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Raptors notebook: Effort and connection are difference-makers in solid start



TORONTO – Just 11 games into their season, the Toronto Raptors are off to a 6-5 stretch and are feeling pretty good about themselves.

“I’m really happy. We’re 6-5. We look good. I think we’re tough to beat,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse after his team practised at the OVO Athletic Centre Tuesday. “I think we’re young and scratching the surface. I think we’re a long way away from our ceiling with this team. Yeah, would I rather be 7-4? Yeah. We’ll pick a few off.”

Obviously, being 7-4 — or even better than that — would be more ideal for the Raptors, but it’s hard to complain with the results so far, especially because the Raptors have found success by being excellent at a couple of aspects of the game that should be polar opposite of each other.


Toronto ranks first in the league in offensive rebound percentage at 33.7 per cent in the league, yet are giving up the second fewest fastbreak points per game in the league, at only 8.7.

To put this into context, the Washington Wizards are giving up the least fastbreak points in the league at 8.2 per contest, but rank 25th in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate at 24.1 per cent.

The disparity between transition defence and offensive rebounding seen from the Wizards this season is the norm and it makes sense, given the fact you usually have to make a conscious decision to either crash the offensive glass or get back on defence to try to stop a fastbreak attack.

Somehow, though, the Raptors have defied this convention and have excelled at both.

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So, how is it they’ve managed to make what should be parallel ideas converge? It’s simple, really.

“Its effort,” said Nurse. “They play really hard, man. It takes a lot of effort to get on the glass. And then, if you’re getting on the glass, to still get back, it’s effort.

“Some of the stats are showing you the effort: The turnovers, the offensive rebounding, the defensive transition, they’re showing a lot of effort and that’s as simple as that. So we need to play hard, we need to play harder, more consistently. We’ll be in good shape.”

And Raptors centre Precious Achiuwa echoed Nurse’s comments.

“It’s effort. That’s one that we have and that’s why I think we’re a really good team. We play hard and we cover for each other. We play together, not just on offence but on defence as well,” Achiuwa said. “We’re able to cover for whoever goes for the offensive rebound until they get back on defence. It’s all effort. If you go for the offensive rebound you’ve got to scramble back on defence, whether you get your matchup or not, and play from there.”


Hustling and playing hard does seem like a logical explanation for why the Raptors have been able to be both a great offensive rebounding and transition defence club. But you have to think that if the requisite to being good at both of these things simultaneously was simply effort, as both Nurse and Achiuwa said, then every team in the NBA would at least be halfway decent at these things because basically every player in the league, in one way or another, plays hard and with great effort. If they didn’t, then they likely wouldn’t be in the NBA.

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No, for the Raptors, there appears to be something special about this particular group to want to go that extra mile for each other.

“I think just because guys on the team are naturally good guys,” said Achiuwa, when asked what makes the effort this Raptors team special from effort other teams put in. “We enjoy each other’s company off the court, on the court, and it’s a lot easier if you have a relationship with somebody and can look out for the person and play hard for the person next to you.”


Most notably, the trust Achiuwa was alluding to is best seen on the defensive end of the floor, where the Raptors have played a high-risk, high-reward style of defence, predicated on forcing turnovers by either getting steals or deflections.

Such a defensive scheme isn’t possible without guys trusting each other.

“Having great defenders on your team and guys that can help you on the defensive end, you can miss certain gambles and still recover, still get a stop, or don’t get the ball at all so it’s a good thing to have teammates like that,” said Gary Trent Jr.

Trent leads the league in both steals and deflections, and owes quite a bit of his success there to the fact he trusts his teammates to cover for him when he decides to take a risk playing a passing lane or blitzing an offensive player.

So, while the Raptors obviously do play hard, it’s the effort they put in, combined with what looks like a special connectivity the players on the roster share with each other that’s been the major difference in what has been a solid start for the team.


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Quick dribbles

• Pascal Siakam, who made his season debut on Sunday after missing the first 10 games recovering from off-season shoulder injury, is expected to play Wednesday night in Boston, but it’s unclear if he’ll be cleared to go on the second night of the Raptors’ upcoming road back-to-back Thursday in Philadelphia.


Siakam is on a minutes restriction of what appears to be about 24-25 minutes per game at the moment, but it sounds like that’ll be lifted sooner than later.

“He came out of [Sunday] pretty good,” said Nurse. “Hopefully we’ll be ramping up the situation as we go here.”

• Khem Birch, who missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury, will miss Toronto’s next two games against the Celtics and 76ers.

