Spurs’ win vs. champs could lay path for similar successes

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SAN ANTONIO — Now that the Spurs have cut the Warriors down to size and demonstrated that Stephen Curry can be made to look human, there is only one question left for the rest of the basketball world:

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What did it prove?

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No matter how the mammoth, bombastically-hyped matchup turned out on Saturday night, the two teams were guaranteed to make NBA history.

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Highlights: Spurs down Warriors

With 26 points and 13 rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Spurs past the visiting Warriors, 87-79.

With the Warriors entering with a record of 62-6 and the Spurs at 58-10, the game featured the highest combined win percentage (88.2) ever.

Never had there been a game between teams more than 100 games (104) over-.500.This was a game carrying considerable weight, though Spurs contrarian coach Gregg Popovich typically expressed utter indifference about the matchup’s importance.

“Write whatever the hell you want,” Popovich said before tipoff. “Say I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

Yes, the Spurs clawed and carved out an 87-79 victory that just might be a glimpse of what we’ll see if the two teams meet up again as everyone expects in the Western Conference finals.

Starting lineups and in-game matchups that look like they may have been drawn out of a hat. Hall of Famer Tim Duncan sitting for all but eight minutes on the Spurs bench, jumping up and down as a cheerleader and often acting as another assistant coach. Curry and his Warriors backcourt partner Klay Thompson usually having so little room to breathe.

As masterpieces go, it ranked between the Sistine Chapel ceiling and something you might find stuck to the door of a refrigerator with a magnet.

As results go, it was precisely the kind of ugly, discordant scrum that the Spurs will want to stifle the harmony and creativity of Golden State.

“I told the guys I thought their execution and competitiveness defensively were outstanding and that’s something you can depend on night after night,” Popovich said. “You never know if you’re going to make shots or not, but if you can be consistent with your defense you’re in the ballgame. And I thought that this was one of our better…execution games in following what we were trying to do.”

The Spurs limited Curry to 4-for-18 shooting 鈥?1-9 on 3-point shots 鈥?and 14 points and Thompson to 7-20 鈥?1-7 on treys 鈥?and 15 points to hold the Warriors to their lowest scoring game of the season.

They did it, especially on Curry by keeping a man on him, switching often, closing his space to operate on the perimeter and forcing him to drive the ball to the basket. If it wasn’t Tony Parker or Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard or Patty Mills in his face, then it was the San Antonio bigs LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw stepping away from the basket to shut down Curry’s looks at the basket.

“All you can do is just be there,” Aldridge said.

Postgame: Aldridge on victory

LaMarcus Aldridge discusses the Spurs’ victory over the Warriors in their second matchup of the season.

The Warriors were playing without the injured Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli and Andrew Bogut. What’s more, this was their sixth game in the space of nine nights and the second of back-to-back set after playing Friday in Dallas.

When the Warriors won a 120-90 rout discount sports jerseys in their first meeting back on Jan. 25 in Oakland, Manu Ginobili had simply said they were better than the Spurs.

“I wouldn’t say that its even (now),” Ginobili said. “They have a better record. They are playing unbelievable basketball and they played yesterday. That’s an advantage (for us). They were also missing a few guys. Of course, we love the win. We enjoyed it. I thought we did a great job. But I don’t think it’s the type of team we’re gonna see if we happen to face them in the playoffs. We have got to be very humble because of the situation, the way they got here.”

The Warriors have gotten here by pushing the boundaries of the game to often make it less of a competition and more of a performance by them, by making the game smaller and faster and forcing opponents into difficult, if not impossible, matchups.

But when Golden State coach Steve Kerr went to a starting lineup that did not have a single player taller than 6-foot-8, Popovich turned the tables by sitting the all-time greatest player in franchise history and countering with the versatile and burly Diaw in the middle. Quite simply, the 39-year-old Duncan wasn’t going to be able to guard anybody.

“You make decisions all the time,” said Popovich. “You just try to do what you think’s best for the group. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be right or wrong every time, but you just make decisions based on what’s going on and what’s in front of you.”

