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10 things: Raptors throw away winnable game in frustrating loss to Celtics

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Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors‘ 104-88 loss to the Boston Celtics.

One — That was the most frustrating loss of the year. The Celtics played better than they did in their first matchup, mostly because it was almost impossible to be that bad again, but this was very much a winnable game that the Raptors just threw away.

It’s one thing to lose games that are hard-fought like their bitter defeat by the Cavaliers, or to just be ice-cold from the field like the home opener loss to the Wizards, but this was not that. This loss was a product of the Raptors not giving enough effort while also not playing smart. The amount of easy chances the Raptors squandered was embarrassing, and they engineered their own demise.

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Two — The most important stat for the Raptors is the possession battle. Over their five-game win streak, the Raptors consistently won the offensive rebounding battle while forcing more turnovers from their opponent. On Wednesday, they failed miserably on both accounts, as the Celtics doubled the Raptors on the offensive glass which led to a 21-8 advantage in second-chance points, while the Raptors also turned it over 18 times which led to 21 points in transition.

Overall, the Celtics attempted 17 more field goals than the Raptors, which was the entire difference in this game. The Raptors need to get back to outworking teams because they’re simply not skilled enough to win any other way.

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Three — The Raptors continue to squander simple transition opportunities. There was a sequence in the second half where Precious Achiuwa stole the ball up top, and all he needed to do was advance it to Svi Mykhailiuk who was streaking ahead for a guaranteed basket. But instead of making the simple play Achiuwa decided to take two extra dribbles which allowed Josh Richardson the opportunity to strip him. A few plays later, the Raptors had a three-on-one with Mykhailiuk running the break while Achiuwa was the obvious pass already waiting at the basket, but one missed pass leads to another and the Raptors missed another opportunity to cash in.

It’s baffling that a professional basketball team routinely fails to execute one of the fundamental plays of the sport. Part of the issue is that the Raptors allow everyone to bring the ball up, and some bigs aren’t as efficient with the ball as a point guard would be, but that can’t be a crutch. Everyone at this level should know how to play with numbers in transition. In all fairness to Achiuwa, he threw two nice lob passes that did end up in layups, so he clearly can make these plays.

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Four — The most frustrating stretch of the entire game was Chris Boucher‘s 88-second cameo at the end of the third quarter. In just that short spell, he managed to airball a three, commit a double dribble under very little pressure and leave his feet on a pair of closeouts that both ended up being shot fakes. The second one was so egregious that it eludes rational explanation because Boucher sprinted half the length of the floor before leaping out at Richardson who was at halfcourt while there was still five seconds left on the clock, and that mistake promptly gave Richarson a wide open lane to drive in for a layup at the buzzer.

Needless to say, Boucher was benched for the fourth quarter until the benches cleared.

These are not mistakes due to injuries, or any product of bad luck, they’re simply mistakes in the reading of the game from a player who should be experienced enough to act better, only he doesn’t. Boucher is hardly the biggest problem on this team, but his problems are the obvious types of errors that really stand out.

Five — Pascal Siakam is clearly still reintegrating himself back into the game. It’s awkward from both ends, both from Siakam to his teammates and in how they’re adjusting to him. Siakam got himself caught in the air twice looking for the kickout pass where nobody cut to get open for him. Similarly, Siakam had two sequences where he first tried to get into his spot then gave it up hoping to receive the feed right back, except Gary Trent Jr. hesitated with half a mind to swing it elsewhere instead of going back to Siakam.

It’s going to take time for Siakam to get his touch back, but also it will be an even bigger process for his teammates to learn how to play with him. These are things that will be corrected through experience.

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Six — Khem Birch‘s absence is obvious. His physicality would have come in handy against Robert Williams, while the Raptors could have also used his presence on the offensive glass. Truthfully, Birch wouldn’t be relied on that heavily on other teams, except the Raptors have such a weakness in the frontcourt that the presence of Birch can very well represent the difference between winning and losing.

