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Kyle Lowry made the best pass in Raptors history
The degree of difficulty can’t be overstated. With his team already trailing 2-0 in the series and now also behind by two points with only half a second left in Game 3, anything less than a flawless inbounds feed by Lowry would all but end the Raptors’ season and their hopes of repeating as NBA champions. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Boston sent out the tallest guy in the league — 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall — to guard the 6-footer.
Somehow, Lowry did one better than flawless. Spotting OG Anunoby open behind the three-point line on the far side of the court (Boston forgot about him), he arced the ball over Fall and right into Anunoby’s shooting pocket for the buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer. Lowry’s ball placement was picture-perfect, and it had to be. Anything even slightly off-target would have made it pretty much impossible for Anunoby to get off a quality shot in the five-10ths of a second he had to work with. Do yourself a favour and watch it again (and again) here:
WATCH | Anunoby wins Game 3 with thrilling buzzer beater:
Raptors fans won’t soon forget the play, but it’s still in danger of being lost to history if Boston goes on to win the series. That’s just the way people’s memory works. And, despite last night’s heartbreaking setback, the Celtics remain strongly favoured to advance. The current betting odds imply they have a 65 per cent chance.
Underestimating the Raptors has made plenty of people look foolish over the last couple of years, and it’s certainly possible the miracle finish in Game 3 propels them to a comeback victory in this series. But that’ll depend on whether some of last night’s performances are sustainable. Lowry was nothing short of heroic, playing a lung-busting 46 of the 48 minutes and finishing with 31 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Fred VanVleet shouldered a massive load too, playing 40 minutes and scoring 25 points. Knowing this was a virtual must-win for the Raptors, coach Nick Nurse asked his two most reliable players to go above and beyond — and they delivered. Same for Anunoby, who played 45 minutes and had a double-double.
Do those guys have enough left in the tank to go all-out again less than 48 hours later in Game 4 (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET)? With Pascal Siakam struggling (he’s shooting only 36 per cent in the series), they might have to. It’s just a lot to ask.
3 NHL teams — and the playoffs themselves — are back from the dead
Just a few days ago, we were lamenting a boring second round that saw a team take a 3-1 lead in all four series. It seemed like the conference finals would be underway by the long weekend and the Stanley Cup awarded before the end of the month.
But while the Tampa Bay Lightning put away Boston in five, each of the other trailing teams has rallied to force a deciding Game 7. Maybe we should have seen it coming. This is hockey, after all. But still, it’s the first time since 1992 that three teams have come from 3-1 down to force a Game 7 in the same round.
The most improbable of these comebacks belongs to the Vancouver Canucks. They were outscored 15-8 over the first four games against a Vegas team that looked just as good as advertised. But then, Vancouver replaced “unfit to play” goalie Jacob Markstrom with rookie Thatcher Demko and won back-to-back elimination games. Demko has played brilliantly under heavy fire, stopped 42 of 43 shots in Game 5 and all 48 in last night’s 4-0 win. The latter broke the record for saves by a rookie in a playoff shutout.
Another Canucks rookie is also on fire. Quinn Hughes picked up another two points last night to break the all-time record for playoff points by a rookie defenceman set way back… well, on Wednesday by Colorado’s Cale Makar. That was just one of many Groundhog Day-like moments last night, and Rob Pizzo covers them all in his latest two-minute recap video.
Because the NHL can never seem to get out of its own way, it’s forcing these teams to come right back and play Game 7 tonight at 9 p.m. ET. The short turnaround would appear to favour Vegas, which doesn’t have to stick with a tired goalie because it has two strong ones in Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Still, would you want to bet against Demko right now? Read more about his hot streak here.
Before Vancouver and Vegas hit the ice, Colorado will try to complete its comeback from 3-1 down when it plays Game 7 vs. Dallas at 4 p.m. ET.
