Tagged in: playoff

Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 1116-113 in Game 1

Trae Young scored 48 points, Clint Capela converted a go-ahead putback with 29.8 seconds left and the Atlanta Hawks defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 on Wednesday night to open the Eastern Conference finals.

The Hawks improved to 6-2 in road playoff games this year and handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason.

“I felt we’ve built ourselves to be able to play on the road,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I’ve told them that. They’re built for this.”

Game 2 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

Young was two points off his career high. “We keep fighting,” Young said. “It’s been fun playing with this group. We just keep fighting to the end, no matter what the score is. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting.”

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John Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and 19 rebounds.

Khris Middleton missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

Although Middleton scored 15 points, he shot 6 of 23 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.

“Offensively, it didn’t seem like we moved very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer stated.

Antetokounmpo scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that turned a 98-96 deficit into a 105-98 advantage with 4:18 left. Holiday capped that spurt by sinking a 3-pointer after Antetokounmpo got the rebound on his own missed free throw.

But the Hawks scored the next five points, and the game went back and forth from there.

Middleton missed a pull-up jumper with about 43 seconds left with Milwaukee up 111-110. Young missed a driving layup attempt, but Capela grabbed his 19th rebound and scored to put the Hawks ahead for good.

After Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer, Young made two free throws with 17.3 seconds left. Antetokounmpo made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds left, but Young brought the lead back to three and closed the scoring by sinking two free throws of his own with 4.6 seconds remaining.

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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Paul George power win over Mavericks, seize back control of series

The LA Clippers arrived in Dallas down 0-2 in the series with their future clouded in insecurity, but they left with home-court advantage and momentum thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George playing the relentless style they envisioned when they joined forces.

For the second consecutive game, Leonard and George overwhelmed Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, combining to score 45 points in the first three quarters to help the Clippers even this Western Conference first-round playoff series at 2-2 with a 106-81 rout on Sunday at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks could not contain Leonard for the third straight match, as the All-Star forward made 11-of-15 shots and tallied 29 points and 10 rebounds. And George scored 13 of 20 points in the second quarter, when the Clippers opened a 48-29 lead with 6:58 left before halftime.

“I think we both have just done a great job of complementing each other,” George said of him and Leonard leading the Clippers back into this series. “[Leonard] has been all-out driving and attacking and putting pressure on their bigs at the rim. Myself, as well. When he needs a break and a breather, now I am in attack mode. I think we are just doing a great job of countering each other.

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“This is ultimately what we wanted to get to — being able to share the court together and doing it on both ends together.”

This was what Leonard, George and the Clippers imagined when the two All-Stars became Clippers during the summer of 2019.

Leonard is playing at the postseason level that made him the NBA Finals MVP for a second time when he led the Toronto Raptors to a championship in 2019. He has been simply too strong and powerful for Dallas to stop, averaging 35.3 points in the past three games.

In leading the Clippers to the past two wins in Dallas, Leonard shot 24-for-32 combined in Games 3 and 4, and he has done the majority of his damage on drives into the paint.

But his message to the Clippers after they lost the first two games of the series at home was to step things up considerably on the defensive end.

Doncic labored through a nerve issue in his neck on Sunday and shot 9-for-24 to finish with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. But the Clippers were thrilled with their ability to slow down the Mavericks’ other shooters who really shot lights out in Los Angeles.

Tim Hardaway Jr. missed 7 of 8 shots and scored just four points, Dorian Finney-Smith only had eight points and the Mavericks as a group missed 25 of 30 3-point attempts in Game 4.

In the first two games of the series, Dallas took home-court advantage by making 35 of 70 (50%) attempts from behind the arc.

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Donovan Mitchell returns to practice, expects to play in Sunday’s playoff opener for Utah Jazz

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his right ankle more than a month ago and plans to play in the Utah Jazz’s playoff opener.

“That’s the goal,” Mitchell said. “Barring any setbacks, God forbid — knock on wood — that’s the goal. I’m just trying to go out there and be there for my teammates and try to help to go out there and win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s been the goal all year.”

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Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, sat out the last 16 games as the 52-20 Jazz wrapped up the NBA’s best record and the top overall seed.

