Raptors boss thinking bigger with new season on horizon: Arthur | Toronto Star
“We consistently are in that top three in the east,” says Ujiri. “You stay there and you give yourself that shot of luck that maybe one day could strike. And that’s how we’re going to get to know our team, by these young guys playing. And there’s times where it’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be tough. I’m going to warn people, it’s going to be tough sometimes.

“But this is not for only this year. This is knowing our team. This is for three to five years from now. Are these guys good enough? Is it something where maybe our rebuild will come sooner? Or can we continue to build off of our guys? That’s where we think we are.”

There are two tracks here, of course, as there always are. Whatever kids develop help this team now, and they become assets. The Raptors have found comfortable upper middle-class success, but the real big boys are in a different league.

And if you are not relying on the draft, a huge part of any team’s championship chase is figuring out two things. One, which are the next superstar-or-near-enough players to shake out and become available? Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, whoever Golden State has to shed for money reasons. And two, can you position yourself as an acceptable superstar destination? You often need an attractive city, a franchise stars can trust.

Ujiri, of course, treats those names in public like they were an electrified fence. The league just fined the Lakers for tampering, even though tampering is half of how the league works, and often how contenders get made. Ujiri believes the Raptors infrastructure — city, fans, organization — is strong. He’s not wrong.
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yesterday
Raptors seek culture tweak when camp opens | Toronto Star
Casey’s biggest challenge will be trying to figure out how to use a roster that has a huge disparity in experience between the first and second units. While the presumptive starters have been around a while — Lowry and Miles are entering their 13th NBA seasons, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka their ninth, Valanciunas his sixth — the backups have not.

Wright and Powell are going into their third seasons, Poeltl and Siakam their second and Bruno Caboclo may as well be an NBA rookie. Melding them into a group that can be counted on consistently will be a major training camp task.

That “culture reset” — changing attitudes as much as playing style — is what Ujiri called for and needs to see now that he’s got the team he wants, with the pieces he thinks can be successful together for the most important time of the season.

It’s more than taking a ton of three-pointers, although that should improve with the addition of Miles. It’s more than finding tweaks to a defensive system that was ranked in the top third of the NBA last season. It’s more than ball movement on offence to better mirror that league-wide style of play in vogue right now.

“We are going to try to, a little bit,” Ujiri said of a style change. “I am not asking for a dramatic change. If that is what anybody is looking for, well, maybe this isn’t the team to watch for that.”
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yesterday
Top 5 questions heading into Raptors camp | Raptors | Sports | Toronto Sun
It will be veteran sharpshooter Miles, one of the best three-point gunners in the entire NBA (only two players hit more corner three-pointers last season) vs. fan favourite and now third-year swingman Norman Powell.

Powell can do more offensively and is a better defender against smaller players (while Miles has capably guarded up to the power forward spot in the past), but with the Raptors preaching a new focus on long-range shooting, Miles would appear to be the better fit. Miles will space the floor for top dogs Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, while complementing Serge Ibaka, who led all big men in three-point makes after being acquired from Orlando last February. Powell has played better historically (granted, the sample size isn’t a huge one) alongside DeRozan, but right now it makes more sense to make him the key attacker off of the bench.

If Ibaka eventually shifts to centre, where he is best suited (and Jonas Valanciunas is dealt or moved to the bench), then the starter could depend on whether the power forward is a three-point shooter or not.

Alfonzo McKinnie, a 25-year-old athletic marvel on a partially guaranteed deal could take advantage of a lengthier than expected Anunoby recovery process to get into the mix. He has impressed.
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yesterday
Norman Powell: LeBron James’ dirty tug ‘disrespectful,’ ‘trying to son me’ | ProBasketballTalk
Was it explicitly disrespectful to grab Powell’s jersey? Maybe/probably. Was it implicitly disrespectful to prevent him from committing a violation because LeBron knew he’d win anyway? Heck yeah.

But that’s the worst part of getting showed up by LeBron. The Raptors were powerless to stop it.
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may 2017
5 scenes from a Raptors funeral – The Defeated
Nothing gets people angrier than when LeBron whines to the officials. It has the same effect on every fanbase outside of his team. Boos rain down harder on the King than anyone else because he is the greatest heel the NBA has ever seen.
It’s just below him. LeBron can already do everything on the court and he already gets a generous whistle — does he really need to ask for more? It’s just obscene. It would be like if a Republican dropped down to a soup kitchen and asked for thirds. They’re free to do as he pleases but damn, people are going to feel some kind of way about it.
That bit of whining, coupled with some inspired play from Tucker and Ibaka, really brought the building to its feet in the third quarter. I wouldn’t say it was hopeful, but the arena started to believe. The Raptors showed heart and traded punch for punch with the Cavs through three quarters and while we weren’t ever going to win the series, this was a game worth playing. And so we cheered them on.
My section hardly sat down in the fourth. We were too turnt to stay seated. Any bad call prompted loud jeers of “Ref you suck” and every one of DeRozan’s fadeaways drew loud screams of “KOBE” from Josh and I. When Tucker pounded his chest the arena did the same as if the whole building shared one heartbeat.
They were in this. They even took a lead in the fourth. Fred VanVleet gave them decent minutes. Valanciunas was left in a bit too long but he worked an awkward post-up into a basket. DeRozan was hitting shots. Tucker couldn’t miss from the corners. Norm Powell was relentless in transition.
All we ever wanted was this: to belong on the same floor as the reigning champions. We could swallow a sweep if all four games were like this.
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may 2017
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri must make tough decisions now | Toronto Sun
This isn’t just the end of the season in Toronto. This is decision time for Masai Ujiri. Every season ends with a team making some kind of determination on the future. But this time it feels different, maybe a touch more desperate, maybe a little more confusing and confounding for a team that won 51 games.

