Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Sat, Apr 6

Lamb plays role of giant-killer yet again as Hornets top Raptors – The Globe and Mail

“Man, Kemba made a great pass, and everybody said if I get it, shoot it,” Lamb said. “I just tried to shoot it with confidence.”

Said Kaminsky: “It feels like every time we’ve needed a big score at the end of the season so far it’s been Jeremy.”

Kawhi Leonard finished with 29 points for Toronto, but missed a fall-away jumper with 1 second left. Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Kyle Lowry had 16 points and 11 assists for the Raptors, who had their five-game win streak snapped.

It was essentially a meaningless game for Toronto (56-24), which is locked into the No. 2 seed in Eastern Conference playoffs regardless of how the rest of the season plays out.

Leonard gave the Raptors the lead when he spun around a defender near the foul line and scored on a layup off the glass with 15 seconds left.

That’s when Walker drove the length of the court, drew a double team and kicked it out to Lamb near the top of the key, who found nothing but net. Leonard’s fall-away 19-footer got stuck between the rim and the backboard with 1 second left on the clock, forcing a jump ball at midcourt.

Takeaways: Raptors focused more on details than result in loss to Hornets – Sportsnet.ca

There was much more to Lowry’s stat line than the 16 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Lowry was hunting his shots again even though he only attempted 13. His best make was a 27-foot transition three in the third quarter that demonstrated he was looking for his shot not just looking to be a facilitator for the shots of others.

In his last eight games before the Friday Lowry had averaged just 11 points and in only two games during that stretch did Lowry shoot 50 per cent from the floor. Shooting 6-13 means he just missed the 50 per cent mark once again but it’s a step in the right direction as the post-season nears. Lowry was a team-best plus 15. The only player with a better plus minus then him, Lamb (plus 16).

Hornets' Lamb hits another clutch 3-pointer to down Raptors | CBC Sports

The winning shot came after Lamb hit an improbable half-court buzzer-beater to shock the Raptors in Toronto on March 24 in one of the craziest endings in the NBA this season.

“He’s made two great shots — tonight’s was a little easier than the other one,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. “Give them credit, those guys are making plays and they’re playing for their playoff lives and you can see it in their energy and enthusiasm they have.”

Kemba Walker had 29 points, Lamb finished with 22 points and Frank Kaminsky added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets (37-42), who kept their slim post-season hopes alive and surpassed their win total of the previous two seasons. Charlotte is two games behind eighth-place Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference, with three games remaining. Miami is in ninth place, a game behind the Nets.

Former Raptors 905 coach Jerry Stackhouse to coach at Vanderbilt – Sportsnet.ca

Stackhouse will be introduced at a news conference Monday, and Turner said in a statement that the future is bright for the Commodores with their new coach.

“Jerry brings a unique mix of experience as a legendary player and successful coach, and I fully expect he’ll take the program to new heights,” Turner said. “I’ve spoken with people inside and outside both college and professional basketball, and there is unanimous agreement that Jerry’s competitiveness, grit and tireless focus on player development are a perfect fit to advance the ‘Vanderbilt Way’ in college athletics.”

Stackhouse succeeds Bryce Drew, who was fired March 22 after he went 40-59 in three seasons. He takes over a program that plays in the SEC’s oldest basketball arena at Memorial Gym, and the Commodores’ history includes three Southeastern Conference regular season titles, two conference tournament titles — the last in 2012 — and 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.

He said he’s looking forward to building on the program’s history and thanked Turner and Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos for giving him this opportunity.

“I look forward to furthering Vanderbilt’s unique approach to athletics — blending a powerhouse competitive spirit with elite academics to holistically develop talented student-athletes and celebrate victories on and off the court,” Stackhouse said in a statement.

Trudeau participating in basketball clinic at Raptors practice facility this weekend | Daily Hive Vancouver

The Toronto Raptors practice facility will be getting a pair of special visitors on Saturday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, will participate in a basketball clinic at the newly renamed OVO Athletic Centre in Toronto, according to a media release from the Prime Minister’s Office. Local youth will be on hand, as will Raptors President Masai Ujiri.

