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Fever rout Lynx 76-59 in Game 3 of WNBA finals

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Fever rout Lynx 76-59 in Game 3 of WNBA finals

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve drew national attention with her screaming, jacket-tossing meltdown in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals.

The Indiana Fever silenced her in Game 3. Shavonte Zellous scored a career-high 30 points to help the Fever beat the Lynx 76-59 on Friday night.

``You know, I was fired up for this game,'' Zellous said. ``That Game 2 left a bad taste in our mouth. You know, we could have done a better job in a lot of different things, and I think today, we made a conscious effort to do things better.''

Tamika Catchings added 17 points and Erlana Larkins had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Fever, who took a 2-1 lead in the series and can win their first title at home Sunday night against the defending champs.

It had been a tense series. Reeve was fined after her actions in Game 2, which Fever coach Lin Dunn called ``disrespectful.''

Indiana's play did the talking on Friday. The Fever's lead of 70-33 with 1:58 left in the third quarter was the largest lead by any team in WNBA Finals history. The extent of the blowout left Reeve seated with her hand on her chin for much of the second half.

Rebekkah Brunson, who scored 12 points, was the only Minnesota player to reach double figures.

``I think Indiana played the way Indiana always plays,'' Reeve said. ``They defend. You defend, you have a chance to win a championship. That's it.''

When asked what the Lynx need to do differently in Game 4, Reeve simply said, ``Score more points than them.''

Minnesota's previous playoff scoring low this season was 70 points against the Fever in Game 1 of the Finals. Maya Moore was held to eight points in Game 3 and Seimone Augustus, who scored 27 points in Game 2, had six on 3-for-9 shooting on Friday night. Minnesota finished with just six assists.

Indiana did it all without No. 2 scorer Katie Douglas. She is still sidelined with a severely sprained left ankle. Reserve guard Jeanette Pohlen is out with a left knee injury.

The game was intense again, but in control. The only incident was a rare technical called against Catchings with the game well in hand for the Fever.

Indiana led 21-16 at the end of the first quarter, and the Fever extended their lead to 28-18 in the second quarter, forcing the Lynx to call a timeout.

A no-look pass by Catchings directly led to a 3-pointer by Zellous that gave the Fever a 33-20 advantage. On Indiana's next possession, Catchings drove through traffic for a layup to push the lead to 15. The Fever held Minnesota scoreless for 3:40 during a 12-0 run to take a 40-20 edge.

Indiana led 45-27 at halftime. Minnesota shot 5-for-19 from the field in the second quarter. Those tough, contested shots the Lynx made in the first quarter didn't fall in the second. Indiana outrebounded Minnesota 20-15 in the first half, forced nine turnovers and committed just three.

``We started the offense by going at them on the defensive end,'' Zellous said. ``We were able to get an attack. We were pushing up on them. We didn't let them do what they did to us on Game 2, and it made our job so much easier on offense.''

The Fever didn't rest. Catchings' baseline jumper pushed Indiana's lead back to 20 early in the third quarter. Erin Phillips was fouled on a 3-pointer by Monica Wright, and she fell to the ground in front of Reeve. Phillips made all three free throws to make it 54-29.

Indiana continued to pour it on and led 70-38 at the end of the third quarter.

The Fever went on cruise control in the fourth quarter as Minnesota tried to make the score more respectable. Zellous finally made Indiana's first field goal of the fourth quarter with 2:21 remaining, and the Fever still had a 20-point lead at that point.

Indiana knows the series isn't over. The Fever led Phoenix 2-1 in 2009 and could have clinched in Game 4 at home. Indiana lost that game, then lost Game 5 and the series in Phoenix.

``We sat in the huddle and I told everybody, `Don't get excited about this. Do not get excited,''' Catchings said. ``We'll come back in here tomorrow, we'll look at some video and get better tomorrow and we'll come back out Sunday. I don't want anybody celebrating. None of that.''

The Fever also know Minnesota won't quit.

``We expect the defending champs to come out and play like their backs are against the wall,'' Fever guard Briann January said. ``We know they're going to give everything, and we have to respond and we have to bring everything we have. It's going to be another war.''

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The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
 
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
 
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”

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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.

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