All Leonard, all the time as Raptors must learn how to play off of superstar | Toronto Sun
It’s no secret everything has to go through Leonard’s hands, given his unique ability to either create his own shot or force teams to send an extra defender that frees up a shooter.

The Raptors can’t afford to watch Leonard in those isolation sets, one of those basketball inevitabilities when a superstar is operating on offence and all eyes are focused on him.

When the Raptors were getting their hearts ripped by LeBron James, the King had the luxury of finding shooters on the perimeter who were more than capable of knocking down those looks.

Whether it’s playing off Leonard better and with greater confidence, or the star forward and Lowry finding that much-needed rhythm, there are issues the Raptors must iron out.

With a proven head coach such as Dwane Casey released and the face of a franchise in DeMar DeRozan sent packing, the Raptors have signaled that they are all-in this season — NBA Finals appearance or bust — so to speak.
13 hours ago
Could C.J. Miles be Raptors' missing piece to a deep playoff run? -
After missing the last two contests with a sore hip, Miles put forth arguably his best performance of the season, finishing with 13 points on five-of-seven shooting from the floor and, most importantly, three-of-four from beyond the arc — albeit against one of the league’s worst defences.

“It felt good, you know?” said Miles after the win Thursday. “That’s the biggest thing. Just to go out there and play and trust in your work and trust in what you do everyday, everything else will take care of itself.”

Whether Miles is able to go out there every day and actually play though is a different story.

The veteran shooting guard has struggled through injuries and is battling for minutes, having recently lost his spot in Nick Nurse’s rotation to emerging fourth-year guard Norman Powell.

Dubbed "C.J. Kilometers" after his move north of the border, Miles has failed to find his rhythm in his second season with the Raptors. He’s averaging just 5.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.6 assists in only 14.3 minutes per game and, maybe most troubling of all, the 31-year-old is connecting on barely 31 per cent of his shots from the floor — the worst field-goal percentage of his 14-year NBA career.
13 hours ago
NBA Fact or Fiction: Raptors trade needs, Warriors worries & more -
Knowing what the Raptors’ shooters have accomplished in the past makes their struggles this season that much more infuriating.

But this year they’ve been middle of the pack from the corners, ranking just 19th in left corner threes and a more respectable 10th from the right corner. Overall, however, there’s no question they’ve been struggling. From everywhere else beyond the arc they’re 28th.

Danny Green is the only Raptor shooting above 40 per cent from beyond the arc, and a number of important long-range shooters are struggling mightily — after a scorching start, Kyle Lowry is now hitting just 31 per cent of his threes, Fred VanVleet is shooting 36 per cent (but it feels even lower), and, infamously, CJ Miles is at a career-worst 28 per cent.

While some fans are looking to the trade market to remedy the issue, it’s not nescessarily the only solution.

Did those players just become bad shooters, or can it be turned around? There aren’t a ton of realistic trade targets for the Raptors — Miami’s Wayne Ellington has been floated as one option — who, with precious few trade assets may be better off addressing things internally.

There have been signs of improvement as of late. Leonard is shooting 43 per cent from deep over his last five games as his game continues to return to form. Norman Powell can’t be relied upon as a three-point threat, but has shown flashes since returning from injury — including five games with two or more threes. OG Anunoby is shooting 40 per cent from deep since Christmas.
13 hours ago
Game Preview- Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors - Grizzly Bear Blues
Last night in Boston, Marc Gasol had 11 rebounds on a smaller Celtics team. He had success dominating the boards where he had his chances. Gasol understood the team he was facing and put up double digits in the rebounds category.

For tonight, Gasol needs to have that same mindset against this Raptors team which is very similar to the Celtics. The Raptors, especially without Jonas Valencuianis, play very small with Serge Ibaka in their center role. If the Grizzlies can attack this, they can have success tonight. Even as they do not rebound the ball among the best in the league, it is mostly match-up dependent for success in the paint. This is another chance for Memphis to slow the game down and bring back the style of bully-ball.

This will include Jaren Jackson Jr. as well. As the more traditional low post scorer on the Grizzlies, Jackson will have to exploit his physicality to score on smaller defenders. You saw just last night the success he had scoring 23 points. 16 of those points came from two-point baskets. He really has a chance to succeed again tonight against Toronto, especially with those young legs not needing many days off.
13 hours ago
Would a slow NBA trade deadline hint at summer fireworks? - The Washington Post
The relative calm isn’t just a matter of James’s Lakers biding their time, as three East contenders all got their work done early. In July, the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard, the best player in their franchise’s history. In November, the Philadelphia 76ers landed all-star wing Jimmy Butler, solidifying a big three with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Last month, the Milwaukee Bucks traded for veteran guard George Hill, fortifying their playoff rotation and dumping $18 million of future salary before core pieces Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez hit free agency this summer.

[No, DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors are not the most-hated team in sports]

The Raptors, Sixers and Bucks are all hoping this is the year they get over the hump, but all three are unlikely to make bigger splashes than they’ve already made. Among the East’s top-shelf teams, the Indiana Pacers are in the best position to be buyers. All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner are the organization’s only long-term investments of consequence, and Kevin Pritchard, the team’s president, is armed with more than $55 million worth of expiring contracts as he pursues a second star.
13 hours ago
Pascal Siakam keeps adding to his bucket list in breakout season with Raptors | The Star
Now Siakam can add a game-winning bucket to his already impressive resume. The clock was down to two seconds when he took off for the layup, driving effortlessly past Suns forward Mikal Bridges and some late help from Ayton. He scored with his non-dominant left hand, and yet it never looked difficult.

“It’s a heck of a luxury to be able to just give it to Pascal and get out of the way,” VanVleet said.

It will go down as a defining moment in Siakam’s young NBA journey — a “huge step in his career,” according to Lowry — in the middle of a breakout season for the young man whose playing days began less than a decade ago. But it was also the cherry on top of another complete game for Siakam, who was eighth in the Eastern Conference’s frontcourt options for next month’s all-star game when the latest returns were released Thursday.

Siakam’s numbers are up across the board this year. He’s averaging 14.9 points, seven rebounds and 2.9 assists in 2018, compared to career averages of 8.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists. But his all-around game has flourished over the Raptors’ last 10 contests — 16.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He has contributed 20 or more points in four of those games, 10-plus rebounds in six of them.

He had a double double Thursday with 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with five assists and two blocks, and was the best player on the court for the Kawhi Leonard-less Raptors, who are still waiting on Kyle Lowry to get back to his old self. Siakam consistently showed off his basketball IQ, popping up in the right place at the right time and making the right pass when the Suns collapsed on him.
13 hours ago
Saturday game preview: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors | The Star
Kyle Lowry, who is still working his way back to full health after missing about a month with a back injury, led the Raptors with 24 points and six assists the last time these two teams met in late November, his third highest scoring output of the season. He hasn’t scored 20 points since Dec. 22 against Philadelphia, the lone game he played in the midst of his back issues. Mike Conley leads the Grizzlies with 19.9 points and 6.2 assists per game. The all-star candidate will provide another much-needed measuring stick for where Lowry is at.
13 hours ago
Toronto Raptors Mailbag: Expected trades and more
Zak: Should Toronto trade Norman Powell now while he is playing well
I think he’s on the table. With his play of late, Norman Powell is approaching equal value on the monster deal he signed 1.5 seasons ago. Even with improvements, it’s hard to consider Powell a significant asset at this time.

