Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Well, that was fun. The Sixers won their third straight pre-season game
tonight against the Nets in Brooklyn, again without Andrew Bynum and
tonight without Evan Turner either, moving to 4-1 on the pre-season,
with two more games against the Celtics and Knicks early next week.
Seven players scored for the Liberty Ballers, with Thaddeus Young
leading the way with 24, in a game that the Nets made close late, but
which the Sixers led for the great majority and which they put away with
a couple big shots in the final minutes.

Though Thad was the
leading scorer, pouring in his 24 on 11/15 shooting (many on
second-chance opportunities, and holy hell did the Nets let up a lot of
those), the team MVP tonight was almost certainly Jrue Holiday, who
finished with just 11 points but handed out 12 assists, ten of which
came in an impressive first half. The Damaja was getting into the lane
with impunity and doing an impressive job of finding his shooters, also
locating Thad for a couple easy buckets underneath. He came up a bit
cold late, but played like a real team leader tonight, which he'll have
to early in the season especially if Bynum ends up missing a stretch of
games.

And anyway, coming up big late is what we have Nick Young
for. Swaggy P was a total non-entity for the game's first three
quarters, but hit two huge jumpers in the fourth quarter, the second a
contested, late-shot-clock step-back three (the Nick Young specialty,
natch) that iced the game for the Sixers. Just having watched Young as a
Sixer for a couple games, I was still more confident in his
super-low-percentage shot going in than I have been with just about any
other Sixer hoisting in a late-game situation over the past five years.
It's gonna be an interesting season in Philly for young Nicholas.

There
were plenty other solid performers for the Sixers tonight—Spencer Hawes
and Lavoy Allen combined for 23 and 13 on over 50% shooting from the
pivot, Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright each hit a couple threes and
grabbed a combined 17 rebounds, and Malik Wayns was again strong off the
bench, scrapping his way to ten points. The sudden depth on this team
is pretty interesting—it won't help them win that much in the playoffs,
but for the Sixers to come into Barclays minus two starters and steal a
game from a Nets team hungry to give their new fanbase a win...even in
the pre-season, that's pretty impressive.

Oh yeah, speaking of
the Nets and Barclays, you might want to hear a little bit about what
the arena is like. Of course, it being an NBA arena, the possibilities
for true personality are traditionally limited, but it's a very nice
building, modern-looking without coming off as ostentatious, and with a
floor that's absolutely gorgeous under the lights. The Brooklynness
comes through in the choice of concessions—a who's who of
foodie-approved Brooklyn vendors, from Calexico to Fatty 'Cue—and the
music, a Jiggaman-curated soundtrack that obviously emphasizes the
borough's hip-hop roots and will probably extend Maino's cultural
relevancy for decades longer than he would have otherwise been granted.
The corporate sponsorship is thick as advertised—the guy next to me in
press row pointed out that even the actual hoop stanchions still had
three different business logos on it—but otherwise, it's definitely one
of the more personable NBA arenas.

Perhaps most importantly, the
building has been totally scrubbed of anything relating to or
reminiscent of New Jersey. The look is different, the PA guy is
different, a whole lot of the team is different (WHAT'S UP REGGIE???)
and even the jerseys that hang in the rafters are almost entirely from
the Nets' ABA days in New York. The only holdover from the days in
Newark that I could spot was the continued deployment of this weird
truncated mashup between "Rappers' Delight" and "The Breaks" that still
makes absolutely no sense to me. It's Year Zero for the Nets franchise
in Brooklyn, and that's probably for the best.

For the record,
though, I'm not all that sold on this Nets team. Their interior defense,
exposed tonight by the undersized likes of Lavoy Allen and Thad Young,
is gonna be a huge issue for them moving forward, and though Joe Johnson
had a big third quarter for the team tonight, I just don't see him as
the kind of difference maker many seem to be projecting him as,
considering he's the only big addition to a team that's finished far out
of the playoffs in the two years that Avery Johnson has been head
coach. I could very easily see them finishing fourth in the Atlantic
Division and just barely sliding to a seventh or eighth seed in the
playoffs. We'll see.

