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Oklahoma City Thunder get a lift from the bench against San Antonio Spurs

After a scoreless first half against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, looking out of sorts and showing signs of frustration, he was trying to find some spark, something to ignite him. He’s an emotional, temperamental player, and it wasn’t just the first half against the Spurs. It was the past few games, in which he wasn’t shooting well, wasn’t finishing at the rim and, in his mind, wasn’t helping his team.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Schroder scored 19 points in the Thunder’s 122-112 win over the Spurs — all in the second half — and did so in the kind of flurry that takes over a game and swings it dramatically in one direction.

His first bucket came with 2:47 left in the third, a patented stutter-step floater in the paint over a leaping Spurs big. A minute later, he pulled confidently from the wing, splashing a 3. A minute after that, he knifed to the rim, took some contact and finished a tough layup. He slapped the floor in frustration, said something to the official and was dinged with a technical. It was just collateral damage to keep the motor running hot. He capped the quarter with a driving layup at the buzzer, helping turn a nine-point halftime deficit to a six-point lead heading to the fourth.6

“I think a lot of times players can lose confidence,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He doesn’t — at all. He almost gets irritated, he gets upset, he gets mad … in a good way.”

Schroder has been a revelation this season coming off the bench, restoring some order to a tried-and-true Thunder method of having a dynamic second-unit scorer and creator to complement Westbrook. But the past few games were rough, with him hitting just 11-of-32 in a three-game losing streak and 19-of-73 (26 percent) in the previous six games. Schroder’s 3-point percentage had been slipping, his shot selection had been growing more questionable, and not coincidentally, his scoring had been down. He felt like he was letting the team down.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“He wasn’t letting nobody down,” Westbrook said. “He’d missed shots — that’s normal, that’s a part of the game. Tonight he played well, aggressive, made some shots and was big for us.”

Schroder often plays the part of complementing the main course, but he has the ability to feature. He sets the table for the entire second unit, which, as a collective, produced on Saturday. Abdel Nader scored 15 on 6-of-6 shooting, and Patrick Patterson added 13, hitting 3-of-3 from 3.

Curry leads Warriors with 42 points in Christmas tune-up

It’s already the third time that the former MVP has reached the 40-point mark this season, and the 33rd time he has done it during his career in the regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The fact the All-Star guard also laid in the winning basket with 0.5 seconds left in regulation surprised nobody inside a raucous Oracle Arena.

“I knew we wanted to try and get a switch on the pick-and-roll and I had a lot of space,” Curry said. “We had shooters pretty much everywhere on the floor and I was able to get into the middle the paint — just a matter of being decisive, and just understanding I got an open lane, try to get to the basket and make a play. Draymond did a great job of sealing, I think it was Avery Bradley at the rim so that I could finish underneath Montrezl [Harrell’s] contest. There wasn’t any hesitation on that play, just knowing what you want to do and trying to execute.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Kevin Durant, who poured in 35 points of his own, acknowledged that while he isn’t keeping track of how many buckets the duo accounts for during a game, he knew early on how teammate Curry was.6

“You could tell that Steph was locked in on just the moment,” Durant said. “Usually when you do that, you have a really good game, especially when you’re at the level he’s on.”

Curry’s night also included a technical foul in the first half after he and Clippers backup point guard Patrick Beverley exchanged a few words after Curry corralled an offensive rebound.

“They said I flexed at Patrick, which was a misinterpretation of what I was doing,” Curry said. “I flex as a joke all the time, obviously I have nothing really to work with. I was looking at the crowd and kinda celebrating an offensive rebound, which I rarely get and he just happened to be standing there, had a reaction to it. I told Pat, you got to do what you got to do if you felt that it was directed at you. But it wasn’t. It is what it is.“cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Curry and the Warriors now have to prepare for a Christmas night showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. It’s a contest that NBA fans have had circled on their calendars for months, and one the Warriors are ready for after watching Curry and Durant dominate against the Clippers.

“It’s incredible to play with those guys,” Warriors power forward Draymond Green said of Curry and Durant. “I try to be a leader out there and a coach on the floor. When I have to call a play it’s very easy, give the ball to one of them two, and let them do what they do. It’s great. Obviously it’s very fun to play with those guys and see what they do on a nightly basis. They are a big part of the reason we’ve had the success we’ve had.”

