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jsq0713
(@jsq0713)
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11/02/2019 11:41 am  

29 points and Channing Frye had 21 after a hot start for the Suns, who play Memphis on Monday night in a game that figures to go a long way toward deciding the final playoff team in the West. "Weve got to stay positive," Bledsoe said. "You could tell it was a playoff atmosphere. I thought everybody laid it out on the court." Ellis and Nowitzki brought the Mavericks back by hitting five 3-pointers between them in less than 4 minutes of the third quarter, erasing most of a 13-point deficit. Then they teamed to get the lead back in the fourth, and Dallas held on in the final minutes. Nowitzki broke an 89-all tie with a 3-pointer, shouting "Boom!" as he signalled a "3 with both hands. Seconds later, Ellis stole the ball from Frye and hit a tough layup with Bledsoe riding his hip. After a rare miss from Frye — who made his first five 3-pointers — Devin Harris hit a 3 from the top of the key, holding his arms up and looking to the ceiling in apparent relief after struggling from long range recently. The Suns were down 99-91, but got back within two when Bledsoe stole a pass by Ellis and coasted in for a layup with 1:15 remaining. It was one of 19 turnovers for the Mavericks, and the Suns had 18 in a fast-paced game with a lot of wild passes. Bledsoe then missed a free throw that would have tied the game again, and Ellis missed one of two from the line twice in the final 20 seconds to give Phoenix more chances to tie or go ahead. The Mavericks were finally safely in the playoffs when Markieff Morris was off target on a high-arching 3-point try with 2 seconds left. Ellis, who was 15 of 23 from the field and made three of four from long range, kept up his hot shooting in the third quarter and Nowitzki joined him after a cold first half as the Mavericks top two scorers combined for 44 points after halftime. "I was just feeling what the defence would do," said Ellis, who made the playoffs last year with Milwaukee but got swept by Miami in the first round and longed for a change, signing with Dallas as a free agent. "The floor was open for me. Coach just had me attack." Dallas third-quarter surge started after P.J. Tucker missed a free throw on a potential three-point play that would have given the Suns their biggest lead at 70-56. Vince Carter made a driving layup and Ellis hit back-to-back shots from the side of the 3-point arc, screaming for emphasis after the second one. Then it was Nowitzkis turn to hit two in a row and shout, which he did after getting Dallas within 72-70 from a couple of feet behind the arc late in the third quarter. The Mavericks took their first lead since midway through the second quarter when Nowitzki hit a layup on a pass from Ellis to go up 88-87 midway through the fourth quarter. NOTES: Goran Dragic played with a sprained left ankle after missing a game the previous night in San Antonio and finished with 13 points on just 6-of-18 shooting. ... Carter passed Adrian Dantley for 25th on the scoring list. He finished with 12 points and now has 23,183 points, six ahead of Dantley. Cheap Air Max 270 Black .com) - Australian Open champion Li Na, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and former world No. Cheap Air Max 270 Brown . By then it was clear: The 76ers were going to win for the first time in two months, and they were going to do it with ease. The 76ers snapped their NBA record-tying, 26-game losing streak, routing the Detroit Pistons 123-98 on Saturday night to avoid establishing the longest skid in U.Saturday had a weird feel about it for Toronto FC at BMO Field. One would think advancing in the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday would have left some positive residue in the atmosphere. Team-wise, there was momentum contributing to the positive result, a 2-0 win over one of Major League Soccers glamour clubs, the New York Red Bulls. The energy, or lack thereof around the stadium had another feel entirely.  We shall call it the remnants of a history of failure. Some level of disillusionment, distrust, and negativity still float around to a certain degree. A new culture isnt created overnight. And thus, a change in perception is as much a work in progress as the team on the field Three straight league losses heading in, Michael Bradley away on World Cup duty, and an unpopular trade amongst some Toronto FC supporters made for awkwardness. There was tension throughout an unusually quiet crowd, somewhat predictable considering possession stats heavily favouring the visitors while the prospects of another dreaded late goal conceded lingered. The heartbreaking goal against didnt come. Contrary to usual script, it was the Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips with all the wrong moves, missing an absolute wide-open sitter. Simply a brutal miss by MLS top goal scorer. Despite waves of pressure, the Red Bulls put only one shot on target, a testament to Toronto FCs stout defensive structure and blue-collar effort. The commitment shown by the Reds is something to rally around, isnt it? Ill take this work in progress over anything weve seen before at BMO, thank you very much.  