Warriors

The Wizards have won a game!

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The Wizards have won a game!

From Comcast SportsNetWASHINGTON (AP) -- After their worst start in history, the Washington Wizards became a national punch line. On TNT, Charles Barkley compared them with the Washington Generals, and a local newspaper had photos of fans wearing paper bags over their heads at Monday's 26-point loss to San Antonio.The jokes can stop -- at least for now.Washington earned its first victory after starting the season with 12 straight losses, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 84-82 on Wednesday night."When you're 0-12, guys are going to make fun. That's our business, guys," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said."When you get to this level, you've got to have some thick skin, and you've got to be able to overcome those kind of things."Washington survived a scoreless 6:47 in the fourth when Jordan Crawford, who had 19 points, hit on a 3-pointer with 2:06 to play. The Wizards finally took the 84-82 lead on Emeka Okafor's two free throws with 39.1 seconds remaining.Damian Lillard was called for traveling with 28 seconds left. After Nene was called for an offensive foul, J.J. Hickson missed a jumper with 2.8 seconds to play. The Wizards lost the ball with 0.2 seconds to go, but held on to end the skid."Well, we made it interesting, but we won," Wittman said.Nine teams started the season 0-13, and the Wizards were tired of the ridicule they'd been subjected to -- locally and nationally -- as they crept toward the Nets' NBA record-worst start of 0-18."We don't want to go down in history as one of the worst teams ever," Washington forward Chris Singleton said.Wittman, whose team travels to New York on Friday and plays Miami next Tuesday, knows the next win may be hard to get."We just broke through the ice. I've lived in Minnesota for 15, 17 years. That ice was 4 or 5 feet deep, but it's broken through now," Wittman said.Trevor Ariza had 14 and Kevin Seraphin added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Washington, which ended the third quarter on a 23-7 run to take a 68-59 lead, then padded its lead to 15 barely three minutes into the fourth.The 79-64 lead seemed safe -- even for the Wizards -- but the Trail Blazers ran off 16 straight points to take a 80-79 lead with 2:27 to play.Lillard and Nicolas Batum led Portland, losers of three straight, with 20. LaMarcus Aldridge had 17. Hickson had 15 points and 19 rebounds."Loss is a loss, but this one definitely stings knowing the team is 0-12. You never want to be the team they get the win on but we were that team," Hickson said.Wesley Matthews addressed the Blazers after his team lost, and all his teammates were especially downcast."You don't want to be the first team, that's very embarrassing," Batum said.Martel Webster had also used "embarrassing" to describe Washington's 26-point loss on Monday. He was a bit relieved after the game."We are definitely an underdog. We're definitely looked at as the losers of the league, but that's OK. We believe in each other," Webster said.Rookie Bradley Beal wasn't celebrating his first NBA win -- one that took 29 days to get. He claimed, like most of the Wizards, to ignore the chatter on TV and in the cyber world."I don't pay attention to that stuff. They're on the outside looking in. They don't know how hard we work. They just see us playing and the scores," Beal said.The Blazers hit six of their first seven shots and took a 15-4 lead four minutes into the game.Nene entered the game with 1:43 to play and helped spur the Wizards to a 37-31 lead with six minutes to play in the first half. At halftime, the teams were tied at 43-all.After missing the first nine games of the season with a left foot injury, Nene played two games before missing Monday night's loss. He had six points in 19 minutes."For tonight: fresh air, that's all I can say," Nene said.Notes: Washington F Trevor Booker missed his fourth straight game with a right knee injury. ... This was the 100th all-time meeting between the teams. Portland leads 52-48. ... The Wizards' bench outscored the Trail Blazers' 46-4. ... Portland has four more games in eight days left on this season-high, seven-game road trip: at Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte and Indiana.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

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USATSI

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

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USATSI

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis off Sabathia which made it 1-0.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles after that before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who dropped Game 7 to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS 13 years ago today.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh inning.