Capitals

This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

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This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- All LeBron James has done so far this year is win the NBA's MVP award for the third time, an NBA Finals MVP trophy to go along with that one, his elusive first championship and a second Olympic gold medal. Dwyane Wade thinks his Miami Heat teammate is just getting started. With the start of Heat training camp now just six weeks away, Wade said on Friday that he expects James to be even better this coming season now that the will-he-ever-win-a-championship question has been forever put to rest. "That monkey is off his back and now he's just playing basketball," Wade said while taking a break from his annual fantasy camp, where fans pay up to 12,500 to get a four-day luxury taste of NBA life. "I think we'll see a better LeBron James -- scary to say, three-time MVP -- than we've seen. And it's because all he has to do is play basketball now. He doesn't have to worry about what he hasn't done. It'll always be something, but he's got the biggest one off his back." Wade was a James fan instead of a James teammate this summer, when the U.S. men's basketball team won its second straight Olympic gold. Wade could not play while recovering from knee surgery but was in London for part of the Olympic tournament, and he said James made playing at a high level -- such as a triple-double against Australia in the quarterfinal round -- seem "effortless." It's been that way for a while, too. Going back to Miami's win-or-go-home Game 6 in Boston of the Eastern Conference finals, James has played in 20 games with the Heat and for USA Basketball. In those, his teams are 19-1, with the lone loss being Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City. Four straight wins to close that title series, then five straight exhibition victories with the U.S. team, then an 8-0 Olympic record -- 17 straight wins in all. "He's on an amazing run," Wade said. "When you're on these kind of runs, you enjoy it. You keep going because you don't know when it's going to stop. I think he's just enjoying it right now. He's doing all this stuff without thinking about it. He's breaking records. He's in the history books. He's not thinking about it; he's just doing it. He's at a gear that I've seen myself at before when it just feels easy. He's just a gear above everyone." Soon, Wade hopes to be back at his usual gear. He's starting to hit the peak of his offseason schedule. Wade hosts his annual "Wade's World" weekend for kids in Chicago next week, then begins his book tour in New York on Sept. 4. Wade spent much of the past year writing a book about his experience as a father and the custody fight for his two sons. And as he said in London, Wade reiterated on Friday his recovery from knee surgery is going according to plan, and that he intends to be back on the court to begin workouts in a couple of weeks. That means he won't be scrimmaging the fantasy campers this weekend -- though instead of dunking on them, as he did last summer, he will take them on in a 3-point contest instead. It's far from the strongest part of his game, but he's not too worried. "I'll have some fun, be able to interact with them, make sure they're able (to) say that they lost to me again," Wade said. "I won't show up and leave. I'm here. They'll see me here all day; they know I'm a part of it. They know I'll run out on the court when they do something great and know I'll say something when they don't." Campers get to stay in an upscale hotel, receive plenty of new basketball gear, and even get coached by, among others, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Indiana's Tom Crean -- who coached Wade at Marquette. Miami coach Jim Larranaga and South Carolina's Frank Martin, a Miami native, are also on the coaching lineup. "I wish I could play," Wade said. Instead, he'll be a fan this weekend, just like he was for James in London. "I'm one of LeBron's biggest fans," Wade said. "I couldn't be teammates with him if I wasn't a fan of his game. I'm one of his biggest supporters, one of his best friends. It's good to see him succeed like this, especially because I know the stuff he's dealt with. It's in the rear-view mirror now and he's going to move forward."

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.