Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan celebrates a late bucket against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 9.
Photograph by: Nathan Denette
Your midday sports snack.
• Brad Jacobs is in trouble at the Olympic curling trials. The man who skipped Canada to gold at Sochi 2014 all but fell out of contention for this weekend’s three-team playoffs with a 9-5 loss to Reid Carruthers in Ottawa this morning. At 2-4, Jacobs’ rink isn’t mathematically eliminated yet, but they trail five teams with five draws remaining. Kevin Koe is already through to the knockout round at 6-0; Brad Gushue and Mike McEwen have the inside track to the semifinal at 4-2.
The best chance for any rink to enliven the women’s draw comes this afternoon, when Krista McCarville (3-2) takes the ice against defending Olympic champion Jennifer Jones (5-1). As it stands, Chelsea Carey (5-0), Rachel Homan (5-1) and Jones have a marked lead on the rest of the field. Michelle Englot (2-4) won 8-7 in 11 ends against Allison Flaxey (0-7) in the only women’s match this morning.
• Matthew Tkachuk has a hearing with the NHL’s player safety authorities today. The Flames’ resident pest could be suspended for spearing Leafs forward Matt Martin from the bench in the first period of a 2-1 shootout loss last night. Tkachuk wasn’t penalized on the play, but drew scorn from Martin and Toronto coach Mike Babcock when the two were questioned by reporters after the game. “I didn’t feel it at the time, but I guess if he’s going to do stuff like that, he should make it count,” Martin said. “It’s child’s play.”
Tkachuk is no stranger to the league’s disciplinarians. He was suspended two games late in his rookie season last March for elbowing Kings defenceman Drew Doughty in the head. Last month, he got a one-game ban for a line brawl-inciting slash on Detroit’s Luke Witkowski as Witkowski left the ice after a fight. Witkowski stepped back on the ice to confront the perpetrator, earning himself an automatic 10-game suspension.
• Alex Ovechkin scored the 98th game-winning goal of his career last night in Washington’s 6-2 win over Chicago. He is now tied with Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur for ninth in NHL history, although Ovechkin did it in 950 games, quicker than Hull (1,063) and Lafleur (1,126).
• Only the Philadelphia Eagles had a chance to earn a playoff spot in the NFL last weekend (they failed), but there are now seven teams listed on the NFL’s playoff scenario report for Week 14. Four teams, all with 10-2 records, are win-and-in: New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota. The Patriots can also clinch the AFC East and the Steelers can clinch a playoff berth if Buffalo loses. (No pressure, Bills.) The Eagles can clinch the NFC East if Dallas loses and the Vikings can secure the NFC North if Detroit and Green Bay both lose.
Three other teams can clinch with a win and some losses by other teams this week: Jacksonville (8-4), the L.A. Rams (9-3) and New Orleans (9-3). The Jaguars and Rams both have one scenario in which five other teams need to lose, while the Saints have six different scenarios involving various other teams.
• On Sunday, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Modern Era committee will vote on the candidacy of nine players and one executive for inclusion in the Class of 2018. The nine players all passed through the Baseball Writers of America ballot after their retirement without securing enough votes to get into the Hall. Committees such as the one for the Modern Era meet on a rotating basis to take another look at these players’ careers.
The nine players are Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell. The executive is Marvin Miller, the head of the players union from 1966-82. The results will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
• Canada’s moguls skiers, led by the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and Mikael Kingsbury, will open their World Cup season on Saturday in Ruka, Finland. CBC will stream the event; see the weekend TV listings below for details.
The Toronto Raptors, who open a four-game Western Conference road trip on Friday in Memphis, improved to 9-1 at home this season with their 126-113 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night. It seemed odd, at the time, to watch the Raptors casually score 126 points on a random weeknight. It is, in fact, getting less odd, part of the league’s overall offensive surge and the Raptors’ attempts to hop on the bandwagon.
Tuesday was already the seventh time the Raptors have exceeded 120 points in a game this season, none of which needed overtime. It follows last season’s pattern in which the Raptors had 12 non-overtime 120-point games, a franchise record. In no other season before 2016-17 had the Raptors had more than six regulation 120-point games (2014-15; they had five in 2005-06).
The jump in scoring with the Raptors and across the league is obviously a function of the three-point shooting revolution. Below is a chart showing the trends in two- and three-point shots made and attempted.
The rise in scoring might jump even more if there was ever an increase in three-point shooting percentages. The next chart shows that there have been no significant gains in three-point shooting percentages since the mid-1990s.
