Big second half helps Thunder rout Sixers 109-85


Big second half helps Thunder rout Sixers 109-85

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 26 and the Oklahoma City Thunder bounced back from a rare home loss to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-85 on Friday night.

Oklahoma City made eight of its first 10 3-point attempts in the second half and never trailed after scoring the final five points before halftime.

Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Martin had 16 points off the bench for the Thunder, who haven't lost consecutive home games since dropping two of the first three to start the 2010-11 season.

Nick Young led Philadelphia with 21 points, and Jrue Holiday had 15 points and nine assists. The Sixers fell to 2-5 on their eight-game road trip, which concludes Saturday night at San Antonio.

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How Nats fans should view letting Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk in back-to-back years

How Nats fans should view letting Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk in back-to-back years

When you are as successful as the Washington Nationals, and as good at replenishing your roster with talent as they are, apparently this is the cost of doing business.

For the second straight winter, the Nats have let an elite player walk in free agency. First, it was Bryce Harper, who left to join the Phillies. This time it is Anthony Rendon, who has signed a seven-year contract worth $245 million to play for the Los Angeles Angels.

Both entered free agency as the best position players on the market, perennial MVP candidates who could someday make the Hall of Fame. But the Nationals don't pay position players, they pay starting pitchers and that blueprint helped them win the World Series just six weeks ago.

The fact Rendon got an identical contract from the Angels that Stephen Strasburg did from Washington solidifies the fact they had to choose between them on equal footing. One was not cheaper than the other, this was about big-picture philosophy. This was ownership giving general manager Mike Rizzo a budget and him choosing to allocate money in his rotation and not in his lineup.

Rizzo, of course, has now been a part of two World Series teams that employed that strategy, if you include his days as the scouting director in Arizona. They won the 2001 title and did so with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling leading the way.

The Nationals' decisions to let Harper and Rendon walk should be viewed through that lens. And they should also be stowed away for future reference.

Surely, the idea of letting one player walk to sign another can't be cited ever again. Just because they didn't pay Harper didn't mean they would pay Rendon, and we should know better when looking ahead to Juan Soto, Trea Turner and others.

Those are the main takeaways from Rendon's departure from a baseball perspective, which is the way Rizzo and his front office are paid to view things. But certainly hammering home those details will only do so much to make Nationals fans feel better as they watch another homegrown, likeable star venture off to another team.

What Nationals fans have experienced in these two cases, both within 10 months of each other, is not normal. To lose two players of this caliber in consecutive offseasons is a uniquely tough pill to swallow. That's a lot of jerseys that won't be worn anymore.

Few fanbases have been fortunate enough in recent years to even have two players as good as Harper and Rendon on the same team at the same time. That extends to having them leave. Usually, players as good as they are don't go elsewhere and, if they do, it is because they play for small market teams with low payrolls, and often their exits feel inevitable.

The Nationals aren't a small market team and, as much as some fans might argue, they aren't cheap. But they have acquired so much talent over the past 10 years that they simply can't keep them all.

So, in a way, it can be seen as a good thing. Harper and Rendon left in part because the Nats have a surplus of talent. And, in true Rizzo form, they have replacements waiting in the wings.

When Harper dipped for Philly, there were questions of whether Soto and Victor Robles could replace his production. They not only stepped up to mitigate the loss, but Soto is now by most accounts even better than Harper.

With Rendon now gone, the Nats can turn to Carter Kieboom. He may not play third base, but he's an infielder and a right-handed batter who hits for average and power. He's a top-20 MLB prospect and last season hit .303 with a .902 OPS in Triple-A.

Harper and Rendon aren't the first stars to leave their team in free agency, and Rendon isn't the first to jump ship right after winning a World Series. In L.A., he will join arguably the most famous case of that, Albert Pujols who after winning a title with the Cardinals in 2011 left to sign with the Angels.

Nationals fans should just take solace in the fact the team's front office is always thinking ahead. Plenty of talent remains on the roster and reinforcements are on the way.