Four wins through eight matches should be entirely pleasing. The MLS standings are misleading with Toronto FC sitting 7th but playing a league-low eight games thus far. Its the 1.5 points earned per game that tells a more positive tale; tied for the third best rate in the Eastern Conference. Progress. There will be no convincing a fan base to fully commit to a product without reason for true conviction. Apprehension cannot simply be whisked away. The negative response to Issey Nakajima-Farran being traded to the Montreal Impact Friday (on his birthday) came as a surprise. Issey did fine as a member of Toronto FC. But the trade for Collen Warner is not a negative move for footballing reasons. Its the perception Issey was hard-done-by, with he and his agent reportedly not told of the deal beforehand, leading to the player taking to Twitter to call the move "#Inhumane". Perhaps my definition of Inhumane is entirely different. Its this kind of nonsense, the petty name-calling and lack of communication that can easily be resolved and need be remedied. Issey is a fine player, but lacked the defensive team play/awareness demanded by the manager. Issey could have remained a squad player in Toronto, and that would have been fine. Acquiring a player in Warner who can fill a specific role as a defensive midfielder is preferable. The wing positions still need upgrading. That would have remained on the to-do list even if Issey were not moved. The entire deal was blown out of proportion based on perception rather than anything tangible about team direction. So what is Toronto FCs team identity? Although it continues to be asked in the press box and through the rafters, through eight games it seems abundantly clear: a team difficult to break down defensively and one reliant upon the counter-attack. Those looking for expansive, attack-oriented football will remain disappointed for the time being. Thats not happening with this squad as currently constructed. Spare me style points, the 2-0 win was trademark Toronto FC. Here are my five thoughts: 1) The Defoe Effect - Jermain Defoe remains emotional about his exclusion from the 23-man England World Cup squad. Its a tough spot for Jermain. The questions asked about his decision to join MLS playing a role in his exclusion are completely unfair. He was never going to be picked not playing regular minutes at Tottenham either. Defoe was excluded because Roy Hodgson decided to name only four strikers and a glut of attacking midfielders. Is Defoe worthy of selection over Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge or Ricky Lambert? No chance. Thats no disrespect to Jermain. From the sounds of it, the lumbering Andy Carroll is the preferred striker on standby too, putting Defoe sixth in the pecking order. Its understandable why Ryan Nelsen warned post-match, "... England will miss him dearly, I think, come World Cup time." Defoes 12th-minute goal was a thing of beauty: an unstoppable strike after finding space behind the Red Bulls backline (which he did all afternoon). Defoe took one touch before unleashing a shot of the highest quality, top corner. Unstoppable. The power and placement top class, decisive and clinical. Its the type of finish that separates him from most in MLS. Defoe makes Toronto FC a constant danger as long as hes on the field, no matter how the team plays behind him. Make it four goals in just five games for Defoe, while no other TFC player has scored more than once. 2) Moore is More – New Toronto FC striker Luke Moore loves BMO Field. The Englishman sscored a hat trick against TFC in a 2007 summer friendly while at Aston Villa. Air Max 270 Flyknit Brown. Moore made it two-for-two in games scoring goals at BMO after coming on as a second half substitute in his home debut. Moore capitalized on goalkeeper Luis Robles and defender Chris Duvall colliding, making for an easy tap-in time added on to guarantee the three points. It was a productive 40 minutes of action for Moore, doing well holding up the ball. It must be questioned whether Moore is a preferable option short-term over misfiring Gilberto. The