Raptors Promote Nick Nurse - Who did Toronto Miss Out On & What Does This Mean Moving Forward?

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Yesterday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors promoted former assistant coach, Nick Nurse, to the head coaching role, taking the spot of former head coach Dwane Casey who was fired just over a month ago. Nurse’s promotion comes just a few days after Jerry Stackhouse took a position outside of the Raptors' organization. Stackhouse was one of the top candidates for the head coaching position and now former head coach of the Raptors 905 G-League team was brought on to the Memphis Grizzlies organization as an assistant.

After that news broke, many started to believe a head coach was going to named sooner than later, and that it was going to be Nick Nurse's job. But the Raptors did well trying to find another head coach, outside of giving it to an assistant who’s been with the team for five long but great years. There were also rumbles that the Raptors interviewed Ettore Messina, a professional Italian coach who is currently an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and has also won 4 EuroLeague championships as a head coach. He was listed as one of the best European coaches of all time, being named one of the top 50 greatest EuroLeague contributors in 2008. Further, Messina was named the best Italian head coach in 1998, 2001, and 2005 and was also named Euro Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008. Not many people knew who he was, but that’s not a bad resume if you ask me.

The Raptors also reportedly interviewed Lithuanian head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius. Although his resume isn’t great as a head coach, the 42-year old has a stacked resume as a former great player in the LKL, (Lithuanian Basketball League), winning various medals and was awarded MVP honors in 2005.

Some may not like the promotion of Nick Nurse (including myself), but it goes much deeper than bringing a new style to the team. Nurse has a great relationship with Raptors' General Manager Bobby Webster and President Masai Ujiri, as well as the players on the team. He also has head coaching experience coaching in the British Basketball League, winning the Coach of the Year award twice - once in 2000, and 2004. After a long 12 years of coaching in the BBL, Nurse then took on a head coaching position in the D-League in 2007. After joining the Energy for three years, winning their respective division in 2009 and 2010, Nurse then went on to join the coaching staff of the Iowa State Cyclones as an assistant. After his ending years in the D-League, Nurse received a Coach of the Year award in the 2011-12 season. He then spent one last season in the D-League before finally making his arrival in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors.

Nurse has been on the come-up for years, and now he can finally showcase what he’s got for this Raptors team. He knows what the roster is capable of, with arguably the best lineup in franchise history coming off the best regular season performance as well. It’ll be interesting if Nurse brings a new style to this Raptors team. Yet, the conversation of roster construction will linger during the off-season. Given Nurse's promotion, the front office has an idea as to whether they want to keep the team they have now, or trade a few pieces come the 2018-19 season. In such a tight market today in the NBA, I don’t see a huge trade happening for the Raptors this off-season or anytime soon. The Bench Mob’s potential is too high, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are more than likely “untouchables,” and OG Anunoby still has great potential as well. I left out Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell as it's likely that no one will take on their massive contracts.

Nonetheless, I and many other Raptors' faithfuls are very curious as to what Nick Nurse will provide this dedicated fan base with. After being so used to Toronto slowing down the pace of the game via ISO ball under Dwane Casey, will Nurse continue this trend? Is this enough to get us over LeBron James and the Cavs (That is, if James stays in Cleveland or the Eastern Conference for that matter)?

Many are also forgetting that this promotion from assistant to head coach means there is a vacant assistant coaching position up for grabs. No news has broken as to who may come in for Nurse and no speculation is needed at this time. The Raptors have plenty of time to make that decision before the season gets back and underway in October.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 66 - PART 1

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EPISODE 66 - PART 1

"FROM WITHIN"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


This one is all Toronto Raptors.

  • As the last team in search of their new head coach, the Toronto Raptors finally filled the void by signing internal candidate and former assistant coach, Nick Nurse. Of course, this generated a lot of chatter within the fanbase with fans wondering what differences they will see with someone that has been part of the organization since 2013. How will Nurse's vision differ than Dwane Casey's in order for the team to get over the Playoff hump?
  • To tackle these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by guest Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views. Connor and Adam spend the episode discussing the hiring of Nick Nurse, what this means for the team moving forward, what moves we should expect the team to make, and what sort of difference we should expect for next season.

It's a Toronto Raptors discussion that you won't want to miss!

Follow Connor on Twitter: @TO_SportsViews & @connorchambers

Visit Connor's work HERE

Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


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Nick Nurse Named New Raptors Head Coach

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Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)


Leave it to Woj to break open the monotony of my day! To boot - 

I just want to say from the get-go, I fully expect people to not be thrilled over the notion that it's not exactly a "new" coach that will man the ship for the Raptors. Nurse was an internal candidate and his lack of recognition among the casual NBA audience makes it seem like an unsexy pick. However, if you dig a little deeper into his experience and how well regarded he is in the league as not just an assistant coach, but his potential to be a great head coach, your lack of excitement may be altered. 

I'll admit, I was hoping that Jerry Stackhouse would end up being the new head coach for the team. From my limited vantage point (and I use the term "limited" generously, here), I was under the impression that a guy like Stackhouse had not only the experience as an NBA player, but already had a rapport with the team as a former assistant coach, as well as a relationship with a lot of the members of the Bench Mob as the head coach for Raptors 905. Yet, as soon as Stackhouse accepted an assistant coach role with the Memphis Grizzlies, I was pretty certain that it was basically Nick Nurse's job. To boot -

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However, when I look to see what qualifications Nick Nurse brings, it's not too far off from what I assumed Stackhouse would; at least on paper. Nurse's coaching history is robust, as he's had numerous stints as a head coach in the British Basketball League, winning two championships and Coach of the Year awards. Moreover, he's won two G-League (then D-League) titles, as well as being named Coach of the Year. Further, since joining the Raptors as an assistant coach in 2013, the team has never been outside of the Top 10 in offense, while peaking at #3 in the league twice. 

Nurse has been largely credited as being the one responsible for changing up the offense that we saw the team display throughout the season. As mentioned earlier, he's very well-respected among the circle of NBA coaches, as indicated in a recent (anonymous) Yahoo! Sports article in which Nurse had the most votes out of any potential coaching candidate to be a valuable asset for any NBA team. In other words, both Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster did their homework when it came to what they already had. Had they gone with a different candidate, the likelihood that Nurse would have pursued other options outside of the organization is quite high. Simply put, the Raptors didn't want to risk losing him and decided to give him the reigns left by Dwane Casey.

The remaining question is - what does this mean for the team in terms of roster construction moving forward? I'm personally unsure and would like to believe that Ujiri, Webster, and Nurse are all on the same page in terms of which players they'd like to keep and which they'd like to move, if possible. It seems obvious to me that a lot of these things, if not all of them, were discussed during the interview process, which leads me to believe that the trio feels the same way as to what would be the best course of action for the team moving forward. Further, it's fair to wonder if the team will make a move for a defensive minded assistant coach to help Nurse bridge the gap in terms of scheming. 

How they move forward will be something to monitor, but as the last team to sign a head coach, the Raptors can certainly start making these decisions and get the ball rolling. Again, I get that it's not the sexiest of signings, but there's a lot to like when it comes to the move. I'm very happy with the decision and, if there's one thing I've learned when it comes to the Raptors, it's simple:

In Masai I trust.

(Note: I discussed this on Part 1 of Episode 66 of the South of the 6ix Podcast with Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views recorded Tuesday evening, 6/12. You can listen to the show below for a more in-depth take.)


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NBA Awards Predictions

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


In my most recent article, I did an NBA Mock Draft. Only 4 days after the draft comes the NBA Awards. Today, I will be predicting the winner of the 6 main awards – Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Coach of the Year.

Most Valuable Player

Nominees:

·        James Harden – Houston Rockets

·        Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

·        Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

My Predicted Winner: James Harden

Whether he wins the NBA finals or not, what Lebron James has done this postseason is incredible. He’s carried a team, virtually single handily, to the NBA finals. Nevertheless, James Harden is still most likely going to win Most Valuable Player. Earlier this season, Kobe Bryant weighed in on the MVP debate.

