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.
Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
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.
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.
Nine thoughts from the Toronto Raptors season opening loss to the Washington Wizards – NBA CA
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!
Scottie got that ol’ school in the bag pic.twitter.com/jjq5n9p2N9
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
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.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
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.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
“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.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 20, 2021
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.
– Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 21, 2021
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.
Drake got Montrezl Harrell T’d up after they exchanged words 💀 pic.twitter.com/T7Xq40Ryxp
– Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 21, 2021
9. What’s next for the Raptors?
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Braves blast four HRs, beat Dodgers for 3-1 lead in NLCS – TSN
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.
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.
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.
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
Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
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