“That’s what the Spurs are about,” Diaw said. “The culture here is everybody is selfless and unselfish. So for (Duncan), if he knows that the game plan is to win the game, he’s going to be on board with it.”

Diaw set the pace early by attacking the basket, shooting 6-for-7 for 14 points and eight rebounds. And the Spurs used the height advantage of the 6-11 Aldridge to punish the Warriors down on the low block.

One can envision a best-of-seven playoff series crammed with more planning and deep thinking than a chess match, enough switches and changes and hunches to make your head spin.

What it all means is that the Spurs kept their perfect record (35-0) at home and pushed the regular season winning streak over the Warriors up to 33 games, dating back to Valentine’s Day of 1997. It means the Spurs have closed the gap in the standings to three games in the race for the overall No. 1 seed in the playoffs. It means the Warriors’ bid to win 73 games and set a new NBA record for a single season got a little tougher.

But what did it prove?

Just that the best is yet to come.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Top 2016 draft prospects top Finland WJC camp roster

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Forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine and defenseman Olli Juolevi, each projected to be first-round picks at the 2016 NHL Draft, head a list of 27 players invited to Finland’s selection camp 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

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Puljujarvi, a 6-foot-3, 203-pound right wing, has five goals and 12 points for Karpat in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league. Laine, a 6-4, 206-pound right wing, has eight goals and 13 points for Tappara in Liiga. Juolevi (6-2, 179) has four goals, 23 points and a plus-23 rating in 27 games with London of the Ontario Hockey League.

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All three players received A ratings from NHL Central Scouting in its November players to watch list.

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Forwards Mikko Rantanen (Colorado Avalanche) and Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins) were not on the initial roster for camp, which starts Dec. 13 at Vierumaki Training Centre, but coach Jukka Jalonen expects to have both players in time for the start of the tournament, according to the IIHF website.

FINLAND WJC SELECTION CAMP

GOALTENDERS: Kaapo Kahkonen, Blues, FIN (Minnesota Wild); Emil Larmi, Peliitat, FIN-2 (2016 draft eligible); Veini Vehvilainen, JYP-2, FIN-2 (2016 draft eligible).

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James Laurinaitis to visit New Orleans Saints

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James Laurinaitis Jerseys might not be out of work long.

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NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported that the New Orleans Saints Jerseys are bringing in the linebacker for a visit on Tuesday.
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NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said last week that the Saints have strong interest in Laurinaitis. Rapoport noted that the team wants to get a jump on possibly locking down the linebacker’s services.

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The Los Angeles Rams cut their all-time leading tackler last week in a purge of veteran contracts. Laurinaitis earned 109 total tackles last year — his seventh straight season with more than 100 — but his play has fallen off sharply in recent years. He was one of the worst inside linebackers in the NFL last season, especially struggling against the run.

The Saints are once again heading into the offseason trying to revamp a disappointing defense. Coach Sean Payton has wholesale sports jerseys some good young talent in Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, Delvin Breaux and Kenny Vaccaro Jerseys to go along with the likes of Cameron Jordan Jerseys.

Last offseason the Saints brought in Brandon Browner Jerseys to add veteran leadership and experience to the defense. If New Orleans dips into the veteran pool again, hopefully the results are much different.

D-backs sign former All-Star Rickie Weeks

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The D-backs signed infielder/outfielder Rickie Weeks to a Minor League contract Saturday and invited him to big league camp.

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Weeks, 33, played second base for the Brewers for 11 seasons before switching to the outfield with the Mariners in 2015.

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• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

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With the D-backs, Weeks is primarily going to play the outfield as he battles for one of the final roster spots.

“We’ll let him compete out there,” D-backs manager Chip Hale said. “He’s a veteran guy who knows how to play the game. It’s always good to have guys like that in camp. They’ll be able to help some of the younger guys. Somebody will pick his brain a little bit and figure something out for his own career. He’s here to compete for a job.”

Seattle signed Weeks as a free agent last February and he hit .167 in 95 plate appearances before being released on June 21.

