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Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

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Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Boston Celtics lost Game 1 -- and they may have lost their floor leader for Game 2. Josh Smith scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks built a big lead early, then held on for an 83-74 victory over the Celtics in their opener of the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday night. But this one will be remembered for what happened in the final minute, not the Hawks' blistering start. While complaining about a call, Boston star Rajon Rondo was ejected for bumping an official and faces a possible suspension when the teams meet again Tuesday night in Atlanta. "I didn't intentionally chest-bump him, but that's what it appears to be," Rondo said. The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining. Boston's Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Smith tussling for a loose ball, with both players sprawled on the court out beyond the foul line. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who quickly called a technical. Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was tossed out. A suspension could be coming, too. Rondo, who scored 20 points and dished out 11 assists, clearly appeared to stick out his chest to strike the official. That's a huge no-no and will almost surely draw the wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern. "It's out of my control," Rondo said. "Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates but other than that, it's out of my control." Getting in some immediate lobbying, Celtics coach Doc Rivers saw things a bit differently than the replay showed. Not surprisingly, he doesn't think Rondo deserves a suspension. "I'm always worried, but I would be surprised if that happens," Rivers said. "I thought Rondo was walking toward Marc, and Marc turned back toward him, and that's when Rondo bumped him. ... That's all it was, in my opinion. But we'll see." Rondo had a similar take. "Obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech," Rondo said. "As I was walking, I thought he stopped. My momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot." At the beginning, the Hawks looked much quicker and faster than the aging Celtics. With every starter outside of Jason Collins contributing at least four points, Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead with the game just over 5 minutes old. The Hawks twice pushed the margin as high as 19 points and settled for a 49-35 edge at halftime. Smith totally outplayed Boston's Kevin Garnett over the first two quarters, going into the break with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Garnett had only two points on 1-of-9 shooting. "He was an animal," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said of Smith. "When he's playing with that energy, he just makes us so much better." Smith had to carry the load. The Hawks' other big gun, Joe Johnson, had a miserable night with 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting, committing more turnovers (four) than he made field goals. He was 0 of 9 from 3-point range. The Hawks got sloppy with the ball and made only 19-of-54 shots after their blistering performance in opening quarter. That allowed the Celtics to edge back into the game, and it looked as though they might just pull off the comeback until Rondo's big blunder. "We came out like our jerseys were going to win the game, because we're the Celtics," Rivers said. "You've got to play to win the game." Smith said he was definitely fouled as he scrambled for the loose ball with Bass. "That was the right call they made," Smith said of the potentially series-altering play. "I'm not sure what happened with Rondo. That will be up to the league to see what he did wrong. You never know what's going to happen, but we'll definitely factor him in going to tomorrow." Garnett bounced back to put up 20 points and 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce had only 12 points, going 5 of 19 from the field and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. "For us to win, I have to be a better player," Pierce said. "I was a really big culprit." Both teams were short-handed. Celtics guard Ray Allen missed a playoff game for the first time in his career, watching from the bench in a suit and tie because of an ailing right ankle. He would've already had surgery if it was earlier in the year, but the 36-year-old member of Boston's Big Three is hoping to heal in time for possibly his last hurrah in Beantown. The Hawks, meanwhile, started third-stringer Collins at center. Al Horford missed most of the year with a pectoral injury and has been ruled out for the entire series, and the guy who took his place, rugged Zaza Pachulia, went down late in the regular season with a sprained left foot. Pachulia famously went forehead-to-forehead with Garnett during an opening-round series in 2008, and the Hawks wondered how they would fare without the Georgian's toughness. Just fine, it turned out. Of course, the teams were much more closely matched heading into this series than they were in their last playoff meeting. In 2008, the Celtics won 66 games and were the top seed in the East, setting up for a run to their most recent NBA championship. The Hawks were the eighth seed, a team that went 37-45 and made the postseason for the first time in nine years. Still, they managed to push the Celtics to seven games. This time, Boston won the season series 2-1, the three games decided by a total of 10 points, and Atlanta finished one game ahead in the conference standings to earn home-court advantage. Now the big question is: Will Rondo get to play in Game 2? "I don't think it was on purpose," Pierce said, "but it's up to the league." NOTES: Allen and Pachulia are both listed as day-to-day. ... The Hawks have never beaten Boston in the playoffs since moving to Atlanta in 1968, losing six straight postseason meetings. ... The teams met four times in the finals when the Hawks were based in St. Louis. Boston won three of those series, the Hawks only playoff win over the Celtics a 4-2 triumph to capture the title in 1958.

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First-round draft pick Alex Alexeyev highlights Capitals' first round of roster cuts

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NBC Sports Washington

First-round draft pick Alex Alexeyev highlights Capitals' first round of roster cuts

Several up and coming youngsters within the Washington Capitals' organization were sent back to their junior teams Wednesday, marking the team's first cuts of 2018 training camp.

Headlining the group is Russian defenseman Alex Alexeyev. The 18-year-old, who stands 6-4 and weighs just south of 200 pounds, was selected by the Caps with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Don't forget Mr. Irrelevant, either. Washington selected Eric Florchuk from the Saskatoon Blades with the very last pick in the seventh and final round of the draft.

