Al Horford ‘made all the right plays’ in Game 6, says Celtics’ Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens dubbed Al Horford “outstanding” in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, this after Horford got questioned about his quiet stat line in a potential closeout game after Friday’s 109-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“[Horford] was really productive in the first quarter. He was outstanding,” Stevens said on a conference call Saturday. “Every time he touched the ball in the post, it felt like we scored.

“Al does not care if he’s the one that’s scoring, he cares that our team scores.”cheap nfl jerseys china

Horford finished with 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting with 9 rebounds and 4 assists over 37 minutes in Game 6. But he endured a scoreless first half, which put a spotlight on him after the Cavaliers separated a bit during the second quarter.336

“I think it’s easy to look at a stat sheet, but I think, the way that [the Cavaliers] were playing, he made all the right plays, especially early in the game,” said Stevens.

The typically reserved Horford bristled a bit when a reporter asked him about his quiet start.

“If you were watching the game, I was getting doubled as soon as I caught the ball,” Horford said postgame. “Every time. I didn’t really have one-on-one position. So they did a good job of really doubling me and making it hard.”

Horford did admit that he’d have to watch the tape to see why his post touches diminished as the game went on. The Celtics had success working inside-out through Horford early but seemed to settle a bit while trying to rally back.

“We can go to him more but, when they double, we just have to make the right play out of it, and Al is one of our best at doing that,” Stevens said.nfl authentic jerseys cheap

The presence of Tristan Thompson has made it more difficult for Horford to score in this series, and Boston will need its younger players to continue to step up when the Cavaliers send multiple bodies at him.

James Harden says ‘there’s no pressure’ on Rockets, calls Game 7 at home ‘an opportunity’

Houston Rockets star James Harden took a big-picture view in the wake of a blowout Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night that evened the Western Conference finals.

Harden harkened back to a team-bonding trip the Rockets took to the Bahamas over the summer, customized nfl jerseys cheap saying he would have readily accepted at the time an opportunity to play a Game 7 at home with a chance to advance to the NBA Finals. They’ll have that opportunity, but Rockets co-star Chris Paul’s status is in serious doubt because of a right hamstring strain that sidelined him Saturday night.

“We’ll take that,” Harden said after Houston’s 115-86 loss to the Warriors at Oracle Arena. “So nothing changes for us. We know what we have to do. … We’re still confident. We’re a confident group, and we’ve just got one chance.”335

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he had “no idea” whether Paul could recover in time to play in Game 7. However, Houston is moving forward with the mindset that getting Paul back would be a major bonus.

“Less likely than likely, but working every angle to try,” a league source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski about the possibility of a Paul comeback for Game 7.

“Obviously we want to have him,” Rockets forward PJ Tucker said. “He’s one of the best point guards in the league, but if he doesn’t play, we’ll figure it out. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win this game. The five guys on the floor and whoever else is playing, we’re going to roll. It’s what we do. It’s what we’re built for.”

With Paul wearing warm-ups and watching from the bench, the Rockets roared out to a 17-point lead after the first quarter and led by 10 at halftime. Then they got outscored by Golden State’s Splash Brothers in the second half, when Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined for 37 points and the Rockets managed to put up only 25.cheap nfl jerseys china

Houston has proved its ability to rebound after being on the wrong end of a rout during this series. The Rockets responded to a 41-point loss in Game 3 — the most lopsided playoff loss in franchise history — by winning the next two games to put the defending-champion Warriors on the brink of elimination.

White Sox’s Welington Castillo suspended 80 games for PEDs

Chicago White Sox catcher Welington Castillo has been suspended 80 games for violating the league’s joint drug agreement, Major League Baseball announced Thursday.

Castillo is being banned for using erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing substance.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike324

“I was recently notified by Major League Baseball that I had tested positive for EPO, a substance that is prohibited under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement,” said Castillo via statement. “The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made. I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize. Following my suspension, I look forward to rejoining my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the White Sox win.”

