Nationals

For Heat, it's one round down, three to go

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For Heat, it's one round down, three to go

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James was still on the court, enjoying the moment after ousting the New York Knicks, when the first questions came about what's next for the Miami Heat. For one day, Indiana can wait. Having Thursday off from practice is Miami's first playoff prize, and although a five-game win over the Knicks might have seemed easy, the reigning Eastern Conference champions insisted afterward that it was more grinding than it appeared. James had 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both scored 19 points and the Heat beat the short-handed Knicks 106-94 in Game 5 of an East first-round series Wednesday night. Miami will host the Pacers in Game 1 of the East semifinals on Sunday afternoon. "Even though it was a five-game series," Wade said, "it was a very tough series." For the Heat, it was only the first step. They have one goal -- getting back to the finals and winning it all -- and that was likely why even beating the longtime rival Knicks prompted, at most, a subdued celebration. "We do not take this for granted," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "This was a tough series. We feel very good about moving on and it'll only get tougher from here." Carmelo Anthony scored 35 points for the Knicks, including a spinning jumper over James at the end of the third quarter that pulled New York within 81-67. It was far from being enough to stave off an all-too-familiar playoff result for Anthony, part of that 2003 draft class that also yielded James, Bosh and Wade. Anthony has played 54 postseason games, being part of wins only 17 times. A misleading stat for certain -- it's hardly all on him -- and no shortage of people in the Heat organization interrupted their celebrating of a series-clincher to tip their caps Anthony's way afterward. "We fought, under the circumstances," Anthony said. "I'm not one to make any excuses for anything. ... But Miami, they're a tough defensive team. They stick to what their schemes are." Head-to-head, Anthony and James both scored 139 points in the series. James shot 48 percent from the field, Anthony 42 percent. James averaged 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists, Anthony averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists. "It was fun, man," James said. "He's one of the most competitive players I've ever played against in a playoff series." Amare Stoudemire scored 14 points, Landry Fields and J.R. Smith both added 12, Mike Bibby had 10 and Tyson Chandler grabbed 11 rebounds for New York, which is 1-8 in playoff games since Anthony and Stoudemire became teammates. "Miami is a very good team," Stoudemire said. "You have to give credit to them." Stoudemire fouled out with 4:48 left, and the Knicks put together one more run with hopes of extending the season. New York cut the margin to 11 points four times in a 2-minute span, but Miami answered every time, the last of those a 3-pointer by Shane Battier with 54 seconds left. That sent the white seat covers flying in all corners of the arena, the fans knowing it was finally over. "There's a lot of pride that takes place in this kind of series," Wade said. James had 13 points on only six field-goal attempts by halftime, Wade shook off a scoreless first quarter with 12 in the second, and Miami went into the break leading 55-44. The margin was less than 10 points for only 90 seconds of the third quarter. Stoudemire went to the bench with his fifth foul with 6:41 left in the third, and Miami went on an 11-2 spurt not long after to all but seal the outcome. It was 67-58 when Fields made two free throws with 4:49 left in the quarter -- and then the Heat's "Big Three" needed just 3 minutes to blow the game open. Bosh and Wade combined for six points in that flurry, James the other five, including a 21-footer with 1:29 left to put Miami up 78-60. "We stress moving the ball," Bosh said. "We had some fantastic possessions." For the Knicks, it was not a fantastic finish. New York's season started with great expectations. Not long after the lockout ended the Knicks acquired Chandler from Dallas, a move made possible by using the amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups. Those moves were expected. Just about everything else that happened was not. From the firing of coach Mike D'Antoni to the emergence of Jeremy Lin before he was sidelined by a knee injury, the Knicks had a roller-coaster ride that continued with a debilitating series of injuries against Miami. Rookie guard Iman Shumpert was lost in the third quarter of Game 1 to a torn knee ligament, Stoudemire sliced his left hand after taking out his frustrations on a metal-and-glass fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss, and Baron Davis shredded his knee so badly in Game 4 that he is expected to be out a year -- at least. "I thought we played well in spurts," Knicks interim coach Mike Woodson said. "Our guys got a short taste of what playoff basketball's about. It's something this summer we've got to sit and think about and hopefully get ready for next season." He didn't put any extra emphasis on the word "hopefully," but he could have. One of New York's first orders of business this offseason will likely be deciding if Woodson will be back on the sideline, as many expect. "Woody's done a heck of a job with that team," Spoelstra said. Notes: Miami went 7-1 against the Knicks this season, including playoffs. The Heat won three of four games against Indiana this season. ... James had seven points, five assists and zero field goals in the first quarter. Only two other players (Billups in 2007 and Jerryd Bayless in 2011, both in fourth quarters) had done that in any quarter since James entered the league, according to STATS LLC. ... Rapper Rick Ross was among those courtside.

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

 

It's a fun time of the year in fantasy baseball. Now that we're seven-to-eight weeks into the season, teams are starting to realize they may need the help of their top prospects in order to compete this year, which means lots of young talent getting the call. Plus, many players who began the season injured are getting healthy. Between the prospects and players returning from the Disabled List, fantasy owners should have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to setting their lineups this week.