If a rebuilding team finds something they like in him, and you’re able to get value in return, yes I’d be willing to negotiate. Sending out any sort of asset to get off his future contract would be foolish.
13 hours ago
Raptors aim to be less predictable in crunch time -
While he’s often on the floor in crunch time, if for no other reason than his defensive versatility, he’s very rarely an offensive focal point in those situations. Now, as Fred VanVleet joked, he’s shooting 100 per cent, 1-for-1, with a game-winner on his rapidly growing resume.

This was the desired outcome for a Raptors team that’s had mixed results executing down the stretch. One night earlier they squandered a four-point lead with four minutes remaining in Boston. The Celtics scored 17 of the game’s final 21 points, with Toronto’s offence breaking down and Kyrie Irving outduelling Leonard in the final moments.

After the loss, both of Toronto’s all-stars – Leonard and Kyle Lowry – were vocal about the need to mix things up in crunch time.

“[We need to] give Kawhi some help,” Lowry said. “A lot of times we kind of give Kawhi the ball and get out the way. He is that talented a player, but we’ve got to help him. We’ve got to do things differently. We have to pay attention to detail better. A lot of things to work on I think we just got comfortable with Kawhi taking over and making every shot. He is really good and he can do it, but we have to give him some help.”

“That’s what I have to do,” said Leonard. “That’s what I’m here for, that’s what I work for. We just gotta get some movement going rather than just be stationary out there. It’s not just down the stretch at times, it’s throughout the game, sometimes when I do have the ball, there’s not movement, just everybody watching me.”

On Thursday the script was flipped. Leonard was the spectator, watching his teammates close things out from the bench as the Raptors continue to manage his workload on back-to-backs. Of course, had he been available, head coach Nick Nurse almost certainly would have called his number with the game on the line.
13 hours ago
About Last Night: Siakam rescues Raptors at buzzer |
DIFFICULTY: With Leonard unavailable, Raptors coach Nick Nurse put the ball in Siakam’s hands on the final possession. Siakam was checked by Suns rookie Mikal Bridges, who forced Siakam to use his left hand. Still, Siakam bulldozed his way to the rim with the clock winding down, and despite a challenge by Deandre Ayton, was able to bank in the game-winning layup as time expired. The basket was confirmed following a review.

GAME SITUATION: After a Devin Booker 3-pointer gave the Suns a 107-105 lead, Siakam sank two free throws to tie the game with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining. After a defensive stop by the Raptors, Serge Ibaka's hook shot put Toronto up 109-107. Ibaka then fouled Bridges, who made both free throws with 13 seconds left.

CELEBRATION: Siakam's teammates mobbed him after the shot and the high fives continued down the bench and into the locker room. Siakam said he appreciated the fact that his team entrusted him with the ball with the game on the line. "To be honest, I didn't know what I was going to do," he said. I just had to make sure that I took the last shot."
Raptors' Siakam's game-winner a career-defining moment -
Phoenix never saw it coming. No one saw it coming. But the Suns in particular figured the final play had to go through Lowry. How could it not?

“I’d say we were surprised,” said Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov. “Hell of a shot.”

“I was honestly just waiting for someone to set a screen, or him to pass the ball,” Phoenix forward Josh Jackson said. “And he went to the basket and made a really tough shot.”

What a difference 24 hours can make. Wednesday in Boston, the Raptors were completely ineffective during crunch time, scoring only four points in the game’s final four minutes and over-relying on Kawhi Leonard, who wasn’t able to create for himself.

The next night in Toronto, against a much weaker team but in a similarly tight situation, Nurse opted to try something he never had before. Something he should probably try again.

“I just thought he could beat somebody off the dribble,” Nurse said. “Ended up the right decision. … I thought we’d just give him some space and let him go off the bounce and see what he could manufacture.”
Can the Toronto Raptors figure out how to defend Kyrie Irving before the postseason? |
A scary thought for the Raptors as they ponder a potential postseason showdown with the boys in green is that Irving may have been better on Thursday's than he was in that November meeting in which he finished with 43 points and 11 assists while scoring or assisting on Boston's final 13 made field goals.

27 points and a career-high 18 assists adds up to accounting for a whopping 67 of Boston's 117 points.

And he did it while staring down Toronto's best wing defenders. Unlike the last meeting in which he was guarded primarily by Kyle Lowry with a second helping of Fred VanVleet, Irving spent the majority of Thursday matched up against the Raptors' stable of perimeter length who in theory would at least have the range to make Irving more uncomfortable.

To a certain extent, the theory held up. All seven of Irving's turnovers came against 6'6" Danny Green, 6'7" Kawhi Leonard, 6'9" Pascal Siakam and 6'4" Norman Powell, who provided more resistance than either the 6'1" Lowry or 6'0" VanVleet.

Green and Leonard, two of the very best perimeter defenders in the entire league, are the two Raptors who guarded Irving the most according to player tracking data courtesy of Second Spectrum and it simply didn't matter as he shot 5-10 against them with nine assists.
Lowry collects 5,000th career assist, Siakam sinks winning bucket for Raptors | National Post
“To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just had to make sure that I took the last shot,” he said.

“It was ‘Pascal get the ball and get some spice a little bit,”‘ Siakam, wearing a T-shirt that said Hot Stuff, added with a laugh.

Lowry had 16 points and eight assists. He and Serge Ibaka, who finished with 22 points, turned it on in the fourth quarter but the Suns refused to go away.

Just who got the game ball remains a mystery.

“I think Kyle stole it,” said Siakam. “But that’s cool. Kyle can have that.”

Asked if he had it, Lowry said: “Nah, I lost it.”

There was a basketball in his locker, however.

The final seconds helped erase memories of an early 16-point lead that Toronto squandered.

After a Devin Booker three-pointer gave the Suns a 107-105 lead, Siakam sank two free throws to tie it with 1:16 remaining. A Raptors defensive stop and Ibaka hook shot made it 109-107 Toronto.
Pascal Siakam goes one-on-one to help Raptors slip by Suns | The Star
Man of action: Kyle Lowry was expected to sit out Thursday night’s game until less than two hours before tipoff, when coach Nick Nurse deemed him fit to start. And he almost had a triple double for his efforts, with 16 points (on 4-for-15 shooting), nine rebounds and eight assists. Kawhi Leonard still has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back this season. But he made a rare off-night appearance on the bench in the second half, a move sure to give fuel to the will-he-or-won’t-he-stay debate among fans.
The good: A few threes can really come in handy. The Raptors went on an 11-0 run about six minutes in, spurred by baskets from beyond the arc by Lowry, Danny Green and Fred VanVleet. Miles would add another three before the end of the quarter. It’s closer to what coach Nick Nurse wants to see from his team from the field.
10 things I saw from Raptors-Suns (Jan. 17) – The Defeated – Medium
Ugly: The Raptors did the bare minimum to get the 111–109 win on the second night of a back-to-back. Phoenix paraded to the line in a sloppily officiated game, and nearly forced overtime if not for an unlikely hero.
Clutch: Pascal Siakam drove in for a lefty layup at the final buzzer for the game winner. Raptors coach Nick Nurse drew up the final play for Siakam to attack in isolation from the top of the floor, and he blew past both Mikal Bridges at the point of attack and finished over Deandre Ayton at the rim for the incredibly difficult finish. Siakam also timed the move perfectly as he didn’t start his drive until there were only three seconds left on the clock, which left no chance for the Suns to respond.
Hub: The Suns doubled Siakam for most of the game despite him finishing with just 10 points, which is a credit to Siakam’s improvements this season. Siakam leveraged the added attention into five assists, and was a factor on the boards.
Audible: Kyle Lowry was initially ruled out as he was scheduled to rest the second end of the back-to-back along with Kawhi Leonard. However, Nick Nurse explained that Lowry was suiting up instead because he needed game reps to get his conditioning back, and to find his shot.
Performance: Lowry was labored in his movements, but he was a positive contributor with 16 points, eight assists and nine rebounds. He worked magic with Serge Ibaka in the pick-and-pop, came up with a clutch defensive stop by forcing a turnover in the last minute of the game, and successfully lobbied the referees for cheap calls.
Kyle Lowry will carry much of the Raptors’ success, or failure, on his back | The Star
And down the stretch of a tight game, Lowry started pick and rolls but didn’t finish them. He finally looked for his own shot up two with 15.7 seconds left, a kill shot. He missed a long two-pointer. Pascal Siakam got the ball on his own and drove for the left-handed game-winner at the buzzer, and Lowry watched. He still doesn’t look like himself.