Castillo, 31, from the Dominican Republic, is hitting .270 with 6 home runs and 15 RBIs for the White Sox this season. He was behind the plate for Wednesday’s 11-1 win over the Orioles, going 1-for-5 at the plate.

“The Chicago White Sox were saddened and disappointed to learn of the suspension of catcher Welington Castillo for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” read a statement from White Sox GM Rick Hahn. “Welington has apologized to the team and his teammates and has taken full responsibility for his actions. He understands that he has negatively affected the team and has fallen short of the expectations we have of our players. The White Sox fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from our game.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

It’s the second notable MLB drug violation this month. Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano received an 80-game ban after testing positive for furosemide, a diuretic that is not a performance-enhancing drug but is viewed as a masking agent and is on MLB’s banned-substance list.

Rays to again start relievers in series vs. Orioles

The Tampa Bay Rays are taking their bullpen “opener” theory to the next level, starting relievers in all three games this weekend against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Rays used Sergio Romo as an opener in two games last weekend, starting the veteran reliever Saturday and Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. Romo, who had never started a game before, pitched an inning Saturday before ceding to traditional starter Ryan Yarbrough. He went two innings Sunday. The Rays split the games.cheap nike jerseys nfl

“Hey guys, I’m starting again,” a smiling Romo told reporters Thursday. “It’s fun. We’re trying to win ballgames. I’m going to try and do my best to make them look like geniuses.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash explained last week that the move allows a reliever like Romo to get the first shot at a lineup’s heavy hitters, giving the would-be starters an advantage on their second and third times through the lineup.323

“We’re not trying to do anything that’s cute,” Cash said. “We’re trying to do something that’s right for us to win games.”

Last Saturday, Romo struck out the side in the first inning, dispatching Angels third baseman Zack Cozart, center fielder Mike Trout and left fielder Justin Upton. On Sunday, in his two innings, he struck out Trout, Upton, Jefry Marte and Chris Young before giving way to Matt Andriese in the third.

“It was weird. It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

Like the Angels, the Orioles have heavy-hitting right-handers at the top of the lineup in Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

The Rays, already thin in the starting pitching ranks, lost right-hander Jake Faria to an oblique injury on Tuesday. He is expected to be out at least six to eight weeks.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Nathan Eovaldi, who hurt his surgically repaired right elbow in his last spring training start, is expected to join the rotation next Monday or Tuesday after coming back from a procedure to remove loose bodies in the elbow that has undergone two Tommy John surgeries.

Time for Aaron Rodgers to change after injuries? ‘Nope’

Rodgers answered much more definitively than he did shortly after his injury, when he said: “I haven’t thought about that a whole lot, but what comes to mind right away is no. But I might need to think about that the next eight weeks.”

Since he became a starter in 2008, no quarterback has thrown more touchdown passes from outside the pocket than Rodgers. And it’s not even close. cheap nfl jerseys china nike Rodgers has 62 of them in 126 regular-season games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Next best is Matt Ryan, who has 27 fewer in 16 more games. Ben Roethlisberger ranks tied for third (31 in 128 games) with Matthew Stafford (31 in 125 games).

“Best in the league at playing in the pocket and extending plays outside the pocket; that won’t change,” said Frank Cignetti Jr., the Packers’ new quarterbacks coach. “Moving forward, we’re going to expect Aaron to play the way he always has.”

Rodgers proved effective — even dynamic — as mostly a pocket passer in 2014 when he played into the playoffs with a badly sprained calf. But even at age 34, Rodgers’ ability to improvise on the move has not waned.312

Perhaps Rodgers simply has to protect himself by expecting to get hit every time. The film of last year’s injury showed that Rodgers clearly did not expect Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr to hit him — a hit that drove him into the ground — after he released the ball. That was evident in the way he fell. He tried to brace his fall with his right arm, which isn’t how coach Mike McCarthy and his staff teach quarterbacks to fall when they’re hit. That was a clear reaction to Rodgers’ surprise by the hit. Ordinarily, he would roll into a hit rather than brace himself.