Tevin Coleman’s career day gives Falcons something to ponder

All Coleman could control was how he performed with nothing except pride on the line. His 5-9 Atlanta Falcons were officially eliminated from the playoffs Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Miami Dolphins. Yet despite the Falcons’ losing record, Coleman played with sense of purpose, as if something was on the line during a 40-14 win over the Cardinals. Perhaps he was playing for his future.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Coleman’s career-high 145 rushing yards and on 11 carries, including a career-long 65-yard sprint and a 43-yard touchdown run, came in the midst of an important evaluation period. It was just the second time Coleman has rushed for 100 yards this season and the Falcons averaged a league-low 81.2 rushing yards per game entering the day. Maybe Coleman, now in his fourth year, didn’t do enough to catapult into consideration as the team’s primary back of the future, but his explosive burst through the gaping holes gave the Falcons something to ponder.6

The Falcons have a well-documented decision to make regarding how they want to proceed at running back. Two-time Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman, who has missed most of the season following groin surgery, is likely to remain the No. 1 guy — when healthy — with four years and $24.75 million left on his contract. It seems unlikely Freeman will return this season, although coach Dan Quinn didn’t it rule it out, with Freeman eligible to return off injured reserve next Sunday.

The Falcons have a variety of decisions to weigh leading into 2019, and Coleman isn’t the only player trying to make a strong impression before this season concludes. Defensive end Vic Beasley Jr., the eighth-overall pick in 2015, has been widely criticized for his lack of production after posting a league-high 15.5 sacks in 2016. But Beasley, who hopes to secure a long-term contract with his contract expiring, has shown flashes in recent weeks. He deflected two Josh Rosen passes in Sunday’s win. Teammate Deion Jones intercepted one of those tips and returned it 41 yards for a momentum-shifting touchdown. Beasley also had one of the Falcons’ season-high seven sacks.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Every game, my goal is to make a statement, to show the team, coaches, fans what I’m capable of,” Beasley said. “With it being the end of the year, and our season hasn’t gone the way [we] wanted it to go, that makes it even more of a challenge for us.”

There were others who deserved high marks. Defensive end Bruce Irvin, who was released by Oakland before signing with his hometown Falcons, had 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits as he tries to secure at least another year with the team. Wide receiver Justin Hardy, in the last year of his deal, caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ryan.

Resting Cam Newton isn’t an option Panthers should consider

There might be debate about whether the Carolina Panthers should play Cam Newton over the final three games given the ongoing soreness in the quarterback’s right shoulder with the team’s playoff chances fading.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Newton isn’t having any part of that.

Asked after Sunday’s 26-20 loss to Cleveland, Carolina’s fifth straight setback since a 6-2 start, about concerns regarding his shoulder, Newton deadpanned: “Who is it coming from?”

Told from people outside the organization, Newton said, “Exactly.”5

The big picture as far as the playoffs becomes more clear after Minnesota (6-6-1) lost at Seattle on Monday night. Carolina is now a half game back of the sixth and final seed in the NFC.

The Panthers still likely would need to win their final three games — home against New Orleans on Monday night, home against Atlanta and at New Orleans — to have a shot. That seems like a long shot since New Orleans (11-2) is battling the Los Angeles Rams (11-2) for the top seed in the NFC.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

But say the Panthers get past New Orleans and Atlanta, and the Saints are locked into the first or second seed heading into the final week. Saints coach Sean Payton could rest his starters, which would increase Carolina’s chances of winning in New Orleans.

Even if Carolina wins out, it would need Minnesota and Washington (6-7) to lose once more. The Vikings close against Miami, Detroit and Chicago. The Redskins, down to their third quarterback and losers of four straight, close with Jacksonville, Tennessee and Philadelphia.

Keeping playoff hero Eovaldi a risk Red Sox could afford to take

One of my favorite moments of the postseason came when the Red Sox lost Game 3 of the World Series to the Dodgers, the 18-inning game that never ended. Nathan Eovaldi was the losing pitcher after serving up a walk-off home run to Max Muncy. He had already pitched in the first two games but still went six innings in Game 3, throwing 97 pitches and allowing just three hits. If Ian Kinsler doesn’t make a throwing error in the bottom of the 13th, the Red Sox win the game and Eovaldi gets the W.