“No, not really,” point guard Fred VanVleet said. “It’s going to take some time; we were laughing about it in the game, how it’s going to take some time just to get his flow back, to get his rhythm back. I think he’s in his head right now, probably, shooting the ball, and getting the best looks that he could ever imagine. He’s going to get back to where he wants to be. Got to be patient. He was out (nearly) a month. It takes time.”

“I’m still a little bit out of shape, conditioning, everything,” said Lowry, who is also sniffling from the kind of cold dads of little kids get. “I mean I literally couldn’t run, do anything for a while; the back is pretty tough to come back from. I mean, I’m trying to do everything I can do to get myself back to tip-top shape. Get into a rhythm. After the first couple months of the season I’ve kind of lost a rhythm, and I’m just working to try to get it back.”

It’s not urgent; Toronto is still winning. But as the Raptors continue to gear up towards the real test, the biggest problem to solve isn’t so much Leonard as the gap between him and everybody else.

“The ball’s gonna play through Kawhi mostly, like it does for Kyrie and like it does for (James) Harden and LeBron,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “It’s gonna play through him, and then the other guys gotta be ready to be spaced right, be ready to step in and take ’em, be ready to make the next pass if it’s there, punch into the paint, et cetera. I think we were not using Kawhi enough late.”
Quick Recap: Suns lose thriller to Raptors at buzzer, 111-109 - Bright Side Of The Sun
So you might be surprised to hear the Suns had a lead in the final two minutes? Why yes. That actually happened.

But then the Raptors raptored. Pascal Siakam drew a foul made the free throws to tie it, then Kyle Lowry got a very physical throw-TJ-to-the-floor-while-grabbing-the-ball steal and Serge Ibaka made a hook shot to give the Raptors the 109-107 lead.

Mikal Bridges tied the game with a pair of free throws, 109-109, with 13 seconds left, leaving the Raptors with a chance for the final shot.

That just set it up for Pascal Siakam to make a driving left-hand layup at the buzzer to win. The Raptors had cleared the floor, sending Ibaka to the far corner, and given Siakam the ball way outside the three point line. Siakam drove left on Bridges. Ayton, who started out outside the paint, slid too late to help. Kelly Oubre stayed on his man in the corner. Ayton contested without fouling (and free throw would have won the game too), but Siakam got the scoop shot long lefty layup up from outside the paint as the buzzer went off. All Ayton could do was drop his jaw in disbelief.
Siakam saves the day for Raptors against lowly Suns | Toronto Sun
“It’s a heck of a luxury to be able to just give it to Pascal and just get out of the way,” said Fred VanVleet, who scored 15 points.

“Well, it just was thought he could beat somebody off the dribble,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “We’ve practiced with him, working the clock down, and ended up the right decision. He made a great move and finished it off.”

The 34-13 Raptors prevailed 111-109 over the 11-35 Phoenix Suns to move back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

A night after a slugfest in Boston, Kawhi Leonard sat out, but Kyle Lowry surprisingly did not and contributed 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Serge Ibaka had 22 points, VanVleet 15, and Siakam 10, 12 rebounds and five assists. C.J. Miles chipped in 13 off of the bench for a Raptors team that struggled mightily with its shooting, hitting only 28% of its three-point attempts, including a run of 10 straight misses after the first quarter.

Lowry had been expected to miss the game after playing 34 minutes a night earlier at Boston – the team announced as much earlier Thursday – but Lowry had other plans.

“We check him out and get home and bring him in in the afternoon here, and he just felt like he was ready to go and felt like he wanted to go, and continue on his path to kind of conditioning himself back into playing shape a little bit more since he was out for such a long stretch,” said Nurse.
Raptors' narrow escape against Suns leaves more questions than answers -
No matter that the Suns spent Tuesday night in Toronto, patiently awaiting Wednesday’s game, while the Toronto Raptors were in Boston, waging an emotionally-draining test of wills with a reeling-yet-motivated Celtics outfit that ultimately concluded in dispiriting defeat. If you have to play less than 24 hours following a game like that, it might as well be against Phoenix.

And yet, as they are wont to do, the Raptors made it so much harder than it had to be. It was still a hard-fought, bounce-back victory, 111-109, in the end. But it was far from as effortless as it should have been. Toronto was up a dozen after the first. But a combination of Phoenix’s youthful exuberance and Toronto’s dreadful three-point shooting allowed the Suns to hang around, and even take a one-point lead into the game’s final quarter.

Surely, that’s when Toronto’s experience and all-around superior talent should have taken over. But there the two teams were, going back and forth in the dying minutes until they were deadlocked at 109 with 13 seconds remaining. That’s when Raptors head coach Nick Nurse drew up an isolation play for Pascal Siakam, who charged straight into the paint and rolled a left-handed — left-handed! — bucket in over two Suns defenders.

“I just thought he could beat somebody off the dribble,” Nurse said. “Ended up the right decision.”
Suns rally back from early deficit, fall to shorthanded Raptors at buzzer
With under three minutes to go and the Suns down by one, Booker used the extra attention from the defense on a hard drive to find Mikal Bridges open in the corner for a deep two that gave the Suns the lead.

After Toronto answered, Booker hit a three to put the Suns back up two. Toronto continued to overload their defensive coverage to contain Booker, which led to a missed open three-pointer by T.J. Warren.

That was followed by two free throws for Siakam that tied the game at 107 with 1:16 to go. Once again, the Raptors forced Booker to pass, which led to Warren turning the ball over. A quick two on the other end put the Suns down two, and after Booker set up another open shot, Kelly Oubre Jr. missed a corner deep ball with 36.1 seconds left.

Mikal Bridges drew a loose ball foul to tie the game at 109 with 13 seconds left, leading to Siakam’s game-winner.

Booker bounced back after a rough 4-of-12 outing in his return from a three-game absence on Tuesday, scoring 30 points and dishing out eight assists, all eight of which came in the second half.