Weeks’ best season in the Majors was in 2011, when sports authority clearance he hit .269 with 29 homers and 83 RBIs to go along with an .830 OPS.

He was an All-Star the following year, when he once again hit .269, this time with 20 homers and an .818 OPS.

Weeks will wear No. 5 with the D-backs.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Wizards’ Durant dreams dimming in mediocre season

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In recent weeks the Kevin Durant free-agency buzz drifted momentarily to New York, city of big basketball dreams (and even bigger desperation for the Knicks) and then to Los Angeles, where a post-Kobe Bryant fantasy pairing has Durant signing with the Lakers followed a season later with Russell Westbrook coming aboard.

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Yes, the speculation-fueled projections of where Durant will land once he hits the market next summer is floating around in a few places but no longer in the original destination. Remember the feel-good fairy tale of KD to DC? The Wizards, however, are in danger of falling off both the playoff radar and, more importantly, the Durant radar.

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It has been that kind of season so far in Washington, where the team has regressed and, by extension, the sweepstakes for Durant are seemingly fainter. Put yourself in Durant’s hightops and ask yourself this: other than returning home — Durant was born in DC and raised in the Maryland suburbs — why would you sign with the Wizards when you could go almost anywhere else?

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The Starters: Kevin Durant to DC?

Can this possibly happen? Is it inevitable? What are the chances? The Starters discuss.

He’s a franchise player still in his prime. The Wizards boast a young All-Star point guard and maybe a few other decent pieces. And yet, the common-sense pairing of Durant and the Wizards could now be classified as a long-shot or even illogical. Indeed, anything can happen in the screwball stakes known as free agency, but what once appeared to be a realistic possibility is now dropping faster than the Wizards in the East standings.

That’s the perception among some in the NBA community, anyway.

What in the heck happened? The Durant-to-Washington belief was jump-started last summer, not long after the Wizards ambushed the Toronto Raptors Jerseys in the first round of the playoffs and established themselves as an up-and-comer. Washington had all of the necessary ingredients: A terrific point guard (John Wall), a shooter who hadn’t even tapped his prime (Bradley Beal), a pair of front-court brutes (Nene Jerseys and Marcin Gortat) and oodles of salary cap room. At this point last season, they were 31-18.

All-Star Top 10: Kevin Durant

Check out the top 10 plays from Western Conference All-Star Kevin Durant!

And one other thing: Washington plays in the East, the more forgiving conference that’s not as top-heavy as the West, giving Durant better odds of reaching another NBA Finals.

Back in early November when the Thunder and Durant made their only appearance of the season in Washington, the magnetic pull for Durant was still strong. That’s when Durant said his courting by Wizards fans was “disrespectful” and that they should support their own. (Earth to Durant: Why can’t fans be supportive of both?) The comment wasn’t as bad as it sounded; Durant was merely putting his situation in perspective. But the fans got the message and booed him that night.

The Wizards did their part as well. They hired his high school coach in 2014. They put a picture of Durant in a Redskins’ jersey over the big screen that year. Their biggest show of support for Durant came in another form, when they declined to give Beal an extension by the October deadline in order to keep space and money available for Durant this summer.

But the Wizards, so far anyway, haven’t made good on the one factor that could swing Durant in their direction: They haven’t won enough. They’re 23-29 since winning that first-round series in 2015 and easily rate (along with the MIlwaukee Bucks) as this season’s big disappointments. They’re precariously on the playoff cutoff point and the last time they had a winning record was just before Thanksgiving. They’ve had a few injuries but also subpar performances from players they counted on. And while the season has another two-plus months, the Wizards haven’t given any indication lately that a turnaround is coming.

GameTime: David Aldridge

David Aldridge joins the GameTime crew to discuss Tuesday night’s Fan Night game and Kevin Durant’s return to Washington.

Meanwhile, Durant and the Thunder are once again thriving and in position to have a seat at the championship discussion table.

“I’m sure for any of these guys they’re probably going to evaluate every situation — who they’re going to be playing with, the coaching staff,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m sure all of those things play a factor.”