So much is unknown. So much is uncertain. What to do with the all-star Lowry, what to do with coach Dwane Casey, what to do with the important free agents, Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, what to do with the disappointing roster fillers Pat Patterson and DeMarre Carroll. It may be too soon for president Masai Ujiri to make any decisions. He normally takes his time, rushes nothing, evaluates everything. Then evaluates some more.

“This team is going to be what it is,” said Norman Powell, one of the improving young players on the roster. “I can’t focus on who’s going to be here and who’s not.”

The difficulty in any evaluation isn’t just that the Raptors lost, but how they lost. Especially how they lost the first three games. The fourth game was their best. Still it didn’t matter in the end. They were swept.

And it’s almost impossible to understand how they could have made it any different.

They had no answer for LeBron James, which no one in basketball really does. James scored 144 points in four games, averaged 36 a game. The best Raptor scorer, DeRozan, scored less than 21 a night. That’s a 15-point difference in any given game.
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may 2017
Sweep at hands of Cavaliers sends Raptors down uncertain path - Sportsnet.ca
They’re someone else’s problem now. The Raptors have had two cracks at James and the Cavs in the playoffs and came up well short twice. Exactly what that means might be best answered by how Cleveland performs against either Washington or Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

What’s left is the post-mortem, where Raptors president Masai Ujiri will become the team’s most important player. He’s presided over the best years the franchise has ever had and one of the best runs any team in the NBA has had over the same period. It is the Raptors – not the Cavs – that lead the Eastern Conference in wins since Ujiri took over in the summer of 2013. A team without a 50-win season through its first 21 years has averaged 51 wins over the past four.

But now he’s faced with a philosophical question that the NBA almost uniquely forces you to make. It’s a league that doesn’t do flukes. An eighth seed has never made it the NBA Finals other than the New York Knicks after the lockout-shorted 1998 season. The best teams have the best players and because they’re on the floor for 90 per cent of the games, they tend to win. There is no such thing as a hot goalie or dominant pitching staff that can tilt the balance. Even in soccer, the very best in the world are just one of their team's 11 players on the pitch.

James? On a basketball court he’s everywhere at once.

So executives like Ujiri – and he’s not alone outside the Cavs, Golden State orbit – are faced with deciding how much to invest in building a team whose best title hopes depend on James spraining an ankle.
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may 2017
Without Kyle Lowry, Raptors-Cavalier series was just a mirage: Arthur | Toronto Star
As one league source put it, “The problem with Kyle is he’s short, fat and slow.” As another said, “He’s a hell of a player.” He has clashed with coach Dwane Casey. He has intentionally extended his career by shooting more threes, which the Raptors want to do. He’s heading for the downslope. Lowry is the beating, inspiring, confounding, imperfect heart of this team.

So it’s not automatic, but it’s the same as it’s ever been: As Kyle goes, so go the Raptors. If he is re-signed — and the early sense is that remains the most likely option, though nowhere near a fait accompli — then you are trying to stay good, and accepting the risks that come with that. The organization believes it was the second-best team in the East, but Lowry’s wrist surgery and Lowry’s sprained ankle, though — they made everything difficult.

But if he’s back that may mean re-signing Serge Ibaka, too, though he showed heavy flaws: didn’t rebound, shot some awful two-pointers, doesn’t move as well as he used to. P.J. Tucker would probably stay in this scenario as well. He becomes the new Patrick Patterson, since the old one ended this series looking like a ghost, afraid to shoot. Patterson ended his reign as Toronto’s secret plus-minus king, at a plus-one for Game 4. But he vanished.

And if in the coming days and weeks Masai Ujiri decides that he can’t commit too much to Lowry — an early offer of four years and, say, $150 million to $160 million, a little more per year than DeRozan, might be the sensible play — or if Bryan Colangelo and Philadelphia steal him away, then the whole thing blows up. If Lowry doesn’t come back, then anything can go: coach Dwane Casey, DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, everything that defined the most successful era in Raptors history. For what that’s worth.

And that’s the question. What’s it worth? LeBron James is at the height of his powers, and he had another level of desperation and effort he saved, believe it. If you want a championship Golden State sits behind him with four of the best players in basketball. This era, title-wise, is largely spoken for.
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may 2017
A sweep shouldn’t mean the broom is out for Raptors’ Dwane Casey: Feschuk | Toronto Star
Dwane Casey has been here since 2011, which makes him the longest-tenured head coach in the NBA who hasn’t won a championship in his current post. In an instant-gratification universe, that also makes him overdue for the ejector seat. And with the Raptors clearly realizing that they need to rethink the way they play the game, maybe a change would make sense. Casey is, after all, a defence-first coach in a league where the best teams are winning with offence.

So, hey, fire a warning shot over the bow. Insert Jerry Stackhouse, he of the D-League championship 905ers, as a prominent assistant on Casey’s staff to keep Casey sharp (and to announce to the rest of the league that there isn’t exactly a better free-agent coaching option available to assume the helm).