Sure enough, the Red Sox announced Thursday they had signed Eovaldi to a four-year, $67.5 million contract. That $17 million per season price tag lines up with the predicted contract Eovaldi would receive, so the Red Sox didn’t retain his services on any kind of discount.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

It’s also not without a lot of risk, even for a pitcher, given that Eovaldi has two Tommy John surgeries in his past and a career 4.16 ERA. He had his best season in 2018, however, returning in late May after missing all of 2017 after surgery in August of 2016, then dramatically increased his stock with a huge performance in the postseason.6

He started twice and pitched four times in relief, showcasing his 100-mph fastball and allowing just 15 hits and four earned runs in 22 1/3 innings against the loaded offenses of the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. In both the ALDS and ALCS, he started Game 3 of a tied series and pitched well, allowing one run in seven innings against the Yankees and two runs in six innings against the Astros.

The injury history aside, there are several reasons to like Eovaldi’s future, and you can make a strong claim that Eovaldi at $67.5 million over four seasons is a better signing than Patrick Corbin at $140 million over six years. Eovaldi, 29, obviously has the big fastball, but also began utilizing a cutter more often, throwing it 32 percent of the time after first unveiling it with the Yankees in 2016. That seemed to help his four-seam fastball, as his swing-and-miss rate with his fastball improved from a career rate of 15 percent to 25 percent.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

He also showed improved command with a career-low walk rate of just 4.4 percent. Out of 140 pitchers with at least 100 innings, that was the seventh-lowest walk rate, right up there in Corey Kluber/Justin Verlander territory. So you have a guy who throws 100 and throws strikes, mixes in a cutter, splitter, slider and curveball and you can see why many believe he hasn’t quite tapped his potential yet. After all, out of those 140 pitchers, Eovaldi was just middle of the pack — 67th — in strikeout rate.

Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco grew up together; now they’re MLS Cup hopefuls 6,800 miles from home

The distance between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Portland, Oregon, is more than 6,800 miles. The flight time is approximately 17 hours and 15 minutes, and that’s if you manage to fly direct. Driving is practically impossible — the Darien Gap on the border between Colombia and Panama is basically impenetrable, a 55-mile break in the Pan-American Highway that runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the southern tip of Chile. Should they ever find a way to pave that bit of swampland, Buenos Aires to Portland would take you something close to 200 hours by car.

For Timbers teammates Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco, who have known each other since they were boys playing for the same youth academy in the southern suburbs of Argentina’s biggest city, the metaphorical distance is even more yawning than that.

Would they ever have imagined, when they first started playing together on Lanus’ senior squad in 2006, that they’d end up here, of all places? In Portland, Oregon, in the MLS Western Conference finals vs. Sporting Kansas City (second leg Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the two most important players in a small-market team battling for its second league championship in four years?

“No,” Valeri said from a bench at the team training facility in Beaverton last week. “Never.“cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Blanco agreed: “Impossible.”6

The Timbers were a minor league team in 2006. Providence Park was still predominantly a baseball stadium. Both Valeri and Blanco harbored dreams of one day leaving their hometown for a bigger country, but those musings were murky and undefined. Before signing with the Timbers in 2017, Blanco had been to the U.S. only once, to Miami, and he pictured New York skyscrapers, not “Portlandia.“cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We never thought about this,” Valeri told ESPN FC, with a smirk that was borderline patronizing, gesturing at the facility around him, on a lovely autumn Northwest day. “We never imagined.”

Blanco, again: “The opportunity for what’s happening is incredible.”

Valeri and Blanco were aware of one another almost from the start of their respective soccer careers. Although they both came up through Lanus’ system, Valeri is two years older, so they played at different age levels before finally linking up in the first team.

To belabor the mileage imagery just one more time to underscore how small-world all of this is: Their childhood homes were less than 3 miles apart, about a 15-minute drive without traffic. Where they come from, the bordering neighborhoods of Lanus and Lomas de Zamora, very few residents ever even relocate elsewhere in Buenos Aires, let alone outside the country, and fewer still outside the continent.