At this point in his career, Durant has said he’s not interested in taking a step backward. He already owns all of the individual goodies that come with being a top five player. He’s lacking championships and, at 27, doesn’t want to chase titles in his twilight. You can look no further than Carmelo Anthony to see the challenge of that. While playing for the Denver Nuggets Jerseys, ‘Melo had the chance to wait for free agency and sign with a contender. Instead, he forced a trade to the Knicks mainly because he wanted to play and cheap sports jerseys live in New York and reap the benefits of that, which he has. He’s also no closer to a championship and now, in his early 30s with iffy health, and will probably be a role player if and when that day arrives.

Kia Awards: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

The Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the Kia Western Conference Players of the Month in December.

And so, when summer arrives, Durant will be led by his championship desire and not his wallet (he’s already rich) or big-city dreams (which are overrated anyway).

That doesn’t mean the Wizards have decided to junk the idea and move on. They appear less inclined to add salary at the trade deadline and ruin whatever odds they have of signing Durant in July. To keep their cap lean enough to give Durant a max contract, they’ve made no commitment to give a contract extension to Nene Jerseys or anyone else on the roster who’s approaching free agency. (Washington has only four players under contract for next season, although it must use a cap hold for Beal.)

They also haven’t extended Randy Wittman, just in case they feel they’ll need a new coach if they get Durant, or even if they don’t.

It’s obviously a smart decision by GM Ernie Grunfeld. Why tie up cap space when there’s no need to? Why try a quick fix to this season and bring in a player whose contract could backfire this summer? Better to take your lumps now and deal with everything else then.

Grunfeld knows, in one sense, nothing has changed. The Wizards will still have Wall, Beal (assuming he re-signs), Gortat and Otto Porter Jr. to help entice Durant, plus enough cap space to add others through free agency. Just because the Wizards are a shaky team now doesn’t mean that will be the case next season should they reconstruct the right team around Durant.

Inside Stuff: KD Holding Court

Kristen Ledlow meets up with Kevin Durant of the Thunder at North Highland Elementary School in Oklahoma City for a court dedication.

But does Durant feel that way, or has his faith been shaken by what he sees now?

Wall is an All-Star once again but isn’t on the same planet as Westbrook as an impact player. Beal is always hurt although his scoring (18.1) and shooting are both up this season, hinting that he’s ready to take the next step. Gortat remains a strong rebounder (9.9 average) but he may not have many prime years left, and the level of Porter’s growth in the near future is pure guesswork.

Durant will be a man with options come summer, the most attractive being staying in Oklahoma City, although he’d need to get assurance that Westbrook won’t flee in free agency in 2017 and leave him hanging. (If Durant leaves OKC next summer, then you best believe Westbrook will follow him out the door next.) Plenty could depend on whether Durant is threatened by the potential dynasty that’s happening in Golden State and feels compelled to jump to the East.

We know the Wizards won’t give up on the idea of adding a free agent who can reshape the franchise. The question is, has Durant?

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Lightning learned lesson from slow start: Stamkos

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NASHVILLE — Steven Stamkos Jerseys and his future is still the biggest storyline in Tampa, perhaps even in the entire NHL, but amidst the noise and rumors, the Tampa Bay Lightning Jerseys have found some traction in what was until recently looking like a disappointing season.
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The Lightning went into the NHL All-Star break having won nine of 11 games in January, including seven in a row at one point. They’re second in the Atlantic Division with 58 points after entering the month in sixth place, five points shy of second and three points out of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Stamkos said the Lightning’s turnaround began with what he called a “look in the mirror” performance in a 3-1 loss at the Calgary Flames Jerseys on Jan. 5.

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“We didn’t play very well, myself included, and we needed more,” Stamkos said. “It’s been nice to see. It’s been nice to go on this run. But at the same time, we’re not in the clear. We’re right in the thick of things. We need to consistently have the effort that we’ve had lately and we’ll be OK.”

The better effort, Stamkos said, comes from a combination of good health and a greater understanding of what it takes to win when teams are gunning for you.

The Lightning played last season, even in the playoffs, without the burden of high expectations. Stamkos said they felt they were a good team, but nobody was banking on them doing much.

