Cubs

Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

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Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The streak is over. The series may only be beginning. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Thabo Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night. Oklahoma City closed its series deficit to 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Saturday night. "We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we had lost a few," Durant said. "It was just good that we took it to 2-1. We didn't want to go down 0-3." Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs' well-oiled offense at the start, getting four steals in the first 3 minutes. The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers and scoring their least points all season. San Antonio had been averaging 109.4 points during its month-and-a-half winning streak and had been held to double digits only twice. "We just played a good basketball game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. "That's who we are. That's how we win." Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio's first 25 shots as the offense went through the All-Star center instead of Parker. "They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were very active, physical, they moved the ball well on offense. They did all those things better than we did. They beat us good." The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Lakers won 11 straight to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs, getting swept in the NBA finals the first time and winning it all the second. The Spurs hadn't lost since April 11 against the Lakers at home. "We are a prideful team. It's no fun being down 0-2. It's no fun," Brooks said. "But we weren't looking at the game thinking, Oh my gosh, we have a chance to be down 0-3.' We were looking at the game that we have a chance to be 1-2 after this game, and I give our guys a lot of credit. They believe in each other and they always play hard for each other." Parker and Duncan didn't play in the final 15 minutes, and Popovich pulled the plug after a series of three straight turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter. Sefolosha had a right-handed dunk off a lob pass from Russell Westbrook, who followed with his own two-handed jam on an alley-oop pass and Sefolosha followed with a reverse layup on another turnover-fueled fast-break chance to push the lead to 86-63 with 9:48 left. The Thunder put together another 9-0 run coinciding with Manu Ginobili coming out of the game, and featuring Serge Ibaka sticking his tongue out after nailing a jumper from the top of the key. Brooks soon followed suit and pulled his own front-line players with the game well in hand. "You're not going to beat this team by playing one-effort basketball," Brooks said. "You're going to have to have two, three, four, even five. And they make you do that because they pass the ball so well, they spread the floor so well." Popovich said the Thunder played harder and smarter than the Spurs. "They did definitely play with a lot more energy, a lot more passion than us tonight," said Parker, who committed five turnovers. The Spurs wiped out a 24-point deficit in Game 3 against the Clippers in Los Angeles in the last round, but they weren't recovering in this one. San Antonio managed only 24 points in the paint after averaging 46 through the first two games of the series and 47.8 through the playoffs. Oklahoma City already held a 28-8 scoring edge in the paint while taking a 54-41 halftime lead and it never got better for San Antonio, which couldn't get any closer than 11 points in the second half. "We wanted to bounce back after two losses like that. We had to play better and we did that tonight," Sefolosha said. "We played with energy, we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift." The Thunder scored the game's first eight points, feeding off Sefolosha's steals, but San Antonio recovered in time to take the lead with more than 5 minutes left in the opening period. Oklahoma City took the lead early in the second quarter and there was no looking back. Sefolosha set up Ibaka's two-handed dunk and hit a 3-pointer during a 13-1 run, with San Antonio's only point coming on a free throw by Ginobili after Durant was called for a technical foul while arguing a call from the bench. Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 15 when Kendrick Perkins grabbed Westbrook's airball and dunked it with two hands. Notes: Duncan did have five blocks to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA playoff record of 476 by one. ... Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted before the game that he planned to attend but "was denied by the team to be in their arena." Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said the rapper's representatives demanded front-row seats but none were available. "We'd love to have him at a game, but like anyone else, he needs a ticket," Mahoney said. ... Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin presented TNT analyst and former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley with a pair of boots, a steak and an order of lamb fries -- a dish that leaves out the otherwise undesirable part of the anatomy out of its name -- during the pregame show.

Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo missed Summer Camp on Thursday as he remains day-to-day with lower back tightness. However, the Cubs first baseman still found a way to take in the action.

Rizzo posted up in the left field bleachers during Thursday's game, which pitted Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Hendricks. He later moved to sit by the on-deck circle.

With no fans in attendance this season, MLB players will likely be stationed throughout ballpark seating throughout games to social distance. The Cubs obviously want to see Rizzo stationed at first base come the regular season, but it would be quite the sight if he or any Cubs get to sit out in the bleachers this year.

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Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Starting pitching. Relief pitching. Hitting.

Save defense, that about covers the ingredients necessary to be a well-rounded ball club, a team capable of winning a lot of games, a division title and potentially a World Series championship.

Are the White Sox that kind of team? Do they have all those necessary ingredients in the cupboard?