“We’d love to be able to have our quarterbacks sit on their back foot, go through their progressions, deliver the ball from the pocket on time, in rhythm, never get hit,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We know that’s not a realistic thing that can happen in the game. And we certainly don’t want to take away, as Mike always talks about, there’s two phases to every pass play: There’s a progression — the pocket phase — and then there’s the out-of-pocket phase. We’ve been beneficiaries of a lot of big plays from Aaron outside the pocket. We don’t want to lose that part of the offense.

“And frankly, it helps us against a defense, because they have to game plan for him being able to escape,nfl cheap jerseys nike  him being able to make some throws outside of the pocket. But there’s a balance like anything.”

Rodgers looked the same as usual during Tuesday’s OTA practice, the first open session of the spring. The ball came out with zip, and he orchestrated a touchdown drive in the two-minute drill, throwing a dart to Randall Cobb down the seam for a 48-yard touchdown.

Why Kirk Cousins is primed for a career season with Vikings

Just over a month after signing a historic fully guaranteed $84 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins was already getting down to business.

Down in Atlanta, where he spent part of the offseason,cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale  Cousins met up with Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and running back Mack Brown in April to sling the ball around with the players he’ll share a field with this fall.

Cousins labeled the session “productive,” and that’s aside from the always-beneficial extra reps a quarterback can get in with his receivers.

“More than just the football,” Cousins said. “Just to get to know one another a little and build somewhat of a foundation before we started with the whole crew.”

As Cousins and the Vikings begin OTAs this week, Minnesota’s new QB will continue to build upon the chemistry he started to form with his pass-catchers before the voluntary offseason program began. He has all the pieces in place to be on the cusp of something great this season with a career year while solidifying his status as a franchise quarterback.

Cousins knows having strong chemistry with the playmakers around him leads to success, the likes of which he experienced during the best year of his career in 2016 with the Washington Redskins.

He reached his first Pro Bowl surrounded by a strong supporting cast. At the forefront was his receiving corps, highlighted by DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder.310

Jackson established himself as one of the NFL‘s top vertical threats dating back to the start of his career in 2008 and helped Cousins become one of the league’s most productive deep-ball passers that season. He made 39 of his 94 deep-ball attempts (passes that traveled 20 or more air yards) for an NFL-best 1,359 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2016. Regularly at the other end of those passes was Jackson, who averaged 17.9 yards per catch and became Cousins’ favorite vertical threat.

In the midst of Cousins’ career year, Crowder had one as well as a reliable target in the slot who caught almost 68 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns in 2016.cheap nfl nike jersey

When his supporting cast was at its best in Washington, complete with a dynamic tight end duo and an exemplary group of pass-catching running backs, so was Cousins. Without Jackson and Garcon last season and a rash of injuries to his crop of playmakers (not to mention the dire state of the offensive line), Cousins struggled. He was labeled by some as a system QB, incapable of being the difference maker his team needed.

Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

Two games and two losses brought plenty of criticism of the young Russian goaltender. Cooper wasn’t thrilled about that.

”The questions were coming from the other side of the table, and I felt it was the questioning of Vasilevskiy,” the Tampa Bay coach said. ”We don’t. He’s been the guy for us.’where can i get cheap nfl jerseys

Vasilevskiy is the guy who turned the series around for the Lightning, who now lead the Capitals 3-2 and can eliminate Washington on the road in Game 6 on Monday night and move on to the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. After a 6.00 goals-against average and .839 save percentage in Games 1 and 2, he has a 2.00 GAA and .943 save percentage since as the series’ biggest difference-maker.