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It would really help if the Raptors reinforced the center position, but this is a position they have largely shunned since the championship. Look no further than their starting lineup, which does not feature a center by design. The advantage of that look is that the Raptors can switch almost every action and they have length elsewhere, but it was a massive problem against Williams, and will likely burn them again in their matchup against Andre Drummond.

Seven — Scottie Barnes continues to have his way in the paint. It’s truly impressive to see him operate down low, because even if he’s caught out a step too far, or if he’s not fully balanced, Barnes still manages to get up a good look either by stretching his way there or by muscling his defender out of the way. Barnes continues to play within the flow of the offence for the most part, but recognized in the third quarter that he needed to impose himself on the game, and he confidently waved his teammates out of the way to create space for himself to back his man down.

Barnes didn’t score on that play, but he kicked it out right before a second defender converged which led to an open three. Barnes should look to do that more often, especially in the first quarter where he is more passive as compared to later in games.

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Eight — Barnes does have a few lapses defensively. The Raptors initially had Barnes assigned to Williams, but Williams popped free often with putbacks and the occasional lob play where he separated from Barnes to make plays at the rim. It was better in the second half when OG Anunoby took the center position, as Williams was much less effective since Anunoby is more experienced and better at playing the gaps.

Barnes will get there eventually, though, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Anunoby to tackle centers should the Raptors stay with their centerless starting lineup. Barnes is very good as an on-ball defender, but asking him to defend pick-and-roll sequences means asking him to be in perfect position on most trips down, and you’ll find a much higher success rate with Anunoby.

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Nine — Nick Nurse is working with limited options with his underperforming second unit, but some changes are clear as day. First off, pairing Boucher and Achiuwa together is just asking for trouble, as both frontcourt players are unpredictable in their decision making. Second, it made little sense for Nurse to turn towards a tiny backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn when the whole idea of the Raptors is to play big and to be impervious to mismatches. Nurse used both looks in short doses, but on both accounts he was burned.

Ten — Nurse should also look to play through the post more often. It’s hardly the most efficient play in terms of points per possession, but post-ups allow for a different angle in which to set up the attack. The Raptors also have three good choices to play through between Anunoby, Barnes, and Siakam. All three players can score one-on-one due to their length and strength, while they are also willing playmakers who can feed the perimeter or hit the cutter around the rim.

The only thing is that the Raptors need to do a better job of spacing the floor around them because it was too easy at times for the Celtics to swarm the post while nobody on the Raptors was moving to create the outlet.

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Drew Timme Q&A: Talking with Gonzaga basketball's All-American senior

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Gonzaga All-American Drew Timme on why he decided to return to school, his quest for the title and more.



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MLB home run record: List of most home runs in a season, single-season leaders as Aaron Judge ties Roger Maris

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Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season Wednesday night against the Blue Jays to rewrite baseball’s history books. His 61st home run tied him with Roger Maris for the American League single-season record. 

Judge is having a truly historic campaign, as he leads the majors in home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, total bases, WAR and several other categories. 

One might have a few questions about that mark, so let’s get down and dirty with the all-time leaderboards. Just the facts here. 

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Most single-season home runs, MLB

1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
T7. Aaron Judge, 61, 2022
T7. Roger Maris, 61, 1961
9. Babe Ruth, 60, 1927
T10. Giancarlo Stanton, 59, 2017
T10. Babe Ruth, 59, 1921

Most single-season home runs, American League

T1. Aaron Judge, 61, 2022
T1. Roger Maris, 61, 1961
3. Babe Ruth, 60, 1927
T4. Hank Greenberg, 58, 1938
T4. Jimmie Foxx, 58, 1932
6. Alex Rodriguez, 57, 2002
T7. Ken Griffey Jr., 56, 1998
T7. Ken Griffey, Jr., 56, 1997
T9. Jose Bautista, 54, 2010
T9. Alex Rodriguez, 54, 2007
T9. David Ortiz, 54, 2006
T9. Mickey Mantle, 54, 1961
T9. Babe Ruth, 54, 1928
T9. Babe Ruth, 54, 1920