Just like how fans became further attached to Rendon when Harper left, it's time to do the same with Soto or someone else. As the churn continues, enjoy them while they last.


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T.J. Oshie's skills, Carl Hagelin's smarts, and a huge video review

T.J. Oshie's skills, Carl Hagelin's smarts, and a huge video review

The Capitals and Boston Bruins battled in one of the best games of the season as Washington narrowly managed to edge out the Bruins for the 3-2 win on Wednesday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Hell of a game

This one lived up to the hype. A Tom Wilson-Zdeno Chara fight, a back and forth game, T.J. Oshie taking over, physical play, everything you could have wanted from a hockey game.

In hockey, we are rarely treated to the matchups we want to see in the playoffs, but I wouldn't mind this as an Eastern Conference Final.

Backstrom has to shoot on the power play

Since returning to the lineup from an eight-game absence due to injury, Nicklas Backstrom looks like he has not missed a beat. He set up John Carlson for the game-winner on Wednesday and looks as lethal as ever. If there is one aspect of his game he needs to improve on, however, he needs to shoot more on the power play.

Backstrom has a deceptively good shot which he does not use nearly enough. OK, so he likes to distribute the puck more. That's fine. But on the power play, Boston clearly did not respect Backstrom's shot. The penalty killers made it very clear they did not expect him to shoot at all.

When they are giving you the room and the lane, you have to take it. It's not just about scoring, it is about forcing the penalty kill to account for the possibility that you may shoot.

Backstrom plays the half-wall on the power play on the right side. You know who's on the left? Alex Ovechkin. So if the penalty kill has to cheat over to account for Backstrom's shot, they are giving Ovechkin more space. If teams do not have to account for Backstrom, they won't and their penalty kill will be tougher to beat because of it.

The penalty kill was great

I know people are not happy about Carl Hagelin having no goals, but the Caps did not sign him for offensive production. The signed him for all the other things he brings to the table, especially the penalty kill.

Boston entered Wednesday's game with the sixth-best power play in the NHL. They had five opportunities against Washington and, after a successful offside challenge, did not score a single power play goal. Hagelin played a game-high 6:13 of shorthanded ice time.

The problem with players like Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky is that they did not contribute much if they were not producing offensively. The Caps needed different types of players who could still have an impact on a game even when they were not scoring. Hagelin had zero points on Wednesday but was absolutely one of the reasons Washington won.

Turning point

Patrice Bergeron thought he had put the Bruins up 2-0 in the first period with a power play goal. Todd Reirden challenged the goal as offside, just the second time he has done so all season. A review of the goal showed that Jake DeBrusk had his back skate off the ice.

For some reason, this is the standard in which we want to hold players to on offside reviews. It doesn't make any sense at all why we would want to slow the game down and take goals off the board to analyze pixel by pixel if a player is offside even though if he was it had zero effect on the play, but I digress. The successful challenge took Bergeron's point off the board allowing T.J. Oshie the chance to take over the game in the second period.

As an aside, the offside video review is garbage and the league should get rid of it. But as long as it is still a thing, you better have a good video staff to make those calls. The Caps certainly do.

Play of the game

This will go down as one of the top plays of the season for the Caps. Oshie went outside, in on Connor Clifton, split the defense, got hooked and still roofed the puck with the backhand.

Stat of the game

Hagelin is such a boost to the penalty kill.

Quote of the game

Oshie wanted to make sure everyone got their due after a big win.

"You are probably just going to talk to a couple of guys here, but a lot of guys had really good nights. A lot of guys did their job, whether it was on the PK, you know Holts, guys blocking shots, guys getting the puck in, making smart plays, the video guys in the backroom calling the offsides there on the no goal. We had everyone in tonight.”

Fan predictions

Hagelin was good. Lars Eller was pretty quiet. Richard Panik...this was not a great game for Panik who played only 9:52 for the night and 54 seconds on the penalty kill.

Well, that was certainly bold.

The cow was spotted. I'm not sure if Marchand was looking.