One of the most one-sided quarters in franchise history propelled the Raptors to a laughably easy 116-101 win over the woeful New York Knicks in a rare Sunday matinee at the ACC.
The Raptors opened the third quarter on a 23-2 run against a Knicks team missing star big man Kristaps Porzingis. Most of the other Knicks declined to show up either, embarrassing themselves by offering no resistance and showing no ability to put the ball in the hole. Only a late flurry got the Knicks up to eight points — tying the fewest an opponent has ever scored in the third against Toronto. The Raptors outscored the Knicks 42-28 in the second, then 27-8 in the third, stretching the lead to as many as 38 points.
It left Dwane Casey marvelling at his offensive machine, one that has sat in the top two in efficiency for nearly the entire season.
“We’ve got an attacker in Kyle Lowry who can also shoot the three, and that’s not even including when we get Patrick (Patterson, who missed another game due to injury) out there and (Jared Sullinger) when he comes in at the four,” Casey said.
“We’ve got a dynamic centre in the low post that can score in the low post, offensive boards. A willing passer with Lucas (Nogueira). We’ve got some good pieces that fit, they know where each other are, the continuity from over the years, the playing with each other, knowing each other, all that stuff adds together. And they’re playing with a tremendous amount of confidence on the offensive end.”
The Knicks had no answers. New York has run through 10 head coaches (including ex-Raptor Herb Williams twice) since Jeff Van Gundy left in 2001 and it looked for much of this dog’s breakfast that the team was trying to usher out current bench boss Jeff Hornacek.
The Knicks couldn’t blame the early start, because it was a close game through 11/2 quarters. From there, Hornacek tried everything to right the sinking ship, from quick timeouts, to going deep into his bench. Nothing worked against a Raptors squad that continues to dominate Eastern Conference opponents. The Raptors improved to 16-5 against the East — including 8-0 within the Atlantic Division.
“I don’t know if it’s giving up, you can ask (the players) that,” Hornacek said afterward. “The last group came in and played hard and that’s what we need.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points, Lowry added 16 and nine assists in just 28 minutes and Norm Powell added 21 in 23 strong minutes, Terrence Ross 12.
The game tipped at 3 ET, because the Knicks play a Monday matinee for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but Casey was glad his team didn’t use it as an excuse.
DeRozan started with five straight misses, but was otherwise fine. Lowry and Ross (breaking out of a 5-for-29 outside shooting slump with four triples) joined him and Jonas Valanciunas dominated on the boards from the outset. Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose started strongly for the Knicks, but faded as the dreadful visitors lost for the 10th time in the past 12 games. Valanciunas had 16 rebounds and the Raptors outscored the Knicks 66-30 in the paint.
That young, final group of Knicks Hornacek referred to — noticeably missing the veteran big names — began the fourth on a big run to cut the nearly 40-point deficit way down and make the final score appear a lot closer than this one actually was. Still, The chasm was way too large to cross and the Raptors didn’t even need to bother reinserting most of the starters, concluding this four-game homestand with three victories following last Sunday’s loss against Houston.
“It’s definitely great,” DeRozan said of being able to get some rest. “When you count as many games in the fourth quarter that I’ve sat out, I think it’s beneficial for guys to get rest and (others to get) reps. The younger guys are gonna play a little bit, so it’s definitely good.
“We’re not putting ourselves in predicaments where we’ve got to fight extremely hard just to get back in the game, with a run late like we did last year. We’re taking advantage of the third and fourth quarters to come out even more aggressive, and it’s paying off.”
The team now heads to the road for a Brooklyn-Philadelphia back-to-back starting on Tuesday night, followed by a game Friday in always tough Charlotte.
FANTASTIC FOUR FOR LOWRY
Early in the second quarter of what was then still a close game on Sunday, Kyle Lowry rose up and drilled a three-pointer while being fouled by New York Knicks forward Willy Hernangomez.
It was the sixth time this season that Lowry has nailed a three while being fouled, which leads the NBA. Lowry has converted the free throw on five of those occasions for a rare four-point play. Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young is the only other player to do it more than twice so far this season (Young has done it four times).
“He YouTubes a lot of Jamal Crawford highlights,” DeMar DeRozan explained of why this is happening.
“He’s right. Can’t argue with the man,” chimed in Lowry from his locker right next to DeRozan’s.
“I think I just stole Jamal Crawford’s idea. … I’m trying to beat him this year,” Lowry continued.
Lowry entered the game third in the NBA in three-point accuracy, before nailing 2-of-5, including the memorable one against Hernangomez.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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