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“I think James (Harden) has done so much, all season long. And for the last two years, he’s been playing phenomenally well. Had it not been for Westbrook’s historical run last year, he certainly would have won MVP last year…. I think what James (Harden) has done from Game 1 all the way through Game 82 deserves to be rewarded. I mean, this guy’s worked his butt off for the entire season and has gotten his team to the place they are now. I just don’t know what there is left for him to do to be MVP.” (Via USAtoday.com)

This past season, James Harden lead the Houston Rockets to 1st place in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history, while winning 65 games. Harden averaged 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds over 2017-2018.

Rookie of the Year

Nominees:

·       Ben Simmons - Philadelphia 76ers

·       Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz

·       Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

My Predicted Winner: Donovan Mitchell

Any basketball fan has probably heard the sentence, “Ben Simmons isn’t a rookie”, before.  I, personally, disagree with that statement. According to the rules, Simmons is a rookie. He didn’t play in 2016-2017, therefore, he is a rookie this season. Even still, I give the edge to Donovan Mitchell for ROTY. Coming into the season, Utah wasn’t projected to make it to the second round. In fact, they were projected by ESPN to narrowly sneak into the playoffs as the 8th seed (then again, the Wizards and Hornets were both projected to have more wins then the Raptors). Even though the 76ers also made it to the second round, Philadelphia played Miami in the 1st round compared to Utah playing OKC. Ben Simmons also had Joel Embiid.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nominees:

·        Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

·        Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

·        Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

My Predicted Winner: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers were one of the many surprising teams this season. Projected to win just 33 games and be the 9 seed coming into the season, Joel Embiid and the Sixers blew past expectations winning 52 games and climbing to the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Embiid averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 0.6 steals per game this past regular season.

Sixth Man of the Year

Nominees:

·        Lou Williams – Los Angeles Clippers

·        Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors

·        Eric Gordon – Houston Rockets

My Predicted Winner: Lou Williams

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Lou Williams is likely going to win the award, but both of the other two nominees will give Lou a run for his money. Up north, Fred VanVleet had a break out season. Undrafted from Wichita State, VanVleet came out of no where. Delon Wright and VanVleet were both solid backups behind all star Point Guard Kyle Lowry, but VanVleet stood out more. Efficient scoring off the bench, and lethal 3-point shooting. VanVleet averaged 8 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and just below 1 turnover per game, with a 41% 3pt percentage, while playing about 20 minutes per game. As for Eric Gordon, he was good as usual. Averaging 18 points, 2.2 assists, and 2.5 rebounds, he was a key bench piece along with Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Luc Mbah A Moute, and Gerald Green that lead to Houston’s long playoff run this postseason.

Most Improved Player

Nominees:

·        Victor Oladipo – Indiana Pacers

·        Clint Capela – Houston Rockets

·        Spencer Dinwiddie – Brooklyn Nets

My Predicted Winner: Victor Oladipo

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This was definitely the easiest award to pick out of the 6. That’s nothing against the other two candidates, just that Oladipo was incredible this season. He carried an Indiana Pacers team, that no one, and I mean no one, thought had a chance of being a contender. Indiana and Dipo put up a good fight against The King and Cleveland. Taking Lebron to 7 games, Indiana may have been the best feel good story of the season. Victor Oladipo averaged 23 points and 4 assists after averaging just 15 points and 3 assists the season prior.

Coach of the Year

Nominees:

·        Dwane Casey – Toronto Raptors

·        Brad Stevens – Boston Celtics

·        Quin Snyder – Utah Jazz

My Predicted Winner: Dwane Casey

Despite being fired by the Toronto Raptors, I still believe Casey is going to win Coach of the Year. After leading his team to 59 wins in the regular season, a second consecutive year getting swept by Lebron James was anyone’s fault except Dwane Casey. It’s not his fault his stars don’t show up in the postseason. In Lowry’s defence, he actually did show up this postseason. As for Demar DeRozan, he once again did not. Casey had a 320-238 regular season career record with the Raptors, and a disappointing 21-31 career postseason record with the Raptors


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2018 NBA Mock Draft

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


With the NBA Finals underway, that means it’s almost time for the draft. This year’s draft seems to be between Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.  Who will go #1? Here’s my mock draft #1-10.

#1- Phoenix Suns - Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Real Madrid

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It was a really tough decision deciding between Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton, but I ended up choosing the former. I just don’t know if Ayton is a generational talent like I think Doncic is. Especially in the era of basketball now, where Centers just aren’t appreciated as much as they used to be. In 2018, Luka Doncic played for Real Madrid in the Euro League. He was a Euro League rising star, made the Euro League first team, was the MVP of the league as well as the final four MVP, and a Euro League champion as him and Real Madrid won the Euro League title. Luka Doncic is 218 pounds and stands at 6’5. He averaged 16 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, and shot 33% from 3 in 2018 in the Euro League.

#2- Sacramento Kings - DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

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DeAndre Ayton is a beast. He’s 7’8, 250 pounds, and has 7’5 wingspan. He’s a center but can shoot threes as well. This past season, he played for the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 conference, winning the Pac-12 POY. He averaged 20 pts, 2 assists, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. As I said, Ayton can shoot threes. He had a 34% 3pt percentage, and if he can raise that to a 37-39% in the NBA, it would make him even better. A concern about Ayton is his defence. He’s not a good defender, and he’s slow. The good thing about Phoenix having the #1 pick is that they have never really made defence their top priority in recent year drafts, which could be a good thing for Ayton. Maybe Ayton does go #1 overall. Take your pick between Ayton and Doncic, they’re both going to be incredible players.

#3- Atlanta Hawks – Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

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There are rumours swirling around that the Boston Celtics would like to package a deal revolved around Jaylen Brown to move up in the draft and draft Mohamed Bamba, but at this point the Atlanta Hawks have the #3 pick and I believe they will use it to draft Bamba. With Dennis Schroeder wanting out, the Hawks have virtually no one on their roster. Once Schroeder leaves town, the Hawks best player will be John Collins. Collins and Bamba could pair well in the front court, and depending on who the Hawks receive if Schroeder gets traded, they may get a valuable asset from that deal.

#4- Memphis Grizzlies – Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri

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Coming into the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies had the 2nd best odds of the 1st overall pick. After falling all the way down to 4, they likely now lose out on the chance of drafting Ayton or Doncic. Michael Porter Jr. was injured for most of this past season with Missouri. He played just two games. Even though he only played two games, I personally am a big Porter Jr. fan. I love the way he plays. He’s a good free throw shooter, can shoot threes, and can score when he wants.

#5- Dallas Mavericks – Marvin Bagley, C, Duke

If it weren’t for Bagley’s bust potential, I’d have swapped Bamba and Bagley and had the latter at #3. Marvin Bagley is 6’11, but he’s quick. The Dallas Mavericks, unlike the Hawks, have a decent roster. Bagley can play alongside Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., and Wesley Matthews.

 

 

#6- Orlando Magic – Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State

The Orlando Magic are most likely looking to build around Aaron Gordon. With Jackson Jr. being able to play power forward or center, you can have Jackson Jr playing power forward with Gordon and Biyombo, or have Jackson Jr. at center with Gordon. Jackson Jr. is a terrific two-way player. He had a 39% 3pt percentage last season, and averaged 3 blks.

#7- Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke

Yup, another Center. 2018 may be the year of the centers. Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t get all the attention at Duke. He didn’t even get all the attention at his position. Due to Duke having Marvin Bagley as well, Bagley got most of the attention at Duke. Carter Jr. was okay with that though. He even said Bagley was more athletic. Wendell Carter Jr. is a terrific player though. This past season, Carter Jr. averaged 20 points, 3 blocks, and 13 rebounds.