The three-point percentage was 36.7 per cent in 1995-96 and is 36.4 per cent this season. The scoring rise is a result of the steep rise in attempts, up now to 28.7 per game from 12.7 in 1997-98 (the year following that three-year blip in the first chart).
While three-point shooting explains a lot of the rise in scoring, there’s another factor: pace. Pace, as an NBA statistic, is expressed as the number of possessions per 48 minutes. The NBA used to have lots of “pace,” registering well over 100 possessions per 48 minutes throughout the 1970s and 1980s. After the 1988-89 season, pace plummeted even more sharply as half-court offences and physical defence took root and fouls and turnovers were at historically low levels. Fewer possessions mean fewer opportunities to score.
The next chart shows the trends in points per game, pace and offensive rating, which is points scored per 100 possessions.
Pace has been on an upward trend since 2011-12, which mirrors the rise in points per game, which eclipsed 105 last season for the first time since 1992-93.
This final chart puts the Raptors’ numbers together in context with their win totals.
Toronto’s points per game shows the same steep rise since 2011-12 and their pace has risen this year to 98.3, which puts them 11th in the NBA. Toronto was 24th in pace last season, 29th in 2015-16 and and 22nd in 2014-15. Pace has never been a Raptors’ strength. But it’s another part of the team’s evolution, coupled with shooting — and making — more threes.
Photo of the day
How is Toronto FC handling the stress of preparing for the MLS Cup?
• A crack team of data crunchers at Canadian Tire may hold the secret to maximizing Canada’s medal potential at the Olympics. Dan Barnes has a story on the mathematical masterminds helping Canadian lugers, swimmers, speed skaters and other athletes shave elusive fractions of a second off their race times — the numbers, of all the ones they consider, that matter most.
• Excuse us if we’re a little skeptical of Niklas Edin’s motives for visiting Ottawa in December. Sweden’s men’s Olympic curling skip is ostensibly in the capital this week on holiday: he’s playing tourist at the Canadian trials for Pyeongchang. “Fun event,” he told Postmedia’s Don Brennan, insisting he’s not here to scout his potential competition. (If he did have to pick the likely winner at this stage, though, it would be Koe.)
• There are a few reasons Connor McDavid is one of hockey’s most lethal players, but one that stands out time and again is his feet. The Off the Post podcast called on Joe Quinn, McDavid’s skills development coach, to find out why the Oilers captain is such a magnificent skater.
TV this weekend
All times Eastern
2 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, draw 16 TSN1,3,4
3 p.m. UEFA Europa League
— Zorya vs. Bilbao TSN2
— Arsenal vs. BATE TSN5
7 p.m. NHL: NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Sportsnet, SN 360, TVAS
7 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, draw 17 TSN1,3,5
7:30 p.m. NHL
— Calgary at Montreal TSN2, SN West, RDS
— Winnipeg at Florida TSN3
8 p.m. NBA: LA Lakers at Philadelphia SN One
8:25 p.m. NFL: New Orleans at Atlanta CTV Two, TSN4
9 p.m. NBA: Washington at Phoenix NBATV
10 p.m. NHL: Philadelphia at Vancouver SN Pacific
10:30 p.m. NHL: Ottawa at Los Angeles TSN5, RDS
10:30 p.m. NBA: Houston at Utah SN One
3:30 a.m. Golf: European Tour Coburg Open, second round Golf Channel
4:04 a.m. Skeleton: World Cup women’s, heat 1 CBC.ca streaming
— Heat 2, 5:34 a.m.
4:55 a.m. Figure Skating: Grand Prix Final, women’s short program CBC.ca streaming
— Men’s free program, 6:15 a.m.
7:34 a.m. Skeleton: World Cup men’s Skeleton Heat 1 CBC.ca streaming
— Heat 2, 9:19 a.m.
9 a.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, draw 18 TSN1,3-5
1:30 p.m. Golf: PGA Tour QBE Shootout, first round Golf Channel
2 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, draw 19 TSN1,3-5
2:30 p.m. Speed skating: World Cup, 500 metres and team pursuit CBC.ca streaming
5:00 p.m. Luge: World Cup doubles, first run CBC.ca streaming
— Second run, 6:20 p.m.
7 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, draw 20 TSN1,3
7 p.m. NHL: NY Rangers at Washington Sportsnet, TVAS
7:40 p.m. Luge: World Cup men’s first run CBC.ca streaming
— Second run, 9:15 p.m.