Meanwhile, fun probably isn't good enough
for the Sixers this year—they've been "fun" for a while, it's time to
get good—but it's not a bad baseline to have as a team, and from early
returns, it does appear that now matter how good the Sixers end up being
in '12-'13, they should be a damn enjoyable team to watch. Once we
(hopefully) get Bynum into the fold we'll see what the team's potential
for greatness truly is, but in the meantime, they should be competitive
even without him, and always entertaining regardless.

NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

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NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After 25 years, the San Jose Sharks will finally play for the Stanley Cup.

Captain Joe Pavelski scored an early goal, Joel Ward added two of his own and the Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history by beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.

Joonas Donskoi also scored, Logan Couture had an empty-netter and Martin Jones made 24 saves as a Sharks team notorious for postseason letdowns will now play for the championship that has eluded stars such as Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for so many years.

Thornton assisted on Pavelski's goal less than four minutes into the game to set the tone and Marleau had two assists in the third period that set off chants of "We Want The Cup! We Want The Cup!"

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final will be Monday night. The Sharks will either host Tampa Bay or visit Pittsburgh, depending on which team wins Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

With the loss, the Blues' postseason woes continue as the franchise still seeks its first championship and first trip to the Cup final since 1970. Coach Ken Hitchcock's second goalie change of the series did not work as Brian Elliott allowed four goals on 26 shots in his return to the net.

Vladimir Tarasenko, a 40-goal scorer in the regular season, got his first points of the series when he scored twice in the third period but it was too late for the Blues, who still trailed 4-2.

Despite making the playoffs 16 times in 18 seasons and winning the second most games in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Sharks have been known for their soul-crushing playoff disappointments.

They won just three games in three previous trips to the conference final, were knocked out twice in four seasons by an eighth seed and most notably blew a 3-0 series lead to lose in the first round to Los Angeles in 2014.

The impact of that loss lasted for an entire year as San Jose missed the playoffs entirely last season. But led by first-year coach Peter DeBoer and bolstered by some key acquisitions by general manager Doug Wilson, the Sharks recovered this year and are now only four wins away from a championship.

This was the first time in San Jose's history that the team played with a trip to the Stanley Cup final on the line. The atmosphere in the Shark Tank reflected the high stakes with the fans at a frenzy during pregame introductions and the "Let's Go Sharks!" chants starting soon after the puck dropped.

The Sharks fed off that energy and were buzzing early as Hitchcock predicted before the game. St. Louis nearly silenced the crowd when Alexander Steen got a chance in the slot early in the period but Jones robbed him with a glove save.

That led to a breakaway for Thornton, who missed the net on his chance. But Pavelski recovered the puck behind the net and before Elliott knew what was happening, Pavelski tucked the puck in on a wraparound for his NHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs.

San Jose added to the lead early in the second when Ward tipped a point shot from Brent Burns past Elliott to make it 2-0.

The Sharks had a chance to add to it when Scottie Upshall was called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty. But the Blues managed to kill San Jose's potent power play and started to take over the play after that. They couldn't get a goal the rest of the period, however, as San Jose kept them mostly to the outside and Jones made a great pad save against Jori Lehtera.

Ward's second goal and another by Donskoi in the third period removed any drama and allowed the fans to celebrate.

Notes
Marleau played his 165th career playoff game, the most ever for someone who never played in the finals. Thornton is next on the list with 150 games, followed by Curtis Joseph with 133. ... The only franchise that has played longer than San Jose without going to a Cup final is Arizona, which began NHL play as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979-80.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

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NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Back home, the Cavaliers were not hospitable.

They rudely roughed up the Raptors again.

LeBron James scored 23 points then sat the fourth quarter, Kevin Love scored 25, and Cleveland unleashed tenacious defense on Toronto to regain control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-78 rout of the Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

On their court in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans following two straight losses in Canada, the Cavs opened a 34-point lead in the first half and never slowed while taking a 3-2 series lead.

They can clinch their second straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.

"We ought to be able to transfer that on Friday," James said. "Playing in that beast of an arena that we're going to we got to be composed, we got to be tough and we got to be sharp."