Celtics are going from preseason favorites to average disappointments after 20 games

To say this isn’t the way the Celtics — or frankly, just about anyone — envisioned this team looking through the opening 20 games of the season is an understatement. Yet here Boston is, floundering at 10-10 and already trailing the Toronto Raptors by six games for the top spot in the Eastern Conference — the one Boston was expected to claim for itself after LeBron James abdicated his throne atop the East by joining the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

And, as Smart said, the Celtics find themselves saying the same thing game after game. Their offense remains inefficient, mired among the bottom 10 in the league despite a wealth of players capable of filling it up. Too often their first quarters are like the one Boston had Saturday night, as the Mavericks raced out to a 32-18 lead behind some spectacular shotmaking and playmaking from sensational Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Even Boston’s defense, which is normally among the league’s best — and is ranked second behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in efficiency over course of the season — has slipped a bit lately. The Mavericks sliced through the Celtics time and again at that end of the floor Saturday night, knocking down 16-of-41 3-pointers (39 percent) and finding DeAndre Jordan multiple times at the rim for easy alley-oop dunks.6

“I thought we were a step slow all night,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought they put us on our heels.

“They made a ton of effort plays, they got a bunch to the rim, and then we couldn’t contain the drive … those drives really hurt us. They turned the corner, laid it in, and had a couple of and-1s, lobs … those are just killers.”

The Celtics have been on the receiving end of plenty of those kinds of moments lately. Not only did Saturday’s loss drop Boston to seventh place in the East standings, but the Celtics have now lost four of their past five, and eight of 12. Of those four wins, two came in overtime — including one miraculous road comeback against the hapless Phoenix Suns. The other two came against the equally hapless Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.

Boston simply hasn’t looked like the team it was expected to be entering the season. So what is the issue?

Perhaps there is something to be said for the Celtics having to adjust to the feeling of being the favorite, as opposed to the scrappy underdog.nfl cheap nike jerseys

Throughout the past few seasons, Boston has been seen as a team punching above its weight — first when Isaiah Thomas was lighting up scoreboards two and three seasons ago, and then last season when first Gordon Hayward, and then Kyrie Irving, were sidelined because of season-ending injuries.

Seahawks haven’t been shy about how well they ran against Rams

Fluker’s postgame comments will make for some added spice in Sunday’s rematch — assuming he’ll even able to play through a calf injury. His iffy status and that of running back Chris Carson threaten to undermine what might be the Seahawks’ best chance of prevailing, even with the Rams having just surrendered four touchdown passes at the New Orleans Saints in their first loss of the season. Because if they Seahawks are going to pull off an upset as 10-point road underdogs, it’s going to have to be with the same formula that nearly got it done last time, which included 190 yards on the ground and nearly 6 yards per carry.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“We definitely have to have that again,” Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said. “We have to have a solid run game in order to win.”

That won’t be easy given the injury situation. Carson is dealing with a sore hip that had him listed as questionable heading into Seattle’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. He left after only 10 snaps and didn’t return. Fluker left late in that game because of a tight calf; and while coach Pete Carroll said at the start of the week that Fluker appeared to be OK, the coach didn’t sound as certain on Wednesday when he said Fluker came back from the off day feeling more sore than he did earlier.5

Neither practiced Wednesday or Thursday, so their statuses heading into Los Angeles seem far from certain.

Carson looked like he could he headed for his fourth 100-yard performance in five games when he carried four times for 30 yards on the Seahawks’ opening touchdown drive against the Chargers. But he had an ice pack wrapped around his left thigh by halftime as Mike Davis took over.

Davis has proved to be a nice secondary option and even a more-than-capable spot starter. He averaged more than 4 yards per carry in Carson’s absence on Sunday. Davis had more than 100 yards and added two touchdowns in a start at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. And has shown enough to hold onto the No. 2 job ahead of first-round pick Rashaad Penny. But there’s a drop-off from Carson, especially when it comes to the punishing style that none of Seattle’s other running backs can replicate. Davis even acknowledged that when he said after the Chargers game that not having Carson “changes the physicality.”cheap nike nfl jerseys china

“Chris has been pretty hot lately, and he’s been doing a lot of really good things for us,” Carroll said, “and we certainly missed him.”

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott help save Cowboys’ season — for now

The Dallas Cowboys’ storylines entering Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles weren’t exactly positive.