Utah will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the winner of the Western Conference play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell suffered the injury April 16 against the Indiana Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner.

Mitchell has ramped up his on-court work in the past two weeks, staying in Salt Lake City when the team was on the road to work out with assistant coach Keyon Dooling, but hadn’t participated in competitive, full-contact action until Thursday.

Mitchell said that the ankle still has some soreness but that he didn’t experience any significant pain. “Practice was good,” Mitchell said.

“I got out there and competed. You could definitely tell it was the first time in four or five weeks, but that’s to be expected. I’m just trying to find ways to get back in a groove.”

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St. Louis Cardinals officially acquire Nolan Arenado from Colorado Rockies

The St. Louis Cardinals completed their blockbuster trade to obtain All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

St. Louis dealt left-hander Austin Gomber and four minor leaguers to the Rockies: infielders Elehuris Montero and Mateo Gil along with right-handers Tony Locey and Jake Sommers.

As part of the trade, Colorado will send cash to St. Louis to offset part of the money Arenado is due in his contract.

Arenado had been set to be paid $199 million over the remaining six seasons of a $260 million, eight-year contract. As part of his agreement to waive a no-trade provision, Arenado agreed to add a season to his deal, which now extends for seven seasons through 2027.

His deal had given him the right to opt out and become a free agent after the 2021 season. His new contract gives him the right to opt out and become a free agent after either the 2022 or 2023 season.

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“Many have heard me say that one of the great things about baseball is that you always have a chance to get better,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. “Today we got better! A deal of this nature, acquiring a player of Nolan’s considerable talents, are the ones that can set you apart in many ways.”

The 29-year-old Arenado has hit .293 with an .890 OPS over eight seasons, averaging 35 home runs and 114 RBIs per 162 games. Aided in part by hitter-friendly Coors Field, he has led the National League in home runs three times and topped the majors in RBIs twice.

The Cardinals concluded second in the NL Central last season and lost a first-round playoff matchup versus the San Diego Padres.

Arenado will bump Matt Carpenter out of his role as the starting third baseman and play in an infield with All-Stars Paul DeJong at shortstop and Paul Goldschmidt at first base.

Arenado slumped during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .253 with eight home runs and a .738 OPS over 48 games before going on the injured list Sept. 21 with a bruised left shoulder. He earned $12,962,963 in prorated pay and won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove. Arenado led the majors with 15 defensive runs saved.

St. Louis brings back much of the same team that made last year’s postseason, including veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright, who finalized an $8 million, one-year deal Friday.

Wainwright is returning for his 17th season with St. Louis, matching Bob Gibson (1959-75) for the second-most seasons with the Cardinals among pitchers, one behind Jesse Haines (1920-37).

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Kansas City Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins optimistic about playing in Super Bowl

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins stated he is optimistic about playing in Super Bowl LV on Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after missing both previous playoff games because of a calf injury.

“Feeling great,” Watkins said Tuesday. “Still working out with the training staff and [athletic trainer Rick Burkholder], just going over everything so I can have a chance and possibly go out there and feel 100% or 95% or 85%, wherever I get at by Sunday. Feeling pretty good, very optimistic. Been having good practices.”

Watkins also missed six games during the regular season. He was fifth on the Chiefs with 37 receptions, 421 yards and two touchdowns.

In the final campaign of his contract, Watkins said he would listen if the team would like to re-sign him because he values winning and playing in Super Bowls over personal stats and money.

“I would say, let’s win this Super Bowl and see where my head will be at,” Watkins said. “It would definitely be something to think about. It would definitely be something I would talk to my wife and my kids about, to think about coming back. Would I love a third ring? For sure.

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“I would definitely not say no about it. … To come back and win a third one? Yeah. I don’t mind. I would definitely have to sit and think about it, see what my future holds.”

Watkins’ return would add another dimension to a dynamic Chiefs offense, led by last year’s Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“You never see him get rattled… You just see the calm guy that’s kind of like controlling the game,” Watkins said of his quarterback. “I think that’s what has taken this offense to a whole different level… I think we have an offense that understands now, if we just do the little things right, we can’t be stopped.”