Deandre Ayton had a strong first half but didn’t touch the ball much in the second. The Suns continued to either not run plays to give him the ball in the post or not get him the ball in that position. Warren, most notably, had Ayton open with a guard defending the big man late but missed him.
Four takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' thrilling win over the Phoenix Suns | Sporting News
A weird second half
The third quarter was a different story.

Whereas the Suns scored 29 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field, the Raptors put up only 20 points on 7-for-22 shooting. They missed all seven of their 3-point attempts and turned the ball over four times, with Greg Monroe accounting for two of them.

It set up a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter that saw a total of nine lead changes. Booker led the charge for the Suns with 10 points and four assists, and Serge Ibaka led the way for the Raptors with eight points.

Lowry also made an impact in the fourth with five points, five assists and six rebounds, but it was Siakam who stole the show down the stretch.

With the game tied at 109, Lowry handed the ball to Siakam at the top of the perimeter to go to work against Mikal Bridges in isolation, and he delivered.
Recap: Pascal Siakam beats the buzzer and the Raptors beat the Suns, 111-109 - Raptors HQ
At this pivot point in the Raptors season, it still feels like there’s unsettled business with this team. There’s no obvious dysfunction, as with the Celtics’ or Sixers’ loud airing of grievances, just a low level hum that suggests not everything is yet as it should be. Beyond the clutch struggles — which are overblown thanks to recency bias — and obvious injury problems, a general theme has emerged: what if all these Raptors were all playing well... at the same time?

Because he’s in the midst of a wildly up-and-down season, all eyes were on Kyle Lowry tonight. He wasn’t even supposed to play until coach Nick Nurse announced suddenly pre-game that in fact he would. It was something of a twist — this Phoenix contest was indeed on the second night of a back-to-back, right after a game in which it looked like Lowry had faded down the stretch. Would he be able to orchestrate things with any clarity? How would his sore back be feeling? Is any of this a good idea? After Lowry put in almost 40 minutes of work, Fred VanVleet confirmed who was calling the shots, “I’m sure they don’t want [Lowry] playing back-to-backs, and you can probably guess how the rest of that conversation went.”
Hits and Flops: Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics
Flop - Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry is an All-Star point guard running the show for the Raptors. But on this occasion, he failed to live up to the expectations. In a tantalizing point guard battle with Irving, Lowry did not deliver.

Lowry ended the match with just 10 points to go along with his 6 rebounds and 7 assists. His season average is around 15 points and 9.6 assists. He is one of the leaders in assists per game and has one of the best win shares this season.

But Lowry seemed off in this match. He only shot 3-10 from the field and 1-5 from the 3PT line. The Raptors struggled when Lowry missed matches while nursing an injury and he has been critical to their success this season. In a big match like this one, Lowry was outperformed by his matchup.
2 days ago
Raptors look to bounce back against Suns
The Toronto Raptors and the Phoenix Suns are both coming off losses they would like to put behind them when they meet Thursday night in Ontario.

The Eastern Conference-co-leading Raptors fell 117-108 to the host Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, ending a five-game winning streak. Toronto squandered the game on an 11-0 Boston run late in the fourth quarter.

Kawhi Leonard, who scored 33 points Wednesday, has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back for the Raptors. He played more than 36 minutes Wednesday.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse has indicated that Leonard soon could be playing both ends of consecutive games. Leonard has been treated carefully after missing most of last season with a quadriceps injury.

The Suns, meanwhile, opened a four-game road trip Tuesday with an uninspired performance in a 131-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers despite the return of Devin Booker.

The Suns had won two of three games without Booker, including a 102-93 victory over Denver Nuggets on Saturday. He was limited to eight points in 27 minutes Tuesday.

"There's no excuses to it," said Booker, who had been sidelined due to back spasms. "I just didn't play a good game."

The Suns will have to start better Thursday in Toronto than they did against the Pacers, who shot 58.3 percent in the first quarter.
2 days ago
Celtics stop skid, take down first-place Raptors – Boston Herald
Kyrie Irving, focusing as much on his playmaking as carrying the scoring load, coupled his 27 points with a career-high 18 assists, often with Al Horford (season-high 24 points) in the paint.

“Somehow people still think I can’t pass,” he said. “It’s always an interesting thing to get a career high in assists and guys were making shots and they made my job a lot easier tonight. The Raptors were doing a great job of funneling me into space and I was just trying to find open guys and Al was under there a few times, as well as our shooters, so just feeling good about the basketball and then taking over when needed.”

The bench also picked up, with Gordon Hayward almost outscoring the Toronto reserves by himself, 18-22, and Rozier playing one of his best defensive games of the season by applying fullcourt pressure.

“Terry Rozier turned the game around,” coach Brad Stevens said.  “He kind of turned the environment around, to be honest. I thought that his energy lifted everyone around, from our team, to the building. I just thought we were – it was contagious. And the way he picked up the ball, a couple of the plays he made, the spirit he played with – I thought really got us going in the right direction, and everybody followed suit from there on out.”

But the Celtics still had to come back, after the Raptors took a 92-89 lead with a pulverizing 9-0 run. Baynes immediately tied the game from the top of the arc with his first 3-pointer of the new year, and though the two sides would combine for two 3-pointers and three three-point plays in the next three minutes, it was the Celtics with the closing kick.
2 days ago
Raptors’ string snapped at five in playoff atmosphere in Boston | The Star
Back to normal: The Celtics got some ailing players back as they fight through a spell of injuries. Kyrie Irving returned after missing a Sunday game with a thigh injury, Aron Baynes played for the first time in four weeks after suffering a broken finger and Marcus Smart played after being sick for Sunday’s game. Raptors coach Nick Nurse was not interested in any chatter about what might be going on with the Celtics, who’d been slumping. “I don’t really put as much stock (in what others say about) their recent road trip or their chemistry issues or whatever everybody’s talking about,” Nurse said Wednesday morning. “There’s a lot of dangerous guys out there.”
2 days ago
Raptors zone in on playoff-ready defence | The Star
“We’ve been adding some schemes as we go,” Nurse said here on Wednesday, before the Raptors faced the Boston Celtics. “Lately — probably in the last three weeks — we’ve added a couple more coverages, just to be able to play the different teams, different personnel, different ball-handlers on different nights, so we’ve got a little bit more in our toolbox.”

The grand plan is to have myriad defensive looks that can be sprung on a playoff opponent in momentum-shifting moments in truly important games.

“I think we’re talking more on defence. Our defensive rotations have been better,” Raptor Kawhi Leonard said. “Still want to be consistent with it throughout the game, but I think our defence has gotten better.”

Getting to work with that at full speed in regular-season games has been a boon. It’s all well and good for Nurse and his staff to show schemes on video and have the players work through them at practice speed. It’s another thing entirely to see them work in games.

“I think it gives them a comfort level, because there’s nights when you come out and some guy’s giving you problems and your basic defensive package isn’t quite doing it, and sometimes you say ‘Well, we’ve got to do it harder,’ and sometimes you’ve got to say ‘Wait a minute, it’s the wrong coverage,’” Nurse said.
2 days ago
Inside the new, free Raptors: A reinvigorated veteran, a gunslinging coach and an elephant figurine -
Part of Green's reinvigoration is the simple fact that he's healthy. He played through a groin injury last season and spent much of his summer rehabbing it. Dating back to training camp, though, whenever Green was asked what was different in Toronto, he used the word freedom. The Raptors' offensive system demands improvisation, and Green told CBS Sports that this has "a ton" to do with the year he's having.