#8- Cavaliers (via Nets) – Trae Young, G, Oklahoma

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It’s unlikely Lebron James stays in Cleveland this offseason, but nonetheless, Trae Young could still work nicely in Cleveland. I hate to compare Young to Steph Curry because everyone does it, but I have to. There’s just so much Steph in his game. He’s a lights out 3 point shooter, but can also pass. He was the first person to ever lead college in points and assists in one season.

#9- New York Knicks – Mikal Bridges, G/F, Villanova

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Fresh off of winning a National Championship, Mikal Bridges will bring a winning mentality to whichever team drafts him. Bridges had an absurd 43% 3pt percentage, while averaging 18 points this past season with Villanova,

 

 

 

 

#10- 76ers (via Lakers) – Collin Sexton, G, Alabama

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No doubt about it, the 76ers surpassed expectations this year. Along with the Celtics, they probably have the 2nd best future in the league. Assuming Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continue along their developmental path, the Sixers could be a real contender in the very near future. Sexton had a good 33% 3pt percentage last season with Alabama, and surrounding him with shooters like 76ers have may help him raise that percentage.


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NBA Finals Preview

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


        For the 4th straight season, the NBA Finals will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Many people thought it would be different this year with teams like the Rockets, Raptors, Celtics and 76ers emerging as contenders, but ultimately, we’re going to see the same matchup again. Golden State just won a game 7 in Houston to reach the Finals, and the Cavs did the same thing on Sunday in Boston. The series tips off on Thursday in Oakland; with Game 1 starting at 9 P.M. E.T.

        There is definitely a lot of history between these two teams, and that’ll happen when you play each in other in 4 straight Finals. It started back in 2015, when the Warriors won their first title in 40 years, beating the Cavs in 6 games. It was really a miracle that that series even went to 6 games, because both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out due to injuries, so the Cavs’ 2nd best player was Matthew Dellavedova. Then, when they rematched in 2016, it looked like the Warriors were going to win back-to-back titles. They won Game 4 in Cleveland to go up 3-1 in the series, and all they had to do was win Game 5 at home, and they’d be the champs. But, the Cavs didn’t let that happen. They won Game 5 on the road, won Game 6 at home, and then took down the 73-win Warriors in a very close Game 7, thanks to an iconic chase down block by LeBron James, and a go-ahead step back 3 from Kyrie Irving. That Game 7 win brought the Cavs their first ever championship, and brought LeBron the 3rd title of his career. The Warriors clearly weren’t happy with how that turned out, so they went out and signed Kevin Durant, in a move that shocked the basketball world. Durant’s addition all but sealed a championship before the season even started for the Warriors, and they did just that. They beat the Cavs in 5 games in 2017, with Durant winning his first NBA title, and winning the Finals MVP.

       And that brings us to this year, the 4th installment of the Cavs-Warriors rivalry. The Cavs have had significant roster turnover since just last season. Not only did they lose Kyrie Irving when they traded him to Boston, but they also had a roster overhaul at this year’s trade deadline. They got rid of guys like Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder, and they brought in George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood. Other than Hill, none of the guys Cleveland acquired at the trade deadline have made much of an impact. It hasn’t mattered though, because LeBron has been playing out of his mind, and carrying their team. So far in the playoffs, James is averaging 34 points per game, 8.8 assists, and 9.2 rebounds. He’s also playing a ton of minutes. LeBron played the full 48 minutes in Game 7, and he had to for the Cavs to win, because they’re getting little to no production from anyone else.

     As for the Warriors, their roster is pretty much the same since last year. They signed Nick Young in the off-season, but other than that, their rotation has stayed the same. Golden State has the advantage of team chemistry over Cleveland here. They’ve just played together for longer and they haven’t had the insane roster turnover that Cleveland had. When the Warriors are on their game, they’re playing as a cohesive unit. They’re making good passes, giving up good shots for great shots, and getting everyone involved. Unlike the Cavs, they don’t rely on one guy for all of their points. There will be situations where Durant or Curry makes a play by themselves, but compared to Cleveland, the Warriors have a much more well-rounded scoring attack.

     Injuries are already a headline in this series, with both teams having key guys that are hurt. For Cleveland, it’s Kevin Love, who’s dealing with a concussion. Love didn’t play in Game 7, and it’s not clear when he’ll return to the lineup. If the Cavs have any shot in this series, they’re going to need Kevin Love to play, and play well. I realize how well Jeff Green played in Game 7 against Boston, but the Cavs can’t expect that level of play from Green in the Finals; they need Love back in the lineup. As for the Warriors, they’re currently without Andre Iguodala. Iguodala missed the last 4 games of the Western Conference Finals, and while many people didn’t think he was that important to Golden State’s success, their play without him shows why he’s so important to the team. He can start or come off of the bench and be a valuable 3-and-D player. He’s also a very experienced leader, and can always be counted on by Steve Kerr in big moments.

      Obviously, the main stars of this series are LeBron, Durant, and Curry, but there are a few players who could prove to be X-Factors for their teams in this series.

  1. J.R. Smith- He’s definitely streaky, but if Smith can catch fire in one of these games, it’ll be very hard for Golden State to stop him. When he’s on the floor, he’s there for one reason - to shoot, and he’ll be doing that a lot in this series. If the Cavs are going to win, he’ll have to hit some shots from deep.
  2. Nick Young- This guy is very similar to J.R. in that he’s on the floor to shoot. Now, he won’t get the playing time that Smith gets, but if Young can get in a rhythm from deep, it’ll make the Warriors impossible to guard. Imagine having Young get hot, while also having to deal with Curry, Durant, Klay and Draymond.
  3. Tristan Thompson - With most of the Warriors’ lineups not featuring a centre, the Cavs could use Thompson to gain a size advantage and dominate the glass. Thompson’s been inconsistent at time, but if he’s given the right matchup in this series, he can put up some good numbers for Cleveland and make a big impact.

My pick for the series: Warriors Win in 5 Games

My pick for Finals MVP: Stephen Curry


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All-NBA Teams

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


Earlier today, the NBA announced the All-NBA Teams for the 2017-18 season. The press votes on these teams every year, and in the end, it should show 3 teams of the top players from the season. Here are the rosters from this year’s teams:

 

All-NBA First Team

Damian Lillard- Trail Blazers

James Harden- Rockets

LeBron James- Cavaliers

Kevin Durant- Warriors

Anthony Davis- Pelicans

 

All-NBA Second Team

Russell Westbrook- Thunder

DeMar DeRozan- Raptors

Giannis Antetokounmpo- Bucks

LaMarcus Aldridge- Spurs

Joel Embiid- 76ers

 

All-NBA Third Team

Stephen Curry- Warriors

Victor Oladipo- Pacers

Jimmy Butler- Timberwolves

Paul George- Thunder

Karl-Anthony Towns- Timberwolves

This list looks pretty good to me, but there are some things that I disagree with. First of all, Steph Curry only played in 51 games this year, which I think should put him out of the running, even though he had a great year. I would’ve given that spot to Ben Simmons. I also don’t think Jimmy Butler should be on there. He plays for Minnesota, who was the 8th seed this year, and since they already have Towns on the list, it doesn’t make sense to give this team who barely made the playoffs two All-NBA players. I think Butler should’ve been replaced by Al Horford or Rudy Gobert.

In my opinion, the All-NBA Teams are the most accurate representation of who were the best players for a season. A lot of people point to All-Star appearances as a way to measure how good a player’s career was, but All-star selections only take into account the first part of the schedule, and not the last 20-30 games during the stretch run. It would be really easy for a player to play really well through February, and get named to an All-Star team, only to fall off in the second half, so that’s why the All-NBA list is important. Overall, I think All-NBA teams should get more weight given to them for things like Hall-of-Fame voting, and the overall value of a player’s career. It just makes more sense, so hopefully people start paying more attention the All-NBA Teams instead of All-Star appearances.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 64

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 64

"EVERYTHING"

TORONTO RAPTORS & Blue Jays Talk

For the first time, join us as we discuss BOTH the Toronto Blue Jays AND Toronto Raptors ON THE SAME SHOW!