Cooper saw it during the 2016-17 season when Vasilevskiy struggled during a stretch of 10 consecutive starts when Ben Bishop was hurt and then again late this season when a swoon by him and the entire team almost cost Tampa Bay the East’s top seed. Vasilevskiy bounced back strong each time.300

”His ability to be able to turn the page now and understand, ‘You know what there might be a tough night for you, but I’m going to go out the next night anyway and I’ve got to be there for my team,’ – I think that’s where his growth process has really come in,” Cooper said.

The same happened between Games 2 and 3 in this series. The shy Vasilevskiy who has been reluctant to do interviews told a pool reporter he didn’t make any adjustments from his worst games against the Capitals to his best.

Somehow, he has looked like an entirely different goalie. Chants of ”Vasy! Vasy!” filled Amalie Arena in Game 5 on Saturday night when he stopped 28 of 30 shots, and the highest praise was reserved for inside the Lightning’s locker room.

”He’s a world class goaltender, that’s what he does,” defenseman Braydon Coburn said. ”He battles hard every day in practice all season long, and he’s raised his game in the playoffs here.”

No doubt his teammates have improved their play in front of Vasilevskiy, with defenseman Anton Stralman saying: ”We always feel like we owe him.” china cheap nfl jerseys But against a star-studded Capitals team led by countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vasilevskiy had to raise his game to give Tampa Bay any chance.

If the Capitals can crack Vasilevskiy like they did the first two times, there will be a Game 7 on Wednesday night at Tampa Bay. But they’d better figure that out and get an even better game from Braden Holtby because the Lightning are 11-0 in the playoffs when scoring three-plus goals.

Sweden beats Switzerland to retain world ice hockey title

Sweden capped a victorious run through the ice hockey world championship by edging Switzerland 3-2 on Sunday in the final after a penalty shootout to successfully defend its title.

Forward Filip Forsberg scored the decisive goal in the shootout to give Sweden a third world title in six years, and 11th overall.

Sweden won all 10 matches at the tournament.

”We wanted to win the gold medal, and here we are,” Sweden forward Viktor Arvidsson said. ”It’s unbelievable, especially for Filip (Forsberg). He’s a great player,wholesale nfl jerseys supply  one of our top players. It’s unbelievable to win with my teammates.”

Arvidsson, together with Nashville Predators teammates Forsberg and defenseman Mattias Ekholm, joined the Swedish team during the tournament after the Predators were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.

”We had the puck a lot,” Arvidsson said. ”They did a great job defending.”299

Sweden outshot Switzerland 38-27 but could not get the puck past goaltender Leonardo Genoni.

Switzerland finished runner-up for the third time after 2013 and 1935. It has never won.

”We battled hard … all the tournament long,” Switzerland defenseman Mirco Muller said. ”Once you look at the bigger picture, it’s huge for Swiss hockey. But right now, there’s a disappointment. We definitely had our chances.”

Switzerland stunned Canada 3-2 in the semifinals after a 3-2 upset against Finland in the quarterfinals.

”They were close to winning the whole championship. So, credit to them,” Sweden forward Magnus Paajarvi said.

Forward Nick Bonino scored the winner on a rebound during a power play in the final period. Anders Lee and Kreider added empty-net insurance goals to give the U.S. its third bronze in six years.

”It’s important for the team but it’s also important for USA Hockey,” U.S. captain Patrick Kane said. ”Now, we can build up off this level and try to keep being better and better.”where can i get cheap nfl jerseys

Kane had an assist in the game to finish the tournament with 20 points for eight goals and 12 assists, the first player to do so since 2008.

”Obviously I’m here to produce and try to create offense and make plays out there,” Kane said. ”Overall, I’m happy … it was a fun tournament and a great experience for me and I hope it will help me with my career going forward too.”

Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek calls step to first team ‘massive’

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has spoken about the difficulties faced by young players breaking into the Chelsea team, as he prepares to play in the World Cup for England.