Most single-season home runs, National League

1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
7. Giancarlo Stanton, 59, 2017
8. Ryan Howard, 58, 2006
9. Luis Gonzalez, 57, 2001
10. Hack Wilson, 56, 1930 

Fastest to 60 home runs (by team games)

1. Barry Bonds, 141 games, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 142 games, 1998
3. Aaron Judge, 147 games, 2022
4. Sammy Sosa, 148 games, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 149 games, 1998
6. Babe Ruth, 154 games, 1927
7. Mark McGwire, 155 games, 1999
8. Sammy Sosa, 157 games, 2001
9. Roger Maris, 159 games, 1961

Fastest to 61 home runs (by team games)

T1. Barry Bonds, 144, 2001
T1. Mark McGwire, 144, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 149, 1999
4. Sammy Sosa, 150, 1998
5. Aaron Judge, 155, 2022
6. Mark McGwire, 156, 1999
7. Sammy Sosa, 158, 2001
8. Roger Maris, 163, 1961

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Fastest to 62 home runs (by team games)

1. Barry Bonds, 144, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 145, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 150, 1998
T4. Mark McGwire, 157, 1999
T4. Sammy Sosa, 157, 1999
6. Sammy Sosa, 160, 2001

So, as you can see, what Judge is doing in 2022 is truly historic. He has seven games left to pass Maris and set a new American League standard for single-season homer excellence.



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SEC college football picks, odds in Week 5: Arkansas stays tight with Alabama, Georgia takes out frustration

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The calendar will flip from September to October as the Week 5 college football action takes center stage on Saturday, which means that SEC division title races are starting take shape. No. 2 Alabama will head to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on No. 20 Arkansas in a battle between SEC foes. It was anticipated this could be a battle of undefeated title contenders, but the Razorbacks’ loss to Texas A&M last week erased that possibility. No. 7 Kentucky will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on No. 14 Ole Miss in a clash of cross-division, undefeated teams that are looking to break through on the national stage. 

There are intriguing games for other reasons, too. Auburn will take on LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a game that could determine the future of Tigers coach Bryan Harsin. The second-year coach was rumored to be on the brink of receiving a pink slip had the Tigers lost to Missouri last week, but they escaped in overtime in one of the sloppiest games of the year. 

What else is going on around the conference in Week 5? Let’s take a spin around the league and make some picks in this week’s edition of SEC Smothered and Covered.

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Hurricane Ian hitting the East Coast has forced changes to SEC games in Week 5. Keep up to date with all of the movement at this link here

Appetizer: Drew Sanders, the double agent?

Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders has established himself as one of the best players in the conference regardless of position. The former five-star prospect out of Denton, Texas, has 31 tackles on the season and is tied for third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (1.63). He’s also a former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Could he be a secret agent? Well, not officially, but Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman knows that his star transfer isn’t going to be surprised by anything he sees.

“I would assume, for him, there would be some familiarity with what Bama is doing,” Pittman said. “We’ll try to downplay that as much as possible, because it is about shedding blocks and tackling and doing his assignment.”

This was shaping up to be a battle of undefeated teams prior to last weekend, but a reeling Texas A&M squad and a Hogs’ field goal attempt off the top of the goal post put an end to that plan. It didn’t erase the interest level in this game, though. Pittman’s squad absolutely has to win Saturday’s game vs. the Crimson Tide, otherwise its hopes of winning the West will disappear like a rack of ribs at a tailgate party. 

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Main course: Chris Rodriguez’s impact

Kentucky is typically a juggernaut at developing stud offensive linemen who are effective as run and pass blockers. This year … not so much. The Wildcats have given up more sacks than any other team in the SEC (16) and allowed Northern Illinois to sack quarterback Will Levis five times last weekend. Nothing against the Huskies, but that shouldn’t happen. 

They will get running back Chris Rodriguez back from his early-season suspension this week, though, and he should at least provide more of a threat in the running game to help Levis work off play-action. The preseason All-SEC selection rushed for 1,379 yards and nine touchdowns last season while adding three touchdowns as a receiver out of the backfield. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday that Rodriguez has prepared to make an impact over the last couple of weeks.