All that said, if you’re of the belief that coaching is among the top handful of shortcomings here — well, you’re probably forgetting that Casey is the man who took a roster destined for destruction only a few years ago and had a major hand in turning it into the second-best team in the East. The Raptors have been in the playoffs four straight years now, a franchise-record streak. Over that span no Eastern Conference team has won more regular-season games, not even the Cavs. In the not-so-illustrious history of Toronto’s franchise there’ve been precisely two 50-plus win seasons — that’d be the most recent two.

It’s important to keep that stuff in perspective when you point out Casey’s flaws. “Cannot beat LeBron” doesn’t equal “cannot coach.”
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may 2017
NBA Playoffs 2017, Raptors vs. Cavaliers: Toronto channels its roots, but fall to Cavs, 109-102 - Raptors HQ
The closing moments were indicative of the identity crisis the Raptors are sure to face this summer. LeBron and friends are a behemoth of a team, and the Raptors are starved for realistic paths to walk en route to making up the talent disparity that so clearly separates Cleveland from the rest of the East. A free agency cloud will hang over Toronto for the next two months as the front office ponders whether or not it’s worth running back a core that is destined to fall just short.

At this moment, the Raptors are like a 40-year-old contemplating a mid-life career change. Do you accept simply being pretty happy, embracing the status quo and delaying the end result that the slow decay of time will inevitably produce? Or do you press reset, and hope for a rejuvenation while wading into waters wrought with uncertainty?

The last four seasons have provided the Raptors organization with its first taste of run-of-the-mill NBA happiness. There have been speed-bumps — Paul Pierce’s outstretched hand, Lowry’s various nicks, bruises and worse, Playoff Randy Wittman and the goddamned Game 1 curse have all threatened to veer the Raptors back towards its dark ages at different junctures since the Rudy Gay trade inexplicably spawned a respectable team. But four years of sustained relevance have a way of dampening the lows by producing a disproportionate number of highs, and 41 playoff games provide plenty of chances to forge unforgettable touchstones.

Even in in defeat, Sunday’s season-ending loss was proof that there are still moments of joy to glean from these Raptors, even in the face of an inevitable fate. P.J. Tucker’s buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, Jonas Valanciunas’ post-up bucket over LeBron and Ibaka’s and-1 to give the Raptors the lead were all flashpoints in which Raptors fans couldn’t possibly feign apathy. They were instances that illustrated exactly why there is more glory in getting close to the summit and stumbling than foregoing your ascent altogether.
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may 2017
2017 Playoffs: Round 2, Game 4 - Raptors 102, Cavs 109 | Toronto Raptors
NCHING CLOSER

The Raptors came out of the locker room after halftime ready to put points in the board. Toronto shot 55 percent in the third quarter while holding Cleveland to 45 percent shooting. After giving up 10 3-pointers in the first half, the Raptors held the Cavs to three in the third while starting connect on some of their own, shooting 4-of-11 from downtown as they outscored Cleveland 31-24 in the third to trim a 12-point lead down to five, 85-80, heading into the fourth. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors in the third with nine points, while Serge Ibaka added seven points. Cory Joseph had six assists in the quarter. The Cavaliers were led by 10 points from LeBron James.
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may 2017
Court Squeaks: Is this a step back for the Raptors? - Video - TSN
In the latest edition of Court Squeaks, Matthew Scianitti, Josh Lewenberg and Kayla Grey discuss the series sweep by the Cavaliers, ask if is this a step back for Toronto, touch on the dominating performance of LeBron James and much more.
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may 2017
Raptors lack of pure shooters evident in playoff exit - Video - TSN
As Nik Stauskas explains, the Raptors' lack of pure shooters was very evident when watching the way the Cavaliers are built and shoot the ball from behind the line.
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may 2017
LeBron's Cavaliers sweep Raptors aside - Video - TSN
The Raptors finished with the same record as LeBron James' Cavaliers in the regular season, but come playoff time James took it to another level. Matthew Scianitti has more on a second straight playoff exit at the hands of Cleveland.
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may 2017
Raptors take step backwards with sweep to Cavs - Article - TSN
That's the harsh reality many franchises have been forced to face over the years. From the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards to the Celtics big three. From the Bulls to the Pacers to the Hawks, all of whom look very different than they did just a few seasons ago. LeBron is almost single handedly breaking up teams. Now what comes of the Raptors, who were very clearly exposed in this series?
In case there was ever any question, they're not ready to compete with the best. They took their shot and, like a number of others before them, they missed. So, with several big decisions to make, they'll go back to the drawing board. What's the point of being good in an era where it just doesn't seem feasible to be great, some will ask and it's something Masai Ujiri and Jeff Weltman have to truly consider. Is the cost of fielding a second or third-place team worth it? Maybe.
After a dismantling like this, it's easy to lose sight of how far the Raptors have come as an organization. It took them 20 years to win 50 games, something they've done in two straight seasons. They had never won a seven-game playoff series, now they've won three of their last five, with the only two losses coming to Cleveland. Do they really want to go back?
"It’s hard to break [up] a team that won 50-plus games two years in a row, with the core guys," DeRozan said. "That’s on upper management. Us as players, we gotta be ready for whatever. The guys that are free agents, the guys that are coming back, we gotta understand, we gotta work on our game, become better, and leave it up to the front office to figure out everything else."
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may 2017
Kelly: Once again, Raptors find themselves wanting - The Globe and Mail
For four mostly fun years, that’s what the Raptors were best at – giving Toronto the thing it had been wanting. At the outset, it wasn’t a high bar.

