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Clock-blocked: Raptors Lose Another to Kings in Game Decided by Buzzer



SACRAMENTO — Well, that’s a new way to lose one.

Just when it looked like the Raptors snakebite history in this California capital might be turning, replay officials back in Secaucus, N.J. overturned what looked like a game-tying three at the buzzer off the hands of Terrence Ross which would have forced overtime.

It wound up gifting the Sacramento Kings a 102-99 win.

Game officials went to the monitors as soon as Ross’ shot found the bottom of the net and then to the phones with the officials back in the replay centre as the two teams started preparing for overtime.

Replays on the arena Video board showed Ross clearly getting the shot off with .5 seconds left, but the longer that conversation between lead game official Mike Callahan and the replay officials lasted, the more curious it got.

When Callahan eventually put the phone down after the lengthy conversation and waved the basket off, an incredulous Dwane Casey made a beeline for Callahan demanding an explanation.

“His explanation was that it was a clock malfunction,” Casey said. “I’ve been coaching 30-some years, 37 years, college and pros, if it’s in dispute let’s play five more.”

When DeMarre Carroll inbounded the ball, the ruling was the clock did not start when it deflected off DeMarcus Cousins’ hand as it should have. But even if that’s the case, there is still the matter of the .5 seconds left on the clock when Ross let the shot go.

Regardless it was one unhappy group of Raptors that were making their way to Los Angeles late last night.

Via a pool reporter, crew chief Callahan said the replay revealed there was 2.5 seconds from the time Cousins tipped the ball to when Ross made the shot. There was 2.4 seconds left on the clock when the play began but the arena clock was not started when Cousins tipped it.


Even when Callahan walked away from Casey after the game, the Raptors’ coach wasn’t satisfied with the explanation and went looking for more from the other two officials on the floor. When they turned their backs on him and left the court, Casey slammed the clipboard onto the hardwood and stormed off himself.

After watching replays back in his coach’s office and then meeting with the media 10 minutes after that, he was still looking for answers.

“I’ve got to hear another explanation better than that because we reviewed it about 10 times in there and even if the clock started once DeMarcus Cousins deflected it, Terrence Ross caught it, shot it with point-whatever it was, with plenty of time,” Casey said. “I don’t know where the malfunction came, I’ve got to hear more than that because I just watched the same review that they had.”

Casey was asked point blank if he felt he had one stolen from him.

“You make your bed but hopefully you have a rightful ending, the way you earned it,” Casey said. “The guys executed the end-of-game play to perfection, guy made a shot, you would think that would count.”

It was unclear at press time exactly what the Raptors appeal to the league would be, but you can be pretty certain the organization is going to want some sort of official explanation.

In the locker room the Raptors were in no mood to discuss the game-altering call that went against them.

Kyle Lowry responded “No comment” to the first two questions asked of him. When a third one was asked he informed the surrounding media that he was going to save his money and again responded “No comment.”

DeMar DeRozan just waved off a request to talk.

The loss was No. 17 in 20 games played here in Sacramento but the first at the new Golden 1 Center arena that the Kings opened this year.

For at least the past five years the Raptors have come into this city with the better team on paper yet can’t seem to find the solution to the Kings.

For the second time this season it was former Raptor Rudy Gay leading the charge against his one-time teammates with 23 points on a very efficient 9-for13 shooting night.

Cousins got into some early foul trouble but he too chipped in with 19 points and 10 boards.

The Kings also got double-digit scoring contributions from Darren Collison and Aaron Afflalo.

There really is no explaining Sacramento’s dominance over Toronto when they play at home.

Home court does not explain a 3-17 record, but that is what the Raptors have here in a market where the team hasn’t been competitive for more than a dozen years.

Toronto didn’t help themselves on this particular occasion turning the ball over nine times in the second half alone leading to 14 points.

Casey freely admitted this was not the perfect game by his charges, but he remained adamant that they had at least earned the chance of five more minutes with the Ross basket that was eventually ruled no good.

Still the Raptors had a handful of chances to either win this one or force overtime but couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch.

Somewhat hamstrung for the final push was Kyle Lowry who wound up picking up his fifth foul with eight minutes to go in the third taking a key cog out of the Raptors lineup for some crucial minutes as the two teams jockeyed back and forth.

Lowry returned for the final five minutes with those five fouls and was on the court for the Ross make that wasn’t.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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