Loftus-Cheek spent the season on loan at Crystal Palace, after failing to make much of an impression on the senior side at Stamford Bridge, nike cheap nfl jerseys despite excelling at youth level. He was part of the Chelsea teams that won the FA Youth Cup in 2014 (a tournament they have won five years in a row), and also the first of their UEFA Youth League-winning sides.

However, with the possible exception of Andreas Christensen, none of the players involved in any of those victories has gone on to establish themselves in the first team.

Most have been forced to leave on loan, with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Kasey Palmer and Izzy Brown, as well as Loftus-Cheek himself, seeking temporary moves to get regular football. Nathaniel Chalobah and Dominic Solanke left the club altogether on their paths to senior football blocked.288

“I was at Chelsea for a while and progressed quite quickly until I got to the first team, and then it was different,” said Loftus-Cheek. “I was used to playing every minute of every game, but when you get to the first team the step up is massive.

“There are world-class players in front of you and that step up is difficult at a big club like Chelsea, no matter how talented you are. Experience plays a big role as well, at the top level. I understand why it is difficult.”

Despite his season being disrupted by injury, Loftus-Cheek was excellent for Palace, and when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was ruled out of England’s World Cup with a knee injury, he was the natural choice to come in.

“I took something from both of them,” he said, when asked if it was better to work with elite coaching and facilities at Chelsea or to play regularly for Palace.

“For me to be around a squad of winners is good for me to be a part of, so I can analyse and see the dynamics of the squad and the team. Then to be at Palace, who struggled at the start of the season, and see the dynamics of the team and how they act when they are not doing so well — it is good for me to see both so in the future I know what it is like.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Being at Chelsea I improved a lot with the training, because I think personally the coaches are the best and the facilities are the best and I improved a lot as a youth player growing up in the academy.”

Liverpool’s latest band of misfits on the verge of another unlikely European Cup

Jurgen Klopp was considering the reality of facing Real Madrid. “They are more experienced,” the Liverpool manager said Monday. “It’s a fact.” As Real have become the first team to retain the Champions League in its current incarnation, that is undeniable. But Liverpool have different experience.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal They go to Kiev with a collection of personal tales that makes them both improbable winners and a team in keeping with the club’s European history. Once again, Liverpool have assembled the unlikely lads.

They are the relegated and the rejected, the unwanted and the underestimated. It is mentioned with increasing frequency that Andrew Robertson was a part-time player just six years ago and that his Hull City team were demoted in 2015 and 2017. What is referenced less often is that Georginio Wijnaldum was part of the Newcastle United team that went to the championship in 2016. At that point, Trent Alexander-Arnold had yet to make his first-team debut. A player who had been described as a No. 6, a holding midfielder, in Steven Gerrard’s 2015 autobiography did not make his senior bow until October 2016; it came against Tottenham, whose manager, Mauricio Pochettino, thought the teenager should have been sent off. He did not start a league game until 2017. In 2018, he will begin a Champions League final and go to a World Cup.287

Loris Karius did not begin 2018 in the Liverpool goal. If others are more established, it is easy to envisage situations in which their careers took very different paths, sliding-door moments that could have taken them to mid-table, to obscurity, to anywhere other than a Champions League final.

Jordan Henderson has recently recounted how Brendan Rodgers told him he could go to Fulham as part of an exchange for Clint Dempsey in 2012. Instead, he could join Emlyn Hughes, Phil Thompson, Graeme Souness and Steven Gerrard in the ranks of Liverpool’s European Cup-winning captains. If a late injury rules Henderson out, nike cheap nfl jerseys that mantle could instead pass to James Milner; the same Milner some of the club’s power brokers were willing to let sign for Newcastle last summer, the same one who spent last season playing left-back and has not merely been reinvented as a midfielder but has recorded more assists in a single season than any other player in Champions League history. That, to even the biggest fan of the versatile, selfless, perennially underrated Milner, still feels illogical.