If you’d been there for the whole Raptors gong show, simple competence was new and thrilling. The team gave the fans something more. If it wasn’t basketball played at the very highest level, then it was something so close as to be indistinguishable.

Apparently, the crowd has finally learned the difference. When it ended on Sunday, the cheers that sent the team off the court were tepid and grudging. They weren’t even really cheers. It was the applause you’d hear after the keynote of an especially dreary insurance conference – ‘Please, just leave.’ This was the Toronto audience losing patience with good-enough’ism. Fifty-win seasons are great. A couple of rounds in the playoffs can be vivifying for a bit. But if it’s not headed anywhere, it gets boring fast.

Right now, the Toronto Raptors are as talented as they’ve ever been. They’re also incredibly tedious – settled, complacent, unwilling to take offence at even the most obvious insults, lacking urgency or purpose. This is a team whose spirit animal is a shoulder-shrug emoji.
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may 2017
Toronto Raptors Face Tough Summer Questions - A Few Good Mics
3. Max contract for Ibaka?

The Raptors made the big splash at the trade deadline by acquiring Serge Ibaka. While he's been inconsistent during his time with the Raps, he's still a big time player, and you don't trade a guy like Ross and a pick to let him walk in the off-season. A full season with Kyle, DeMar, Serge, and Jonas as your "big four" is still a very formidable lineup.
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may 2017
Zach Lowe on Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and future of Toronto Raptors - ESPN
It will be hard for Toronto to duck the tax if it retains Lowry and Serge Ibaka, even if its other two core free agents -- PJ Tucker and plus-minus god Patrick Patterson -- walk away. Salary-dumping DeMarre Carroll was always the Raptors' get-out-of-the-tax card, but Carroll's decline has been so severe they would likely have to attach a first-round pick as a sweetener. Trading Jonas Valanciunas loomed as the alternate cost-cutting measure, but no one needs a center. The most likely Valanciunas deals would return someone else's unwanted big fella.

Toronto could move Cory Joseph's $7.6 million deal in a hot second, but that alone wouldn't get it under the tax if both Ibaka and Lowry re-sign. The Raptors' ownership group is flush with sweet, sweet hockey cash; it can afford going $5 million or more over the tax. But even that brings some roster-building restrictions, and well-run teams usually don't pay the tax when there are easy paths to avoiding it.

Everything starts with Lowry, Toronto's best player, and one of the most important in franchise history. Toronto can offer Lowry a five-year, $200 million-plus deal; rivals can offer only four-year deals starting at the same maximum annual salary of around $35 million. Ujiri has always erred on the side of retaining players, even if it's just to trade them later -- as he famously did with Nene Hilario in Denver.
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may 2017
Raptors have decisions to make after another ousting by Cavaliers - USA Today
As far as what's to come in the future, DeRozan unsurprisingly deferred all decision-making to the Raptors' front office, including general manager Jeff Weltman and team president Masai Ujiri.

DeRozan agrees it may come across as illogical to do anything other than try to hold together what's been one of the NBA's most successful franchises in recent years. However, it's clear the current version of the Raptors has almost no chance of knocking off the Cavaliers, and therein lies what will be the overshadowing narrative for the Raptors going into the offseason.

"It's hard to break down a team that won 50-plus games two years in a row with the core guys," DeRozan said. "But that's on upper management. Us, as players, we've got to be ready for whatever. Guys that are free, guys that are coming back. We've got to understand we have to work on our game, become better and leave it up to the front office to figure out everything else."
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may 2017
NBA Free Agency Rumors: Sixers will pursue Kyle Lowry this summer - Liberty Ballers
Lowry would theoretically be a big boost for the current Sixers, and he could serve as both an initiator and a release valve for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He shot nearly 42 percent on catch-and-shoot threes this season, which will help him retain value even as he goes through the usual late career downturn.

But paying a 31-year old point guard the maximum salary at this stage of the rebuild seems a little foolhardy. Point guards—particularly those on the smaller side—tend to age poorly, and although Lowry’s career trajectory and skillset could help him ward Father Time off for a while, history is not on his side. He doesn’t really fit with the Sixers’ timeline, and they’d be probably better off allowing the program to continue to grow organically by using stop-gaps to fill in around their elite young talent.

This isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last time you hear Lowry’s name this offseason. He’ll have a number of options on the table, but never count out the hometown team.
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may 2017
Kyle Lowry to Utah? - Reddit
I think lowry is the missing superstar that brings instant offense that Utah really needs. I know its a pipe dream, but free agents are looking for superteams, and idc if utah is small market, utah has a very good core that is missing 1 piece and I think lowry would give utah a very good contending chance vs GS if they stay healthy.
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may 2017
Raptors defence can't stop a hot LeBron James | Toronto Sun
After all of that talk, the Raptors mostly lived up to the promise in the opening half, forcing eight Cleveland turnovers and holding the Cavs to 40% shooting instead of the gaudy numbers they posted at home. Toronto also took open shots, but couldn’t make them. Almost any of them. The Raptors were 0-for-9 from three-point range in the first half, but plenty of inside scoring — and 21 first-half points from a resurrected DeRozan — gave Toronto a 52-49 lead at the break.