  • As the title of the episode indicates, host Adam Corsair and guest Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views cover EVERYTHING! For the very first time, the same guest on the same show will assist in covering both teams! Connor and Adam cover everything from the Raptors playoff performance, Masai Ujiri's judgment of players, possible trade candidates, and where the Raptors' future lies. They also tackle a boatload of Blue Jays topics such as Josh Donaldson's trade value, Marcus Stroman's injury woes, Vlad Guerrero Jr. (of course!), and so much more!

It's a JAM PACKED show that you definitely do not want to miss!

Follow Connor on Twitter: @TO_SportsViews & @connorchambers

Visit Connor's work HERE

Music:
Anitek - "Pipes"
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Scott Holmes - "Mountains All Around Us"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 63

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 63

"END OF SEASON ROUND TABLE"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Season Ending Toronto Raptors Review/Preview

  • The season has come to a close. The head coach has been fired. The Raptors have, once again, been swept out of the Playoffs and are in need of a reality check. We, as fans, have had more than a week to sit back and get a good look as to what happened, clear our emotions, and try to be objective as to what ought to be the next move.
  • To do this, host Adam Corsair is joined by the usual suspects for a season-ending ROUND TABLE discussion! Joining Adam is Demar Grant of Tip of the Tower, Jordan Kligman of Hash Tag Basketball and the Hash Tag Raptors Podcast, and Abigail Amartey of the Raptors Roundup Podcast to discuss all that went wrong, where the team should go, and so much more!

It's a Raptors Round Table that you won't want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball

Subscribe to the Hashtag Raptors Podcast on iTunes HERE

Visit Jordan's work HERE

Follow Demar on Twitter: @DemarJGrant 

Visit Demar's work HERE

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Listen to the Raptors Roundup Podcast HERE

Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studios - "Blue Bloods"


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Raptors Fire Dwane Casey; Head Coaching Job Up for Grabs.

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Just nearly two weeks ago, the Toronto Raptors won their first round series in the 2018 NBA playoffs against the Washington Wizards in six games. The next opponent in their path to get a chance to play for an NBA Championship was the Cleveland Cavaliers. At that time, things in Toronto were amazing. The mood was great, the positivity was high, until "The King" LeBron James and the Cavaliers swept them, leading to an insurmountable change no one saw coming.

On Friday morning, the Toronto Raptors had fired their head coach Dwane Casey. A move not a lot of people saw coming just less then 48 hours after both Casey and Raptors’ president, Masai Ujiri held their season ending press conferences. The respective conferences were nearly an hour apart, but the mood between them was the same. With Casey being first at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, he jokingly said “No one has told me differently; my key card still works” – (to the Raptors’ Biosteel practice facility where the conference was held) as he showed a bit of smile. The Dwane Casey press conference didn’t last longer than 15 minutes. Although it was short, he did state himself and Masai had met multiple times for long periods ever since being swept, including meeting for two hours before the press conference that morning.

Then it was Ujiri’s turn. Although it took just over an hour for Masai to step to the podium, he didn’t wait long to get down to business. He stated that the he had no intentions in blowing up things in Toronto and that tanking is not an option. He continued to state the praise towards his All-Stars in Lowry and DeRozan for their efforts throughout this historic season, as well as the prolonged “Bench Mob.”

After those conferences wrapped up, it was a quite next 48 hours or so until the huge bomb shell was dropped early Friday morning at around 11 a.m. where the team announced Dwane Casey has been released from his duties as the Toronto Raptors’ head coach. “After careful considerations, I have decided this is a very difficult decision but necessary step the franchise must take” is what Masai Ujiri said following the firing of Casey. Casey was named the Raptors’ eighth head coach in the team’s history back in June of 2011. He posted a 320-238 winning record with the team in seven years, including three 50-win seasons.

“The hardest thing I’ve done in my life” but “it was time for this to happen” Masai Ujiri adds and rightfully so. The bond between the two was strong. It didn’t take long for the news to get out around the league as reporters asked the head coach of the Boston Celtics Brad Stevens what he thought of the firing. “It’s disappointing from the stand point of the coaching perspective” said Stevens, adding that Casey is “a role model.”

Not only did the news spread around the league very quickly, but we also heard what Kyle Lowry had to say about the news, stating “Casey is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but he let me be me...He was huge for my growth as a man and an NBA player. They (Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster) made a decision and for me, as a leader of the organization, it’s my job to support the decision that Masai and Bobby made.”

Near the end of the brief press conference held by Masai Ujiri on the firing of Dwane Casey, Ujiri said he won’t state what he’s looking for in the head coaching position as of yet. Although it didn’t take long for the reports to get out there, that Mike Budenholzer - former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks - has been a top candidate for the job, it was also reported that the assistant coaches in Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse could also be front runners for the position. Jerry Stackhouse who led the Raptors’ G-League team to a championship in 2017 is also in consideration.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Raptors’ fans these past few days and it isn’t done just yet. As of now, the rumbles out of the Raptors’ organization has quieted down, but don’t expect that for long. A new head coach could be named when you least expect it.


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Raptors Year End Awards

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


With the playoffs now over for the Raptors, it’s time to give out some awards to some of the players from this season. I’ll cover the usual MVP, 6th Man of the Year, and Rookie of the Year, but I’m also going to include a few other awards that aren’t usually given out.

Most Valuable Player: DeMar DeRozan

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Now, obviously DeRozan didn’t have a very good 2nd round series against the Cavs; he didn’t play like himself and it was one of the biggest reasons that the Raptors got swept. But let’s not let that distract us from what was a great regular season and a pretty good 1st round series for DeRozan. DeRozan lead the team in scoring this year, averaging 23.0 points per game, but where you see the biggest difference in DeMar’s game from last year to this year was his assist numbers. With the Raptors focusing on ball movement more this year, DeRozan averaged more than 1 more assist per game this year compared to last year. (5.2 assists per game this year, 3.9 last year). We also saw DeRozan shoot the 3-ball a lot more this year, and even though he didn’t shoot it as much, or as well in the playoffs, he was still much more effective this year behind the arc than in previous years. He averaged 3.6 shots from 3 this year, which trumps his 1.7 3-point attempts per game from last year. He still only shot 31% from 3 this year, but it is an improvement from last year, and hopefully he can continue to improve from 3. Many Raptors fans, including myself, were disappointed with DeMar in the playoffs, but hopefully we can all remember how good he was this year, and how he was the Raptors most valuable player from this season.

Rookie of the Year: OG Anunoby

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Any way you look at, this award goes to OG. Even if you’re a Lorenzo Brown superfan, you should be able to see that OG Anunoby was by far the Raptors’ best rookie this year. There were question marks coming into this year for OG. He suffered a knee injury during the college season last year, and many people wondered whether or not he’d be able to start the season due to his health. He did start the season, and he ended up playing in 74 games this year, a lot of them as the starting SF. OG’s stats from this year don’t overwhelm you, (5.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 APG) but he was a pretty good defender, and when you’re the 5th option in an offense, you’re not going to score a lot. One of the most encouraging things I saw from Anunoby this season was how he played well through the playoffs. He was one of the only Raptors who played well during Round 2, and especially in Game 3 in Cleveland, when he hit a game-tying 3-pointer (Let’s not talk about what happened after that shot). Overall, I’m extremely encouraged by what I saw from the OG Anunoby this season. From his hilarious comments with the media to his killer instinct on the floor, there’s a lot to like about this kid, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he was the team’s best rookie this season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Fred VanVleet

