Cubs

Spurs look as dominant as ever

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Spurs look as dominant as ever

From Comcast SportsNetSAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tony Parker shooed away the NBA coach of the year. The San Antonio Spurs were ahead 36 points and he didn't want Gregg Popovich to end his night just yet."To stay in shape," Parker said.That's how bad it got for the Utah Jazz. It was the third quarter of a playoff game, and Parker by then was practically treating it as just another workout.Pummeling the Jazz in a fashion not seen since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls humiliated them in the 1998 NBA Finals, San Antonio handed Utah its second-worst playoff loss, winning 114-83 on Wednesday night to take 2-0 lead in the first-round series.Parker scored 18 points, while Popovich -- a day after receiving the NBA's highest coaching honor -- could practically put the Spurs on autopilot after a 20-0 run in the second quarter. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had admitted to being unusually jittery before losing Game 1, but this time, it was center Al Jefferson summing up how this shiner felt."Embarrassing," he said.The only bigger embarrassment for the Jazz in the playoffs was that 42-point loss to Jordan's Bulls in 1998.Game 3 is Saturday night in Salt Lake City.It's the first time the Spurs have led a series 2-0 since opening the 2008 playoffs against Phoenix. San Antonio won that series in five, and unless the Jazz can shake this off, this one will be over just as quick.If not sooner."I can't explain it. I couldn't explain it the other night," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "They came out and just whipped us."It was a total collapse by the Jazz in spite of flying back to Salt Lake City after Game 1 and regrouping with two days of practice back home. There they had talked about adjustments and maybe giving Parker "a hard foul or two" to get him thinking twice about driving, but Parker didn't seem to have a dent on him before taking the entire fourth quarter off.Jefferson and Millsap weren't any more imposing on offense than they were defensively. Jefferson scored 10 points, and Millsap had nine.Popovich chalked the blowout more to the Jazz having a bad night -- they shot 23 percent in the first half -- than the Spurs dominating. Parker played 28 minutes and Popovich said the decision on when to take his star out was a struggle between keeping him in condition and not risking injury."He wanted to get the whole quarter, but we compromised and got two more minutes," Popovich said. "He's been special for us all year, obviously. We got to keep him ready to go."The Spurs held the Jazz scoreless for nearly 7 minutes in the second quarter while rookie Kawhi Leonard and unheralded swingman Danny Green outplayed the Jazz's stars. The Jazz filed off the court at halftime walking slow, heads down and quiet after being as close as 31-26 minutes earlier.Jefferson and Josh Howard, who also had 10 points, were Utah's leading scorers.It was the most lopsided postseason win for the Spurs since beating the Nuggets by 28 in 2005. San Antonio's playoff record is a 40-point victory over Denver in 1983."You don't expect to win a playoff game like that," Green said. "They're a very good team, but they didn't shoot it as well as they liked. They didn't shoot it as well as they did, and we shot the ball pretty well. Stuff like that happens."The Spurs have won 12 in a row, a season high after surrendering two 11-game winning streaks this season by not playing Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili.Duncan finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Leonard scored 17 points, and Green had 13.At least the Jazz didn't look the most embarrassed the entire night. Popovich again had to show off his coach of the year trophy before the game, this time for fans while standing between Duncan and Spurs great David Robinson. Popovich obliged for several seconds before scrambling to hand the trophy off to one of his assistants as fast as possible.Notes: The last Jazz team to rally from an 0-2 deficit and win a playoff series was 2007, when Utah came back to beat Houston in the first round. The Spurs later beat that team on their way to their fourth championship. ... Backup Spurs C Tiago Splitter (sprained wrist) was available to play but the rout gave Popovich the luxury of letting the big man continue to heal. Popovich said Splitter should be better by Game 3.

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Four days into the Cubs’ training camp restart, we’ve only begun to get acquainted with the new normal of baseball rhythms and routines that we can only hope will result in a 2020 season of 60 games.

If the league can fix some of its early testing issues and keep enough players on enough teams healthy enough to start the season, what might come into play for the Cubs and the actual baseball.

Early observations after about a dozen Zoom sessions with team personnel and two intrasquad scrimmages:

NUTS: Home cooked?

The Cubs, who draw so reliably in one of the unique ballparks in the majors, might have more to lose than most teams without fans allowed to attend games when the season starts July 24.

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Just how much of the Confines’ home-field advantage is lost will be a matter of “wait-and-see,” manager David Ross said.

“There’s always an advantage to playing in your own park,” he said Sunday. “You feel more comfortable you woke up in your own bed. You’re not staying in a hotel room, which especially now, where you feel like outside spaces just aren’t comfortable as they used to be, probably [gives] a slight advantage in your city.

“There’s no substitute for fans,” he added. “There’s probably a slight advantage, but I don’t know if it’s as great as it used to be.”

What Ross didn’t mention were the rooftops across Waveland and Sheffield, which are planning to operate at 25-percent capacity when games start, suggesting at least a few hundred fans within cheering and booing distance.

“You’re going to hear them loud and clear, too,” pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. “I promise you that.”

BOLTS: Taking the fifth

All you need to know about Alec Mills’ ability to adjust and immediately step into an important role is what he did in an emergency start against the first-place Cardinals at Wrigley last year with the Cubs a half-game out and barely a week left in the season.

He hadn’t started anywhere in a month — and that was in the minors. But the guy who pitched out of the bullpen just three times in the four intervening weeks, pitched two outs deep into the fifth inning that day and didn’t allow a run (the bullpen took care of that, in a loss).

No wonder when Ross talks about Mills replacing the injured Jose Quintana (thumb) in the rotation, he says, “I’ve got a ton of confidence.”

He’s not the only one. “I’ve always had the mindset of doing whatever I can to stay ready and help in any way,” said Mills after pitching a strong three innings in a simulated game Sunday. “Obviously, with an unfortunate injury like this, I think it’s just even more heightened.

“I’m ready to do whatever, whether it needs to be maybe a start here or there, a couple more starts, long guy out of the pen — just whatever I need to do I pride myself on being ready to do that.”

CHATTER: The mask at hand

“It’s a little different. You leave the house with a phone, your keys, your wallet and your mask.”

—Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on his and his teammates’ new daily normal.

“Everybody is thinking about it, but we try to get here and understand this is our safe zone and we’re trying to create that [within] the things that we’re going to do on and off the field.”

—Ross on players weighing the risk of playing during the pandemic against the safety precautions and protocols the team has built in and around its Wrigley Field bubble.

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2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

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During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.


RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

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