But all those missed shots, the punches of which Casey had spoke, loomed like something that would come back to haunt them. When the Raptors bounced back from an 0-2 hole with a win in Game 3 at home last year, they hit 12 three pointers to Cleveland’s 14, and the Cavs attempted 10 more than the Raptors. If there was ever going to be a way to hang with this collection of outside bombers guided by the exceptional all-around game of James, those bomb sights were going to have to be a tad off — and the Raptors would have to convert their open looks.

But even as DeRozan rebounded from his terrible five-point effort in Game 2 — he finished with 37 — there was that pressing question: would someone else on the Raptors hit a shot?

Not very often, it turned out. Norm Powell, who couldn’t miss from distance in the Milwaukee series, went 1-for-7 from three-point range. Serge Ibaka was 0-for-3 and Cory Joseph was 0-for-4.

James, meanwhile, authored another casual destruction of the Raptors. Despite aggressive, shadowing defence from Powell for long stretches, LeBron scored 35 points on 56% shooting and he got to the free-throw line 16 times. This time it was Kyle Korver who delivered the kill shot, with three straight three pointers at the end of the third and start of the fourth that ran Cleveland’s lead to five.
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may 2017
Raptors put up a fight against Cavaliers, but fall for third time | Toronto Sun
The Raptors missed the first 12 three-pointers they attempted, not seeing one go down until Norm Powell took the lid off the basket with a make on attempt No. 13 by the team. That came midway through the third quarter and the Raps would get only one more the rest of the night.

It was in the fourth that James finally started to look like the King James from the first two games, pouring in nine points in the first six minutes of the quarter as the Cavs started to pull away for good.

James would finish with 35 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

For the game, Cleveland made 13 of its 23 three-point attempts meaning not even DeRozan’s big night made much of a difference.
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may 2017
Raptors won't win until they can shoot threes | Toronto Sun
At the trade deadline, the Raptors seemed to add the kind of pieces that would make them playoff tough. They added the veterans Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Both are known as defenders. But both can occasionally hit from three as well.

They made the Raptors better.

But a void existed. A void made worse when Kyle Lowry couldn’t play. A void evident in all 12 quarters of what has mostly been a one-sided series. Games 1 and 2 weren’t competitive games for the Raps. But Friday night the Raps played terrific basketball for three quarters, before running out of gas.

As the Raptors were picking up Ibaka and Tucker around the deadline, the Cavs brought in a three-point shooting specialist, Kyle Korver. Shooting threes is basically all he has done in his career. It’s really all that’s kept him in the NBA for 14 seasons.

At the end of a very tight third quarter, Korver hit two three-point shots. Cleveland led by two heading to the final quarter. He hit another three in the first minutes of the one-sided fourth quarter — and really in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, with Demar DeRozan on the bench, the Cavaliers took over the game.

The Raps had no answer and especially had no answer from the three-point line, cashing in on two of 18 shots. That’s 11.1%. That’s horrible.

The Cavs made 13 threes, shot 56.5% from the long stripe, outscored Toronto 39-6 in that area. Thirty freakin’ nine to six.
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may 2017
Cavaliers own fourth quarter and the Raptors in 115-94 Game 3 win | cleveland.com
Given the lopsided of nature of this series heading into play Friday, the Raptors were already running out of options. They'd tried lineup changes, and before this one coach Dwane Casey implored his team to punch back at the defending champs, perhaps throwing a "a couple below the belt."

If the Raptors swung at all, they didn't hit anything. They scored just three points through the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. When James left the floor with 3:27 remaining, the Cavs had outscored the Raptors 26-7 in the fourth, with 13 points from James.

The Cavs shot 11-of-14 in the fourth quarter to the Raptors' 7-of-23.

Korver posted his 2017 playoff high with 14 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Korver had scored nine points total in the first two games on nine shots.

The Raptors were miserable from the 3-point line, which is where, arguably, they lost this game. They shot 2-of-18 overall to the Cavs' 13-of-23 (a 33-point disparity). Norman Powell made Toronto's first 3-pointer with 3:09 in the third quarter -- the Raptors were 0-of-12 up to that point.
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may 2017
Inside Kyle Lowry's fight to play in Game 3 vs. Cavaliers - Sportsnet.ca
Of course, the Raptors training staff is right. It’s a severe injury. Really, Lowry should probably stay out of action for at least a week, probably more. But there might not be games in a week. There is a game Sunday—one that, if the Raptors lose it, could be his team’s last for a very long while.

That’s why Lowry will do everything he can over the next 36 hours or so—ice, heat, ultrasounds, stem treatment, everything—to get his ankle recovered enough that he can be on the floor for tip-off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. It won’t get anywhere near 100 per cent by then. It might not even be 50. But it just has to be good enough.

"That’s my goal. My goal is to be out there playing on Sunday," Lowry said. "We’ll see. It’s tough because it’s a different type of ankle injury. If you look at how the injury happened, my ankle went in. You don’t usually have it go in. It was a football injury—an American football type of injury where a guy cuts down on you. It rolled in, not out. So, it’s a pretty different injury. If it rolled out, I’m sure I would play."

