacking into them when tasked with going over. He has effort and length, but too often his freelancing results in open opportunities for his offender. Some publicly available numbers would offer evidence to that point. The team has a defensive rating of 102.9 when he’s off the floor and 105.0 when he’s playing. For a defensive specialist, that’s not fantastic, but it’s not problematic. He’s a role player, probably eighth in the rotation when Toronto is fully healthy, so it’s totally understandable that Toronto would be similar defensively with him on or off the floor.

But when he plays, Toronto’s offensive rating plummets from 109.3 to 104.1, the second-biggest drop among rotation players. It is important to note that because of injury, McCaw has only played in five games, so one good or bad game would swing his on-offs dramatically. Still, according to the numbers, his inability to score in the half-court hamstrings the team, and his defense, though fine and occasionally great, doesn’t offer enough back the other way. Those same realities in the on-offs were true last year as well, when McCaw played a larger number of minutes.

Those numbers don’t seem to concern the Raptors.

Pat is special defensively, [at] play-making, [with] his size, the way he drives and gets to the paint,” explained Gasol after the Nets win. 

McCaw himself says he doesn’t pay attention to the numbers: “No, I really don’t [pay attention.] What I can control is the only thing I can control. So going out there and playing 100 percent on both ends. I’ll start making shots, but defensively going out there and giving it every possession is all I can really control as a player. That’s what my team looks for me to do, and that’s what I go out there and do every night.”

Perhaps McCaw’s minutes and his trust from the organization and his teammates derive from his structural role on the team. McCaw is a floor-raiser. His usage rate of 9.9 percent is the lowest on the team and ninth-lowest in the NBA among players who play 15 minutes or more per game. Fans and media members see a player who doesn’t do anything as a mark against McCaw, but perhaps the team sees his low propensity to finish a possession as a positive; McCaw’s low rate of using possessions gives more chances to the team’s stars in Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, or Fred VanVleet. That McCaw has the highest turnover ratio in the league, given the same 15 minute per game cut-off, at 21.9 percent, chips away that argument. If McCaw doesn’t hit triples, and often turns over the ball, then it’s much harder to justify a low usage rate as a positive. To that end, McCaw has the third-lowest plus-minus on the team, at minus-five. In comparison, the Raptors have outscored opponents by 155 on the season.

A variety of numbers condemn McCaw’s game, but he doesn’t pay attention to the numbers. “Not really. Just the game [itself]. The numbers are gonna come, especially if I’m playing hard, they’re gonna come.”

Even if the numbers don’t come, it appears McCaw has earned the trust of the Toronto coaching staff. Even a generous reading of his game would show that his defense is good, if not fantastic, but it doesn’t do nearly enough to offset his offensive difficulties. Somehow, that is not at all the reading of the coaching staff. There’s a wide disconnect. That’s often reality in the NBA when one group has far more data, insight, and knowledge than another. But it’s still strange in the case of the Raptors, where fans and pundits have learned over a decade to properly appreciate a unique future Hall of Famer in Kyle Lowry. We’ve learned to applaud Marc Gasol for his offensive contributions without spending too much time on his points per game. Why, then, is there such a disconnect when it comes to Pat McCaw? It’s hard to say, but it’s valuable for fans and especially media members to start trying to find answers.

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Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees –



The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.

Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.

“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”

Toronto (29-27) trimmed its magic number to one with the victory and can secure its first post-season spot since 2016 with a win in Thursday’s series finale.

Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.

The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.

With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.

Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.

Ray earns timely outs

Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.

New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.

“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”

Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.

The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.

“Today was a big game after yesterday,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what they’ve done all year — come back from top losses. It was great to see, facing another good pitcher like Tanaka, coming back tonight and scoring all those runs. A big win for us.”

New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.

Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.

Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.

Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.

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Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter



Yankees 1 Blue Jays 14

Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.

It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.

We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.

Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.

Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.

We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:

  • Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
  • Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
  • Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
  • Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
  • Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
  • Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Joe Panik only managed a walk.
  • Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).

Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).

No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.

Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.

We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.

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Lightning’s Stamkos secures place in Cup lore with Game 3 goal vs. Stars –



EDMONTON — Seven seconds.

That’s how much time the puck spent on Steven Stamkos’s stick blade on this night, and perhaps that’s all it will spend there throughout the entirety of this Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run.

That’s all the hard-luck captain needed to secure his place in Stanley Cup lore. Seven freaking seconds.

Somehow, after spending 60 days as a practice-only player inside the NHL bubble and going 210 days between games, Stamkos scored the biggest goal of a career overflowing with them.

He was in full stride down the right boards when Victor Hedman hit him in the neutral zone. He blew past Esa Lindell, who defended the play poorly and managed to settle a bouncing puck in time to tuck it up under the crossbar behind Anton Khudobin.

The Lightning bench exploded. Jon Cooper said the reaction was “just a little bit louder” than any of the others during a playoff run that has included five overtime goals. The coach saw it as a sign his team wouldn’t be denied, and they weren’t while grabbing a 2-1 series lead over the Dallas Stars with a 5-2 victory Wednesday.

“It was pretty damn cool,” said Cooper.

Stamkos called it a dream come true.

Forget the unfortunate timing of the injuries that have cost him big playoff games and a chance at playing for Team Canada at the Olympics in recent years. Just being trapped inside the bubble with no guarantee of playing would be agony for someone who has given as much to the Lightning as Stamkos.

And then to get in for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and only be able to play five shifts and score on one of them after not playing for seven months?

Hollywood might not accept that script.

“At this time of the year, you want to do anything you can to help your team win,” said Stamkos. “I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true and I’m so proud of these guys. And to be able to share that moment with them and just even be on the bench and watch how well we played tonight, I have told these guys before: It’s inspiring.

“It was great to be part of.”

Quickly, the backstory: Stamkos underwent core muscle surgery on March 2 and was supposed to be recovered in time for the second round of a normal playoffs. Then we had the COVID-19 pause, he had some kind of setback while preparing for the NHL’s return to play and the Lightning have gone on a run without him.

But he’s remained a large figure in the shadows.

You could see him dousing Brayden Point with water after he scored a quintuple overtime goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 and he was summoned to the ice to help the Lightning accept the Prince of Wales Trophy after they eliminated the New York Islanders.

Everything he had to endure in order to even play for two minutes 41 seconds of Wednesday’s game has happened behind the walls. And based on the fact he sat on the bench while not taking a shift for the final 46 minutes here suggests we might not see him in uniform again for the rest of this series.

So that goal? That was something.

“He’s worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he could play,” said Brayden Point. “Just seeing him day in and day out — the positivity that he brings, and the leadership that he brings. It’s nice to see him work that hard to get back into the lineup. And then to score one? It’s pretty inspirational for everyone.”

Added Victor Hedman: “This is how much he means to us as a teammate and as a leader and as a friend. We were just super happy for him.”

Stamkos played six games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Final and didn’t manage to score. In this situation, the Lightning put him on the fourth line alongside Cedric Paquette (zero goals this playoffs) and Pat Maroon (one goal this playoffs) and he produced one in limited minutes before his injury forced him to become a spectator.

What happens next will determine what this means historically.

But what it meant to Stamkos and the Lightning won’t change no matter what. He’s only going to get so many chances like this one.

“It was amazing to be a part of a huge win for us,” he said. “I was just really happy to obviously contribute in a game that I didn’t play too much.”

This was a kid who used to go to shooting school twice per week and fire 500 pucks per session. That’s a skill that endured the injuries, the layoff, everything.

It made this moment possible.

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