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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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The absurdity of medal ceremony mask-wearing at the Tokyo Olympics – Yahoo Canada Sports

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TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee on Sunday reminded athletes to keep wearing masks, especially at the one time when mask-wearing is completely unnecessary.

Dozens of athletes have now stepped up onto podiums here at the Olympics. They’ve draped medals around their necks, and listened to national anthems, with nobody within six feet of them. And in perhaps the proudest moment of their lives, with emotions washing over their faces, their families, forced to watch from home, haven’t been able to see those faces, because they’re covered by masks.

And when pictures circulated of a few swimmers posing on podiums with masks off?

A reporter asked IOC spokesman Mark Adams whether there’d been a relaxation of COVID-19 rules that require mask-wearing during medal ceremonies. “There is no relaxation,” Adams responded. “We would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”

But at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Sunday, Olympic officials made a mockery of those rules. A non-story became a story because pictures circulated of swimmers arm in arm with masks off. But multiple athletes said after their competitions that they’d been directed to remove their masks for photos.

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium ... at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium … at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

“Someone in the front was holding a sign that said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” said gold medal-winning American swimmer Chase Kalisz. “So, um, I can’t speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign that said ‘mask off’ and ‘mask on.’”

Hours later, silver medal-winning Canadian diver Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu confirmed: “At one point they said to take off masks for a picture.”

And then, after the medal ceremonies, swimmers and divers alike paraded around the pool deck, stopping for more pictures, arm in arm with their fellow medalists, masks sometimes on, sometimes off. They hugged coaches. One German diver put her mask on the ground, then in a pocket.

There are all sorts of protocol violations here. On the first night of competition, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe took her mask off for an interview with a dozen reporters in the post-match mixed zone. On Sunday, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui lined up for an impromptu video interview against a wall outside the Aquatics Center after his improbable gold medal. Reporters surround him. A Tunisian Olympic committee official literally pulled Hafnaoui’s mask off, so cameras could see his beautiful face.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold … without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Protocols are enforced inconsistently. And yet, at the most prominent moment of virtually zero danger, with swimmers who’ll soon hug maskless separated by several feet, and with nobody in their immediate line of breath, the IOC and Tokyo organizers have decided that they must wear masks. At most of more than a dozen medal ceremonies tracked by Yahoo Sports thus far, including those in archery, judo, taekwondo and fencing, athletes have been masked up.

There is an argument that doing so models proper behavior, and perhaps that’s what Adams, the IOC spokesman, meant when he said that mask-wearing “sends a strong message.” But there is an obvious counterargument, that behavior modeling must be reasonable, or else the world will see it for what it is: all for show. Hygiene theater is prevalent at these Olympics. Medal ceremony mask-wearing is just another version.

Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer contributed reporting.

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Vancouver Canucks place Jake Virtanen on waivers for purpose of buying out contract – ESPN

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The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers Sunday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed the decision in an announcement on the team’s official Twitter account.

Virtanen was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier. The organization said at the time that it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”

The suit, filed in British Columbia, alleges Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.

The Canucks said at the time they had “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. The NHL said then it would not comment until the investigation was complete.

The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.

Virtanen, 24, had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN

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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.

Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.

Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.

The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.

“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.

“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”

Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.

“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.

“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”

The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.

But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.

“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.

“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.

“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.

Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.

“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”

Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.

“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.

“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”

Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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