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Cavaliers’ Mobley tops Raptors’ Barnes in early Rookie of the Year battle

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TORONTO — No matter how you put it, there’s something special about this rookie class.

Now, we can’t say this is a class akin to legendary ones like 1984, 1996 and 2003, but the early returns have been good so far.

There have been hot starts from the likes of the Indiana Pacers’ Chris Duarte, Josh Giddey in Oklahoma City, and it looks like the Orlando Magic could have a couple of good ones in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs — to name just a few in what appears to be a deep, talented 2021 draft class.

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However, even among what appears to be a standout bumper crop of rooks, there will always be those that shine brightest and, so far into this season, the two names that have popped up the most among early Rookie of the Year conversations have been Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland CavaliersEvan Mobley.

And most interestingly about these two fabulous-looking first-year players is that they’re not only doing it on the offensive end of the floor — where they’ve both been strong, entering Friday’s action as the leading (Barnes) and fifth-leading (Mobley) rookie scorers in the NBA — but have also managed to meaningfully impact the game on the defensive end, as well.

“I think they’re special,” said Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff of Barnes and Mobley Friday. “You watch a lot of the AAU stuff and a lot of that comes from who wants to score the ball. That’s how you get your notoriety, your Twitter followers up and all that stuff that’s become more and more important is offence — and it always has been. Like you always get your name in the paper for scoring the ball. But now you have [two] guys who take pride in being two-way players. And it’s a mix of ‘want to’ and the ability to.

“Both of those guys are uniquely framed, they’re mobile and agile and it gives them an opportunity to be impactful defensively.”

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Added Raptors coach Nick Nurse: “These two guys, both, the tools and talent they’ve been given, they’ve realized it. They’ve used it as a strength and played with those strengths. A lot of defence starts with the want-to and desire to want to do it. I think they both understand that that’s how they can make impactful and winning plays. So they both do it.”

Perhaps because of this inclination seen from both rookies the initially thought-of ceiling of the respective teams have likely raised. The Raptors came into Friday at a healthy 6-3 and the Cavaliers at 5-4.

In a contest pegged as a matchup between the Nos. 3 and 4 picks of the 2021 draft, Mobley and Barnes, Friday’s game mostly lived up to the billing as Mobley’s Cavaliers walked away with a 102-101 win over Barnes’ Raptors, snapping their five-game winning streak.

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Barnes, who returned to the Raptors lineup after missing two games with a thumb injury, finished the contest with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Mobley ended up with 18 points.

“Both really good players. I think really good players with bright futures and you see the size and skill combination they both have,” said Nurse. “They’re going to be around for a long time I would imagine, both of them, and just continue to get better. That will probably be an interesting matchup to watch as the years roll by.”

More importantly than the two rookies’ offence, however, was how each player helped impact the game defensively with both checking each other at times and taking turns locking each other up on possessions. Barnes, in particular, impressed on that end of the floor, highlighted by a monstrous block out of bounds in the second quarter on a Ricky Rubio lay-up attempt.

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That fly-swatter-like play was indicative of the kind of activity the Raptors illustrated on Friday night, making big plays on defence to help fuel their offence.

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In total, Toronto forced Cleveland into 18 turnovers and converted those into 23 points while holding the Cavaliers to just 46.3 per cent shooting from the field and a 10-of-30 mark from deep.

This domineering defence seen from the Raptors saw them in control for most of the game. They led by as much as 15, but in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers mounted a comeback and pulled within as much as a single point with a little under six minutes in the period to play. Fred VanVleet immediately responded with a long two-pointer that was initially thought to be a triple until official review changed it to put Toronto up 94-91.

Right after that play, Jarrett Allen hit a fluky three to tie the game up at 94-94 with 4:22 left. And then after some back-and-forth play that saw both VanVleet and Anunoby hit some clutch shots for Toronto, the Raptors clinged to a 101-100 lead with 24.8 seconds left.

The Cavaliers had final possession of the game and had three cracks at it. At first it looked like the Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. had come up with a steal against Cleveland’s Darius Garland, but the ball went out of bounds, giving Cleveland another shot.

It wouldn’t be much more successful in attempt No. 2, however, as Colin Sexton drove into the paint and ended up getting tied up for a jump ball. Then, finally on the third attempt, after Cleveland won the jump ball, Darius Garland got fouled by Anunoby and calmly hit both free throws to put Cleveland up 102-101 with 4.8 seconds left to play and, ultimately, win the game.

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On the last possession of the game, the Raptors had OG Anunoby driving to the basket and then fading away along the baseline. He missed the shot, but then Barnes came flying in and looked like he might tip it in, but he also missed before time expired.

For all the good the Raptors’ defence did most of the game, there were moments when they gambled on that end and got burned as a result — something Nurse said he’ll just have to live with.

“If you look at a game in totality, you’re gonna have breakdowns on defence and if you have one where you’re over-aggressive and sometimes you pay for it, you’re probably going to be okay with that,” said Nurse.