That would help the Raptors immensely. Without Lowry on the floor Friday night, DeMar DeRozan had to carry a much heavier load, and the Cavaliers were able to throw more defensive attention at him whenever he had the ball. And when he didn’t, the Raptors were shooting woefully from beyond the arc, connecting on only two of their 18 three-point attempts. Lowry, unafraid to pull up from anywhere on the floor, led the Raptors in the regular season, shooting 41 per cent from three-point land.
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may 2017
Raptors square up for fight in Game 3, but Cavaliers deal decisive blow - Sportsnet.ca
The difference between DeRozan and James was that the Cavs’ star had help. When the game started to turn, he was on the bench. It was Kyle Korver, added by trade by the Cavs mid-season and whose career 43 per cent average from three trails only Steph Curry among active players, who swung the balance. The Raptors were trailing by one when he checked in for James with two minutes left in the third quarter. He hit three of his four threes in a 60-second span over the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, and the game began to split.

"We got stops, and Kyle got hot," said James, explaining how the Cavailers finished on a 42-22 surge.

In contrast DeRozan, without Lowry, was a man on an island. He finished with three assists but should have had more, except you don’t get assists for hitting teammates with passes for open threes only to see them clang them right and left, never centre.

Toronto missed their first 12 three-point attempts and ended up just 2-of-18 for game while the Cavs shot 13-of-23. For the series, Cleveland is out-scoring Toronto 135-51 from three, while shooting 50 per cent to the Raptors 27.9, an insurmountable advantage.

"It’s tough. We couldn’t make no threes. When you see them knocking down threes left and right, getting to their spots, it’s kind of deflating. It’s tough to win a game when you only make two three-pointers," said DeRozan. "We were in the game throughout the whole game, but shooting 11 per cent from the three-point line, it’s tough."

He might as well have said impossible.
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may 2017
Raptors show some life, but the end is near: Arthur | Toronto Star
Casey said he thought DeRozan needed to sit at the end of the third to rest; through three quarters the shooting guard had played nearly 34 of the 36 minutes. DeRozan said, “I could have kept going. I didn’t feel like I needed a blow. At this point in time, there’s no need for rest.”

Maybe Casey should have left him in the game: he scored one point the rest of the way. Maybe Casey should have used Valanciunas, despite the defensive jeopardy associated with him. But maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The Cavaliers went on an 8-2 run with DeRozan out, and a 12-1 run when he came back in. The Raptors were holding on by their toes. They competed, they played well. But you miss enough shots, it comes back to haunt you.

Look, the Cavaliers are the champs, and in Games 1 and 2 they finally tapped into their potential in consecutive games for the first time in months. It took that long.

“I want to say, physically and mentally, we feel whole,” forward James Jones said. “We had our challenges during the year, trying to manage the schedule, trying to navigate injuries, trying to mesh and find rotations.”

If they were bored they aren’t anymore, and the Raptors don’t look whole at all, because they’re not. When the Raptors won Game 3 and Game 4 last year, the series didn’t truly hinge on it; the Cavaliers won the next two by a combined 64 points. If they were arm-wrestling, Cleveland always had a bazooka in its back pocket.
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may 2017
Raptors crash in Game 3 vs. Cavaliers | Toronto Star
But there were so many other opportunities that it would be foolish to use Lowry’s absence as an excuse or even an explanation for what transpired.

Toronto made just two of 18 three-point attempts, while the Cavs were 13-for-23. The long-range shooting has been one of the most glaring differences in the series.

Yes, LeBron James is the most dominant player in the game but Kyle Korver made four three-pointers Friday, J.R. Smith made three and Kevin Love made the only one he tried.

The Raptors?

Cory Joseph was 0-for-4. Norm Powell, 1-for-7. Serge Ibaka, 0-for-3.

“Our three-point shooters have to take them and make them,” Casey said before the game. The optimist says they got it half right.

“It’s something we’ve done, we’ve knocked down threes all year and for some reason it’s escaped us right now,” Casey said.
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may 2017
NBA Playoffs: Cavs take commanding 3-0 lead over Raptors with Game 3 win - Fear The Sword
The Cavs outscored the Raptors in the second half 66-42 and more than made up for their slow start. The Cavs also dominated the boards in this game, outrebounding the Raptors 49-25.

After going down 2-0 in last season’s ECF, the Raptors brought in Bismack Biyombo (who hadn’t played much throughout the entire season) as a last-ditch effort to try and make that series competitive, and it worked out better than they ever could have hoped. His stifling interior defensive presence, along with the frenetic energy of the home crowd, spurred the Raptors on to two straight victories to even that series at two games apiece.

Now back to this season. Bismack Biyombo wasn’t there to turn to when they needed him most, and the Raptors had no one waiting in the wings to fill his shoes. After getting shellacked in Game 1, the Raptors replaced Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll in the starting lineup with Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell, respectively, but the result was the same. With no Energizer Bunny and no surprise cameos waiting in the shadows to jumpstart the Raptors this time around, the Cavs took advantage of the Lowry-less Raptors late and now stand on the brink of a third straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

The Cavs will look to complete the sweep over the Raptors on Sunday at 3:30 ET (ABC) at Air Canada Centre.
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may 2017
NBA Playoffs, Raptors vs. Cavaliers Game 3: Toronto can’t shoot, loses 115-94 - Raptors HQ
Credit should go to DeRozan though. After a truly terrible Game 2, DeMar found his groove once again, pouring in 36 points through three quarters to keep the Raptors in it. Unfortunately, Casey opted to rest him to begin the fourth. “He needed that [break],” said Casey, which very well could have been true. But DeRozan managed only one more point in the game’s final ten minutes, and the Raptors offense crumbled. “I could have kept going, I didn’t feel like I needed a blow,” said DeRozan. “At this point in time there’s no need for a rest.”