The list included: a coach’s job security, a quarterback struggling to make plays, an offensive coordinator perhaps on his last chance and a defense left wobbly after its previous game. All in all, it added up to a season on the line.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But the Cowboys left Lincoln Financial Field with a 27-20 victory that seemed improbable after losing their first four road games of the season, and they find themselves alive and breathing, if not entirely well just yet.

“When you’re feeling low and you’re seeing the Grim Reaper and then come in and have your team perform the way these guys did, I promise you it’s a special feeling,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “I won’t need any wings on that airplane getting back to Dallas.”6

They left Philly with a win after Jason Garrett rallied a young team that had been rattled and a coaching staff that had been questioned.

They left with a win after Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes in a road game for the first time this season. After Ezekiel Elliott rushed for more than 150 yards against the NFL’s second-best run defense and scored twice.

“I don’t know that I learned anything new [about his team],” Garrett said. “You try to build a team of guys who love football, who are mentally tough, and I think those things get revealed when you have to go through some adversity over the course of the season.

“I thought they did a great job coming back after [the Cowboys’ 28-14 loss to Tennessee the previous week], just getting back to work, not blinking. Just going back to work and understanding the importance of what this next opponent is and playing 60 minutes. Thought we did a better job of that in this game than we have in the last few games. Dealing with the adversities of the game and keep playing. Dealing with the successes of the game and keep playing.”

At times early in the game, Prescott was bad. He held on to the ball too long, which resulted in sacks — including a 13-yard sack in the second quarter.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

At times, Prescott was brilliant: At the end of the first half, he connected on five passes for 79 yards and sneaked in from a yard out with 19 seconds left for the Cowboys’ first touchdown.

Red Sox starters won the World Series — from the bullpen

It was fitting that when Fox’s cameras scanned the Boston bullpen Sunday to see which relievers were warming up for the ninth inning of Game 5, the two men on the mounds were Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale, a pair of starters.

The 2018 baseball season might well go down as the year that relievers became starters and bullpenning took hold, but the 2018 postseason should be remembered as one in which Boston’s starting pitchers played a starring role by coming out of the bullpen. Sale’s Game 5 World Series appearance is certainly not the first time an ace has trudged in from the outfield: Randy Johnson and Madison Bumgarner were, of course, pretty big deals when they closed out 2001 and 2014 in relief. But the systematic approach Boston took to getting its best pitchers into unfamiliar high-leverage roles was a huge part of how that bullpen — considered a weakness heading into the postseason — got through three grueling rounds. Paired with last year’s postseason,cheap official nike nfl jerseys this approach now appears to be the new normal.

Before Sale in the ninth inning of Game 5, it was David Price pitching the ninth in Game 3, and before that it was Eovaldi taking over the eighth inning in Games 1 and 2, and before that it was Rick Porcello in the eighth inning of games in the division series and ALCS. The Dodgers used Clayton Kershaw in relief for Game 7 of the NLCS and Rich Hill for an eighth inning in that series.6

Those six pitchers threw a total of 15⅔ innings of relief. They allowed seven hits and one earned run, that earned run coming at the end of Eovaldi’s six-inning relief stint in Game 3. They struck out 16 and walked three. Their combined win probability added (including Eovaldi’s loss) was about a half a win, roughly what Milwaukee’s ace fireman Josh Hader’s was. They were collectively the elite closer every team wants in October, and they were cooked up entirely out of ingredients lying around the pantry.

Again, these sorts of appearances have happened before, throughout postseason history. But rarely this systematically. In the past, starters pitching in relief were often pitching very late in the postseason — i.e., after they’d made their last scheduled start, or with the ultimatum of a series clincher — or very early in the postseason, before their first turn had come up in the rotation. Boston, by contrast, had at least one starter between starts who was readily available in the bullpen seemingly every day this October. And rarely have so many different starting pitchers been used in this way in a single postseason.nike jerseys nfl cheap

We looked back since 1969 — when division play began — for pitchers who made at least two starts in a postseason (to avoid including pitchers, like Eduardo Rodriguez this year, who were primarily relievers but were pushed into an emergency start) and at least one relief appearance in the same postseason. From 1969 through 2016, there were about two per year on average, with only two postseasons (2003 and 2011) in which there were more than five in a year. But there were seven last year — those seven allowed just 11 hits and five runs in 23⅔ innings, incidentally — and six this year, the most there have ever been in consecutive postseasons.