“It’s just when you’re breaking down schemes and you’re not doing anything right, and that happens sometimes, when you just have a bad defensive possession or a series of them. We didn’t have too many bad ones, I think most of those mistakes came out of aggressiveness and that’s okay.”

Ultimately, Friday night didn’t prove to be the electric duel between Barnes and Mobley it maybe could’ve been, but both players were solid and brought it on both ends of the floor. In the end, Mobley helped his team improve to 6-4 on the young season and strengthened his case in the early Rookie of the Year battle between him and Barnes.

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Neymar working ’24 hours a day’ to return from injury at World Cup

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Neymar is working “24 hours a day” to try to recover from his ankle injury and play again at the World Cup, Brazil teammate Marquinhos said Sunday.

Neymar damaged ligaments in his right ankle in the team’s 2-0 opening win over Serbia on Thursday and will miss the match against Switzerland on Monday. He remained hopeful of recovering but team doctors still haven’t given a timetable on his return — or said if he will return at all.

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“He is sleeping in physiotherapy, 24 hours a day,” Marquinhos said. “That shows how much he wants to be back with us. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we hope we will have him with us again as soon as possible and in good health mentally and physically.”

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Brazil coach Tite said he had to “force” Neymar and right back Danilo — who is also injured — to stop their treatment on Sunday and go be with teammates at the last training before the match against Switzerland. Tite said after the match against Serbia, Neymar was in physiotherapy until five or six in the morning.

Neymar had said Saturday on Instagram that he was “sure” he would “have a chance to return.” He posted photos of his ankle still looking very swollen.

Marquinhos said Neymar had been feeling down after the injury but was getting more upbeat.

“I see him very well and confident about returning,” the defender said ahead of the match against Switzerland. “He is very focused on coming back.”

Tite remained optimistic about the return of both Neymar and Danilo, who sprained his ankle against Serbia.

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“I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert,” Tite said. “But I still believe that Neymar and Danilo will play in the World Cup. I think we will still be able to use them.”

Tite has plenty of options to fill in for Neymar but admitted it’s hard to replace the talent of a player like him.

“These great talents can show up two or three times and make the difference,” Tite said. “And that’s what Neymar can do for us.”

The coach did not say who would replace Neymar or Danilo in the starting lineup on Monday. The options to replace Danilo included Dani Alves or Éder Militão.

The 30-year-old Neymar is second on Brazil’s scoring list with 75 goals, two behind Pelé’s record with the national team. He has yet to win a major title with Brazil.

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Neymar had to leave the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after hurting his back in the quarterfinals against Colombia. He also missed the 2019 Copa América because of a right ankle injury.

Brazil, seeking its first World Cup title in two decades, faces Cameroon in its last Group G match. The team can reach the round of 16 with a win on Monday if Cameroon doesn’t defeat Serbia in the other group match.



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Morocco's Hakim Ziyech puts a free kick in the net but Romain Saïss caught offside in 45'+2'| 2022 FIFA World Cup

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Hakim Ziyech put Morocco on the board momentarily after a strong free kick from the right wing, but Romain Saïss was caught offside and the goal was disallowed.



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Is Stephen Curry The Face Of The NBA?

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(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

 

The Golden State Warriors may not be doing so well so far this season with a 10-10 record, but their franchise player, Stephen Curry, is playing as well as ever.

Through 18 games, he’s putting up 31.7 points on 52.7 percent overall shooting and 44.5 percent from 3-point range plus 7.1 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game.

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Of course, Curry is the owner of four NBA championship rings, the latest of which he earned less than six months ago, plus two regular season MVP awards and one NBA Finals MVP trophy.

He is now widely considered one of the 10 greatest players of all time, and some may even consider him the best in the game these days.

Is it accurate to go as far as saying Curry is the face of the NBA right now?

 

Curry’s Legacy Has Hit New Heights

For years, Curry was universally lauded as a great player, but he was also criticized for supposedly being soft and not being a prime crunch-time performer.

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But his performance in last year’s championship series, particularly his gutsy 43-point outing in Game 4, seemed to silence that type of criticism.

It now seems he is getting the type of praise he has deserved for a long time, and as is the case with fans of any great athlete, some of it may be a little over the top.

 

The NBA Doesn’t Have A Clear-Cut Best Player Right Now

For a long time, there was usually a consensus on who the best player in the game was.

The 1980s belonged to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the 1990s were owned by Michael Jordan, the 2000s were controlled by Kobe Bryant and the 2010s were mostly a LeBron James decade.

But now, although James is still playing at a very high level, few consider him the best player around, and while many would vote for Giannis Antetokounmpo, he doesn’t seem to have a stranglehold on that accolade.

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Parity has been the modus operandi for the NBA over the last few years, and it has been good for it, as it has made things more exciting and unpredictable.

That actually works to the advantage of Curry and the Warriors, as there is no predominant team or player they would have to get past to win their fifth world title in the last nine years.

The post Is Stephen Curry The Face Of The NBA? appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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