But rest DeRozan did, and right after Kyle Korver had come alive to close the third (in Channing Frye’s place), hitting a barrage of threes to begin turning the tide against Toronto. The Raptors did what they could to keep the game ugly, but a LeBron-led team will run smooth eventually. The champ is the champ for a reason.

If we can isolate one discouraging thing then in particular, it would the Cavs’ relative lack of urgency as the game began. This is that lack of respect we’ve been hearing so much about as of late. For all the effort the Raptors were pouring in, the Cavaliers seemed almost lackadaisical in their approach. Somehow, they still out-rebounded the Raptors 49 to 25 anyway, and outshot them 51 percent to 43 (and 56 to 11 from three). Toronto’s frenzy was for naught.
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may 2017
The Hardest Part is Letting Go - Raptors HQ
How do you even properly eulogize a team that meant a lot to a deprived fanbase, but embarrassed itself in the end? Even if you remove yourself from the disappointment of how shit has gone recently, at some point the roller coaster stops becoming a fun ride. 2014 was great, 2015 ended badly, 2016 was great, 2017 ended badly. That is exhausting. With free agency looming and stagnation staring us in the face, something is going to have to give.

There’s a bit comedian Hannibal Buress did about how sports form the goalposts around which he marks his memories. He talked about how a whole 20 years of his life’s memories use Kobe Bryant’s career milestones as landmarks. I started thinking about why this means so much, why it hurts to be disappointed, why are we disappointed in the first place, what are we so afraid of? Those are difficult questions to answer, but they served as a reminder to be appreciative of what we’ve had for these past 4 years.

There will be plenty of time to talk specifics and appreciate the entire era as a whole. But as we near the possibility of the end, I find that anger and disappointment are replaced with nostalgia and sadness — nostalgic of how good things were and sad that they will quite literally never be that way with this cast of characters again.
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may 2017
Cavs Blow Past Raptors, Stay Perfect in Postseason | Cleveland Cavaliers
Turning Point -- After a pair of lopsided wins in Cleveland, the Raptors were ready for a fight on Friday – with the contest featuring 10 ties and seven lead-changes through the first three quarters. Early in the third period, the Raptors took their biggest lead of the series – five points.

The game was tied at 71-apiece with 1:26 to play in the third when Kyle Korver drilled back-to-back bombs that put Cleveland ahead four and seemed to change the game’s entire momentum.

DeRozan hit a short floater with 1.6 to play in the quarter to get the Raptors to within a deuce – 79-77 – and it looked like the stage was set for a knock-down, drag-out fourth quarter.

But Korver unleashed the floodgates with another triple to start the final period and the Wine and Gold barely looked back the rest of the way.

”Man, (Korver) carried us throughout the second half,” praised J.R. Smith – who finished with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep. “He came out with big shot after big shot and then in the fourth he hit a big two. He did a helluva job and we know what he’s capable of, we just got to get him into a rhythm.”
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may 2017
2017 Playoffs: Round 2, Game 3 - Raptors 94, Cavs 115 | Toronto Raptors
FOURTH QUARTER LET DOWN

Things went downhill quickly for Toronto in the final quarter as the team tried to give DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph a quick breather for the first couple of minutes of the fourth. The Cavaliers quickly turned a two-point lead into a 19-point advantage as the Toronto offence went ice-cold. After holding the Cavaliers to 49 points in the first half, Toronto’s defence fell apart in the fourth as they gave up 36 points to Cleveland on a ridiculous 79 percent from the floor and 80 percent (4-for-5) from beyond the arc. Cleveland opened the fourth on a 20-3 run. In comparison, the fourth was a struggle all around for Toronto. The Raptors shot 30 percent from the floor as they were held to 17 points.
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may 2017
Court Squeaks: Two late errors by Casey put Raps on the brink - Video - TSN
Matthew Scianitti and Josh Lewenberg break down two crucial errors that Dwane Casey made late in Game 3, and discuss if the Raptors stand a chance at becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from an 0-3 series deficit.
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may 2017
Raptors' woeful three-point shooting proves costly in Game 3 - Video - TSN
After going just 2-for-18 from three-point range in Game 3, Nabil Karim and Nik Stauskas discuss the Raptors' woeful shooting from downtown despite many wide open looks, and talk about how DeMar DeRozan carried the team through three quarters before losing his touch in the fourth.
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may 2017
How did the Raptors get blown away in the fourth quarter? - Video - TSN
How did the game get away from the Raptors in the fourth quarter? Nabil Karim and Nik Stauskas point to the Cavs turning up the defensive intensity and Toronto getting away from what made them successful through the first three quarters. Stauskas also explains how Kyle Korver was a difference-maker when Cleveland needed a spark.
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may 2017
It wasn't DeMar DeRozan's fault the Raptors lost Game 3 to the Cavaliers - SBNation.com
DeRozan was amazing on Friday, but it may not answer all the questions about him. Twice in these playoffs, he had games where he was nearly a complete no-show — eight points on 0-of-8 shooting in Game 3 against the Bucks, and five points in Game 2 of this series. That’s hard to stomach from someone who’s supposed to be your best scorer and, depending on you feel about Kyle Lowry, best overall player. (Lowry wasn’t good this postseason, either. It’s a trend for both.)

