Connect with us


Raptors struggle to get anything going vs. long, lanky Pelicans



The Toronto Raptors may not play a traditional centre, but they like to think they’re not a small team. Instead, their belief is they can offset their lack of traditional size — as in, someone over six-foot-nine — by playing a seemingly endless supply of guys at or around six-foot-nine.

The only Raptors regulars who don’t fit that description are Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr.

Everyone else can wear each other’s parkas.


But it’s not like having tall players with long arms in the NBA is cutting edge or the kind of intellectual property that can be patented.

Other teams like tall players too, and some of them even have players over seven-feet tall.

Take the New Orleans Pelicans, for example.

They have a lineup loaded with long, lanky, players the Raptors would love to have, augmented by former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas, one of the league’s true bigs and an element Toronto simply can’t match up with.


The Pels have another seven-footer in Jaxson Hayes who gives New Orleans a lot of what Chris Boucher does to Toronto, but is about four inches taller, providing the Pelicans the kind of lob threat Toronto can only dream of.

Brandon Ingram and rookie Herb Jones give the Pelicans something comparable on the perimeter to Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and rookie Scottie Barnes, but in each case appear just a little taller and longer.

And this all without Zion Williamson, their franchise player. The six-foot-six, 280-pounder was playing like a superstar as the world’s biggest, most explosive point guard last season before missing all of this year so far with a foot injury.

It all explains why the Pelicans — who started the season at 3-16 but have gone 19-18 since — swung big at the trade deadline to acquire high-scoring veteran guard CJ McCollum.

They feel like they’re closer to being a factor than their status as the 11th place team in the Western Conference would suggest.


They may be on to something. It looked that way Monday night against Toronto.

The Pelicans simply dominated the Raptors in a way few teams have this season as they came on strong early and never up to earn every inch of the 120-90 win.

More concerning, the Raptors were without all-star VanVleet for most of the second half after he left early to have knee soreness treated. VanVleet missed two games last week with groin soreness and it is fair to wonder if his NBA-leading minutes load is taking a toll.

The loss was the Raptors’ second straight after an eight-game winning streak and dropped them to 31-25 as they remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.


VanVleet led the Raptors in scoring with 20 points while shooting 4-of-9 from three to join Kyle Lowry as the only Raptors to make more than 200 threes in a season. Elsewhere it was a rough night as Pascal Siakam (18 points) was the only other starter in double figures as Toronto shot just 29-of-95 from the floor.

The Pelicans got 23 points from McCollum while Valanciunas and Hayes combined for 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting as New Orleans shot 58 per cent from the floor and 16-of-44 from deep. They improved to 23-34 and pulled within a half-game of 10th place in the west.

The Raptors could offer a range of excuses. Staying locked in the week before what will be an eight-day break for players not involved with All-Star weekend could be a problem.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was optimistic that wouldn’t be the case before the ball went up, but hey.

“I haven’t felt it maybe as much this year as I have [in the past],” said Nurse before the game. “I know what you’re saying: People talking about where they’re going and making plans and asking a zillion questions about when we’ve got to be back [after the break] and what time and where we’re meeting and all that kind of stuff. I haven’t felt that much this year. [But] I think it’s a valid point. We’re here for this one. I think maybe in the next day or so we might see some more of that, for sure.”


It may have come a bit early after all. Toronto has to travel to play Minnesota for a game on Wednesday before they break until Feb. 25 — but human nature is what it is.

And so is size, at least in basketball terms. The Raptors felt the effect of all that New Orleans has in the first half especially.

Stream 250+ marquee NBA matchups from around the league, including over 40 Raptors games. Plus, get news, highlights, analysis, select NBA Playoff matchups and the NBA Draft.

The Pelicans jumped out to a 29-17 lead in the first quarter with Valanciunas looking all too comfortable in Toronto’s paint as he had a putback dunk and a blocked shot in the games’ opening possessions and scored six points in the paint before the game was seven minutes old.

But the effects of the Pelicans’ size were perhaps most evident when the Raptors had the ball and they were doing to Toronto a lot of what the Raptors try to do to their opponents: shrinking the floor, having arms in every passing lane and hands contesting every shot.


It wasn’t the only reason the Raptors shot 3-of-13 to start the game, but it was a significant factor as Toronto shot just 8-of-26 in the first quarter and didn’t help their cause with three turnovers that New Orleans turned into seven quick points.

“I think these guys play really hard. They really make an effort defensively,” Nurse said before the game. “It’s really noticeable when you watch the tape. That’s the first thing.

“Obviously there’s McCollum, we’ve had our fits with him this year already a couple times. Gives them an extra scoring punch. Ingram is playing great. Jonas is a handful. Changes our thoughts sometimes when we’ve got Jonas out there. We play kind of big but not necessarily big out at the centre a lot of times. That makes us maybe have to rethink some of the subbing as well. But… it’s a good team.”

They kept showing it. The Raptors entered the game 17-7 since Dec. 31 in part because they’ve almost never let teams have the better of them for long. They always push back.

Will Lou and Alex Wong talk all things Raptors live on Sportsnet 590 The FAN weekdays from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET.

But the Pelicans weren’t having it. They kept the clamps on the Raptors and pushed their lead to 60-44 at the half by standing tall in the paint, where the Raptors shot just 9-of-27, while the Pelicans were 11-of-16, and making it look easy.