They got to the Stanley Cup Final, which changed everything about this season. custom sports jerseys cheap

“Expectations changed, the bar has been raised, and people are coming into games using our team as a measuring stick to see where they are, whereas last year we were doing that with other teams,” Stamkos said. “It’s definitely different. That’s why you have so much respect for teams like Chicago, L.A., Boston. They get the best of every team. You learn that and now we’re embracing that a little bit.”

He said he can tell because the attitude around the Lightning has changed. They are acting like they did last year, and playing like it too.

“What custom sports jerseys cheap made us successful last year was our ability to compete and work hard on top of the skillset that we have,” Stamkos said. “I think we got away from that at the beginning of the year, maybe expecting to come into games and win just because of the great team that we know we are. You can come into games and win some of them based on your skill, but you can’t do that consistently.”

It helps, of course, that the Lightning are finally healthy, especially with forwards Tyler Johnson Jerseys and Ondrej Palat Jerseys back in the lineup. Johnson missed 13 of 17 games from Nov. 16-Dec. 26. Palat missed 20 of 22 games from Nov. 10-Dec. 30.

“People forget we started the year 3-0 and things were going great, and then we kind of fell into a little funk there where I think we were maybe a little guilty of just coming into the rink and expecting to win games because of the talent we have on our team and of course what happened last year, getting to the Final,” Stamkos said. “Then the injuries mounted and it didn’t equal a lot of wins for our group. But we knew deep down that when guys got back from injury we were too good of a team to not be in the playoff hunt. We’ve turned it around since then. We learned our lesson.”

Harris: Broncos motivated by talk D won’t be same

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The Denver Broncos Jerseys’ defense lost Malik Jackson Jerseys and Danny Trevathan Jerseys to free agency this offseason, wiping away two key playmakers on a Super Bowl champion. Cornerback Chris Harris Jerseys Jr. told reporters that any talk about those losses affecting the Broncos’ defensive performance will become motivation in 2016.
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“Just been hearing everybody saying, ‘We lost Malik, Danny, we won’t be the same. We won’t be good again,'” Harris said Wednesday, via the team’s official website. “So that’s our mindset. I think we return nine starters. You can really count (corner Bradley) Roby as a starter. So we’re really bringing back 10 guys that played a lot. (Safety Shilo) Keo even played a lot for us. We have a lot of guys back. We know it’s always going to be hard to replace Malik and a guy like Danny Trevathan Jerseys — who has always had his hair on fire everywhere. (Linebacker) Todd Davis, I think he’ll do a great job of being able to come in and fill that role. (There is) no telling with what we’ll do with the draft with the D-linemen. I still think we have the best D-line in the league.”

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The Broncos filled Jackson’s role with free agent Jared Crick Jerseys and could replenish the position in a deep draft next week. While some of the depth has been sapped, the Broncos still bring back nine starters on a defense that ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in total YPG allowed, passing YPG given up, yards per play allowed, sacks and 20-plus yards per play allowed.

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Harris believes there are still some areas the Broncos can improve upon for 2016.

“We’ll try to get more picks,” Harris said. “We’ve watched missed opportunities, and we could have had even more picks than what we had. That’s something that we’re focusing on. It’s so hard. We were No. 1 in so many categories. Passes 20-plus (yards) down the field, we’re No. 1. It’s just trying to figure out ways we can get better. Penalties are something that we looked at that we have to be a lot smarter. We can’t cheap sports team apparel have any dumb penalties like we did last year. So little things like that.”

The true question this offseason isn’t about the losses on defense or the upside of Wade Phillips’ unit, it’s about what John Elway will do at quarterback. A question still unanswered.

Padres Drew Pomeranez tosses a gem

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SAN DIEGO — The deeper Drew Pomeranz Jerseys descends into the National League’s gauntlet of aces, the better he seems to perform.

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Pomeranz, who had opposed Vince Velasquez, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw Jerseys in three of his previous four starts, may have lasted only five cheap sports shirts scoreless innings Friday at Petco Park. But it was enough to outpitch Noah Syndergaard Jerseys in a 2-0 Padres victory over the Mets.