"It gives you more confidence as a player to be able to play your game," Green said. "I think knowing that you're not coming out because of a mistake or because you tried to be creative or make a play or do something outside of your box, it allows you to have that freedom. It makes you more comfortable doing those things."

This made the transition to Toronto "very easy" for the 10-year veteran, and that is no small thing given that he played 15,942 minutes in 620 games for the Spurs, including their yearly playoff runs. He sacrificed money to re-sign with the Spurs in 2015, a year after his lights-out shooting and stout defense helped them beat the Heat in the NBA Finals. Five days removed from his return to San Antonio, which featured a tribute video and many, many hugs, Green was careful to say that his current situation isn't better or worse than his previous one. He did, however, describe it as "different."
2 days ago
Toronto coach looking forward to many big games between Celts and Raptors – Boston Herald
“Obviously they’re on edge [after three straight losses], but I don’t put too much into that. I think all you need to do is look at last night’s Golden State game (142-111 win in Denver) to know that when a really good team with really good players decided, ‘All right, let’s go play,’ they showed what they can do. And that’s what I’m expecting from Boston.”

As he spoke before tipoff and was asked about which Celts he’s be seeing here, Nurse smiled and said, “If I had a formula on any of that stuff, when I knew it was going to happen, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

And the particular matchups and general competitiveness between the two teams always plays into it, as well.

Before the five-game win streak the Raptors carried into the Garden for this one, they were smoked in San Antonio, 125-107 (in DeMar DeRozan’s revenge game), but he expects things will always be different for them against the Celts.

“This is a little bit closer to home. This is a team we see a lot and we’re going to see a lot [in meaningful games], probably for years to come. So we know every time we play these guys that it means something.”

Two weeks ago when the Celts were in Texas to play the Spurs, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich chalked up the strange results around the league and general inconsistency to greater emphasis by teams on 3-point shooting. Nurse is a believer.
2 days ago
Raptors left looking for late-game Plan B after loss to Celtics -
It was tremendous to watch and the Raptors couldn’t help themselves.

“A lot of times we kind of give Kawhi the ball and get out the way,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.

When it works it’s a thing of brutish beauty, like watching an expert lumberjack fell a tree with one mighty swing of his axe after another.

But on this night, the Raptors (33-13) were eventually chopped down 117-108 by the Celtics, ending their winning streak at five games. The well finally ran dry. And as has happened more than once as the Raptors get in the grind of close games, Toronto seemed perplexed about what to do when Leonard was closed off.

“Obviously the last three minutes of the game got away from us – and I think almost blame more of it on the offence,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.

“We had a really good rhythm and momentum there for a long stretch offensively then we kind of took a couple of quick shots and didn’t execute a couple of things exactly right, out of a timeout one time and you can’t do that.”
2 days ago
Game Recap: Boston Celtics down the Toronto Raptors with game-closing run, 117-108 - Raptors HQ
The starters for the Raptors were consistently great. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 33 points on just 19 shots, adding four rebounds and four steals. Serge Ibaka also had a great game, with 22 points and 10 rebounds (five on the offensive glass). Kyle Lowry, despite going 3-for-10 for just 10 points, had an aggressive mindset early on and racked up seven assists.

What’s more, Toronto’s starters were engaged and opportunistic on defence. When all five guys were out there, especially with Ibaka at the five, they were able to collapse the lane and get back to shooters relatively efficiently. The Celtics made 46.7% of their threes on the night, but quite a few were under duress.

That percentage, on the flip side, was also propped up by the Raptors’ poor bench play. In the second quarter, Toronto was soundly beaten by the Celtics’ bench unit — led by 18 points from Gordon Hayward — as they were beaten 34-17 in the frame. That stretch stung, even though the Raptors made quite a rally in the second half.

In the opening quarter, Kawhi got off to a frantic start. He had five of the first seven Raptors points, including a steal and score, to help Toronto jump out to an 18-7 lead. The starters kept the good times going until the media timeout, when they were up 27-19.
2 days ago
Rozier, Baynes lead bench charge vs. Raptors - CelticsBlog
In two roughly ten-minute stints, Rozier also pushed the ball in transition and attacked the basket when he could. He didn’t force anything on offense and instead, used his athleticism on the defensive end. After the game, Rozier seemed to brush off the accolades, saying that it was “nothing special” and “something he just told himself, so get used to seeing that.”

“I definitely felt the spirit go up a little bit. I’m just trying to be active on the ball, picking up full, and picking up everybody’s energy. You could just tell that when I started doing it that everybody started being more active and it changed the game a little bit.”

In the front court, it was the return of Aron Baynes that provided the solid backbone on both sides of the floor. His presence was probably felt the most by the guy that he never shared the floor with: Al Horford.

“I’m very happy that (Aron Baynes) is back. He felt great. He takes so much pressure off of us as a group. His presence defensively, his activity, energy, he hit a big 3 in the 4th when we were hurting. I’m just happy that he’s back,” Horford said.
2 days ago
Chance encounter with NBA coach changed Winthrop offense | The Herald
It was very early in the 2014 college basketball season and Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey was in his office working when a man walked in.

He asked if he could watch Winthrop’s practice, which was about to start, and Kelsey said, absolutely, our practices are open. Then he asked if the man was a basketball coach and where did he coach?

“Toronto,” he said.

“Toronto... Raptors?” Kelsey asked, his interest piqued.

“Yeah, the Raptors,” the man said.

Nick Nurse, an assistant coach for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 2014, and now the Raptors’ head coach, had just ambled into Kelsey’s office. Nurse’s wife, the former Roberta Santos, was an assistant volleyball coach at Winthrop and Nurse was in town for some quality family time before the NBA season started.

That fortuitous event changed the offensive style of the Winthrop basketball program. Kelsey always liked to play fast and downhill offense. But meeting Nurse added an emphasis on 3-pointers and the development of the Eagles’ shot spectrum, which determined whether certain field goal attempts were efficient and valuable, or not, and thus not worth shooting.

During one of their many interactions over the ensuing years, Nurse asked Kelsey what kind of shots his team wanted.

“Good shots?” Kelsey said, unsure of his answer.
2 days ago
1/16 Game Preview: Raptors at Celtics | Boston Celtics
After the Celtics blew a 12-point halftime lead in losing in Orlando, Irving called out his team.

"The young guys don't know what it takes to be a championship-level team," Irving said. "What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we're trying to get to the finals?"

He said the team must learn to play when there are high expectations for them to succeed, unlike last season when they made the Eastern finals despite an injury to Irving.

"We had nothing to lose and everybody could play free and do whatever they wanted and nobody had any expectations," Irving said.

Irving expanded on his comments Monday saying, "The responsibility goes all the way around."

"Part of that is learning but also teaching and then explaining what it actually means to come in and appreciate your job and have a goal in hand that is actually a championship," he said. "You know, you've never gone about it in your career, you've never done it, and now you come into a season where the expectations are higher than anything."

The Raptors, meanwhile, are trying to develop a killer instinct and not allow big leads to slip away as they did in Washington.

