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Winning and Losing in Detroit – Raptors Republic

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The Raptors handled the Pistons, and in a way that put to rest a lot of complaints that have tossed at the feet of some of the Raptors. Kyle Lowry controlled all aspects of the game on his way to a triple-double. Serge Ibaka played as well as he did during last year’s immaculate playoff run. Pascal Siakam hit 6 (!) triples and played outstanding defense, and OG Anunoby stretched his legs offensively, seeing just how much room he gets to take up in the car that is the Raptors offense. All those things are gravy to Raptors fans, but in this game it was paired with injuries to two incumbent rotation members of the team: Norman Powell and Marc Gasol.

Gasol pulled up lame in the first quarter, and left the game with a left hamstring strain. Perhaps an indication of too much wear and tear? He’s played a lot of basketball in the last year, and maybe this injury will operate as forced rest. Powell, on the other hand was crunched in between a screen as Luke Kennard angled him into Blake Griffin, who lowered the boom. Powell’s shoulder took the brunt of the blow and he left the arena with his left arm in a sling. All around bad news.

It might’ve been too early to tell if Gasol was on his way to having a good game or not, as he battled with Andre Drummond to start things out with a modicum of success. The Raptors defense was wayward to start out, as the Pistons attacked off of some Raptors turnovers and worked to establish deep post position. It was clear from the beginning that the Pistons knew their guard-play wasn’t going to win this game for them, which was accurate.

Siakam and Anunoby did a good job of ice-ing Griffin’s early possessions on offense, switching freely on any action he was involved in above-the-break. Any time Griffin got into the post the Raptors usually opted to double him, with mixed rates of success. Griffin is a really good passer and was constantly making the right read out of the doubles, and creating good shots. Maybe not in the beginning of the game, but in the majority, the back end of the Raptors defense did a fantastic job of closing out on the Pistons shooters and funnelling them towards the help-defense.

Lowry acted as a vacuum with defensive rebounds and pushed the Raptors into transition and pseudo-transition as often as he could. He bumped as many guys as he could on his way down the court, waiting for his big man to pass him by and letting everyone fill the lane before he found someone sprinting to the rim or the corner. That’s why Siakam was able to evade the Griffin matchup that gave him so much trouble in years past; he shaped up off of Lowry’s penetration and nestled into the porous Pistons defense for open jumpers, finishing 6-11 from downtown.

The most interesting development of this game would have to be Anunoby’s freestyling on offense, though. He got a taste for the paint early on as he filled the lane and Lowry found him with regularity, but Anunoby has clearly been working on his dribble package and he whipped it out more than once against the Pistons. I’m not sure what Anunoby’s career high is for baskets that started with his dribble outside the 3-point line, but last night sure seemed like this was it. He was on balance when he rocked the ball back and forth, ready to attack either foot of the defender, and he dipped his shoulder after he got his first step past them and burst to the rim. Super fun development from Ogugua.

And the story of the second half, which was Ibaka. Putting up a massive 17 & 11 in the second half alone, out-duelling his matchup, Drummond who’s certain to make an All-Star team and remains one of the hardest big men to deal with league wide. It’s impressive that Ibaka was able to do that, because despite being cast as a Center in the NBA these days, he did come in as a power forward and he’s still not big compared to some of the giants in the NBA, which Drummond qualifies as. Ibaka went in against a bigger player who’s known for his motor, and outworked him. Salvaging the early part of the third quarter for the Raptors, and providing a steady hand offensively and defensively as they closed the Pistons out.

So many things went right for the Raptors in this game, and that’s what makes it so disappointing that it came with such a heavy cost, in the injuries to Gasol and Powell. But, the Raptors remain one of the NBA’s most resilient teams and they’ve handled this type of storm before. You’ll hear plenty of players cite the “next man up” maxim when asked about the state of their roster, and this is a team that backs up that ethic. They mean it when they say “next man up” because they have so much faith in the development of the end of bench guys and the incumbents.

Regardless of anything else, the Raptors move to 19-8 on the season and move forward to hosting the Wizards on the 20th.

Just as a heads up, I’ll be on a flight during the game and Zarar will also be busy, so there likely won’t be a reaction podcast for the Wizards game. It’s very likely that, that will be the only missed podcast this season. Sorry, and thanks for understanding.

