Cubs

Knicks win first playoff game in 11 years

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Knicks win first playoff game in 11 years

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Amare Stoudemire raised his hands in the air, one covered in padding, as streamers fell from the ceiling above him. Finally, New York could celebrate an NBA playoff victory again. Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points, Stoudemire had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a cut hand, and the Knicks snapped an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak by beating the Miami Heat 89-87 Sunday in Game 4 of their first-round series. "I think it's the first of many," said Stoudemire, his left arm back in a sling to keep his hand elevated. "Tonight was a great win for us, for our fans to finally get over that hump of those consecutive games that we lost, I guess the Knicks, lost over those years in the playoffs." Anthony made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 54.5 seconds left as the Knicks overcame another serious injury to win a playoff game for the first time since beating Toronto on April 29, 2001, in Game 3 of a best-of-five series. Baron Davis dislocated his right kneecap in the third quarter, just as the Knicks were making the run that got them back into the game after a dismal first half. "I'm just glad that we came together after that, kept our composure, kept on fighting and won the basketball game," Anthony said. LeBron James scored 27 for the Heat, who will try to close it out in Game 5 at home on Wednesday. Dwyane Wade had 22, but missed a 3-pointer on the last possession that would have given Miami a lengthy rest before starting the second round. "We'd love to take the week (off) but it's not in the cards for us to do that in this round," Wade said. "You know, we'll adjust. We play Wednesday in Miami at 7 o'clock. We'll be ready to play and give our fans another exciting game." Wade's errant shot set off a loud celebration from Knicks fans whose team was on the verge of getting swept for the second straight year, and third straight time dating to 2004. It didn't look as if the elusive postseason victory would come in this series, after the Knicks had been blown out by 20 points per game in the first three games. But they got a huge lift from Stoudemire, playing with padding over his hand just six days after he punched a fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss in Miami. And they got a sensational effort from Anthony, who shot 15 of 29 and was one point shy of his playoff career best after he made only 34.4 percent of his shots in the first three games. "We stepped up to the challenge," Anthony said. Now here comes another: The Knicks need a solution at point guard after Davis was carted off on a stretcher with his severe knee injury. Jeremy Lin is close to returning from knee surgery, but Iman Shumpert was lost with a torn knee ligament in Game 1. A day after the Dallas team that beat them in the finals was swept by Oklahoma City, the Heat failed in their attempt for their first sweep since beating Washington in the 2005 Eastern Conference semifinals. The series was on pace to be one of the most lopsided in NBA history through three games, but this one was within four points the entire fourth quarter, the crowd at Madison Square Garden growing louder with every play that moved the Knicks closer to their first playoff win in 11 years. Mike Bibby's 3-pointer with 1:23 left snapped an 81-all tie, but the Heat called timeout and ran a play that freed James for a wide-open 3 that tied it again seven seconds later. On the Knicks' next possession, Anthony came far beyond the arc to receive the ball after JR Smith picked up his dribble, then dribbled forward and pulled up for a 3 that made it 87-84 with 54.5 to play. The Heat turned it over on their next possession when Chris Bosh's pass sailed into the backcourt, and Anthony was fouled by Shane Battier attempting a 3-pointer. He made only one foul shot, and the Heat cut it to one again when James converted a three-point play while drawing Tyson Chandler's sixth foul. Stoudemire made a free throw with 14 seconds left to make it 89-87, and Wade lost control of the ball driving into the middle on Miami's last possession. He regained it and dribbled to the corner for a 3-pointer that was off. "I had a lane and then I kind of lost the ball. When I lost it, I knew that they'd recover by then so it made me dribble it out," Wade said. "We got the switch and I got a little step on Amare and I was about to go to my shot. I was about to go to my shot but I kind of fumbled the ball a little bit. I thought I got a good look. I thought it was going in. But it came up a little short." Stoudemire had surgery Wednesday to repair a muscle in his left hand and the Knicks had listed him as doubtful for Sunday, but he was back on the court during practice Friday and cleared to play in Game 4. He was back in his usual spot as the last player introduced during starting lineups, getting a loud reception, and he quickly picked the Knicks up after their sluggish start. "He's a good player. He's a great player honestly, and he gave them the spark that they needed," James said. The Heat jumped to an 8-1 lead, holding the Knicks without a basket for almost four minutes to start the game. Then Stoudemire had three baskets in a 12-2 spurt to give the Knicks the lead, and they were up 20-18 after one following two free throws by Anthony with 7.3 seconds left. The game then turned into a foul-fest, with 23 called in the second period. The Heat shot 19 free throws, making 14, while the Knicks were 8 of 9. Stoudemire and Chandler both went to the bench with their third fouls, but the Heat failed to pull away even after forcing the Knicks to miss their first six shots of the period while opening a 10-point lead. Both teams shot 33 percent in the quarter, played at a glacial pace while the teams paraded to the free-throw line. Miami led 44-38 at halftime. Miami led 51-40 before the Knicks' offense finally got going. Stoudemire made a jumper and converted a three-point play, Anthony made a layup, and Smith stole the ball and made a 3-pointer for a quick 10-0 run. James missed and the ball was batted up ahead to Davis, who drove in with a chance to give the Knicks the lead. But his leg buckled near the foul line and he crumbled to the court, called for a travel. Concerned teammates quickly waved for help, and Davis was wheeled off the court. But New York regrouped and surged into the lead, going up by six late in the period before taking a 64-61 advantage to the fourth. After making only 13 baskets in the first half, the Knicks shot 10 of 20 in the third, getting 11 points from Anthony. NOTES: Heat reserve C Eddy Curry (flu) was not with Miami for the game. ... There was a musical tribute during a second-quarter timeout for Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who died Friday of cancer.