"It's just focus," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said.

"We shouldn't lose focus. We have to stay focused on every possession. We lost a little focus and our offense starts to dictate our defense. We can't do that. We have to let our defense dictate our offense."

The problem was the other way around for the Celtics on Monday. They trailed by 27 points with 8:55 remaining in the fourth quarter before closing strong.

"I just told the team that I really appreciate the way those guys played in the fourth quarter," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "We were guarding for three quarters (Monday). We chose one of the middle ones to take off. The third-quarter defense was awful."
3 days ago
Thursday Game Preview:Celtics host Raptors in East heavyweight clash, Pelicans continue road trip in Oakland |
Despite the depth and level of talent on Boston's roster, they seem to find it difficult maintaining consistency. Other than their eight-game win streak in early December, the Celtics have won more three games in a row just twice.

There seems to be no pattern to these losses, at least, in their current three-game skid. They lost by 16 to the Heat, then lost a nail-biter by two points to the Magic and then gave up a 44-point third quarter in the loss to the Nets.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, it isn't going to easy snap out of their skid by hosting the team with the best record in the league.

The Raptors, along with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Denver Nuggets, are the only teams to be top 10 in offensive and defensive rating.

The momentum on the Raptors' side has been of a contrasting nature. Since their 18-point loss in San Antonio, the team has won five games in a row. More importantly, their last three wins have come with both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard healthy and playing.
3 days ago
Heat Check: Would you take the Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics in a seven-game series right now? | Sporting News
Nick Nurse also has brought a calmness to the Raptors huddle in close games so far this year. In games decided by five points or less, Toronto has a winning percentage of 63%. Last season without Kawhi and with Dwane Casey at the helm in that same situation, the Raptors had a 57% winning percentage. The year before that, in 2016-17? 51%.

There have been critics that the Raptors are relying on Kawhi too much in the clutch, but Toronto is winning those game more than they have in the last two years, and those pressure wins are going to be the ones that most replicate any playoff scenario.

If you’re wondering how the Celtics are doing in the clutch this year, they’re a .500 team.

The season series is tied at one, the Raptors got one at home and lost a tough one to the Celtics on the road. To beat Toronto in that game back in November, it took a season-high 43 points from Kyrie Irving — and the game went to the final possession. Kyrie is phenomenal, but to ask that much of him for an entire playoff series is a lot.

I don’t even think I have to get into the chemistry issues Boston clearly seems to have — I’ll leave that one alone.

Raptors in six, and I’m being generous.
3 days ago
Raptors know from experience not to count out struggling Celtics -
Naturally, no one drawing a Raptors pay cheque is buying into the idea that the Celtics can be easily had.

"They are still a heavyweight in the East," Raptors shooting guard Danny Green said Tuesday as Toronto wrapped up practice at Northeastern University. "Obviously, they have had some injuries. They are still waiting on some guys – we are too. Regardless of those facts, they are still a very good ball club and can play at a high level. Even though they have lost some games and have been up and down, they are still a heavyweight in the East and we got to go out there and respect them and play like that."
3 days ago
How the Patrick McCaw Signing Effects the Boston Celtics
McCaw’s defensive impact is considerable. Last year, the lineup in which he saw the highest number of possessions (106) performed really well in defensive categories. This lineup ranked in the 90th, 95th, and 94th percentile for limiting opponents points per possession, limiting effective field goal percentage, and causing turnovers. Individually he also ranked in the 85th percentile in steal percentage.

McCaw also understood his role in Golden State — to play defense and shoot when open. While he was not a primary ball handler, he has the quickness to effectively push the ball in transition. He has elite athleticism and leaping ability.

McCaw’s shot selection mirrors that of a modern-day NBA wing — three-pointers and layups. Last season, 42% of his shots came from the paint and 33% from beyond the arc.

Fitting into his non-scoring roll with the Warriors, McCaw only averaged four points during his two seasons. While he showed some flashes of creating offense, McCaw’s shooting abilities are still a mystery.
3 days ago
Nike's new power-lacing basketball sneaker set to hit retail Feb. 17 - Los Angeles Times
According to Nike’s website, the debut shoe consists of a black Flyknit upper over an inner shell of quadaxial mesh paired with a Cushlon foam midsole.

Instead of employing physical laces, the shoe tightens around the foot by way of a motor and gear train Nike is calling a “lace engine” (which, in our opinion, would be a great name for a band) that can be adjusted either manually by the touch of a button or through a smartphone app that can be used to dial in different settings. (Nike uses the example of setting a different tightness for warmups vs. games or using the app to loosen the lacing during a timeout and then tighten up when entering the game.)

One of the NBA players tapped by Nike during the Adapt BB’s development process was the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who is expected to give the shoes their NBA in-game debut during Boston’s Wednesday home game against the Toronto Raptors.
3 days ago
NBA predictions - Awards, Finals matchups and Warriors vs the field
Who is most likely to win Most Improved Player?
Pascal Siakam is having a breakout third season on the league-leading Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 12.8 points per 100 possessions better when he's on the court as compared to when he sits, and he's up to No. 24 in RPM. There's a long list of strong MIP candidates. They're all chasing Siakam.
3 days ago
Report: Raptors, Thunder, and Trail Blazers Among Teams Interested in Tristan Thompson | Cavaliers Nation
One team that would make particular sense as a trade partner would be the Toronto Raptors, since they currently have the best record in the NBA at 33-12. More germane to Thompson’s situation is that he’s a native of the city.
3 days ago
Kyrie Irving tried to big league Phil Handy in Cleveland
Phil Handy, an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors and the team’s head of player development, had put together quite the NBA resume before coming north of the border last summer.

Most notably, he worked in the same role with the Cleveland Cavaliers during their dominance of the Eastern Conference – a squad powered by little-known names such as LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Handy wasn’t brought into the organization to help out players like that, though. His focus was on a budding star that the Cavs selected first overall in the 2011 NBA draft: Kyrie Irving.

“Kyrie was, he was a phenomenal, um, I don’t wanna call him a project,” said Handy during a recent episode of ‘Inside the Green Room’ with Danny Green. “When the Cavs hired me, Mike Brown (Cleveland’s head coach at the time) was like, ‘Listen, I’m hiring you to come here and mentor Kyrie.'”

Like most classic tales of mentorship, things didn’t begin very smoothly as Irving wasn’t too keen about Handy’s influence on his development initially.
3 days ago
Disorder on the court might awaken Celtics | The Star
“You need adversity,” Raptors guard Danny Green said here Tuesday. “That comes in many types of shapes, sizes and forms: whether it’s in the locker room, whether it’s injuries, or shooting or on the court or coaching style, whatever it may be.

“There has to be some adversity to help you build that character, that chip, that mindset and that maturity for when it’s crunch time down the stretch of the season, where we’re in games and you can prepare for it.”

There’s no question that things are not going well for the Celtics right now. They’ve lost three straight games, have sunk to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and all-star point guard Kyrie Irving publicly called out his teammates after a particularly disappointing loss Saturday in Orlando.

How the Celtics respond will be a continuing study in team dynamics. The Raptors certainly aren’t counting them out.

