W's contain Dirk, top Mavs 99-92 in Oakland


W's contain Dirk, top Mavs 99-92 in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Any chance the Dallas Mavericks had of moving up to second in the Western Conference playoff race is likely over.They can thank Monta Ellis for that.Ellis shook off pain in his strained right ankle to score 32 points, and the Golden State Warriors beat Dallas 99-92 on Saturday night to deliver a crushing blow to the Mavericks' chances of improving their playoff seeding."Basically, looks like we've got the three seed locked up," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said.Ellis scored 18 points in a dominant third quarter that helped the Warriors pull away. David Lee finished with 16 points and Dorell Wright added 12 to help Golden State avoid a four-game sweep against Dallas this season.Shawn Marion had 21 points and Jason Terry added 17 in Dallas' second straight loss. Two nights after a crushing 28-point loss to the Lakers, the Mavericks' hopes of improving their playoff seeding took an even bigger hit.They trail the Lakers by 2 12 games for second place in the West with six games left. Oklahoma City is three games back of Dallas, which suddenly can't seem to make a shot."We'd love to get some wins here before we start off, but the playoffs are also a completely new season," said Nowitzki, held to 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting. "We'd love to get some momentum, start making some shots, look a little better. We look a little flat lately, look a little tired. So hopefully we can step it up here."Things have quickly gone sour for the Mavericks.They had a chance to pull even with the Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center. Instead, they lost 110-82 in a game that had five players ejected, and their effort against Golden State might have stung even worse.Dallas' defense was sporadic to start the third quarter, allowing Golden State to score 13 straight points during one stretch. Ellis had one more point than the Mavericks managed as a team in the quarter to help the Warriors go ahead by 12 points, dazzling with his spinning layups and driving dunks.Even though the Warriors have long been eliminated from the playoffs, Ellis hasn't missed a game this season despite numerous ankle injuries."We just have to learn from these games," Ellis said. "Watch a lot of film and see the good things we did and correct the bad things we did. Treat every game like it's our last five. We still have a job to do and that's to finish the season up strong."Dallas trimmed the deficit to three with 2:28 remaining in the fourth after Marion's dunk and Terry's 3-pointer. The teams traded baskets before Stephen Curry hit a 3-pointer to put Golden State ahead by six and seal the victory.The Mavericks were 37 for 90 from the field, including 5 of 25 from 3-point range."I just kept believing we were about to hit a hot streak," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.Dallas certainly had its chances.Curry picked up his third foul late in the first quarter when he reached in on a driving Jose Barea, who converted a three-point play on the layup. Curry was forced to sit for the entire second period, and perhaps Dallas didn't take advantage enough in his absence.The Mavericks scored 12 straight points and went ahead 40-30 early in the second quarter. The Warriors answered with a 15-4 run that was capped by Ellis' 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and they went to the half with Dallas leading 50-48."He's done a great job," Lee said about Ellis. "We don't have issues on this team of guys being soft or not ready to play. We're maybe short-handed, but the guys we do have are laying it on the line."NOTES: Warriors SF Dorell Wright made two 3-pointers to tie Golden State's single-season record with 183. Jason Richardon also made 183 in 2005-06. ... Warriors C Andris Biedrins missed his ninth straight game because of a severely sprained left ankle. Golden State is still hopeful he could return for one of its final five games. ... Referee Gary Zielinski tripped over a photographer sitting on the baseline near Dallas' bench in the first quarter. He was still able to blow his whistle, calling a foul on Curry for reaching in on Terry. Zielinski was not injured and laughed after the play.

Melifonwu back at Raiders practice, designated to return off IR


Melifonwu back at Raiders practice, designated to return off IR

ALAMEDA – Obi Melifonwu participated in a Raiders practice Wednesday afternoon, his first session in months.

The second-round safety has been on injured reserve all season and hasn’t done football activities of any kind since suffering a knee injury in a preseason game in Dallas.

He had arthroscopic knee surgery and was put on the shelf for the season’s first half.

He’s on the mend and nearing a return to action. That’s why the Raiders designated him to return off injured reserve. Wednesday marks the start of a two-week practice window where the Raiders can decide whether to put him on the 53-roster.

He’s expected to do so when eligible. Melifonwu was first able to practice this week, and can join the 53-man roster after Week 8. His NFL debut could come in Week 9 at Buffalo.

Melifonwu was drafted to help cover tight ends and running backs right away in sub packages, with a long-term eye on a full-time starting spot.

The Raiders still struggle covering the aforementioned skill players, using young linebackers or an undersized safety against those guys. The Raiders have given up the most yards to tight ends and running backs in the NFL this season.

He has missed significant development time while out. He also missed most of training camp with an apparent ankle injury. The team hopes he can be ready to contribute when eligible despite missing so much time.

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens


There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could not be more different in terms of tradition. But, on the ice this season, they couldn’t be more similar.

Both teams have placed their faith in a goalie that wears #31. The top defensemen on each team, Brent Burns and Shea Weber, are 32 and signed until 2025 and 2026, respectively. Tomas Hertl and Alex Galchenyuk are 2012 first round picks playing on the wing after being drafted as centers. Tomas Plekanec and Joe Thornton are favorites on the wrong side of 30, who may head elsewhere next summer.  Heck, both teams miss defenseman David Schlemko, who San Jose lost in the expansion draft and was eventually traded to Montreal, where he hasn’t yet played due to injury.

And both have struggled mightily so far. San Jose and Montreal have combined to win just two games, and sit 29th and 30th, respectively, in goals scored this season. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks and Canadiens scoring so little with all of that talent, but they can’t bank on good fortune, either.

Something’s got to give when the two face off at SAP Center tonight. After tonight, one team will feel much better about themselves, and the other team will be much closer to hitting the panic button.

That’s where the critical difference lies: Montreal’s already hit it, and San Jose probably won’t.

Last season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien in February. Seven months after essentially siding with Therrien and trading star defenseman P.K. Subban, Bergevin ended Therrien’s time in Montreal, too. He surely can’t fire another coach, but a Galchenyuk trade is reportedly a possibility, according to TSN.

The Sharks, on the other hand, likely won’t do any of that. Even with the burden of high expectations in his tenure, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s never traded away a star player or fired a coach midseason. Even though Vegas pegs Peter DeBoer as the odds-on favorite to lose his job, it’s hard to envision Wilson making a change behind the bench during the year. He didn’t in 2015 when Todd McLellan seemed to lose the room, so why would he now?

Patience is what truly separates the Sharks and Canadiens, and that difference will likely determine how each front office reacts if their teams continue to struggle. Wilson’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences under these circumstances. He acquired Joe Thornton in 2005, after all.

But if you’re waiting on Wilson to take a page out of Bergevin’s book and fire the coach or trade away a key piece approaching their prime? Don’t hold your breath.