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Allowing merely one hit in five innings, Pomeranz skated around leadoff walks in the first and third innings, and escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the fourth. He needed 98 pitches to do so, but the Padres’ bullpen took it from there with four additional scoreless innings.

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The Padres did not do a terrible amount more against Syndergaard, plating runs on a Matt Kemp Jerseys sacrifice fly in the first inning and a Jon Jay RBI single in the fifth. It was all they needed. The Padres also swiped two bases cheap sports shirts in three tries off Syndergaard, one of them directly leading to Jay’s hit.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Keep on running: Syndergaard and Mets catcher Rene Rivera had already caught one of two would-be base stealers when Jemile Weeks drew a leadoff walk in the fifth inning, then almost immediately took off for second. Just barely beating Rivera’s throw to move into scoring position, Weeks was able to motor home two batters later when Jay struck his single up the middle.

Kemp with the catch: Kemp made a dazzling play on Yoenis Cespedes Jerseys’ drive to end the sixth while crashing in the right-center field fence. A sprinting Kemp had to reach across his body and above his right shoulder to haul in Cespedes potential extra-base hit.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008.Jay Paris is a contributor for MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Trade deadline deals barely move postseason needle

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The trade deadline came and went and a few team pictures changed. But did the playoff picture change much?

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The main reason for having a trade deadline is to allow potential playoff teams to hulk up their roster for a final time and spice up the conversation heading into April. But this deadline had the kind of punch you see in a pillow fight. No major players were involved and few rotation players switched hands.
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And here’s the real issue: The Warriors in the West and Cavs in the East slept peacefully when the deadline was over.

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None of the contenders beyond the conference leaders changed their personality overnight, and so the Warriors and Cavs are seemingly still the favorites to meet in June. A few players might receive buyouts and land in good spots, but those players are well in their twilight and not difference makers.

Here’s how the playoff picture looks, post-deadline, starting in the West:

Warriors: The only surprising swap involving the Warriors happened a few days earlier, when Klay Thompson took the three-point contest title from Steph Curry. This, when you think about it, is a win-win for the Warriors.

Spurs: Their big move happened last summer, and speaking of LaMarcus Aldridge, does he awaken in a cold sweat thinking of Draymond Green, who locked him up in the only Spurs-Warriors meeting? The winner of Dray vs. LA, should they meet in the conference finals, could determine which team moves on.

Thunder: How much longer must OKC try to find a reasonable replacement for James Harden, this team’s biggest mistake? The latest is Randy Foye, a combo guard who was acquired to help solve the Thompson-Curry riddle. Foye is solid but likely left his best days in Denver.

Clippers: Everyone loves how Doc Rivers got Jeff Green for Lance Stephenson, mainly because it involves getting rid of Stephenson. Sir Lance-A-Little couldn’t find minutes on a team that badly needs an athletic scorer at the swing positions. What a bust. Green can be a factor when he’s on his game, but why has a player with his talent been traded twice for virtually nothing?

Grizzlies: The Marc Gasol injury means that Memphis can expect a short playoff shelf life, but who says a team with Stephenson, Chris Andersen and PJ Hairston joining Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Matt Barnes Jerseys won’t put up a, ahem, fight?

Mavericks: They sat this out and will wait until summer and hope no one pulls another DeAndre Jordan on them.

Blazers: Times couldn’t be better in post-Aldridge Portland. This rebuilt team is not only in playoff position 鈥?raise your hand if you thought Portland would be awful 鈥?but gained a first-rounder from Cleveland just to stash Anderson Varejao’s salary.

Jazz: Well, Utah didn’t get Jeff Teague and had to settle for the Hawks’ third string point guard instead. But the Jazz are scorching right now and can find a point guard this summer.

Rockets: A bad season just got worse because the Rockets couldn’t find anyone to rent Dwight Howard for three months and could lose him for nothing this summer when he opts out of his deal to become a free agent. Nobody wanted Ty Lawson or Patrick Beverley either. That’s OK, demolition is three months away.