On Sunday, Nurse said that Birch had an MRI that didn’t reveal anything serious and that his knee was just “a little swollen,” with the expectation that he would only miss about two-to-three days.

Here’s hoping it hasn’t turned into anything more serious since that initial diagnosis.


• On Wednesday against Boston, the Raptors will begin a stretch of eight of nine games played on the road, including a six-game road trip that will see Toronto play five Western Conference opponents.

Though it’s still early in the season, this stretch could be a major determinant in figuring out just how good, exactly, these 2021-22 Raptors actually are.

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MLB Postseason Is Featuring A Rare Absence In 2023



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Historically, the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Boston Red Sox have had long periods of dominance in MLB.

In fact, those are the teams with the most World Series victories.


The Yanks have 27 (the last one coming in 2009), the Cardinals are second with 11 (the most recent one being in 2011), and the Red Sox are tied with the Oakland Athletics (previously Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics) with nine.

Since 1993 and up until 2022, a span covering 30 seasons, at least one of those teams was in the playoffs, often all three and sometimes two of them.

However, all good things (and bad, too) come to an end.

2023 will be the first season in 30 years in which none of those three historically relevant franchises will be in the postseason, according to ESPN.

The Yankees are the only team of the bunch with a positive record, but things went south almost from the beginning.

Aaron Judge had two long stints on the injured list, Giancarlo Stanton regressed, and Carlos Rodon was either injured or inconsistent, not to mention a myriad of injuries to starters, relievers, and lineup regulars.

The Red Sox made huge strides with their farm system, but even though they stayed relevant and competitive for most of the year, couldn’t get key wins and all their AL East foes are just better.

The Cardinals’ pitching was never good enough for the team to contend.

With demanding fanbases and a sense of urgency, all three teams will likely find a way to contend soon enough.


For now, though, they will have to watch the postseason on TV.

The post MLB Postseason Is Featuring A Rare Absence In 2023 appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Miguel Cabrera Set To Lose An Elite Mark Upon Retirement



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Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera made his MLB debut in 2003 with the Miami Marlins (then Florida Marlins).

Among active players, he is the longest-tenured in MLB, with 2023 being his 21st season.


He is, however, about to relinquish his throne, because he is set to retire after the weekend.

MLB on FOX shows us the list of the longest-tenured players in MLB, and there will be some changes next year.

With Cabrera retiring, Zack Greinke will be the leader of the list if he decides to keep pitching.

He is 39 and will hit free agency after 2023 so there is a chance he retires, too.


Next up is Rich Hill, and he has stated that he intends to keep pitching in 2024.

He is also a free agent and will be 44, so he might have a hard time finding a team, much like Greinke.

After Hill, we have Justin Verlander, who made his MLB debut (with the Tigers) in July of 2005.

Verlander, unlike all the names mentioned to this point, is under contract with the Houston Astros and will be returning for another year, at the very least.

It’s fascinating to see all these veterans completing amazing careers.


In the specific case of Cabrera, it became evident that he could no longer hang with the young guys.

Retirement is the wisest choice, and Tigers fans get to celebrate a colorful, successful, and brilliant career that includes a World Series triumph in 2003 and lots of individual accolades.

Not many players can say they can retire with 3,000+ hits, 500+ home runs, and 600+ doubles.

The post Miguel Cabrera Set To Lose An Elite Mark Upon Retirement appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Analyst Discusses The Importance Of Dolphins-Bills Matchup



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The Miami Dolphins have been the most entertaining and shocking team in the league so far this season.

While it’s not a surprise to see that they’re scoring points and putting up yards in bunches, no one saw a 70-point performance coming.


Still, at the end of the day, winning by one or winning by 50 points is pretty much the same; all that matters is your record.

That’s why former NFL player Willie Colon believes the upcoming matchup between them and the Buffalo Bills will determine who’ll eventually win the AFC East.

Colon and Craig Carton debated that on “The Carton Show,” talking about how these two teams match up against each other.

Carton believes the Bills will beat the Dolphins, but we cannot ignore the fact that the Dolphins made it a close game in the playoffs despite not having Tua Tagovailoa on the field.

The Dolphins have the fastest and most explosive set of playmakers in the league, with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and now even rookie RB De’Von Achane.

The Bills looked much better in their win over the Washington Commanders, with Josh Allen making a statement against a usually-solid defense.

Then again, all concerns about his struggles to take care of the football or do too much haven’t gone away, and that could cost them against a better team like the Dolphins.

Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: That game will be a shootout between two quarterbacks who can put up points on the scoreboard in no time at all.


The post Analyst Discusses The Importance Of Dolphins-Bills Matchup appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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