Here's what he can do on the ice.

Kody Clark, Riley Sutter, Alex Kannok-Leipert and Kristian Marthinsen were other notable names asked to pack their bags. 

The Capitals open the 2018-19 season at home against the Boston Bruins Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

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2018 MLB Wild Card Playoff Race: The Dodgers are back

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB Wild Card Playoff Race: The Dodgers are back

The Los Angeles Dodgers have flipped the National League West, the Tampa Bay Rays are making a valiant run, and the Washington Nationals are hanging in there.

Races heading into the 2018 Major League Baseball Postseason still find a way to stay interesting after 150 games. 

The NL Central, NL West, AL and NL Wild Card battles are all going to be watched under a microscope with less than two week's worth of games remaining. Not too far away either is the NL East. 

Joining the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians are only the second team to clinch a postseason spot. They claimed the AL Central crown and will make the playoffs as the No. 3 team in the AL Bracket. No one though has clinched a position in the National League yet, and likely will not until the final week. 

Eight spots remain with the Astros and Yankees not being too far away from joining the list. At the rate the Dodgers are winning games (six of their last seven), they probably are not far off either. No matter what, Los Angeles is in a good spot after they once were at risk for missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. 

One team that has fallen out of that conversation is the Atlanta Braves who were a game and a half from the top seed in the NL. Now they have lost four straight and leave the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals still holding out hope. 

National League Postseason Picture:

Central: Chicago Cubs 89-62

West: Los Angeles Dodgers 84-68 

East: Atlanta Braves 83-68 

National League Wild Card Standings (Games remaining against Wild Card teams): 

Milwaukee Brewers: 86-66         +3.5 (3)
Ramaining:
vs. Cincinnati (1)
@ Pittsburgh (3)
@ St. Louis (3)
vs. Detroit (3)
St. Louis Cardinals: 84-68         +1.5 (3)
Remaining:
@ Atlanta Braves (1)
vs. San Francisco (3)
vs. Milwaukee (3)
@ Chicago Cubs (3)
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Colorado Rockies: 82-69            -1.5 (10)
Remaining:
@ LA Dodgers (1)
@ Arizona (3)
vs. Philadelphia (4)
vs. Washington (3)
Philadelphia Phillies: 77-73        -6.0 (4)
Remaining:
vs. NY Mets (1)
@ Atlanta (4)
@ Colorado (4)
vs. Atlanta (3)
Arizona Diamondbacks: 78-74    -6.0 (3)
Remaining:
vs. Chicago Cubs (1)
vs. Colorado (3)
vs. LA Dodgers (3)
vs. San Diego (3)
Washington Nationals: 77-75      -7.0 (3)
Remaining:
vs. NY Mets (4)
vs. Miami (3)
@ Colorado (3)

Since the last update, the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals have not done much to add to their leads in the Wild Card. Milwaukee playing against lower teams at home in the division, only won two games in their past two series, with one being Christian Yelich's cycle. St. Louis lost three out of four to the Dodgers, but rebounded to take two against Atlanta.

Still, they hold the final two spots and have benefited with the Dodgers running through the NL West.

While the Dodgers jumped past the Rockies for the lead in the division, if Colorado can rebound it will make for an interesting finish in the National League as a whole.

However, the Rockies can't even beat the lower tier teams, shutout twice in the Bay. The Rockies will have a say in how the remainder of the season plays out, especially in the NL East, playing the Phillies and the Nats as both are grasping for straws with the Braves sinking. 

Once again the Nationals are on the way out, looking in. They remain in the update only because they have a slight chance in the division (6.5 games back), and a real favorable schedule. At the same time, write-off the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are 4-13 in their last 17.

American League:

East: Boston Red Sox: 103-48 -- clinched postseason spot

West: Houston Astros: 95-56 

Central: Cleveland Indians: 84-66 -- clinched division

American League Wild Card Standings (Games remaining against Wild Card teams):

New York Yankees: 92-58      +8.0 (4)
Remaining:
vs. Boston (2)
vs. Baltimore (3)
@ Tampa Bay (4)
@ Boston (3)
Oakland Athletics: 90-61        +5.5 (0)
Remaining:
vs. LA Angels (2)
vs. Minnesota (3)
@ Mariners (3)
@ LA Angels (3)
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Tampa Bay Rays: 84-66          -5.5 (4)
Remaining:
@ Texas (1)
vs. Toronto (4)
vs. NY Yankees (4)
vs. Toronto (3)

Just when it looked like the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics were going to be in a footrace for the top Wild Card spot, it evaporated. Losing once to the Baltimore Orioles, twice to the Tampa Bay Rays and another to the Los Angeles Angels, the Athletics faded. On the flip side New York got a huge win at home against the MLB-leading Red Sox.

The remaining schedule for each remain polar opposites as the calendar winds down. A race will still likely present itself.

Tampa Bay missed a golden chance to give themselves an outside shot. A sweep against Oakland, combined with the other results would have got them within 4.5 games. An extra-inning loss at home essentially ended their far hopes. Their record post All-Star break? 35-19.

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