Have a blessed day.




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Manfred wants expanded playoffs format to continue, but with adjustments – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Rob Manfred wants expanded playoffs to continue beyond this year with fewer than 16 teams and better rewards for division winners, a shift from the format the Toronto Blue Jays capitalized on to return to the post-season.

The current system was agreed to by Major League Baseball and the players association hours before opening day on July 23 and applies to the 2020 season only. In an interview with sportsnet.ca on Friday, the commissioner said he’s in favour of proceeding with more than the 10 teams that have reached the post-season since 2012, but with a tougher barrier-to-entry.

“I think the 16-team format was a good format for the 60-game unique season we’ve been playing in 2020. The principle reason for that is in a shortened season, it seemed like giving more teams access to the post-season was the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, No. 1,” he said. “No. 2, I do think the way things played out this year, the 16-team format has created a lot of excitement right up through the last weekend. Our biggest problem right now is that we don’t know where the heck people are going and can’t plan as far in advance as people might like. I do think it’s been really exciting for the fans.

“The third thing I would say,” Manfred added, “over the long haul, if we continue with the expanded playoffs, I think it would be fewer teams — not 16 — and I think there could be structures that are built in that preserve the incentive, for example, to win the division, preserve the incentive to play hard all the way through the 162-game season, so that the additional teams in the playoffs do not detract from the regular season. The regular season is a really important product for us and believe me, believe me, whatever we do more permanently, we will protect the value of that regular-season product.”

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Alterations to the playoff format in 2021, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement, would require union approval.

The only advantage for division winners this year under the 16-team format is that they, along with the top second-place finisher, host all the games in the best-of-three wild-card round. Advancing clubs will then gather in bubbles in California and Texas for the division, league championship and World Series.

The Blue Jays, who clinched a post-season berth Thursday, are likely to enter the playoffs as the eighth seed — although they can still surpass the New York Yankees as the second-place finisher in the American League East.

Manfred said he’s “thrilled at the rebuild Toronto has gone through and the success they enjoyed this year,” coming after the club was denied permission to host its regular-season home games by the Canadian government, and had subsequent plans to tenant in Pittsburgh and Baltimore shot down by state governments.

That led the Blue Jays to settle on Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, a plan that initially worried Manfred but ultimately exceeded his expectations.

“My concern when the decision was finally made about Buffalo was, No. 1, timing. It wasn’t just where they were going, they didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to get organized. No. 2, look, no rap on minor-league facilities in general or Buffalo in particular, our major-league facilities are really, really nice and players are used to a certain level of facility to go to work in.

“I was really concerned about our ability to deliver that,” said Manfred. “On both of those topics, the Toronto Blue Jays management team, Mark (Shapiro), Marnie Starkman, what they accomplished – and I did go to Buffalo, I saw it myself – is unbelievable, literally unbelievable.

“Not only was it playable, and serviceable, but the work they did actually created that feeling of this is the Blue Jays’ home, which I think is really important to the psyche of the team and the ability of the team to perform, and an unbelievable accomplishment given the tight timeframe.”

Livestream Toronto Blue Jays games all season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, watch marquee MLB matchups, the post-season and World Series.

Whether the Blue Jays will be allowed to return home next season is far from certain and Manfred doesn’t know whether baseball’s rebound from early-season outbreaks among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals is enough to change the Canadian government’s outlook.

“The one thing I can say is that we will do everything humanly possible to convince the government that the Blue Jays should play in Toronto next year,” added Manfred, who also answered questions about how adapted protocols helped save the season, considerations for next year, the future of expanded rosters and whether the pandemic has impacted the Tampa Bay Rays’ dual city plan with Montreal.

Sportsnet: After the outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals, which of the mid-stream changes you implemented do you feel helped turned the tide and allowed you to reach this point?

Rob Manfred: I would point to two things. First, after the, and as a result of, particularly the Cardinals situation, we realized that the key consideration was not when could you play again, but instead, what do we have to do to make sure the virus doesn’t spread among the team. You saw a change in approach after the Cardinals where immediately when we found a positive, we shut everybody down and just waited it out until we were sure we didn’t have spread. That was really important.

