Cubs

Knicks suffer epic collapse in loss to Pacers

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Knicks suffer epic collapse in loss to Pacers

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The matchup was reminiscent of the classic Pacers-Knicks games from the 1990s. The crowd was electric, the action was chippy, Reggie Miller jerseys were plentiful, and Indiana rallied from a seemingly hopeless deficit to win. Danny Granger played the role of Miller, scoring 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Pacers rallied from 17 points down late in the third quarter to take a 112-104 victory on Tuesday night. Granger made all three of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, a fitting performance one day after Miller was announced as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame's 2012 class. Miller, one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history, was known for clutch shooting and leading comebacks. He saved his most spectacular performances for the Knicks. "I guess it was from one shooter to another, my tribute to Reggie Miller," Granger said. Area 55, designated for Roy Hibbert fans, was filled with more No. 31 Reggie Miller jerseys than the usual No. 55 Hibbert jerseys. Fans in that section at one point unveiled a banner resembling the one that hangs in the rafters honoring Miller. Chants of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" rang out from that section before the game, but in the fourth quarter, those chants became "Dan-ny, Dan-ny." Granger has scored plenty of points in his career, he wants the reputation Miller has -- that of a winner. "It's playoff time," Granger said. "We need momentum going into these playoffs. For the first time in a lot of years, we have a really good team and can make a lot of noise." Paul George scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and reserves Leandro Barbosa and Dahntay Jones added 12 points each for the Pacers. Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 39 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Knicks. Landry Fields scored 15 points and Tyson Chandler added 12 points and 14 rebounds for New York, which fell to 9-3 under interim coach Mike Woodson. Anthony said the loss was inexcusable. "I think we got a little bit complacent being up 17," he said. "They stuck with it, they played harder coming into that fourth quarter. They played harder." New York is battling for a playoff spot without two of its best players. Forward Amare Stoudemire (back) missed a fifth straight game, and point guard Jeremy Lin is out for the regular season after having surgery on his left knee. The loss stung considering the fourth-quarter collapse and the fact that the Knicks nearly stole one on the road short-handed. "It was just unfortunate," Anthony said. "We can't have that." Indiana led 101-93 in the fourth quarter before New York rallied. A three-point play, then a 3-pointer by Anthony cut Indiana's lead to 101-99. The Pacers led 106-102 and New York had another chance to get close. Anthony's 3-pointer from the left wing was off and Paul George rebounded. George was fouled and made two free throws. George then stole J.R. Smith's inbounds pass and dunked. On New York's next offensive possession, Smith threw Barbosa to the ground, was called for a flagrant 2 and ejected. New York finished the first half on an 11-2 run to take a 59-51 lead into the break, and the Knicks quickly pushed the lead to double figures at the start of the third quarter. A three-point play by Baron Davis bumped New York's lead to 13 before Indiana rallied. Indiana's David West got loose on a fast break, and made a basket as he was undercut by New York's Iman Shumpert. West converted the free throw to cut New York's lead to eight points, and a jumper by George Hill drew Indiana within six. New York rallied, and a 3-pointer by Steve Novak pushed New York's lead to 87-70 in the final minute of the third quarter. Indiana opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run. A layup by Granger cut New York's lead to 89-80, got the crowd back into the game and forced New York to call timeout. Indiana continued its run after the timeout. A free throw by George cut New York's lead to one point, and Granger's 3-pointer with 6:35 to go tied the game at 91. "They made a huge run on their home court," Anthony said. "They tried to make one last push, which they did. Even though we were up, it seemed like we were battling uphill the whole time." A lineup switch in the second half keyed Indiana's comeback. The Pacers moved George from shooting guard to small forward and Granger from small forward to power forward to give Anthony a tougher matchup. Anthony was playing power forward because Stoudemire was out, and Indiana's usual power forwards, West and Tyler Hansbrough, couldn't keep up. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Granger accepted the challenge. "He was dominant on both ends," Vogel said. "He really manned up and guarded Carmelo at a very high level." Granger wasn't too upset with Anthony's point total. "Carmelo, it's hard to stop him completely," Granger said. "I just wanted to make his shots difficult for him. Even the shots he made, just make them tough shots. He got 39 points, but we got the win." Notes: The Pacers wore their alternate gold uniforms. ... Indiana matched its win total of 32 from 2009-10, Jim O'Brien's last full season as coach. ... Novak's 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter tied the game at 31. ... Indiana University coach Tom Crean attended the game.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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