“I don’t think they’re struggling,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “They’ve lost a few games, that’s about it. Everyone goes through that stretch, but they’re one of the top teams in the NBA, one of the best home teams in the NBA. Their talent is unlimited. So they’re still one of the top teams we’re going to go against.”
3 days ago
Bulpett: Celtics look to shake on- and off-court issues vs. Toronto – Boston Herald
“After the game, Kyrie came in and talked to us about it,” said Brad Wanamaker, who played well with 13 points in 26 minutes. “You know, we’ve got to play the way we played in the last couple of minutes starting off the game. That’s just something we’ve got to do as a team. It comes from watching film and trusting each other. … We all talked together and told each other what we can improve on. It was a positive message that we want to do what we did in the last minutes from the jump.”

Said Jaylen Brown, “We’ve got to be more accountable as a group. It’s not one guy’s fault. It’s not young guys’, old guys’ fault. It’s everybody. We all have to be accountable to turn this thing around. There’s stretches where we play good basketball, and stretches we don’t, but we all have to have each other’s backs.”

He added later, “We’ve just got to have each other’s backs at the end of the day. We can’t make comments. We can’t point fingers. We just have to continue to empower each other and have each other’s backs. If we don’t, if we start pointing fingers, everybody’s going to go into their own little shells. We’ve got to continue to play basketball. It starts from the top to the bottom. Not from the bottom to the top but the top to the bottom. We’ve got to continue to empower each other and make the best of this. We have a lot of talent, and we know what we’re capable of doing. We have to go out there and do it — playing free, playing loose, having fun.”
3 days ago
What to watch for when the Boston Celtics host the Toronto Raptors
The Boston Celtics have a tough matchup in front of them in their effort to snap a three-game losing streak. The East-leading Toronto Raptors are coming to town, so here’s what to look for in this battle of NBA heavyweights.
Coming off arguably their worst three-game stretch of the season, the Boston Celtics will return home to TD Garden to host the Toronto Raptors, who hold the league’s best record.

Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart are expected to return after sitting out of the Brooklyn game with a quad contusion and illness respectively. The Celtics could wipe away the last three games with a win, so let’s look at what to look for in a potential preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. The season series is split one game a-piece, with each team protecting their home floor.
3 days ago
Celtics’ struggles mean little to Raptors who still view them as major obstacle | Toronto Sun
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Danny Green said of the Celtics’ first half issues and current troubles. “They are still a heavyweight in the East. Obviously they have had some injuries. They are still waiting on some guys — we are too. Regardless of those facts they are still a very good ball club and can play at a high level. Even though they have lost some games and have been up and down, they are still a heavyweight in the East and we got to go out there and respect them and play like that.”

Kyle Lowry actually rolled his eyes when it was suggested to him the Celtics were in a bind right now.

“I don’t think they’re struggling,” he said. “They’ve lost a few games, that’s about it. Everyone goes through that stretch. But they’re one of the top teams in the NBA, one of the best home teams in the NBA, their talent is unlimited, so they’re still one of the top teams we’re going to go against.”

Green compares the issues the Celtics are dealing with right now to what the Raptors went through following a humbling loss to San Antonio at the beginning of this month.
3 days ago
NBA: Top 5 Greatest Raptors of all time
Before Damon Stoudamire called the shots for the University of Pacific, the Mighty Mouse played for the Raptors during its inaugural season after being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.

Stoudamire, who was the first-ever pick in the team's history, showed some flashes of brilliance in his time with Toronto averaging a franchise-leading 8.8 assists per game. During his rookie year, Stoudamire posted stellar averages of 19.9 points and nine assists per game while hitting a rookie-record of 133 threes in a season.

For his exquisite play, Stoudamire was recognized by the league as the 1995-96 NBA Rookie of the Year.

In his three seasons with Toronto, Stoudamire put up 19.6 points, 8.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. His best year with the team came in during his sophomore season wherein he tallied 20.2 points, 8.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds.

However, Stoudamire's time with the Raptors was cut short when he joined the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1997-1998 season. After leaving the Raptors, Stoudamire never recaptured his old form back as he failed to crack the 15 points per game mark with the Trail Blazers, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the San Antonio Spurs.
3 days ago
Raptors may be without four rotation players Wednesday versus Celtics
OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas will each miss the contest for Toronto, while Fred VanVleet and CJ Miles are each questionable for the competition.

Despite all of the background noise, with their 15-5 record at TD Garden, the Celtics can fairly be described as a good home team. They’ll be desperate for a win and will be welcoming Kyrie Irving back to the lineup. What was already going to be an uphill battle for the Raptors is likely to be more difficult should either VanVleet or Miles (or both) be unable to suit up.
3 days ago
Aron Baynes upgraded to ‘questionable’ for Wednesday versus Raptors
After fracturing his fourth left metacarpal, Aron Baynes has been missing in action for the Boston Celtics for quite some time.

Now, right in line with the suggestion made last week by head coach Brad Stevens, Baynes’ return appears to be imminent. On Tuesday, the day before the Celtics host the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden, the Celtics announced that Baynes is ‘questionable’ for the contest.
3 days ago
Travel woes: Wizards stuck on tarmac for 5 hours on trip to London | NBC Sports Washington
After Sunday's double-overtime heartbreaker to the Toronto Raptors, the Wizards experienced a travel nightmare thanks to a combination of mother nature and other logistical issues. 

The short story: After spending over five hours on the tarmac, they never made it to London. 

As detailed in the Wizards Talk podcast attached below, NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller decided to throw a movie on and pass out while sitting in the Virgin Atlantic plane destined for England. 

Upon waking up, he learned one of two plane de-icing stations at Dulles International Airport broke down which caused massive delays in the midst of Sunday night's steady snowfall. 

Ultimately, inclement weather wasn't the reason for derailing Washington's trip to London. Airlines have regulations in place that state a pilot can only be on duty for a set number of hours for precautionary reasons. Washington's pilot had reached his limit. 
4 days ago
Raptors need to find that killer instinct | Toronto Sun
“We just have to be more mature,” Green said. “Learn how to keep leads. Keep our foot on the gas. Keep teams at bay. Obviously they got hot. They made shots. That’s what they do, but we have to put ourselves in a better position and not let them do that.

“It was an experience that we kind of realize we are getting there but we’re not fully there yet,” he said of the takeaway from the afternoon. “Obviously some tough matches coming up so we still have some work to do.”

Lowry gave huge props to both Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam for helping the Raptors pull this one out. He also sacrificed his body in a big way on the final play of the game throwing himself in the way of Beal as he attempted to haul in a desperate last second heave on a pass from under his own basket in hopes of getting off a tying shot. With Lowry playing free safety though it was not about to happen.

“We had to make sure we won that game,” Lowry said summing up his feelings on a hugely entertaining, though potentially harmful afternoon.
4 days ago
Celtics notebook: Brad Stevens OK with suggestions in the huddle – Boston Herald
It wasn’t quite Larry Bird overruling coach KC Jones to get the ball for a final play in Seattle, but Kyrie Irving did make a strong suggestion to Brad Stevens with 2.9 seconds left Saturday in Orlando.

Irving wasn’t at all subtle about the situation, which probably is just added fuel to his displeasure with the two-point loss when Gordon Hayward inbounded the ball to Jayson Tatum instead of going with the option that included Irving.

But Stevens is fine with the assistance from players, even in that tight time frame.