Brazilian missed another clear-cut goal scoring opportunity in the 19th minute. The ball fell to Gilberto on the back post, open inside the six-yard box. Instead of getting his body behind the ball and guiding it into the back of the net, Gilberto lunged and stabbed, with the ball bouncing awkwardly out of play for a goal kick. He has to capitalize on these kinds of chances. Missing sitters as such brings back ugly memories of Chad Barrett or Jeff Cunningham, but even worse because Gilberto is a designated player. The designation matters in our evaluation. Matias Laba was sacrificed by TFC to bring in another goal scorer. Laba could have made for an ideal centre-midfield partner with Bradley. I still stand by the reasoning behind the move for Gilberto – TFC needs goal scorers to compliment Defoe. Can Gilberto be that guy? Its still far too early to make any grandiose proclamation. Thus far Gilberto has let down the faith of his general manager and head coach. More is required, or Nelsen should just roll with Moore for the time being. 3) Orr is More – Bradley Orr has become Mr. Utility for Toronto FC. He has played four positions for the club, and as he puts it, is trying to be a good "squad player". There will always be a fit for a player like Orr, who was an absolute asset Saturday reading the play and helping out his backline. Orr rarely got forward from his central midfield position, and when he did he assisted on Defoes opener. Orr dropped deeper as the game wore on, basically sitting on top of Steven Caldwell and Nick Hagglund. He was like another defender, in position for help and support. Despite his standout performance, Orr is not suited to play the position full-time. His distribution isnt good enough for the holding role. This is the position Nelsen envisions for Warner. Your guess is as good as mine where Orr will land in his merry-go-round of positions. Nelsen seems ecstatic with Mark Bloom at right-back, Orrs natural position. So Orr will have to remain patient for his chances and continue to be that good squad player. Hes an asset Toronto FC will continue to call upon. 4) Hagglund over Henry – The rookie out of Xavier has given plenty for his head coach to think about. Hagglund was preferred Saturday ahead of Doneil Henry at centre-back. Diving in for challenges and a lack of discipline have plagued Henry in recent weeks. Nelsen needs a more reliable, steady Henry to play alongside Caldwell. Credit Hagglund, who took full advantage of the opportunity. After some early jitters giving away possession twice cheaply in the opening minutes, Hagglund settled and his confidence grew as the match wore on, making better clearances and in control as the Red Bulls pressed. Its hard not envisioning Henry as the regular starting centre-back partner for Caldwell for the foreseeable future. Perhaps its best to have Henry watch a few more games from the sidelines, focusing on his defending tendencies in training, and not forced into game action until hes corrected his issues, namely staying on his feet and finding better defensive positioning on one-on-one defending. Hagglund is a serviceable option for the time being and beyond. 5) On the Defensive – The 12th-minute goal was a blessing and a curse for Toronto FC. Playing with an early lead allowed TFC to fall back defensively for the duration, taking few chances and allowing the Red Bulls to dictate the flow of the game. Parking the bus wouldnt be the best way to describe it, but its not far off. The defensive shell and rotation by the fullbacks in support has been phenomenal, reflective in conceding just nine through eight games. Playing such a defensive game comes with risk. Sitting back far too much has cost Toronto FC conceding late in matches against Colorado, New England, and Dallas. The commitment remains high but there isnt enough of a concerted effort to get forward, attack, and find that all-important second goal. New York maintained 59 per cent of possession; a terrible number for TFC playing at home. Better ball retention and consistent build up is a necessity as the season wears on. This also has everything to do with getting Defoe involved as much as possible. The ability thus far to grind out results has revealed all kinds of character in the team. But its a fallacy to expect this kind of play will bring similar results over the long-term.  Toronto FC pays a visit to reigning MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City Friday night at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt. (TSN/TSN 1050 Radio). Gareth Wheeler can be reached on Twitter: @WheelerTSNgareth.wheeler@bellmedia.ca


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