The engine of the “Bench Mob”, Fred VanVleet was one of favourite Raptors to watch this season. Most Raptors fans vaguely knew who he was coming into this season, but it would’ve been awfully hard to predict that he would’ve had this much impact on the team this year. VanVleet put up good numbers off of the bench this season. He averaged 8.6 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, and 0.9 steals per game. Those aren’t superstar level numbers, but for a guy who played 20 minutes a night, they’re pretty good. VanVleet had a huge impact on the rest of the team this year, especially the rest of the bench. It became very clear how much Fred meant to the bench unit during the Raptors’ first round series with the Wizards. VanVleet was pretty much held out of games 1 through 5, and the bench unit struggled because of it. But, when VanVleet returned in Game 6, it seemed that the bench got back to it’s old ways, and it was a big reason why the Raptors won that game. People will point to the fact that VanVleet missed 2 big shots in Game 1 of the 2nd Round, but that shouldn’t define his season, because he made huge strides as a player this year, and was a vital part of the 59 win season for the Raptors.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl

In his 2nd season out of the University of Utah, Jakob Poeltl had a very productive season. He averaged almost 7 points a game this year, but I’m gonna focus on his defense here. Any player who’s 7 feet tall should be a good rim protector, and Poeltl definitely showed that he’s a solid rim protector this year. He had 1.2 blocks per game this year, which, if you look at the his 0.4 blocks per game from last season, is a huge improvement. Poeltl also pulled in 4.8 rebounds per game this year, which was big for the team considering they didn’t use have a lot of size to go along with Poeltl off of the bench. I think it’s realistic to expect Poeltl to continue to improve his game defensively, but as for right now, Poeltl can definitely protect the rim for this team, and grab rebounds, and that’s why he’s my pick for Raptors’ Defensive Player of the Year.

Most Disappointing Player: Norman Powell

After 2 good seasons to start his career, Norman Powell was rewarded by the Raptors with a 4-year, $42 million contract. Powell was mostly known by Raptors fans as a guy who could come in off of the bench and play good defense, while hitting the occasional jumper. He did that job very effectively in past years, especially in the playoffs. That Norman Powell did that show up this year for the Raptors, and that new contract now looks like a bad deal for the team. First of all, Powell was sort of the odd man out this year. He began the season as the starting small forward, but after he got hurt, OG Anunoby took over that role, and he never gave it back. Powell struggled to get minutes because of this, and he ended up only playing during garbage time, or when someone was injured. Powell also wasn’t very effective even when he played this year. He only shot 26% from 3, which is where we took more than half of his shot attempts this year, so that didn’t help his case to get more minutes. With Powell, he could easily make his contract look like a steal if he plays well next season, but right now, I’m confused as to where he lies on this team. I had very high hopes for him going into this season, but those hopes didn’t pan out at all, and that’s why I’ve given Powell the Most Disappointing Player Award for this season.

Best Moment of the Season: DeMar DeRozan’s Dunk V.S. Detroit

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It’ll no doubt be on the Plays of the Year countdown for all of sports this year. This dunk was one of the most ferocious coast-to-coast plays I’ve ever seen in a basketball game. Down 1 with about 8 seconds to go in the game, DeRozan took the inbound pass from the baseline, and then just put his head down and never turned back. He went coast-to-coast and finished it off with an absolute destruction of Pistons SF Anthony Tolliver, not to mention it was an and-1. Not only was this an amazing dunk, but it was an important play in the game. Most poster dunks aren’t in the dying seconds of the 4th quarter of a close game, but this one was, and it was also an awesome moment for me as a fan, and that’s why I’m giving it the Best Moment of the Season Award.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 61

Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 61

"Therapy"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Review/Preview

  • So that's it. It's done. The Toronto Raptors fell victim to the King and his court for the third consecutive year, as well as the second year in a row suffering a sweep. It wasn't supposed to end this way. The regular season illustrated that this was a different team and that they had a legitimate shot of making it all the way to the NBA Finals. But alas, we've seen this before. We witnessed this team completely and utterly shrink against Lebron James, and something has to change.
  • Joining host Adam Corsair is Mr. Life In Repeat himself - Peter Kaye - to discuss the devastating loss this post-season, as well as what to do with this team moving forward. How safe is Dwane Casey's job as head coach? Which player should be moved? Who disappointed us the most in Round 2? What changes will the Front Office make in order to make people believe in this team again? Why should we invest our time and energy into the team if they come back exactly the same? We tackle all of that and so much more!

It's a Raptors podcast that will help you through this tough time. THIS IS YOUR THERAPY SESSION! Join us, won't you?

Follow Peter Kaye on Twitter: @lifeinrepeat
Visit Peter's work HERE

Music:
Drake Stafford - "Casets"
Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Despite a Disappointing Playoff Run, Positives Still to be Found for the Raptors

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


Following a 4-2 first round win over the Washington Wizards, the Raptors found themselves a playoff date for the third consecutive season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This season felt different, though. Demar and Kyle were producing in the playoffs, they had the “bench mob,” and have never been more confident. But, once again, Lebron James breaks the heart of Toronto and Raptors fans everywhere. Maybe Skip Bayless was right. Maybe the Raptors really do “shrink at the sight of Lebron.” Nevertheless, there are still positives to be found for the Toronto Raptors.

First and foremost, they had a franchise record 59 wins. An absolutely magical season. The Bench Mob was incredible all season; DeRozan breaks Carter’s and T-Ross’s record with a 52-point game, attained the first seed for the first time in franchise history, and Lowry hits the most threes in franchise history. A historical season. Raptors fans were feeling good about themselves heading into the postseason, and rightfully so. They were the second-best team in the entire league. They should have been confident. Unfortunately, Raptors fans and players felt a feeling much too familiar - defeat.

Demar DeRozan - always an incredible scorer but could never get it done in the clutch moments. That changed this year ... sort of. He started trusting his teammates in crunch time more. Not only did he average 23 points, but he also averaged 5.2 assists. He no longer tried to force things in the crunch time. That changed in the playoffs. He still averaged 23 points and 4.3 assists, but when the Raptors needed him the most, he just wasn’t there. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca said,

“Imagine (…) Lebron James wasn’t on the floor late in a playoff game for Cleveland or Steph Curry for Golden State or James Harden for Houston or AL Horford for Boston or, heck, Bradley Beal for Washington.”

For the entirety of the 4th quarter in Game 3, Demar DeRozan was glued to the bench. In the game, Demar had 8 points and shot 3/12 from the field. Not the ideal performance in an almost must win game.

A major positive this season for the Raptors was the Bench Mob, consisting of Fred VanVleet, CJ Miles, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and even players like Malcolm Miller and Lorenzo Brown. VanVleet was probably the most important player on the Bench Mob, as he was really good this year. Fred proved to be a very smart, low turnover guy who controlled the pace of the game, with an excellent 41% three-point percentage. CJ Miles was also an excellent three-point shooter. Delon Wright brought energy, good ball handling skills, and spaced the floor with his shooting abilities. Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam both brought energy while protecting the rim. However, Normal Powell was the one player who really regressed this year. After being handed a 4 year/ $48M contract prior to the season, Powell really disappointed this year. After averaging 8.4 ppg with a 32% 3-point percentage last year, Powell regressed to only 5.5 ppg with a 28% 3-point percentage. G-Leaguers like Malcolm Miller and Lorenzo Brown even got chances to play with the Raptors over Norm. In Miller’s very first game up with the Raptors, he steps into the game and drilled two consecutive threes. That play really summed up the regular season. No matter who was on the court, you felt comfortable with him out there. No matter if he was part of the starting lineup that night, or the 13th man; you were confident he’d play well and produce.

Coming into the season, President Masai Ujiri spoke of a “culture reset.”

“We are going to hold everybody accountable because we need to. We need, after that performance, we need a culture reset here. We need to figure it out. Yes, there’s been some success, but at the end of the day we are trying to win a championship here. To me making the playoffs is nothing. That was back in the day. Now we have to figure out how we can win in the playoffs. That’s the goal.”

When Ujiri first made these comments, no one really knew what he meant. Some people even thought he was going to blow up the whole team. Now, Raptors fans realize he was referring to the on-court play regarding the crunch time plays and the predictable offence. The past few seasons, all the opponent had to do was cover Demar and Kyle. Now Toronto is full of shooters and playmakers. Yet, despite the roster makeover, the Raptors can’t find playoff success.