The second thing is kind of nature. Throughout the year we asked a lot of the players, we asked them to change the way they play the game on the field, we asked them to change the way they lived their private lives, to tell you the truth. The two early incidents just drove home to everybody involved, us, our managers/coaches, front office personnel and the players, that attention to detail, the masks, the distancing is just absolutely crucial.

SN: Hopefully the world is a safer place next year as it relates to COVID-19, but if things level off where we’re at right now, could the protocols currently in place be employed over a 162-game season?

Manfred: That’s too much of a crystal ball for me. Obviously the longer you go, the tougher it is to maintain the (current) model, the more likely it is you’re going to have lapses. All I can say to you about that is what happens next year is going to be dictated by the course of the virus.

SN: The Blue Jays, among others, really leveraged expanded rosters this year. Given all the injuries experienced this year, the shortened body of work for pitchers, and interrupted player-development supply, can a season be safely conducted with only 26 on the roster next year?

Manfred: I think it’s realistic that at some point next year, we could get back to 26. What I would say to you is I suspect, depending on the course of the virus, that there would be a number of operational issues that we’ll have to work through with the MLBPA.

Even if we have a vaccine and everything is good on the health front, there are going to be some results from 2020 that are going to require us to have those kinds of conversations and to continue to show some type of creativity and flexibility to put a quality product out there.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

SN: What’s your sense at this point of what the minor-leagues are going to look like in 2021 between the expected cutting of teams and the need to restart some wider scale player development?

Manfred: Too early to tell on that one. The only thing I can say on that is we recognize that player development is the long-term lifeblood of the industry and whatever form it takes, there probably will be more activity next year than there was this.

SN: For baseball fans in Montreal, how has the pandemic impacted the Rays’ dual-city plan and MLB’s outlook for potential expansion?

Manfred: The Rays process, probably not significantly affected given the timing of that process. With respect to expansion, it’s hard not to admit that, to the extent that there was a certain timeline where expansion was going to be considered, I would say that the pandemic has probably pushed that timeline back.

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Lakers' Davis questionable for Game 5 – TSN

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar centre Anthony Davis is questionable for Saturday’s Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets after suffering a sprained left ankle late in LA’s Game 4 win Thursday night.

Backup shooting guard Dion Waiters is also questionable with a sore left groin while Alex Caruso (sore right wrist), Danny Green (Volar plate injury, left ring finger) and LeBron James (sore right groin) are probable.

The 27-year-old Davis has been one of the Lakers best performers in the postseason bubble, averaging 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 14 games, including hitting a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers can advance to the NBA Finals with a win on Saturday.

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'EXPERTISE AND CHARACTER': Maple Leafs add veteran Paul MacLean to coaching staff – Toronto Sun

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Article content continued

“Over nearly two decades as an NHL coach, Paul has filled every role on a staff,” Keefe said in a club statement. “Adding someone of Paul’s expertise and character to advise and assist our staff is something that we felt was very important as we seek to make tangible steps next season.”

Before Columbus, MacLean led the Sens to a record of 114-90-35 and a pair of playoff appearances. He also served two stints as assistant for the Anaheim Ducks, ‘02 to 04 and ‘15-17, between his days in Detroit (‘05-11). His Cup victory came on ex-Leaf Mike Babcock’s staff, having also appeared in the ‘03 and ‘09 finals under the same coach.

Born in Grostenquin, France while his father served on a Royal Canadian Air Force base, MacLean was raised in Antigonish, N.S. He was on Team Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and as a mid-round pick of the St. Louis Blues out of the QMJHL, scored 36 goals as a rookie after a trade to Winnipeg. In all, he appeared in 719 career games for the Blues, Jets and Detroit, recording 324 goals and 349 assists.

He transitioned to coaching with various minor leagues in the 1990s, until joining Babcock’s first NHL staff in Anaheim. A strong start in Ottawa made MacLean a finalist for the Jack Adams in 2012, won by Ken Hitchcock, followed by beating out Bruce Boudreau and Joel Quenneville for the award in ‘13. Only MacLean, Jacques Martin, Alain Vigneault and Bob Hartley have won the Adams for Canadian teams the past 25 years.

It was also announced Friday that the Arizona Coyotes have hired away amateur scout and player development employee Brian Daccord from the Leafs to be special assistant to new general manager Bill Armstrong.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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