“For Chris, it was just a matter of managing him while he was out. Just getting him the reps that we needed to. The last week or two, as I mentioned last week, he was getting reps with the first and second team — mainly the second team or different quarterbacks just to make sure he wasn’t totally removed from practicing our plays, along with staying in shape, being on the scout team, doing whatever was necessary for staying in good shape.” 

Dessert: Do or die for Bryan Harsin

Reports surfaced last week that Harsin could be fired as early as the day after the Missouri game if his team lost to the visiting Tigers. That didn’t happen; Auburn used a Missouri missed field goal at the end of regulation and a walk-off touchback in overtime to escape with a win. Or a “non-loss,” considering how sloppy the game was. 

In essence, it was the worst possible scenario for all parties. Harsin’s incredibly ugly win against Missouri the week after getting blown out by Penn State made it impossible for the powers-that-be to get rid of him last Sunday, which also gave him another week to “coach back into” his job if he can figure things out. Could that start this week against LSU? Harsin’s Tigers are nearly double-digit underdogs, which suggests that there isn’t much faith in him surviving beyond this weekend. Even if he does, Georgia looms next weekend prior to the bye week. 

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Simply put, Harsin needs to dominate LSU and upset Georgia to stay employed. Otherwise, those who staged the attempted coup in February will likely get their way and move into a new era of Auburn football.

Picks

Straight up: 38-8 | Against the spread: 19-21-1
*Previous picks were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 3

No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Ole Miss

Featured Game | Ole Miss Rebels vs. Kentucky Wildcats

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The Rebels have settled on Jaxson Dart as their No. 1 quarterback, and he will provide a nice complement through the air and on the ground to a rushing attack that is second-to-none in the conference (280.75 YPG). That will wear down a Kentucky defense that isn’t as deep or consistent as it has been in previous years. The Rebels defense, which is third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (7.0), will keep Levis in third-and-long situations — leading to an Ole Miss cover. Pick: Ole Miss (-6.5)

No. 2 Alabama at No. 20 Arkansas

Featured Game | Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

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The 17.5-point spread is interesting, due in large part to the hook. If a 17-point Bama win cashes an Arkansas ticket, I’m all in for the Hogs. Alabama has played one-score games in four of its last five true road tilts, and the combination of Hogs quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim Sanders will bust enough big plays to at least keep this game close into the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide will win it by two touchdowns when all is said and done but won’t get the cover. Pick: Arkansas (+17.5)

Featured Game | Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies

The Bulldogs are home favorites over a ranked Aggies team for good reason. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 44.4% of their passes on third downs (17th nationally), which sets up well against an Aggies team that will be without star wide receiver Ainias Smith. Texas A&M topped Arkansas essentially because of a fumbled punt return and a freak fumble recovery/scoop-and-score, but even those won’t save them in the land of the cowbells. Pick: Mississippi State (-3.5)

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LSU at Auburn

Featured Game | Auburn Tigers vs. LSU Tigers

Auburn’s offensive line has been a disaster this year, and now its quarterback position is an unmitigated disaster. Meanwhile, LSU’s defense has given up just 39 plays of 10 or more yards this season (tied with Georgia for third in the SEC). It’s going to make Auburn put together multiple sustained drives, and that’s unlikely considering Harsin forgot that running back Tank Bigsby exists during the majority of the Missouri game. The visiting Tigers will win by double-digits. Pick: LSU (-9)

No. 1 Georgia at Missouri

Featured Game | Missouri Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs have to be embarrassed after Kent State stayed within 10 points into the fourth quarter last week, and they’ll take it out on Missouri on Saturday night in Columbia. The Tigers average a league-worst 5.62 yards per play, and the way to hang with the Bulldogs is to capitalize on shot plays. Coach Kirby Smart’s crew will take out its frustration on Missouri and win by at least 30 points. Pick: Georgia (-28)

SEC teams vs. FCS opponents

*No lines have been published

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 5, and which top-10 favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $3,100 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.

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