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It's going to take some time to find out whether that's the case or not, especially in this most unusual of seasons. Like any team — and any team on the rise, in particular; the last time these White Sox played regular-season baseball, they were wrapping up an 89-loss campaign — there are questions, some of them big. Can Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada still put up huge numbers if their good fortune from 2019 decreases? Will Luis Robert's jam-packed toolbox translate to instant major league mastery? And what the heck are the White Sox going to get out of Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón?

But if the team can receive positive answers to those questions and more, then things could be looking up fast. In a squeezed-down, 60-game season where a fast start is mandatory, those answers will need to come in a hurry.

Are they capable? They sure look it.

"We've got a lot of young guys that can catch fire," White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer said Thursday. "That's kind of what they always say, it's always catching fire at the right time. We've got a young group of guys mixed in with a whole bunch of veterans that have been there and done it.

"I'm excited to get everybody together, and hopefully we can ride that wave, hopefully we start out strong. A lot of people have said, you can break it down into three seasons: You're going to win 20, you're going to lose 20, what are you going to do with the other 20? Hopefully we're going to go out there, catch fire and win a whole bunch of games."

Winning a whole bunch of games is obviously every team's goal on the doorstep of the regular season. And truly, every team might be in the mix to do just that in this two-month dash to the postseason.

But the White Sox do appear well equipped, and the combination of young players who broke out in a big way last season and the veteran additions that Rick Hahn's front office made over the winter has the possibility to make them the most balanced group in a three-team race for the AL Central crown. The Minnesota Twins swing some serious sticks, and they added perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson to that already ferocious lineup. But will the pitching staff past José Berríos match the fear the offense strikes in opposing clubs? The Cleveland Indians might still have the best starting rotation in baseball, even after dealing away Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. But can their top-heavy lineup match the quality of their arms?

The White Sox boast a remade lineup, now featuring Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación, Nomar Mazara and Robert to go along with Moncada, Anderson, Eloy Jiménez and José Abreu. Bummer, a pitcher, sees plenty of reason his fellow hurlers should be scared.

"Abreu, Encarnación, Eloy," Bummer said, merely listing the trio he had to face in Thursday's intrasquad game, when he coughed up a parrot-producing homer to Encarnación. "It's not going to stop. I think the depth of that lineup has gotten a whole lot longer, and I'm glad that they're all on our side."

The starting rotation has new faces, too, chiefly free-agent adds Dallas Keuchel and Gio González, two accomplished arms who have playoff experience. Match that with Lucas Giolito, fresh off an All-Star campaign, and the collection of talented, if not completely proven, young arms — the aforementioned Cease, López, Kopech and Rodón — and it's a deeper group than what the team was ready to break camp with in March.

"It's fun to watch those guys compete," Bummer said. "You see the pure stuff of Giolito, Cease and Rodón. It's pure ability, it's pure stuff. And then you have the veterans, Keuchel and Gio González, who have been there, done that, and they pitch. They go out there and they dominate with their ability to pitch. And even adding Lopey to the mix. Lopey's stuff is unbelievable.

"There's six guys out there right now, I'll roll with them over anybody. I'll roll with that starting rotation. They get as far into the games as possible, and hopefully the bullpen can go out and go save a bunch of wins for them."

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And then there's Bummer's unit, the bullpen, which was a strength for the White Sox last season. Bummer, Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero made for a dependable group of late-inning options, and that group's grown with the addition of Steve Cishek, who made so many high-leverage pitches for contending Cubs teams in recent seasons. Throw in a potential bounce-back candidate in Kelvin Herrera, and there's impressive depth here, too.

"It's exciting," Bummer said. "You add in Cishek, you add in a full season of the guys like Marshall, Jimmy Cordero, and there are a lot of guys out there. There are guys hungry for a nice bounce back between Kelvin and Jace (Fry). I think everybody's hungry to go out there and do their job.

"I would stack us up, I think we're seven or eight deep out there, to go out there and get competitive outs. As long as we keep ourselves in games, I think our bullpen is going to be a pretty good strength moving forward."

What else could the White Sox ask for?

Listing the roster doesn't win games, of course, but adding everything up, stacking all the positives up in one place, it's easy to see why this team could be capable of making some real noise, even in this strangest of seasons.

Hahn will point to the high volume of these guys who are under team control deep into the future, and his rebuilding effort has always targeted a contention window that gets propped open for years. That also looks possible.

All the White Sox need to do is open it. The postseason expectations that dominated the pre-shutdown era of 2020, from SoxFest in January through the abrupt end to spring training in mid March, showed how serious the White Sox are about doing that opening this year. And as Bummer and so many others on this team will tell you, the months-long layoff didn't change those expectations one bit.

The future, especially in this season, under these circumstances, is unpredictable. But no matter where you look on this roster, the White Sox look capable of grabbing that future by the horns.


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