The analysis about DeRozan that’s now growing boring is that his game doesn’t fit into the modern NBA. There is some validity to that, perhaps less in the way the play manifests itself and more in the way it allows defenses to limit him. Still, DeRozan did make crucial plays while having enormous games against the Bucks, averaging 24 points in that series.
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may 2017
Without Kyle Lowry Raptors fade in fourth, Cavaliers pull away for 115-94 win, 3-0 series lead | ProBasketballTalk
DeMar DeRozan was aggressive and getting buckets, Norman Powell was playing solid defense on LeBron James and forcing him into tough shots, Jonas Valanciunas was using his size to score, and as a team the Raptors were attacking the Cavaliers in smarter ways. It was a two-point game entering the fourth, even with Kyle Lowry sidelined.

Then Cleveland found another gear — specifically, LeBron found another gear, but as a team the Cavs shot 11-of-14 and 4-of-5 from three in the fourth.

“We got stops and Kyle (Korver) got hot,” was how LeBron explained the fourth quarter.

The Raptors started the fourth 1-of-12 from the field. For the quarter they were 0-4 from three, for the game they were 2-of-18 from deep. That was their fatal flaw.
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may 2017
Raptors fighting NBA playoff history in series with Cavaliers - USA Today
Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan did everything in his power to keep his team in the series during Game 3. He netted a playoff career-high 37 points, but with the absence of his backcourt partner Kyle Lowry (who was unable to play due to an ankle injury sustained in Game 2), the burden of carrying the team proved too great.

The fact the Raptors were crushed in the rebounding department and went just 2-for-18 from three-point range was a big factor, as well, and both Casey and DeRozan said if the numbers in those categories change, the odds of registering a win go up.

The Cavaliers eliminated the Raptors in six games during last season's Eastern Conference finals and went on to claim the NBA championship. It appears the path to an attempted repeat will go through the Raptors once again, but ever the optimist, DeRozan said he's not going to lay down and allow that to happen without a fight.

"We got another opportunity," DeRozan said. "We can't look at it like (what's happened in the) history of teams being down 3-0. We got another opportunity to have another opportunity. That's all that matters. We got to go up and play that way."
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may 2017
Are we still having fun? – The Defeated
This season has been hard to watch because there are no more surprises.
We’ve seen four years of this core and we know it’s not good enough. We buy into false faith that a new supporting cast can bring about change but that only brings about more broken expectations.
It’s not fun anymore. That run in 2014? That was fun. We stumbled upon found money and got our return on every dollar The bounce back season in 2016? That was fun. We nearly grabbed the first seed and overcame so many obstacles before dying a valiant death.
What was this season about? It was many things but it wasn’t fun. We’ve hit all the other milestones, leaving one target left to hit: beat LeBron. Hahahaha. We set ourselves up for failure from the start.
The whole year built to this meeting with Cleveland and we have nothing to show for our loyalty other than being the laughingstock of the league. The regular season felt like a chore — our reward for following along is the chance to watch them die a slow and painful death. The rest of the week will be filled with dread before we’re finally put out of our misery.

It’s not just that the Cavaliers are better than the Raptors, which we all knew. It’s that the Cavaliers don’t respect the Raptors whatsoever. That hurts.
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may 2017
Raptors should be 'embarrassed' by loss: Casey | Toronto Sun
“We should be embarrassed,” said Dwane Casey, talking about the mood of his team. “We should be angry. We should be pissed off.”

But Cleveland was the Harlem Globetrotters. The Raps were the Washington Generals. The result of this NBA playoff game was not in doubt for a moment, an instant: It was 19-9 early. The rest was just a display of all the Cavs could do and all the answers the Raptors didn’t have.

This is how little regard the Cavs have for the Raptors. They stick it in their face every chance they get. This is stick-it-in-your-face basketball bullying without obvious scars.

Twice, Kyrie Irving, the fine Cleveland guard, had direct access to score in the game. Twice, he played Curly Neal to LeBron’s Meadowlark Lemon. Twice he dropped the pass to LeBron, once for a dunk, once for a foul. The message was clear: That’s our big guy and we’re getting him the ball. He gives up everything for us. We’re giving up our own points for him.

It’s the kind of play you might see in an NBA all-star game, or a game against a bottom feeder, not a second game in a second round playoff series that was supposed to be in some doubt between two teams that each won 51 games. The word ‘doubt’ is gone for now. The notion that these two teams won the same number of games tells you just how much the Cavs played possum the second half of the season, getting ready for the playoffs.

Cleveland has now played six playoff games, won all six.

The Raptors have played eight games, won four, lost four. In the two games here before returning to Toronto Friday night for Game 3, they have been outscored by 33 points. And it’s only that close because the Cavs shut it down in the fourth quarter again in Game 2.
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may 2017
No progress made in Raptors' Game 2 loss to Cavaliers | Toronto Sun
Whether they still have the resolve of a year ago to bounce back (they won two in Toronto before eventually falling in six a year ago) remains to be seen. However, we do know that Le-Bron James and company were doing their best to kill even that notion on this night.

Led by James, the Cavaliers put their foot on the Raptors’ collective neck and didn’t let them up until the final horn.

Ahead by 20 in the third quarter, James threw down a dunk off a Kyrie Irving steal and lob to ignite the crowd. As the Raptors went on offence, James then jumped a handoff to P.J. Tucker and would have taken it home for two more had Tucker not forced him to the line with a foul.

Winning was not enough for James. He wanted to steal whatever life remained in the Raptors.
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may 2017
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