Despite being the biggest players on the field, they live in relative anonymity. When other players hear their names called during a game its because theyve done something right, but members of this group only hear their name when they do something wrong. They are offensive linemen. The Toronto Argonauts are preparing to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final this Sunday. As they do, theres less worry about this group than there was as they entered the 2012 playoffs, a season that culminated with a Grey Cup Championship. To be kind, the Argos o-line wasnt great last year. There was a great deal of worry about how well the group was playing as the post-season run began. That level of concern has been greatly reduced heading into this years playoffs. "Similar guys at this point, with the exception of Tyler (Holmes)," said head coach Scott Milanovich. "I just think theyve played together in the system a little bit longer. I dont think its a whole lot different other than were a year and a half into it now." Holmes is the newcomer, essentially replacing Marc Parenteau as a starter. The Argos first-round pick in the 2011 draft joined the club in September after being released by the Minnesota Vikings. He made his CFL debut against the Ticats in October and hasnt looked back, playing admirably at left guard while starting the final three games of the regular season. He has a lot of respect for the guys across the line in black and gold. "Theyre a talented bunch up front" said Holmes, whose father Richard played for three CFL teams, including the Argos. "We just need to execute our game plan and handle what we can handle." Holmes says theres one area that really improved in the time hes been up here. "Getting in there and seeing the different looks, everything really slows down for you," the Ottawa native told TSN.ca "When you first get in there your head is spinning a little bit, so its been really nice to just get in there and settle in." Joe Eppele has moved from left guard to right guard. He played the best football of his career in the playoffs a year ago and hasnt looked back. "I think I played some of my best football then, but I think Ive improved a lot this season." said the second-overall pick in the 2010 CFL draft. "I think the biggest part has been my field recognition. Ive noticed that for me, mentally, the game has slowed down quite a lot. I can read the defences a lot better than I used to be able to." For the layman, the move from one side of the center to the other may not seem like that big of a deal, but everything changes, especially the footwork. Hes handling it well though. "It just creates a little bit of lag in the decision making" explained the 68" BC native. "You have to flip everything around in your head before you make the decisions, and just the small changes in your footwork. When youve been working on one side of the ball for so long youre just so used to having your feet in a certain stance, and when you make that switch it slows down your game a little bit at first." As the left tackle, Tony Washington protects Ricky Rays blind side. Its been an unusual season for the second-year Argo, as hes been in and out of the lineup due to injury. He even found himself playing some defensive tackle at times. He feels hes playing his best football at the perfect time of the year. "I dealt with a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season," said the New Orleans native. "I was trying to come back from that and keep my conditioning up." Washington feels as a group the line has been playing more aggressively this season. Hes also been impressed with Holmes, who starts to his immediate right. "For him to have come in as a rookie, hes picked it up really well" said the 67", 320 pound veteran. "He looks good, hes been playing really well." Like both Washington and Eppele, right tackle Chris Van Zeyl has found himself moved around. He was the right tackle last season, moved to right guard for the most part this year, but has been moved back to tackle lately. He doesnt care which position he plays. "Ill play wherever the coaches play me," said the McMaster grad. "I dont have a preference. I like playing tackle, I like playing guard. Guard allows me to be more physical, tackle allows me to be more athletic." Hes ready to go against a tough Hamilton front seven. What concerns him the most about that group? "I think more the system than the actual players themselves," said the native of Font Hill, Ontario. "I think the players are all pretty well-rounded, but I think the system gives teams a lot more trouble than the players themselves do." The leader of the group is center Jeff Keeping. Over the course of his nine seasons in the CFL, eight of which have been spent in Toronto, hes played defensive line, fullback, tight end and all along the offensive line. Hes been a very low profile member of the team,but this year was recognized for his tremendous play by being voted the East nominee for the CFLs Outstanding Offensive Lineman. He admits he sees an improvement in his game. "I think I played better" Keeping told TSN.ca before immediately giving accolades to his fellow linemen. "With any award like that you know its the result of the unit. I cant speak for each of the guys, but I think I played more consistent and I know I played at a higher level more consistently. I feel the same way about everybody across the line, so I think that as a whole really made us successful as a line." If the group keeps Ricky Ray on his feet and opens holes for running backs Jerious Norwood and Curtis Steele, it will go a long way toward sending the Argos to Regina for an opportunity to defend their Grey Cup title. Nike Shox Australia