It wasn’t like Toronto wasn’t trying to attack the paint, it was just they either had a hard time getting there or when they did, they couldn’t see the rim.

Siakam — who has been lethal in the paint for the past six weeks — came out with good intentions to start the second half. He put the ball on the floor, got his feet below the free-throw line, went into one of his trademark spins only to run directly into Valanciunas’s chest. A moment later he managed to get past Ingram on the bounce but ran into a thicket of help and missed that one, too.

The only thing the Raptors had going, seemingly, was VanVleet from deep. He stepped into a pair of deep threes early in the third that briefly cut the Pelicans lead to 19, but then New Orleans went to Valanciunas isolated on the block against six-foot-eight OG Anunoby and the big man simply turned to his left and dropped in a right-handed hook. A little bit later — with Boucher desperately trying to front him and deny the post-entry — the Pelicans lobbed the ball high where only Valanciunas could reach it and the New Orleans’ centre dropped it over the rim for another easy score. VanVleet add another three to keep the lead to 20, but Toronto simply didn’t have enough, and the Raptors trailed 94-69 to start the fourth quarter.

It didn’t get any better from there. The Raptors will need to make it so against Minnesota on Wednesday.

Source link



Rangers Cement Their Place As The Hottest Team In MLB



(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)


The Texas Rangers lost their most recent game, 1-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, they are, quite comfortably, MLB’s hottest team.


One game doesn’t take away everything they have done in their last 30 games.

And if you examine what they have achieved in their last 30, well, you will be amazed.

Of their last 30 games, the Rangers have won a shocking 22 of them.

The closest teams in the standings over the last 30 contests are the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Miami Marlins with 19 wins.


The most impressive thing about Texas’ current run is that they have been excelling without Jacob deGrom.

Before the season, we wouldn’t have thought they had a 22-8 run in them without their best pitchers.

But they made some savvy signings, developed their own stars, and have been building a powerhouse capable of steamrolling just about every squad in the league.

In the last two offseasons, the Rangers have added a lot of talent: Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Nate Eovaldi, deGrom, and many others.

Most of them have been excellent.


If we also consider they have had enormous success getting the most out of their own talent, such as Nathaniel Lowe, Adolis Garcia, and Josh Jung, they have put together a top-notch roster with a winning manager in Bruce Bochy.

The Rangers are 5-1 in June and have a five-game cushion in the AL West.

They haven’t shown signs of wearing down, and keep winning games.

With the best run differential in baseball at +154, they are ready to keep dominating.

The post Rangers Cement Their Place As The Hottest Team In MLB appeared first on The Cold Wire.


Source link

Continue Reading


MLB Hypes Up An Exciting Matchup



(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)


The Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays have proven to be the two best teams in all of baseball to start the 2023 season.

Texas was busy over the winter and added some key pitchers to their staff, while the Rays also improved their pitching staff.


Tampa Bay has a record of 46-19, which is the best in all of baseball.

Led by Yandy Diaz, Shane McClanahan, Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes, Brandon Lowe, and Harold Ramirez, the Rays have been dominating every other team in the majors this year.

But Texas isn’t too far behind.

They own the second-best record in all of baseball at 40-21.

This weekend, the two American League powerhouses will match up in a three-game series.


On Twitter, MLB posted a graphic featuring stars from both sides to hype up this great matchup.

This weekend’s series will take place at Tropicana Field.

The Rays are on a six-game winning streak and are coming off a series sweep against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.


The Rangers lost their game on Wednesday to the St. Louis Cardinals, but won two out of three and have also won seven of their last 10 games.

Both teams are red-hot and looking to do some damage over the weekend in St. Petersburg.

The Rangers come in with stars such as Adolis Garcia, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Nathan Eovaldi, and others.

The Rays boast a lineup that features Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena and a pitching staff that is led by left-hander and ace Shane McClanahan.

The post MLB Hypes Up An Exciting Matchup appeared first on The Cold Wire.


Source link

Continue Reading


Astros Could Lose Their Best Hitter To The Injured List



(Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)


The Houston Astros lost 3-2 against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday and have dropped three games in a row.

They still have a good 36-27 record, but have fallen five games behind the Texas Rangers for the AL West lead.


They were without Jose Altuve for a large chunk of their season.

Now, their best hitter, Yordan Alvarez, got hurt and is likely looking at a stint on the injured list.

“Yordan Alvarez said he felt something in his oblique on a swing in the batting cages before the game. It felt bad on the two swings and misses in his first at-bat, which prompted him to leave the game,” Astros insider Chandler Rome tweeted.

Oblique injuries are very, very tricky.


They have a rather high re-aggravation rate and when you think they are behind you, they re-appear.

Astros manager Dusty Baker indicated to reporters late Thursday that Alvarez is likely to miss time due to the injury to his right oblique.

There is nothing official yet, as the Astros are going to perform testing and imaging on the area to try to come up with an exact diagnosis.

Still, the most likely scenario has them placing the slugger on the IL sometime within the next couple of days.

Alvarez had been excellent to open the year, with a .272 batting average, 41 runs scored, 17 home runs, 55 RBI, and a .963 OPS.


He is not only the Astros’ best hitter, but one of the best in the American League.

He actually leads the league in RBI.

The Astros will miss him for as long as he is gone.

The post Astros Could Lose Their Best Hitter To The Injured List appeared first on The Cold Wire.

Source link


Continue Reading