OG Anunoby was huge for Toronto this year. He wasn’t even supposed to play this year after injuring his knee last season, and he was one of Toronto’s best players this postseason. OG was the one handed the daunting task of guarding Lebron James, and he did not back down. He played as tough and as good defence as you can ask for against Lebron James. He was confident when shooting threes as well. No matter what the score was or what happened last time he shot, OG Anunoby wasn’t afraid to shoot when he got the ball. His stock really rose this postseason.

Even after all the positive things that happened this season, all the records broken, and all the games won, the Toronto Raptors will once again be cleaning out their lockers in early May. Who knows what next year will bring. Maybe DeRozan and/or Lowry will be gone. Maybe Coach Casey will be gone. Maybe Kawhi Leonard will be a Toronto Raptor. No one knows. All anyone knows is that the Toronto Raptors, once again, disappoint in the playoffs.


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Game Review: Raptors at Cavaliers (Round 2 - Game 4) The Finale

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


The Raptors got off to a good start against the Cavs. DeMar DeRozan had 7 points, while Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet both went for 5 points. Although Toronto started off well, the Cavaliers started even better. JR Smith led the way for Cleveland with 12 points in the period. The Raptors never capitalized off of Cleveland's turnovers, giving the ball right back with turnovers of their own. Toronto trailed the Cavs 26-30.

Cleveland overpowered the Raptors in the 2nd quarter, outscoring them by 12 points. LeBron James and Kyle Korver were a one-two punch for the Cavs as they combined for a total of 16 points in the quarter. Jonas Valanciunas had a team high 8 points for the Raptors. The Cavs out-rebounded Toronto 11-7, which was a main reason why they had such an substantial lead. The Raptors were behind 47-63 going into halftime.

LeBron absolute dominated the 3rd quarter of the game. James scored 15 points like it was nothing over the Raptors, showing no mercy whatsoever. Jonas Valanciunas dropped 8 points and C.J. Miles put up 7, but Toronto still trailed heavily despite their efforts. With 23.6 seconds, DeMar DeRozan tried to block Cleveland's Jordan Clarkson's layup attempt. DeMar hit Clarkson in the head and he landed hard on the floor. DeRozan was given a Flagrant 2 foul, and he was ejected from the game. The Raptors were down 28 points as the score was 72-100 heading into the final quarter of the game.

Both teams knew that this game was over going into the 4th quarter. The Raptors cleared their bench and allowed their reserves to finish out the final game of the season. Delon Wright put up 8 points, while Norman Powell dropped 5 points. The Raptors were defeated by the Cavaliers 93-128 as Cleveland advances to the Eastern conference finals. (CLE wins 4-0).

Impression: Cleveland absolutely destroyed the Raptors in this series. After a historic regular season, Toronto saw devastation caused by LeBron James. The Raptors have now been eliminated by LeBron 3 straight years. It's obvious that if we can't beat LeBron in playoffs, we will never be able to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy in June. Although this season came to an unfortunate end, the Raptors will be back.

6ix Best
Jonas Valanciunas: 18pts, 5 rebounds
DeMar DeRozan: 13pts, 5 rebounds
C.J. Miles: 13pts, 3 rebounds
Delon Wright: 10pts
Pascal Siakam: 9pts
Kyle Lowry: 5pts, 4 rebounds, 10 assists


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LeBron & The Cavs Breaking The Hearts Of Toronto Once Again

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


It was a rough night for the Raptors as well as the city of Toronto and everyone who supports the Raptors once again last night.

It's being called a disappointing and heartbreaking second round series for this “new cultured” Raptors team and organization. They just do not have an answer for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers who daggered the hearts of the Raptors and their fan base with a buzzer beating shot from The King himself, LeBron James. This led to a Cavs win - 105-103 - and Cleveland taking a 3-0 strangle hold on this second round series.

If history continues to repeat itself, it certainly doesn’t look good for Toronto. Teams who go down 0-3 in a playoff series and succeed to come back in seven games to win the series are a total 0-127 in NBA history. Unfortunately, the Raptors are going down that rough path of yet another team falling victim to this one piece of history.

It’s no doubt that LeBron James is one of the best players in NBA history. The Toronto Raptors and Dwane Casey have yet to find an answer to stop The King. With the Raptors falling to the Cavs nine straight times in the post-season and who lost their first two games of this series at home, Casey finally knew it was time for a change to the lineup ahead of Game 3. Catching everybody off guard last night, Casey went with Fred VanVleet in the starting lineup. This meant Serge Ibaka would not start and OG Anunoby would slide down to the power forward position to guard LeBron James.

That lineup change did not help. Cleveland came out firing in Game 3 in the opening minutes as Toronto were not looking sharp at all. Cleveland came out on a 16-4 run to start the game. From there, Casey knew that the aforementioned lineup change wasn’t working and had to immediately switch things up. None of this mattered until the final quarter. The Raptors battled back to tie the game late, but ultimately fell in a gut-wrenching buzzer beater from James that has now sent the Cavs to lead the series up 3-0.

So, what’s next for Toronto? Game 3 featured a total of zero minutes for Jakob Poeltl and no fourth quarter minutes for all-star DeMar DeRozan - who finished with a total of eight points in 27 minutes shooting 3 of 12 in the game. What’s the game plan for Game 4? Another switch in the lineup could be in the works, in hopes that they play the same defense as last night. If so, Toronto has a great chance as stealing one in Cleveland and having some life coming back to Toronto for a possible Game 5.

The Raptors are going to need DeRozan to step up, and in a big way. Eight points just won’t cut it. Fred VanVleet's eight points in 33 minutes shooting two of nine from the field won’t cut it either. Raptors fans could see another possible lineup change with Delon Wright taking the spot over Fred VanVleet or even CJ Miles who had a game with 13 points on five of nine shooting and some big threes including a huge four-point play. But another lineup change is imminent for Casey and his squad for Game 4.

The defense was great. Although LeBron had 38 points and that buzzer beater that left all of Toronto in awe, this is what Raptors fans have been asking for all series. To let James have his way and to not fall for the deep dribble penetration for easy and wide open three balls. The Cavs shot a total nine of 25 from three. 36%. This saw JR Smith find his way to zero points, but gave Kyle Korver his way to carry the load putting up 18 points on six of eight shooting. The Raptors did not play bad, they just did not play well enough and didn’t execute on what was a very winnable game for them.

This is the Raptors team that faced so much hype and expectation this season and going into the playoffs despite the playoff bracket and ultimate meet up with LeBron currently in the second round. The city was in a buzz after the franchise’s best regular season and everything was looking up for Toronto and the eyes on a championship was in sight. Arguably the best bench in the NBA, with a great coaching staff and youth, this was the team. This was the year. Until now.

Despite a game two blowout, the Raptors have lost to Cavs in Games One and Three by a total of three points. It can easily be a 2-1 series for the Cavs. Or a 2-1 series lead for the Raptors, but it’s not, and Toronto has to scrap and claw to keep their season alive on Monday for Game 4 in Cleveland.

If the season does come to an end Monday night in Cleveland, it should be an interesting off-season with many questions to ask. What’s next? Everyone thought this was the year. An NBA championship was finally going to come to Toronto, until the future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game - LeBron James - had something to say about it. Which leads one to ask, where will LeBron go? Will he stay in Cleveland, or move on to a bigger and better market in the Los Angeles Lakers?

Nonetheless, with many questions yet to be asked, the season isn’t over and the Raptors’ won’t give up easy. With the common theme at the end of games being “this is our game seven” or “we’re going to take it one game at a time.” It all comes down to Game Four. Will the Raptors season continue? Or will LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers sweep the Toronto Raptors once again?


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Game Review: Raptors at Cavaliers (Round 2 - Game 3)

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


The Raptors struggled on defense as the game started. Toronto allowed LeBron James and Kevin Love to combine for 12 points, which was half of all of Cleveland's points in the quarter. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 7 points in the period and Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 4 rebounds. The Raptors started Fred VanVleet instead of Serge Ibaka to impose a small lineup against the Cavs. Toronto trailed 19-24.