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... maybe even more than that. Maybe all season I have to take a few blows.SAN ANTONIO - Tony Parker had 27 points and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Sacramento Kings 112-104 on Friday night —their second straight victory without Gregg Popovich.Popovich missed his second straight game following a recent undisclosed minor medical procedure. The veteran coachs status is unknown for the teams upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Sunday in Boston, but he did visit with the team Friday morning.Assistant coach Ettore Messina led San Antonio to its sixth straight victory. Messina said everything he is doing has Popovichs seal of approval.Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points, Tim Duncan had 18 and Danny Green 11 for San Antonio (11-4).Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins had 15 points each for Sacramento (9-6) and Ben McLemore had 14 points.HAWKS 100, PELICANS 91ATLANTA (AP) — Jeff Teague scored 26 points, DeMarre Carroll added 19 and Atlanta held off New Orleans.Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday each had 20 points for New Orleans. The Pelicans couldnt recover after being held to a season-low 28 first-half points.Tyreke Evans had 18 points for New Orleans. Anthony Davis had 14 points and 11 rebounds.The Pelicans cut Atlantas lead to seven points three times in the fourth period, the last at 94-87. Teague answered with a basket that barely beat the shot clock with 39 seconds remaining.Paul Millsap had 13 points and nine rebounds and Al Horford had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta.THUNDER 105, KNICKS 78OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 32 points in his first game back from a broken right hand, and Oklahoma rolled past New York.Westbrook was injured in the second game of the season and hadnt played since. He returned in grand fashion, making 12 of 17 shots, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, and adding eight assists and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter because the Thunder were in control.Amare Stoudemire had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 39 per cent and scored a season-low point total in their third straight loss. Carmelo Anthony, a Top 10 scorer in the league, missed his second straight game with back spasms. He said before the game he was unsure when he would return.CLIPPERS 102, ROCKETS 85HOUSTON (AP) — Blake Griffin had 30 points and 10 rebounds and Jamal Crawford added 21 points to help Los Angeles coast to a win over injury-depleted Houston.The Rockets were playing their fifth straight game without Dwight Howard (knee strain) and were also missing two other starters.The Clippers took the lead at the end of the first quarter and didnt trail again. Houston got within 10 points early in the third, but a run by Los Angeles pushed the lead to 18.An alley-oop dunk by DeAndre Jordan made it 94-73 with about six minutes remaining and the starters went to the bench soon after that.James Harden had 16 points to lead Houston.PACERS 98, MAGIC 83INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Rodney Stuckey scored a season-high 24 points and David West had 18 points in his first game of the season to lead Indiana to a win over Orlando.Solomon Hill scored 11 points and Lavoy Allen had 10 points and 14 rebounds as the Pacers (7-9) handed the Magic (6-12) their fourth straight loss.West wasted little time in re-establishing himself. The Pacers power forward had missed the first 15 games of the season with an ankle injury, but he scored Indianas first four points before two quick fouls sent him to the bench.Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 16 points. Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo each scored 14 and Ben Gordon had 12 points for the Magic.BUCKS 104, PISTONS 88AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Ersan Ilyasova scored 22 points and Jared Dudley added 16 points as Milwaukee beat slumping Detroit.Milwaukee didnt have a single starter score in double figures, but got 69 points off the bench to hand Detroit its seventh straight loss.The teams were playing for the third time this month and the second time in four days. The Pistons posted one of just three wins this season on Nov. 7, but Milwaukee answered with a 98-86 victory on Tuesday.Former Piston Khris Middleton added 12 points for Milwaukee, which got four reserves into double figures. Andre Drummond led Detroit with 26 points and 20 rebounds, but Greg Monroe only had five points on three shots.WARRIORS 106, HORNETS 101CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Marreese Speights scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, and Golden State Warriors beat Charlotte for their eighth straight win.Stephen Curry finished with 26 points despite a poor shooting night from 3-point range, and Klay Thompson added 17 points for the Warriors (13-2).Brian Roberts scored 20 points aand Al Jefferson had 18 points for the struggling Hornets, who have lost eight straight games and 10 of their last 11.dddddddddddd Cody Zeller had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Kemba Walker had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Charlotte (4-13).Curry, making his return to Charlotte where he played high school basketball and starred at nearby Davidson College, was just 1 of 10 from 3-point range. But he finished 9 of 20 from the field and made all seven free throw attempts.The Warriors out-rebounded the Hornets 16-8 on the offensive glass.NUGGETS 122, SUNS 97DENVER (AP) — Arron Afflalo led seven Nuggets in double figures with 22 points, and Denver won its fourth straight at home by beating Phoenix.Timofey Mozgov added 13 points as the Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak to the Suns, who took the first of their home-and-home series on Wednesday after sweeping four meetings between the teams last season.Eric Bledsoe had 16 points to lead Phoenix, which had an off night shooting, connecting on 38.8 per cent of its shots from the field. Gerald Green added 12 points.Helped by their deep rotation and dominance on the boards (Denver outrebounded Phoenix 58-34), the Nuggets opened a 66-47 halftime lead, piling up the most points in a half by a Suns opponent this season.GRIZZLIES 112, TRAIL BLAZERS 99PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Marc Gasol had 26 points and nine assists as Memphis held off Portland to snap a nine-game Portland winning streak.Mike Conley added 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who have lost just two of 16 games this season for the NBAs best record. Memphis is undefeated against conference foes this season.Wesley Matthews scored 26 or the Blazers, who lost just their second game at home. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 10 rebounds.The Grizzlies led by as many as 15 points. But Matthews nailed a 3-pointer to narrow it before Chris Kamans layup cut the Grizzlies lead to 89-85 with 7:26 to go.Tony Allens layup put Memphis up 94-85. He added a 3-pointer that extended the lead to 108-93 with 1:37 left to seal it.Zach Randolph had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis, which has won eight of its last nine games. Conley had nine assists to just miss out on a triple double.MAVERICKS 106, RAPTORS 102TORONTO (AP) — Monta Ellis scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Dallas won for the eighth time in 10 games, beating Toronto.Chandler Parsons scored 16 points, Dirk Nowitzki had 15 Al-Farouq Aminu 14 as the Mavericks snapped Torontos winning streak at six games.Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle won his 300th game with Dallas. Hes the third coach in team history to reach the mark, joining Don Nelson (339) and Dick Motta (329).Kyle Lowry scored 25 points, Amir Johnson had 20 and Lou Williams 16 for the Raptors, who saw All-Star DeMar DeRozan leave in the third with a strained left groin.BULLS 102, CELTICS 102BOSTON (AP) — Jimmy Butler hit four free throws late in the game and finished with 22 points, Derrick Rose scored 21 points and Chicago pulled out a win over Boston Celtics.Pau Gasol had 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Joakim Noah added 15 points with 14 boards for the Bulls, who had lost four of their previous six games. Boston has lost six of seven.Jared Sullinger led Boston with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Avery Bradley had 18 points and Brandon Bass 16 with nine boards. Rajon Rondo had eight points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Celtics.Butlers two free throws tied it with 80 seconds to play. Rondo missed two free throws and Sullinger front-rimmed an attempted 3 before Butlers two free throws put the Bulls ahead for good, 104-102, with 51 seconds left. Noah nailed a short jumper on Chicagos next possession.TIMBERWOLVES 120, LAKERS 119LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rookie guard Zach LaVine scored 18 of his team-high 28 points off the bench in the second quarter, and Mo Williams had 25 points and 11 assists to lead Minnesota over Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant missed a 3-pointer as time expired that helped seal the win for Minnesota.LaVine, the 13th overall pick in the draft out of UCLA, played 25 minutes in his Staples Center debut and made 11 of 14 shots. He was the fifth and last player off the Timberwolves bench as they snapped a three-game losing streak.Bryant finished with 26 points on 10 for 18 shooting and Nick Young scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Wesley Johnson had 19 points against his former club and Jeremy Lin had 18 points and 11 assists in the Lakers fourth straight loss. Seven of their 13 defeats this season have been by seven or fewer points. ' ' '