In the East:

Cavaliers: They dumped Varejao, whom they didn’t need, for Channing Frye, a stretch forward who might come in handy against the Warriors. That said, the Cavs need Kevin Love more than Frye.

Raptors: The clear-cut No. 2 team in the East is trying to distance itself from the pack and send a shiver to Cleveland, but the Raptors will have to do that without any deadline help.

Celtics: Lots of trade deadline smoke but no fire from the Celtics, and anyway, who cares? Boston is a surprise No. 3 in the East with plenty of assets and cap space to make noise this summer.

Hawks: Al Horford and Teague are still Hawks because, barring a no-brainer of an offer, Atlanta wasn’t going to screw up a team that’s still in firm playoff position. The Hawks must deal with Horford this summer and weigh if he’s worth $20 million-plus per year.

Heat: Miami made a few minor deals but so what. Miami is more worried about the health of Chris Bosh and whether it’s just a scare, or season-threatening, or worse.

Pacers: There was a push to get Teague, a local kid, to shore up a below-par point guard situation but that backfired and the Pacers deal with the status quo. Hey, look at the bright side. Paul George is healthy and an All-Star, and the Miles Turner kid could be a beast. Life is good.

Bulls: If Jimmy Butler returns and is even better than when he left, and if Derrick Rose rolls the clock back to 2011 鈥?admittedly, a pair of big ifs 鈥?Chicago will be thankful it didn’t deal Pau Gasol for peanuts.

Hornets: Courtney Lee brings offense to a team that could use plenty of it, but no earth-shaking deal for a team that’s never had a superstar in its entire existence.

Pistons: Stan cheap authentic sports jerseys Van Gundy isn’t waiting for the summer to get the Pistons in better shape, he’s pumping up now. Dontas Montiejunas, Marcus Thornton and Tobias Harris could push them up the standings, and Harris brings a decent upside.

Wizards: Markieff Morris averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 blocks in his final five games with the Suns. He also attacked a teammate and, earlier in the season, threw a towel in the direction of his coach. That’s why he came cheap.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Canadiens’ Gallagher practices, could return on trip

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BROSSARD, Quebec — Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher Jerseys practiced with his teammates Saturday for the first time since fracturing two fingers on his left hand on Nov. 22.

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Gallagher did not travel with the Canadiens to face the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, CITY, TVA Sports, CSN-DC), but coach Michel Therrien did not rule out a return over the course of their current road trip.

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The Canadiens will travel to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday and the Florida Panthers Jerseys on Tuesday before the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins Jerseys at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1.

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“It’s a possibility,” Therrien said when asked if Gallagher will join the Canadiens on the trip. “I know he’s got to meet the doctor again in the next few days, and they’ll take a decision from there.”

Gallagher skated with his teammates in a non-contact jersey, but it was the first time he was cleared to handle pucks. Gallagher had shot a few pucks in his first on-ice session, but he said he wasn’t allowed to do so.

The fractured fingers are on his top hand when he shoots, and Gallagher reported no discomfort following practice when he shot or handled the puck.

“It was fun to see him practice with his teammates,” Therrien said. “He’s been skating on his own for about 10 days, so that starts to feel a bit long. He’s reached another step of his rehab, and it seems to be going very well for him.”

The Canadiens announced defenseman Tom Gilbert Jerseys will miss at least the next four games with a lower-body injury he sustained in a 2-1 loss at the Minnesota Wild on cheap sport jerseys Tuesday, meaning he will not play in the Winter Classic.

The Canadiens also said they have asked forward Zack Kassian Jerseys not to report to St. John’s of the American Hockey League for the time being, and that he and his agent have agreed.

Kassian, who was suspended without pay while he was in Stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, was reinstated on Dec. 15 and immediately cheap sport jerseys placed on waivers by the Canadiens. Kassian cleared waivers on Dec. 16 and was assigned to St. John’s, which played that night in Albany but did not have another game until Saturday.

The NHL’s holiday roster freeze will be lifted Monday at 12:01 a.m.