Game 7 of the Islanders-Philadelphia series is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Philly forced it last night with its second straight overtime win — this one in double OT. Feel-good story from that one: Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom, who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in December, played for the first time in 271 days. That’s the best comeback of all.
Lionel Messi is staying with Barcelona — reluctantly. The soccer superstar has been with the Spanish club for two decades, since he joined its youth academy as a 13-year-old. But he’s grown disgruntled over the way the team is being run now, and Messi asked Barca to let him go after its embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals. Problem is, Messi still has one year left on his contract, and Barcelona contended that he’d have to pay a 700-million Euro (that’s over $1 billion Canadian) penalty to get out of it under the terms of the deal. Messi and his dad/agent argued otherwise, but they ultimately decided to stay for one more year so as not to “start a legal war,” as Messi put it. The six-time world player of the year is also reportedly in line for a $109-million “loyalty bonus” for playing out his full contract. But money doesn’t buy happiness for Messi, apparently. He lashed out at Barcelona management, calling it (and president Josep Maria Bartomeu specifically) a “disaster.” Read more about Messi’s decision to stay here.
The PGA Tour’s playoff finale is underway and there’s a Canadian in it. Mackenzie Hughes made a clutch par on his final hole last week to duck into the 30-man field for the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Whoever wins this tournament is crowned the FedEX Cup champion and walks away with the $15-million US cheque that goes with the title. Hughes’ odds of winning are extremely long, though: he was 10 shots behind before anyone teed off. That’s because all 30 players are given a starting score based on where they sit in the season-long FedEx Cup standings. Top-ranked Dustin Johnson started at 10-under, No. 2 Jon Rahm at 8-under, No. 3 Justin Thomas at 7-under and so on. As one of the golfers ranked between 26th and 30th, Hughes began at even par. On the bright side, he’s playing with house money. Just by qualifying for the Tour Championship, Hughes is guaranteed to make at least $395K this week, and he also earned himself an automatic spot in three of the four majors next year: the Masters and the U.S. and British Opens. Read more about Hughes and the perks of making the final event here.
Three Canadian singles players are left at the U.S. Open. They’re all in the men’s draw. No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov plays his third-round match today vs. 19th-seeded American Taylor Fritz. Tomorrow, No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime faces 77th-ranked Corentin Moutet, and unseeded Vasek Pospisil meets No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut. Pospisil defeated fellow Canadian Milos Ranoic, who was seeded 25th, yesterday in four sets.
The National Women’s Soccer League resumes tomorrow. After staging a successful Challenge Cup tournament in Utah earlier this summer, the NWSL added a bunch of matches that it’s calling its “fall series.” Rather than a neutral site, these will be played in teams’ home cities. To reduce travel, the league’s nine clubs have been divided into three regional “pods.” Each team plays the other two in its pod twice. Unfortunately, many NWSL players won’t be participating as they’ve been loaned to clubs in Europe and other parts of the world that are also getting their new seasons going. American star Megan Rapinoe isn’t going to an international team, but she still opted out of the fall series — just as she did for the Challenge Cup.
This weekend on CBC Sports
It’s crunch time in the Canadian Premier League. Every team has one match left in the opening round-robin stage of the Island Games — the tournament on P.E.I that’s replacing the CPL’s regular season and playoffs this year. The top four teams advance to the next round, where they all face each other again, and right now the competition is very tight. Forge FC leads with 11 points, followed by Cavalry FC (10), York9 FC (10) and HFX Wanderers FC (9). Atlético Ottawa, Pacific FC and Valour FC are all within a point or two of fourth place. Saturday’s two matches will help decide who moves on. They’re Forge vs. Valour at 1 p.m. ET and Cavalry vs. York9 at 3 p.m. ET. Watch both live on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app or the CBC Gem streaming service. After the soccer, catch Road to the Olympic Games at 5 p.m. ET. This week’s show features highlights from Friday’s Diamond League track and field meet in Brussels.
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