The Raptors, who came in with momentum and confidence after winning Games 3 and 4, left Quicken Loans Arena shaken and one loss from having their deepest playoff run stopped.

"They kicked our butts, bottom line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's been all three ballgames."

James had eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter with the Cavs up 37. He spent the fourth quarter resting on the bench while Cleveland's reserves finished the romp.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and he, James and Love outscored the Raptors 43-34 in the first half. Cleveland has won its three games in the series by a combined 88 points.

"They are a different team here," Casey said. "We came in here with a chance to do something special and we didn't get it done. They pushed us around and took what they wanted."

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 13 for the Raptors, who were overwhelmed from the start. Bismack Biyombo had just four rebounds after getting 40 the past two games. The only positive for Toronto was center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned after missing eight straight games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 18 minutes.

Playing defense as if every possession was the game's last, Cleveland held Toronto to 34 points in the opening half while building a 31-point halftime lead -- the largest in conference finals history. Since their expansion arrival in 1993, the Raptors had never been down by 30 before in any game -- regular or postseason -- at halftime but they have rarely seen a defense like this either.

The Cavs were all over the court, swarming and stifling DeRozan and Lowry, who combined for 67 points in Game 4.

A courtside doctor might have stopped this one in the first half.

Love found his shooting touch after it went missing during the lost weekend in Toronto, where he went just 5 of 23 and was benched for the fourth quarter of Game 4. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, a confidence-boosting performance that should temporarily quiet his critics.

"Kevin Love being Kevin Love," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He had two bad shooting games and we made a big deal out of it. Nothing he does amazes me. We gotta keep him aggressive all the time."

The Cavs made a point of getting Love the ball right away and he responded by making all four field goal attempts, dropping a 3 late in the first quarter that pushed the Cavs to a 37-19 lead.

"He was just locked in," James said. "We saw that and just wanted to keep giving him the ball. The easiest one he had tonight, he missed."

Cleveland's onslaught continued in the second quarter, and when James got free for an easy two-handed dunk, Cavs fans could relax and begin making TV viewing plans for Friday.

These looked more like the Cavaliers who opened the postseason with 10 straight wins, obliterated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2 and given a chance to beat whomever survived in the West.

Center of attention
Valanciunas hadn't played since May 7. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter when the Raptors were still close.

Tip-ins
Raptors: Dropped to 2-7 on the road in this postseason. ... Played a game every other day since April 29, going 7-7. . Biyombo and Valanciunas are the only teammates with at least 120 rebounds this postseason.

Cavaliers: Trumped their 31-point win in Game 1, which was the previous most lopsided playoff victory in team history. ... James played in his 191st career postseason game, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for 12th place on the all-time list. ... James (1,320) is tied with Kobe Bryant (1,320) for the second-most free throws in postseason history. Michael Jordan made 1,463. ... Improved to 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

Up next
Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto.

Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

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Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford singled in Matt Duffy with two outs in the 10th inning, and the surging San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 Wednesday for their 13th win in 14 games.

Duffy singled off Brad Hand (1-2) with one out, pinch-hitter Hunter Pence popped out, Duffy advanced on a wild pitch and Crawford hit a 1-2 offering over center fielder Jon Jay as Duffy scored standing up.

Crawford also singled and scored after some alert baserunning in the second inning. Duffy and Denard Span drove in runs for the NL West-leading Giants.

San Francisco completed a three-game sweep, extended its winning streak to five and improved to 9-0 against the Padres this season. The Giants' two walkoff wins in the series were against Hand (see full recap).

Arrieta moves to 9-0 in Cubs' win over Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs (see full recap).

Bradley extends hit streak to 29 in BoSox victory
BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his major league-best hitting streak to 29 games, Xander Bogaerts homered to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Travis Shaw had three RBIs and Boston moved to a season-best 12 games over .500. The Red Sox have scored eight or more runs 10 times in their last 14 home games.

Steven Wright (4-4) had another solid outing, giving up three runs, two earned. He has now given up three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts.

Chad Bettis (4-3) held the Red Sox scoreless through three innings but was responsible for seven runs over the next two innings before getting pulled.

The Rockies have lost six of their last seven -- all on the road (see full recap).