The 2nd quarter was slow for the Raptors on the offensive end. Toronto only point up 21 points in the period, led by OG Anunoby and C.J. Miles; each had 5. LeBron led the way for the Cavs with 9 points, while Kyle Korver added on 7. The Raptors turned the ball over 6 times in the quarter, which was a big reason why the Cavaliers had such a big lead. Toronto trailed by 15 points as the score was 40-55 in Cleveland's favor.

Jonas Valanciunas was a blessing and a curse for the Raptors to start off the 3rd. JV put up 6 points and 3 rebounds, but he single handedly turned the ball over 3 times. Kyle Lowry led the team with 5 points. LeBron James and Kevin Love went for 14 points in the period. After a hard fought 3rd quarter, the Raptors still trailed 65-79.

Toronto had a monster 4th quarter comeback on the Cavaliers. The Raptors dropped 38 points in the quarter, their highest of the game. Kyle Lowry went for 12 points, while the rookie OG Anunoby stepped up big with 11 points. Down by three with 13.6 seconds remaining in the game, the Raptors needed a three-pointer to tie up the game. C.J. Miles kicked the ball out to OG, who pump faked his shot and then drained the three-pointer. Then with 8.8 seconds remaining in regulation, LeBron James drove the ball downcourt for the final shot. LeBron threw up a floater from the elbow, and it banked in as time expired. OG Anunoby played great defense, but LeBron just one upped him on this one. The Raptors were defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-105 in a true heartbreaker. (CLE leads 3-0)

Impression: Down 2-0 in the series, Coach Casey made a change in the lineup and started Fred VanVleet over Serge Ibaka. The switch at first seemed like it wasn't working out, but it then proved its power during the 4th quarter. DeMar DeRozan did not play a single minute in the final quarter, so hopefully nothing is going on behind the scenes that led to his benching. OG Anunoby stepped up big this game, but his efforts were overlooked by LeBron.

6ix Best
Kyle Lowry: 27pts, 7 assists, 50% 3PM
OG Anunoby: 18pts, 4 rebounds, 4/7 3PM
C.J. Miles: 13pts, 6 rebounds
Serge Ibaka: 11pts, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks
Jonas Valanciunas: 10pts, 11 rebounds
DeMar DeRozan: 8pts, 4 rebounds


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Game Review: Raptors vs Cavaliers (Round 2 - Game 2)

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


Toronto got off to a great start in Game 2. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 19 points - more than half of the Raptors points in the quarter. With 58.6 seconds remaining in the 1st, DeRozan threw down a huge dunk over the Cavs. The crowd went wild and the bench mob was hyped up. The Raptors contained LeBron James to only 4 points in the period, but they allowed Kevin Love to drop 10 points. Toronto led the Cavs 29-26.

LeBron dropped 12 points in the 2nd quarter, and the Raptors had no answers on how to stop him. Cleveland's Jeff Green added on 8. Fred VanVleet and Lowry both put up 8 points in the period. At the 7:15 mark in the quarter, Lowry got an and-1 after being fouled by Jeff Green as he made the layup. The Raptors were ahead 63-61 going into halftime.

It was a completely different game coming out of the break and in the 3rd quarter. Rather than it being the Raptors vs the Cavs, it was Raptors vs LeBron. Including assists and points scored, LeBron was responsible for 30 points in the 3rd quarter. The Raptors only scored 24 in the period, so it just goes to show how dominant LeBron was. C.J. Miles was the only bright spot for Toronto as he scored a team high 8 points in the period. The Raptors now trailed the Cavaliers 87-98.

Just like the 3rd quarter, LeBron was again too much to handle for Toronto. James dropped 12 points in the quarter with ease. DeRozan led the Raptors with 9 points, but the game was way too out of hand to even consider making a comeback. With 2:34 remaining in the game, both teams emptied their benches and let their reserves play. The Raptors were defeated by the Cavaliers 110-128, led by LeBron James. (CLE leads 2-0).

Impression: The Raptors have their backs against the wall, and their only chance at making a comeback is to win both games in Cleveland. If we go two years back to when Toronto was in the conference finals against Cleveland, the Raptors were able to take two games in Cleveland after being down 0-2. The Raptors need to get their act together so their season doesn't end earlier than expected.

6ix Best
DeMar DeRozan: 24pts, 3 assists
Kyle Lowry: 21pts, 4 rebounds, 8 assists
Jonas Valanciunas: 16pts, 12 rebounds, 
Fred VanVleet: 14pts, 4 assists
Jakob Poeltl: 8pts, 2 rebounds
C.J. Miles: 8pts

*Honorable mention - LeBron James: 43pts, 8 rebounds, 14 assists


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Game Review: Raptors vs Cavaliers - Round 2 Game 1

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Review Written by Adam Garfield (@AdamThe6God)


DeMar DeRozan led the way with 11 points, while Kyle Lowry added on 8. Jonas Valanciunas had a great start to the game as he recorded 4 points and 5 rebounds. LeBron James put up 7 points despite OG Anunoby's excellent defense. Toronto ended the quarter on a 16-5 run. The Raptors were up 33-19.

The Cavaliers were led by two unlikely heroes in the 2nd quarter in JR Smith and Jeff Green. Smith dropped 12 points and Green dropped 11 points. LeBron was in control of the game as usual, recording 4 points and 4 assists. Fred VanVleet played excellent in the quarter as he put up 7 points. C.J. Miles went for 6 after knocking down 2 three-pointers. Toronto led 60-57 going into halftime.

Jonas Valanciunas was going off coming out of halftime. JV put up 13 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in dominant performance. The Cavs were scoring from anywhere they wanted to in the period. LeBron scored 8 points from all over the court while Kyle Korver dropped 10 points from deep range. The Raptors only led by 5 going into the final quarter of play, the score set at 87-82.

Not much action happened until the final minutes of the game. Toronto was atrocious on offense, going 1/13 on their shots in the remaining amount of time. With about 1:11 left in the game, DeMar caught an elbow to the face from Kevin Love. It was called a common foul, but that was not the popular opinion in the arena. At the 30.9 mark, LeBron hit a fadeaway jump shot over OG Anunoby and his great defense. The score was now tied at 105-105. With 7.5 seconds left, DeRozan kicked out a pass to Fred VanVleet, who took a wide open three-pointer. Fred missed the shot, and Toronto had gotten the rebound with 4.5 seconds left. Instead of gathering the ball and getting his feet set, DeMar promptly shot the ball before he even landed from his jump. Within the last 5.4 seconds, Toronto missed 5 layups that would have won the game for them. After a disappointing quarter, the game was going to overtime, the score still 105-105.

Kyle Korver hit a three-pointer within the first minute, which DeMar DeRozan then answered back with a mid-range jumper. JR Smith then hit a three-pointer, followed by a Tristan Thompson post up. Toronto trailed by 6 points with 2:17 to play. Then at 57.4 seconds, Kyle Lowry was fouled on a layup that he had made, and he knocked down the free throw for the and-1. After getting the ball back, the Raptors were down 1 point with 16.0 seconds remaining. Toronto let Fred VanVleet take the final shot, who again missed the game-winner. As the Cavs got the rebound with 3.4 seconds, LeBron knocked down Lowry as he went for the layup. The refs didn't even consider calling the foul, yet it seems like it would've been called if it were any player not named LeBron James. The Raptors were defeated in a disappointing fashion by the Cavaliers 112-113. (CLE leads 1-0)

Impression: Toronto played terrible in the 4th quarter and overtime. DeRozan took some questionable shots and letting VanVleet take both game winning attempts after re-injuring his shoulder was a bad idea by Coach Casey. Toronto also had 5 opportunities to make a layup at the end of the game to win, yet they missed every single time. Going against LeBron and the Cavs, you can never expect to get any calls in your favor. So many calls could have, and should have, been called, yet the refs didn't do anything about it. Jack Armstrong said during the game that in order to beat LeBron by 1 point, you have to beat him by 10 points. That perfectly describes how this series is going to be. Toronto NEEDS to step it up if they want to have a chance of getting to the conference finals.