“Yeah, I’m always listening,” Stevens said. “I think it’s important to be a listener. So like the other day we had something drawn up, but I think Ky felt more comfortable doing something different, and he expressed it in a good way and we made a small tweak. And they had a couple of great options on that action, and J.T. had a great look, and that’s good.

“I love that. I want feedback. I think that’s good. And if guys are going to go out and make plays, ultimately they’ve got to be comfortable, so that’s part of it. I think a coach’s job is to ultimately have a plan but be able to listen to make sure that everybody feels good about it.”
5 days ago
Analysis: Raptors appear to be getting over the hump - Raptors HQ
So, the starters have held up OK (though we’ve lost out on those dominant variants to the starting lineup), but now we’ve gone from a bench that was problematic except for 2 positive contributors in Valanciunas and VanVleet mostly keeping it afloat, to having VanVleet starting and Valanciunas hurt, and being left with a bench that is basically just problematic.

This is actually a really good sign. Once the Raptors are fully healthy, the bench may sort itself out, especially as the Raptors have started using Siakam and their stars more with the bench units.

Before December 12th, Siakam had nine percent of his minutes come with bench units (no Lowry or Leonard). Since then, nearly 20 percent of his minutes have come in bench units. Lowry has gone from 34 percent of his minutes played away from Leonard (and that includes all those games Leonard missed) to over 50 percent since then (admittedly in a sample of only a few games). Leonard has gone from only 15 percent of his minutes away from Lowry to 23 percent in the past three games together.

If that trend continues when the team is healthy again, that should help bolster the bench to be a consistent positive contributor, while the starting and closing units should return to form — having the option to put Valanciunas at C or bring VanVleet as an extra ball handler is quite valuable, as seen in the lineup ratings up above.
5 days ago
Our Midseason NBA awards: MVP, Defensive Player of Year, Coach of Year, much more – ProBasketballTalk
Coach of the Year - Nick Nurse: As we have learned over the past couple of seasons, top NBA personalities don’t necessarily always love each other. In an era of infinite statistical analysis, the human side of basketball still remains a major factor. Yes, the Raptors were the best team in the Eastern Conference last season. And Nick Nurse was part of that success. But Nurse has had to incorporate Kawhi Leonard, who left the San Antonio Spurs under inauspicious circumstances, and a moody and oft-injured Kyle Lowry who doesn’t appear to be on good terms with the team’s GM. We just saw Jimmy Butler and Leonard become a major distraction for their respective former teams. That Nurse has been able to steer the Raptors’ ship atop the East yet again — and while replacing a player favorite coach in Dwane Casey, no less — is an impressive feat.
5 days ago
Why Raptors' Pascal Siakam is worthy of being an NBA all-star this season -
Siakam is averaging career-best numbers across the board. He also ranks near the top of the league in efficiency, with the 12th-highest field goal percentage among players that average 25 minutes or more (57.2 per cent).

Those numbers are solid, but advanced metrics help paint an even clearer picture of Siakam’s value.

The Cameroonian ranks 18th league-wide with 5.0 win shares and ranks tied for 17th in offensive win shares (3.1) as well, which indicates his immense value on the offensive end.

Siakam is right behind some of the game’s best players on the win-shares list, including Kyrie Irving, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid, despite the Raptors rarely running plays through him; a lot of Siakam’s offensive success comes from thriving in chaos and capitalizing off opponents’ mistakes. Having a go-to spin move that continues stifling defenders helps, too.
5 days ago
NBA Players of the Week: Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz |
Toronto Raptors' forward Kawhi Leonard and Utah Jazz's guard Donovan Mitchell have been named Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, the league announced Monday.
5 days ago
Raptors need to find that killer instinct |
“I kind of laughed when Beal got that three to put it into overtime,” Green said. “The ball rolled right to him, damn near the top of the key for a wide open three. It was almost storybook. We get the stop, it ricochets off four people and he ends up with the ball. Right at the wing that he just hit one from.”
Beal wasn’t done there but that did pretty much put a cap on his banner afternoon that included 14 points of regulation in the final 5:27 to force OT.
Green, though, was more interested in the Raptors’ response and while it came late it did come.
“We just have to be more mature,” Green said. “Learn how to keep leads. Keep our foot on the gas. Keep teams at bay. Obviously they got hot. They made shots. That’s what they do, but we have to put ourselves in a better position and not let them do that.
“It was an experience that we kind of realize we are getting there but we’re not fully there yet,” he said of the takeaway from the afternoon. “Obviously some tough matches coming up so we still have some work to do.”
Lowry gave huge props to both Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam for helping the Raptors pull this one out. He also sacrificed his body in a big way on the final play of the game throwing himself in the way of Beal as he attempted to haul in a desperate last second heave on a pass from under his own basket in hopes of getting off a tying shot. With Lowry playing free safety though it was not about to happen.
“We had to make sure we won that game,” Lowry said summing up his feelings on a hugely entertaining, though potentially harmful afternoon.
5 days ago
Close games are welcome stress tests for the Raptors and their marquee players | The Star
“I think we want to see just some more minutes together, just some more cohesion together,” Nurse said when Lowry returned from a 10-game injury absence. “When there’s close late games, where are we going, what are we doing, how are we getting the ball?

“It’s pretty simple when one of them’s on and one of them’s off. It becomes a little harder, in a good way. It’s a good problem that you’ve got two choices to make, who’s bringing it, who isn’t bringing it.”

Little did Nurse know what was coming. Two of Toronto’s last three games have come down to final possessions and, while neither Lowry nor Leonard actually made a game-winning shot, they both made game-winning plays for teammates.

Tuesday against Atlanta, Leonard made the decisive defensive play and Lowry fed Serge Ibaka for the game-winning dunk. Sunday in Washington, Leonard rebounded his own miss and made a pass to Ibaka for the game-breaking three-pointer with fewer than 15 seconds remaining in the second overtime period.

Leonard and Lowry had both missed potential game-winning shots against Washington but game-winning plays count just as much — and are just as important.

Leonard has said often this season that the crucible of tight regular-season games can only help the Raptors when the playoffs roll around, and Sunday’s taut affair in Washington had him at it again.

“Helps us get better as a team,” he said of the 140-138 double-overtime victory that extended Toronto’s NBA-best record to 33-12 and was their fifth win in a row. “Executing, just being familiar with those close games down the stretch. Seconds on the clock, one minute left, needing stops.”
5 days ago
NBA Power Rankings: Have the Raptors reclaimed the No. 1 spot? |
Last week's ranking: 2

Overall record: 33-12

Last week: 3-0 (Win vs. Hawks, Win vs. Nets, Win at Wizards)

This week: at Celtics, vs. Suns, vs. Grizzlies

The Raptors return to the No. 1 spot in our Power Rankings following a perfect homestand that included wins over the Pacers, Hawks and Nets.

Their game against the Hawks earlier in the week came down to the wire, but they made easy work of Nets before going on the road to beat the Wizards on Sunday.

With those wins and Milwaukee's loss to those same Wizards last week, the Raptors now have the best record in the NBA again. It couldn't come at a better time, as Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka played together for the first time since Dec. 9 in their matchup with the Nets.

That lineup has been dominant on both ends of the court this season, with them scoring at a rate of 114.0 points per 100 possessions while holding opponents to only 104.0 .
5 days ago
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