The event takes place at 2:10 pm ET, not long after Trudeau and Hussen participate in a roundtable with business leaders to discuss youth opportunities development.

Trudeau is no stranger to the Raptors, having spent time with Canada’s lone NBA team on a few occasions in recent years.

Raptors GM Webster: Playoffs will 'reveal a lot' about team's future – Sportsnet.ca

The 2018-19 Toronto Raptors regular season is nearly over and although it’s had its fair share of exciting moments and storylines, there wasn’t a whole lot the team’s front office could’ve gleaned from the past five months or so watching them.

This is because the Raptors are in a state where appraisals about the club’s future can, really, only be determined after the post-season.

“Ultimately, yeah,” said Raptors GM Bobby Webster of if the team will make decisions based off of playoff results on Sportsnet’s Hoops podcast. “I think that’s been the case probably since the first loss to Cleveland – or maybe the second loss since I think making the Conference Final is a great year for everyone.

“Since then I think the expectation has always been ‘how far can we go in the playoffs?’ So we can assess how far we’ve gone since we got to this point, but the playoffs will, hopefully reveal a lot.”

Heat at Raptors: Three things to watch – Sun Sentinel

1. What are in, who are out? For the Heat, Josh Richardson (hip) is out. For the Raptors, Patrick McCaw (thumb) is out.

2. What is the Raptors’ motivation? Effectively locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Bucks, how much will the Raptors balance playoff preparedness vs. resting players in advance of next weekend’s start of the playoffs? The last time the teams met, the Raptors gave Kawhi Leonard the day off and still pummeled the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena 125-104.

3: Will Danny Green again be a Heat pest? Acquired in the offseason from San Antonio, where he provided his share of Heat torment with the Raptors, Green shot 5 of 8 on 3-pointers in the teams’ previous meeting, the Heat victimized in that March 10 loss by 21-of-40 Raptors accuracy from beyond the arc.

Raptors rely on playoff experience in potential Finals run | SI.com

Scattered across the visitors locker room at Madison Square Garden on March 28 sat five players with an impressive haul of accolades. The quintet of veterans combined for two NBA championships, five conference titles, 11 All-Star appearances and three Defensive Player of the Year awards. So when Raptors’ fourth-year guard Norman Powell wanted some advice on how to improve his post-game routine, he had no shortage of available options.

“I’ve been working to take advantage of my body, seeing what’s sore, what’s hurting,” Powell told The Crossover. “Around here we have a lot of guys who know what that’s about, been through plenty of long seasons. Danny [Green], Kawhi [Leonard], Marc [Gasol], there’s a lot of advice I can take.”

Toronto cruised past the Knicks 117–92 in their late-season matchup, relying less on its wealth of experience than potential Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam bursting past New York’s shoddy transition defense. But while a March matchup against an egregious tanker provided another opportunity for the Raptors’ youngsters to shine, their veteran core will largely be responsible for any potential run to the Finals in June. In a four-way battle to steal LeBron James’s abdicated throne, Toronto’s experience may just be its greatest advantage.

What the Raptors' post-season rotation should look like – Sportsnet.ca

This kind of premium play the Raptors have at centre is something other teams don’t have and is just made to look better by the rest of starters who have all had remarkable seasons in their own right.

Lowry is second in the league in assists with an 8.7-per-game average and though he struggled with his outside shot early in the season, he’s appeared to return to form, shooting 41.1 per cent from three-point range since Feb. 5.

Green has performed exactly as advertised as a three-and-D savant. Through 77 appearances, Green ranks second this season among qualified three-point shooters, connecting at an outstanding 45.2 per cent rate and is a guy who has probably been Toronto’s most consistent perimeter defender — the Raptors’ defensive rating slips 3.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s not on the floor.

As for Leonard, missed games aside because of his load management program, he’s absolutely bounced back from the nightmare 2017-18 campaign and looks to be back to his old MVP-candidate form with a season stat line of 26.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and a 49.4 per cent field-goal percentage.

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