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The Raptors’ season is on the line again tonight
The NBA’s only Canadian team stayed alive on Saturday afternoon with a home win in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. But Toronto is still in an extremely difficult situation. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 loss to win a playoff series, and the betting odds for Game 5 in Philadelphia imply the 76ers have nearly a 75% chance to complete the Gentlemen’s Sweep tonight.
Here’s what else to know ahead of another literal game up for grabs for the Raptors, and the other two matchups that come on an interesting night in the NBA playoffs:
Toronto at Philadelphia, Game 5 (8 p.m. ET)
There was a lot to like about Saturday’s 110-102 win for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam rebounded from a nasty Game 3 by scoring a playoff career-high 34 points (including 15 in the final quarter), while Gary Trent Jr. added 24 for the second straight game since joining. recovered from an illness. And, perhaps best of all, Scottie Barnes returned.
Just hours after being named NBA Rookie of the Year, Barnes returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle suffered in Game 1 of the series and played 26 minutes off the bench. Although clearly not 100 percent, he grabbed 11 rebounds (all defensive) and had six points. Barnes appeared to re-injure his ankle in the second quarter and limped off the field after a timeout, but he stayed in the game and helped the Raptors survive.
Meanwhile, the 76ers must be at least a little concerned about Joel Embiid. After shredding Toronto for an average of 32 points and 12 rebounds in the previous two games, the NBA scoring champion only managed 21 and 8 and was visibly hampered by a torn ligament in his shooting thumb. The injury will require surgery at some point, but the big man has reportedly decided to play through the pain for as long as Philly can stay in the playoffs.
On the other hand, hopes for a miraculous Raptors comeback took a hit on Saturday when Fred VanVleet left in the second quarter with a hip injury, ripping his jersey. To the Hulkamania as he left the pitch in frustration. The star guard, who hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a game in this series and has been shooting horribly since Game 2, was ruled out for tonight.
Another factor working in Philadelphia’s favor tonight is the return of defensive ace Matisse Thybulle, who can’t play in Toronto due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 shot. With Thybulle in the lineup for Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia, the Sixers blasted the Raptors by an average of 17.5 points.
Boston at Brooklyn, Game 4 (7 p.m. ET)
In terms of star power and on/off court drama, this is by far the most riveting first-round matchup. It also promised to be the most competitive, with Boston only a slight betting favorite despite being seeded No. 2 in the Eastern Conference against No. 7 Brooklyn.
Instead, the Celtics are three games to zero as they smother Brooklyn’s dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with their best defense in the NBA. Durant’s struggles were epitomized in a 114-107 Game 2 loss that saw him score 27 points but make less than a quarter of his shots from the floor. Irving, who missed the first few months of the season and then couldn’t play at home until late March due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 shot, has been typically unreliable in this series, going from 39 points in match 1 up to 10 in match 2.
However, Kyrie is practically Cal Ripken, compared to the other member of the supposed Brooklyn Big Three. Ben Simmons was apparently aiming for Game 4 to make his long-awaited debut of the season, but gave up yesterday after waking up with a sore back. This injury is the official reason for his absence since training camp, when he refused to play for Philadelphia. Brooklyn took a chance on trading its own disgruntled star, James Harden, for Simmons in February, but it didn’t work out.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have been on a roll for three months. They are 31-7 since Jan. 23 and finished the regular season with the best defensive rating in the league. Marcus Smart became the first guard in 26 years to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, and right now Jayson Tatum is helping lock down Durant while averaging 29.7 points per game in the playoffs .
Utah at Dallas, Game 5 (9:30 p.m. ET)
There’s not much to say about this series, but it turned into a good one – tied 2-2 after the Jazz’ 100-99 victory on Saturday. Dallas lost that one despite the return of world scorer Luka Doncic, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds after missing the first three games with a calf injury. Utah guard Donovan Mitchell is averaging 30.3 points, good for third place overall in the playoffs.
Canada suffered its first loss at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are in Switzerland to try to become the first Canadian duo to win this event in its 14-year history. They started with wins over Germany, Spain and Turkey at the weekend but lost their first big Test today, 8-4 to the Scottish side of Bobby Lammie and silver medalist. Women’s Olympic gold medalist Eve Muirhead. Canada (3-1) now trails Scotland and USA (both 4-0) in Group B. The top three teams from each of the two groups qualify for the playoffs. Find out more about today’s game and watch the highlights here.
Canada’s national rugby sevens teams have earned a spot in their World Cups. Both the men’s and women’s teams won their finals yesterday at a regional qualifying event in the Bahamas. The men defeated Jamaica 29-12, while the women shut out Mexico 33-0. A place in the final was enough for each team to qualify for the Rugby 7s World Cup, which will take place in September in South Africa. Before that, the Canadian women’s and men’s teams will compete in the Commonwealth Games, starting in late July in England. This weekend, the women’s team will take part in the annual Rugby 7s World Series stop in Langford, British Columbia. Read more about Canada’s successful World Cup qualifiers here.
The incredible perfect streak of a Japanese pitcher is over. Roki Sasaki pitched Japanese baseball’s first perfect game in 28 years on April 10, then a week later pitched eight perfect innings before being retired after 102 pitches (yes, that’s not just an American thing anymore ). The Chiba Lotte Marines star saw his magic run come to a quick end yesterday in Osaka when he allowed a hit on his first pitch against the Orix Buffaloes. Sasaki, a 20-year-old right-hander who mixes a 100-mph fastball with a mean splitter, struck out 33 of 51 batters he faced in his two previous outings. After working five rather pedestrian innings yesterday to be credited with another win, Sasaki is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts this season. He struck out 60 batters while allowing only 13 hits and five walks in 36 innings. The Marines currently have no plans to offer him to Major League Baseball teams, which is traditionally how Japanese stars end up at the majors. Learn more about Sasaki’s perfect run here.
Guy Lafleur received a wonderful start from the Montreal Canadiens. No sports franchise does a better job of saying goodbye to its legends than the Habs. The team and its fans returned another of their perfect salutes last night to Lafleur, who died last week at the age of 70. The nicest touch was to remove all advertisements from the signs and, in their place, display Lafleur’s name, number, signature, and years of life (1951 to 2022). There was also a heartbreaking video montage, set to Sinatra’s “My Way,” and the full crowd gave Lafleur a 10-minute standing ovation. Learn more about the moving evening in Montreal and watch the ceremony here.
You are aware. Speak to you tomorrow.