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

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USA TODAY

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

The Washington Nationals must have been sitting at home, watching the National League Championship Series and wondering: How did we lose to this team?

The Cubs poured so much physical effort, mental focus and emotional energy into those five playoff games against the Nationals that they didn’t have much left in the tank for the bigger, better Los Angeles Dodgers team that dominated the defending World Series champs in every phase and captured the NL pennant on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

By midday Friday, the Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker will not return for the 2018 season, while the contracts for the big-league coaching staff have also expired, leaving a franchise with chain-of-command issues in damage-control mode.

This is a bitter disappointment for Baker, who needs a World Series ring as a manager to put the final bullet point on a Hall of Fame resume and still grumbles about how things ended in 2006 after four up-and-down years managing the Cubs.

Baker, 68, a former Marine, All-Star player and all-around Renaissance man with a great feel for dealing with people and managing the clubhouse, apparently couldn’t overcome last week’s elimination-game meltdown at Nationals Park, where the Cubs hung on for a 9-8 victory and forced Washington into its fourth first-round playoff exit since 2012.

Baker’s in-game decision-making was already under the microscope and his teams have now lost 10 straight postseason close-out games, a major-league record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Nationals also needlessly subjected Stephen Strasburg to withering criticism when Baker said the $175 million pitcher was feeling under the weather — maybe because of Chicago mold and hotel air-conditioning units — and being saved for Game 5. Only to flip-flop and watch Strasburg throw seven scoreless innings in a dominant Game 4 performance at Wrigley Field.

That unforced error and yet another manager search is not a good look for the Nationals, who made the announcement through the Lerner family ownership group after general manager Mike Rizzo repeatedly signaled that he expected to reach a new agreement with Baker after winning 192 games combined in two years and back-to-back division titles.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal and abandoned the Expos logo in 2005, the Nationals have employed seven different managers and will be starting all over again in 2018, when Bryce Harper will be in his last season before becoming a free agent and probably wondering if Washington can finally get its act together.

What now for the Cubs?

What now for the Cubs?

OK, time to turn the page.

Nah, it doesn't have to be that sudden.

The 2017 Cubs season may not have resulted in a World Series, but it was absolutely a smashing success. There was a time not long ago that playing — and even losing — in the fifth game of the NLCS was a huge step.

But the Cubs now have a World-Series-or-bust mentality now and the 2017 season did not live up to those expectations.

"We're capable of more than we showed in the postseason," Ben Zobrist said.

So what now? What's next for these Cubs?

Well, quite literally: Rest. Rest is next.

"For those guys that are playing every day, they need to take the time that they need to take," Zobrist said. "Take the three weeks, month to let your body relax and heal up.

"I think from there, it's listening to your body for them. For me, I'm in a different place. I didn't play as many games as I normally play. I feel like my stamina, I have to work on my endurance and stamina to get back up to where it needs to get to where I'm capable of playing more games and not getting injuries and things like that like I had this year.

"...[Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo, they were our horses and so they need to take more time than somebody like me does going into the offseason. They deserve to get some rest and relaxation. I think we're all very motivated going into the offseason to get back to where we're capable of playing as a team."

Other players have a different attitude as they approach the winter.

Albert Almora Jr., after his first full season in the big leagues, is anxious to get better. Immediately.

The young outfielder is planning on spending a lot of time hanging out with his wife and one-year-old son, but he isn't interested in all that much rest right now.

"[I plan] to get back to work," Almora said. "I think we have a big chip on our shoulder coming into next year."

Rizzo and Bryant, meanwhile, played 167 and 161 games, respectively, including the postseason. They combined for over 1,500 plate appearances from April 2 through Oct. 19.

Neither player has much interest in watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series.

So what will they do?

"It's always tough," Rizzo said after the Cubs were officially eliminated. "You start a journey with all these guys and at the end of the day, these last couple days, you don't take anything for granted at all.

"The stretch, the cage work. Yesterday could've been our last day. Today's obviously our last day. We gotta enjoy these moments because you don't know how long they last.

"But you make a lot of friendships along the way. This next week will be tough and kinda scratching your head on what to do."