The Chiefs punched their ticket to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance with a 38-24 victory over the Bills in the AFC Championship game.

The Bills traded up to get Watkins with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  The team traded Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, along with a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines, who opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and was released by the Bills in January.

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Packers host Rams with NFC championship game berth at stake

No NFL team scored more points during the regular season than the Green Bay Packers. Nobody has played better defense than the Los Angeles Rams.

That sets up an intriguing showdown of strength vs. strength when MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) host All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams (11-6) in an NFC divisional playoff match Saturday.

“This is what you love,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “These are the type of matchups and opportunities that as a competitor, you can’t wait for.”

Both of these units are at the top of their game.

The Packers have won six consecutive games and have been held below 22 points just once all campaign. Los Angeles got to this point by sacking Russell Wilson five times in a 30-20 triumph at Seattle last week.

“They went to Seattle, played a familiar opponent and played really, really well, and they’re coming in with the confidence that they should have,” Rodgers said. “And we’re coming in with confidence as well, the season that we’ve had and what we believe we’re capable of.”

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Rodgers has set franchise single-season records for touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (.707) this year while throwing just five interceptions for an offense scoring 31.8 points per game. Donald calls Rodgers a “great quarterback that’s playing lights out this year.”

Donald leads a defense that permitted the fewest points and yards of any team during the regular season.

“At any time, at any quarter of the game, a different guy could make a big-time play for us,” Donald said. “It’s not just one or two guys. When you’ve got a group of guys – all 11 out there – who are pretty much playmakers who can make that game-changing play at any time, you’ve got a great group.”

This will be the first time the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense have faced off in the postseason since the New England-Atlanta Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. The Patriots had the top-ranked defense and the Falcons had the No. 1 offense that year.

This also will be the Rams’ first playoff game at Lambeau Field. These two franchises have met in the postseason just twice before, with the Packers winning 28-7 in Milwaukee on Dec. 23, 1967, and the Rams winning 45-17 in St. Louis on Jan. 20, 2002.

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Cam Akers’ high-ankle sprain will sideline him indefinitely for playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a high-ankle sprain in a 23-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday and will be sidelined indefinitely, according to Rams coach Sean McVay.

“He is a war daddy,” McVay stated Monday. “But he is going to be out for at least the next week or so.”

Akers suffered the injury early in the second quarter and went to the sideline with trainers but returned only minutes later with his left ankle heavily taped. He ended with 63 yards on 15 carries.

His absence will be felt Sunday when the Rams (9-5) play the Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Lumen Field.

A victory would earn the Rams a playoff berth and would move them into first place in the NFC West with a game remaining in the regular season.

After playing a complementary role in a running back committee with Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown most of the campaign, Akers had recently distinguished himself as a feature back.

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In a Week 13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Akers rushed for 72 yards on 21 carries, and the following week, in a 24-3 win over the New England Patriots, he rushed for 171 yards on 29 carries.

McVay said the desire of Akers, a second-round draft pick from Florida State, to finish Sunday’s game reiterated his thoughts about the rookie’s status on the team.

“He gave us a chance,” McVay said. “You can see why we have so much confidence in what he’s going to be for the future.”

Henderson and Brown will take over in Akers’ absence.

“They’ll both get work — as far as the specifics, we’re not really sure,” McVay said. “We’re just getting into the initial parts of the game plan.” The Rams defeated the Seahawks 23-16 in Week 10.

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Yankees end 5-game skid, top Blue Jays

Deivi Garcia earned his first major league victory, Gleyber Torres drove in four runs and the New York Yankees snapped a five-game losing streak, defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 7-2 on Wednesday night.

The Yankees had lost 15 of 20 and fallen to the edge of the expanded playoff field. General manager Brian Cashman had made a rare road trip to talk to the team before Tuesday night’s loss.

Torres and DJ LeMahieu homered to back Garcia (1-1). In his third career start, the 21-year-old righty gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked two.

Zack Britton worked the eighth and Aroldis Chapman struck out all three batters in the ninth. Derek Fisher hit a two-run homer in the second inning for Toronto, which had its three-game winning streak halted. Ross Stripling (3-3) took the loss.