8 p.m. NBA: Toronto at Memphis TSN4,5
9:30 p.m. NBA: Boston at San Antonio NBATV
10 p.m. NHL: Minnesota at Anaheim SN One
10:30 p.m. NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at USC TSN2
4:30 a.m. Golf: European Tour Coburg Open, third round Golf Channel
7:30 a.m. Soccer: Premier League, West Ham vs. Chelsea SN World
9 a.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, tiebreaker, if nec. TSN3
10 a.m. Soccer: Premier League
— Burnley vs. Watford Sportsnet
— Tottenham vs. Stoke TSN4
— Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth TSN5
— Huddersfield vs. Brighton SN One
Noon NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Michigan CBS
Noon NCAA Basketball: Duke at Boston College TSN1,4,5
12:30 p.m. Soccer: Premier League, Leicester vs. Newcastle NBC
1 p.m. NHL: St. Louis at Detroit Sportsnet
1:30 p.m. Golf: PGA Tour QBE Shootout, second round Golf Channel
2 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, women’s semifinal TSN3
3 p.m. NCAA Football: Army at Navy CBS
3 p.m. NCAA Basketball: VCU at Seton Hall FOX
3:30 p.m. CHL: Oshawa at Barrie Sportsnet, SN One
3:30 p.m. NBA: Washington at LA Clippers NBATV
4 p.m. Soccer: MLS Cup final, Toronto FC vs. Seattle TSN1,4,5
6 p.m. NBA: Miami at Brooklyn NBATV
7 p.m. NHL
— Toronto at Pittsburgh CBC
— Edmonton at Montreal Sportsnet, TVAS
— Winnipeg at Tampa Bay City, SN One
8 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, men’s semifinal TSN1,4
8:30 p.m. NBA: Utah at Milwaukee NBATV
10 p.m. NHL
— Vancouver at Calgary CBC, SN One
— Ottawa at San Jose Sportsnet
4:30 a.m. Golf: European Tour Coburg Open, final round Golf Channel
5:04 a.m. Rugby Sevens: Men’s quarter-finals CBC.ca streaming
5:34 a.m. Bobsleigh: World Cup four-man, heat 1 CBC.ca streaming
— Heat 2, 7:04 a.m.
7 a.m. Soccer: Premier League, Southampton vs. Arsenal TSN1,4,5
8:30 a.m. Equestrian: Geneva show jumping CBC.ca streaming
9:30 a.m. Soccer: Premier League, Liverpool vs. Everton Sportsnet
9:34 a.m. Rugby Sevens: Men’s semifinals CBC.ca streaming
11:30 a.m. Soccer: Premier League, Manchester United vs. Manchester City TSN1,4,5
12:18 p.m. Rugby Sevens: Men’s bronze medal CBC.ca streaming
12:44 p.m. Rugby Sevens: Men’s gold medal CBC.ca streaming
1 p.m. NFL
— Minnesota at Carolina CTV (B.C., Alberta, Sask., Winnipeg, Northern Ontario), CBS (regional), RDS
– Indianapolis at Buffalo CTV (Toronto, Kitchener), CBS (regional)
– Dallas at NY Giants CTV (Ottawa, Montreal, Atlantic), FOX (regional)
– Detroit at Tampa Bay TSN2, FOX (regional)
— Green Bay at Cleveland FOX (regional)
1 p.m. Golf: PGA Tour QBE Shootout, final round Golf Channel
2 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, women’s final TSN1,3-5
2 p.m. Golf: PGA Tour QBE Shootout, final round NBC
2:30 p.m. Speed skating: World Cup 1,000 metres, women’s 3,000 and men’s 5,000 CBC.ca streaming
3:30 p.m. NBA: Toronto at Sacramento Sportsnet, SN One
4 p.m. NFL: Washington at LA Chargers TSN2, CBS (regional)
4:25 p.m. NFL
– Seattle at Jacksonville CTV (B.C., Alberta, Sask., Winnipeg), FOX (regional)
– Philadelphia at LA Rams CTV (Ontario, Montreal), CTV Two (Atlantic), FOX (regional), RDS
7 p.m. Curling: Roar of the Rings, men’s final TSN1,3
7 p.m. NHL: Edmonton at Toronto Sportsnet, TVAS
7 p.m. NBA: Dallas at Minnesota SN One
7:30 p.m. NBA: Atlanta at New York NBATV
8:15 p.m. NFL: Baltimore at Pittsburgh NBC, CTV Two, TSN4,5, RDS
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