6ix Best:
Jonas Valanciunas: 21pts, 21 rebounds*
DeMar DeRozan: 22pts, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
Kyle Lowry: 18pts, 10 assists
Pascal Siakam: 11pts
Serge Ibaka: 9pts
OG Anunoby: 7pts


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Raptors Not Backing Down From the Cavaliers

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Article Written by Travis Aylward (@travaylward)


2018 will mark the third straight season that the Raptors will have a playoff meeting against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto has not fared well in the past playoff series, losing 4-2 in 2016 and getting swept 4-0 last year. This year’s different though. They’re not intimidated.

This season was the first in which Toronto had to wait for their 2nd round opponent. After besting the Washington Wizards in 6 games, all eyes were on the Pacers/Cavs Game 7, in which Cleveland ending up winning behind a 45-point output from Lebron James. In winning that game, Cleveland booked their ticket to a 2nd round showdown with the Raptors. As imagined, the questions came pouring in from the media.

When DeRozan was asked about facing Lebron and the Cavs once again, he seemed to think the Raptors are better equipped this year.

“I feel it, we all have that confidence in ourselves. And the way we play now is (because of) the mistakes that we had from the series (against Cleveland). You know? Going down in them that’s what made us better, that’s what made us at the point where we’re at now … top of our conference, having the confidence that we have, and the style of play that we go out and play with.”

Fred VanVleet was also asked about facing Lebron.

“Obviously, I respect the guy a lot, the type of player he is, obviously the person he is, but for me, the most respect I can give him is to not give him any respect, in terms of going out there and just trying to challenge him and take him down. And that’s our job, and that’s what we need to do this week.”

VanVleet and DeRozan were two of many Raptors asked about the upcoming challenge. Many had similar answers. They all acknowledge that you can’t get to the finals without facing Lebron and they all seem up to the challenge. And while they won’t say it aloud, they also know this is the most beatable version of Lebron they have ever faced. If they are going to beat Lebron, the time is now. A serious test for this very criticized Toronto Raptors team.

After defeating the Pacers in 7 games, Lebron admitted he was tired. Postgame Lebron told reporters he was “burnt,” and “wanted to go home.” You can’t blame him for being tired though. He was as close to losing a round as you can while leading his team all series and averaging 42 minutes per game.

This year is the first in which the Raptors have good depth. All Raptors fans know the narrative - DeRozan and Lowry choke in the playoffs and don’t trust their teammates in clutch time. This year is different. Both players currently have better offensive numbers in these playoffs then the regular season. They’re also trusting their teammates, especially DeRozan. Exclude the late stages of game 3 where he was forcing too much and not passing, and DeRozan has been passing well these playoffs. He’s currently averaging 4.8 assists per game these playoffs, while still producing offensively averaging 26.7 points per game.

The bench mob has been the most unexpected thing of these new Raptors, and Fred VanVleet might be the most valuable member. He averaged 8.6 points per game, 3.2 assists per game, 2.4 rebounds, and had a 41% 3-point percentage in the regular season. Whenever the Raptors needed a big-time bucket, they could rely on Fred. VanVleet only played in 2 games this past series, but his presence was felt in game 6. He controls the pace of the game and can get a bucket when needed. He’s been an unexpected and very valuable part of this team.

One of the most interesting things in this series will be who guards Lebron. Pascal Siakam is probably the best option. In the most recent meeting between these two franchises, a Cavaliers win, Lebron had only 6 points in the 2nd quarter. Lebron also happened to be covered by Siakam the whole 2nd quarter. Another option is OG Anunoby.

After 2 straight postseason defeats at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, this series means everything for the Raptors and the city of Toronto. The Eastern Conference finals awaits if the Raptors can pull out a series win. Toronto is looking to silence the critics, the haters, the doubters, everyone.

This series begins on tonight (see previous article for full schedule).

Let’s go Toronto!


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The Raptors Welcome LeBron & The Cavs To Toronto As 2nd Round Opponents

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


The Toronto Raptors will open up their second-round playoff series on Tuesday at the ACC against a familiar face in LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers avoided a bit of a scare Sunday afternoon when they defeated the Indiana Pacers 105-101 as the Pacers forced them to seven games in their first-round match up. Forcing them to seven games wasn’t enough to get the edge over them, as LeBron and the Cavs quieted the doubters about what could have been an early exit for The King and his team in this year’s NBA Playoffs.

With the NBA releasing the second-round schedule and other respective series already getting underway, the first four games go as followed for Toronto and Cleveland.

·      GAME 1: Tuesday, May 1, 8 p.m. in Toronto

·      GAME 2: Thursday, May 3, 6 p.m. in Toronto

·      GAME 3: Saturday, May 5, Time TBD in Cleveland

·      GAME 4: Monday, May 7, Time TBD in Cleveland

Games five, six and seven (not listed) having to be played if necessary. These games will be televised nationally in Canada and in the U.S. being on NBA TV, TNT, and ESPN. Although the Raptors are not new to being in the spotlight, most games against LeBron and the Cavs have been televised in the U.S.; dating back to this regular season and the 2017 playoff series between the two teams where the Cavs ultimately swept the Raptors.

Things are different now though, with a much better bench and the “new culture” this Toronto Raptors team has utilized. The Raptors “bench mob” averages nearly 40 points per game which is currently tied for fourth in the NBA. They also finished this season in the top five in multiple categories, those being assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and rebounding.

After the recent six game series against the Washington Wizards, the Toronto bench averaged just over 39 points in the series. It's important to note that Fred VanVleet only played in two of those six games with a total of 21 minutes of work putting up and average of only 2.5 points per. But he’s back now and the bench mob is prepared for what’s to come.

The Cleveland Cavaliers bench averages just over 30 points per game in these 2018 playoffs. Although the Raptors can get a bit of an advantage on the Cavaliers bench, nobody can forget the fact that The King - LeBron James - will also be on the court for most amount of the time. In that seven round series vs the Pacers, James averaged 42 minutes played per game, leading his team in four out of the five big stats (Points, rebound, assists and blocks.). They don’t call him The King for nothing.

Dwane Casey and the Raptors will have a big task ahead of them come Tuesday. This series will all be about match-ups. Who will guard LeBron James? Will Jonas Valanciunas get minutes in the fourth quarter? That’s all to be decided. But let’s not forget about the season series between these two powerhouses. Earlier on in the regular season, the Raptors defeated the Cavaliers by a whopping 34 points in Toronto. In that game, James put up 26 points in 32 minutes. But that was all before the NBA trade deadline, when the likes of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, and veteran and future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade were on still on that team. Now they’re all gone, and they were all gone prior to the final two regular season meetings between these two teams where the outcome was much different.

In their second meeting, the Cavs defeated Toronto 132-129 in Cleveland. Cleveland had the new faces of George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and the former Raptor Jose Calderon, in what was such a high scoring affair. The Raptors’ bench outscored the Cavaliers' bench 58 to 23. But the Cavaliers' starting unit outscored the Raptors’ 109 to 71 in what was a poor performance by Serge Ibaka - with six points - and OG Anunoby - with five points. The Raptors are going to need the "Playoff" version of Ibaka,, as well as Anunoby to produce defensively in this series if they want to defeat King James and the Cavaliers.

Cleveland then went on a few weeks later to take the third and final regular season meeting against the Raptors 112-106, with James nearly posting a triple-double in 37 minutes. But that was the regular season. This is the playoffs. Being the number one seed in the Raptors comes with responsibilities in defending home court. Toronto has only won four out of the previous ten meetings against the Cavaliers, only winning one out of those four games on the road. Taking care of home court will be huge for Toronto and if they do that, they can win this series and dethrone LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Are you ready, Toronto?


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