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Luke Voit hit an RBI single that put the Yankees ahead 3-2 in the fifth and Torres added a two-run double. That gave New York multiple hits with a runner in scoring position; a welcome aid after the Yankees had gone 2 for 32 in that situation during their five-game skid.

Torres led off the second inning with his fourth homer and LeMahieu led off the third with his fifth. Clint Frazier added an RBI single in the ninth.

Toronto starter Tanner Roark permitted two hits and three walks in four innings.

The Blue Jays ended a stretch in which they played 28 times in 27 days, with the only day without a game being Aug. 27, when many games in MLB were postponed because of social protests.

Toronto went 18-10 during that stretch, impressing manager Charlie Montoyo.

“Other teams would just take a day or night off. It’s just too much, too many games,” Montoyo stated. “This team hasn’t taken a day off. They go hard every game. I’m impressed by it, and I’m proud of the way they play every day. They don’t give up.”

The Yankees have four matches left in their own gauntlet, in which they will have played 20 games in 17 days before an off day on Sept. 14.

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Bills sign Sean McDermott to multi year extension

In just three short years Sean McDermott has finished the Bills playoff drought and turned the team into a division favorite and AFC contenders. 

Terry and Kim Pegula made sure their coach will be here for a long time to come. “Sean’s leadership on and off the field has been nothing but genuine and transparent, qualities we appreciate as owners,” said Kim Pegula in a statement.

“He is the same great person to us, the players and everyone across all our organizations. We will never forget how impressed we were during his first interview. Sean’s attention to detail was apparent back then and his process driven approach has brought great stability to our organization. We are happy to extend his contract and keep him in Western New York for many years to come.”

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Since McDermott’s arrival in 2017, he has not only rebuilt the team’s roster, but its collective culture. A culture , built on commitment to a process of daily self-improvement for the benefit of the team, love and respect.

His mantra of ‘Playoff Caliber’ is something the players have embraced entirely.

“It was just something he’d keep saying,” stated Pat DiMarco. “Guys would hear it but wouldn’t always live it. Now it’s our nature. It’s like that saying. First you form the habit, then the habit forms you. So it’s a habit now. You come in here and ‘Playoff Caliber’ is the standard. Not only on the field, but in the weight room, the meeting room.

Playoff caliber is what we’re doing every single day. Guys are working their tails off. “Probably the second biggest thing that he preaches is your love for the guy next to you. You’re going to sell out, not for yourself or your contract, but for the guy next to you and his family and his well-being.

There’s just a lot to it. When you care and you love the guy you’re playing for you’re only going to play that much better.”

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Berger wins tightly contested Colonial in playoff

Daniel Berger was playing some of the best golf that no one noticed. Three months away because of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t slow his momentum, and he made it pay off Sunday with a triumph at Colonial.

The PGA Tour made a healthy return to golf at the Charles Schwab Challenge with a somewhat sickly finish. Berger saved par from behind the 17th green on the first playoff hole and won when Collin Morikawa missed a 3-foot par putt.

Berger closed with a 4-under 66, his 28th consecutive round at par or better dating back to Oct. 11 at the Houston Open.

Even over the final hour, a half-dozen players were still in the mix. All that was missing was the sound and energy of a gallery, with the PGA Tour not allowing fans for the opening five events in its return. Berger won for the third time — all victories during this week on the calendar, just not in circumstances like this. It was the first PGA Tour event since March 12 when the spread of the new coronavirus shut down golf and other sports.

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From no positive tests to a dynamic end at history-rich Colonial, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan sized up the week by saying, “This has been a phenomenal start to our return.”

Morikawa has been equally steady. Since graduating from Cal last year, he has won and made every cut, a streak now at 21 events, the longest streak by a newcomer since Tiger Woods.

He took a share of the lead with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole. It was the short ones that hurt. Morikawa also missed a birdie putt from 6 feet on the 18th hole in a 67.

Berger was the only one who delivered, making a 10-foot birdie on the final hole that put him at 15-under 265. The last time Berger was in a playoff, Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him at the Travelers Championship. So he could feel for what Morikawa felt int he loss. “It’s going to hurt for a little while, but he’ll get over it and he’ll be winning again,” Berger said.

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