As always, we're here to help you sort through those painful roster decisions, and we're going to keep it simple to avoid paralysis by analysis. As a reminder, It's your team, and your decisions you ultimately have to deal with, so don't treat this advice as the gospel. That said, it doesn't hurt to gain as much information as you can when making your decisions. Good luck!

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 8 (5/21-5/27)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

This is the second week in a row where every Nationals pitcher is only scheduled to pitch once. Last week, we recommended Max Scherzer because duh, and while we still think you should start him, it's also worth using Gonzalez. Gio has had a lot of success this season, sporting a 2.36 ERA in the middle of May, plus the Padres are notoriously poor against lefties (8th-worst batting average and OPS vs LHP in the majors).

Gonzalez isn't a must-start stud, mostly due to his high walk rate and resulting WHIP, but he's good enough to take advantage of the right matchups, and this qualifies.

One Nationals position player to start: Anthony Rendon, 3B

Just in case you're thinking about getting cute and sitting one of your studs, let this be a reminder that Rendon is great at what he does. In the past, we've recommended sitting him when working his way back from injury, but he's gotten enough reps at this point to get back into the swing of things.

It looks like he's struggled recently (one hit in the last seven days), but don't forget the Nats missed five straight days thanks to weather/planned off days. Plus, the Nats are set up to faces lefties in half their games this week, and Rendon has hit better against southpaws all season long.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Tanner Roark

The Marlins have scored literally the fewest runs in baseball against right-handed pitching this season, and Roark hasn't been bad in 2018, despite the poor W-L record. Still, you're not sitting Scherzer or Strasburg, and we already recommended Gonzalez.

Roark has struggled against the Marlins in past years, as his 5.14 ERA vs the Marlins since 2015 is his 5th-worst number against any opponent, and while this year's Miami lineup looks far worse than in past seasons, and since Roark isn't the type of pitcher who gets enough strikeouts to raise his on a start-by-start basis, it's good enough of a reason for us to sit him this week. 

One Nationals player to sit: Juan Soto, OF

It's always fun when one of a team's top prospects gets called up, and that excitement doubles when the player is a teenager. It's always easy to see the high upside and imagine him taking the league by storm right from the get-go. That said, while it's worth a speculative pickup, we'd strongly recommend leaving Soto on the bench until we see A) how he hits against Major League pitching and B) what sort of playing time he'll get.


That's especially true this week, as his new manager Dave Martinez is already talking about sitting Soto against lefties, and wouldn't you know it, the Nats are scheduled to face southpaws in at least three games this week. It's possible Soto will be worth starting in the near-future, but for now, just be happy to add him to your rosters, not your starting lineups.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

No. Not all starters have been scheduled yet, but the five-straight days off the Nats had last week threw a wrench into the works for their rotation, and as of now, no one is projected to make two starts.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

It's a really weak week for two-start streaming options. Beyond the seven or so obvious starts, who are almost certainly owned in your leagues already, there's not a lot to choose from. We'll go with the calculated risk Jake Faria of the Rays. Faria gets two starts at Tropicana Field this week, and he's been much better pitching at home during the course of his career. He'll be facing two scary opponents on paper, but the Orioles have struggled at the plate all season long (with the exception of a recent hot streak, hence the risk), and Faria has already pitched well against the Red Sox this year, allowing just one run over the course of two starts.

This isn't our most confident recommendation, but there are far worse options you could turn to in a brutal week.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Andrew Heaney, SP (Angels) 

Heaney continued his recent stretch of strong play, as while he allowed four runs and walked on Saturday, none of the runs were earned, and he struck out seven. Heaney is a former top prospect, having once been considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and he has a superb 10.5 K/9 this season, to go along with a quality 57 percent groundball rate. That means he's not allowing a lot of contact, and the contact he is allowing isn't doing much damage.

Given his prospect pedigree and strong peripherals to start the year, Heaney is well worth an add if you find him available on the waiver wire. He's not just a speculative pickup, but somebody worth inserting into your starting lineup right away. Hopefully, because he plays on the west coast and isn't a household name, he's still available in some of your leagues.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners) 

If somehow Cano is eligible in a DL spot in your league, and you don't have the spot filled with another star, then you can disregard this one. But, if he's listed in your league as suspended and not injured, then he likely won't be worth holding onto during his time away. 80 games is a lot, obviously, and a guy who's going to miss half the games in a season needs to be sensational in the other half to make up for it. Cano's past his prime, and while when healthy he's obviously still worth starting, he's not the type of guy you tie up a bench spot with, unless you're in the deepest of leagues.

Plus, if you're savvy, you can always remember to pick up Cano again a week or two before his suspension is up, since no one else in your league is likely to snag him in the meantime. For now, though, feel free to use the roster spot on somebody who will contribute over the next three months.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Too Soon For Soto?: Nats make a bold call-up
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?

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The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

The Lightning are matching their 4th line against Ovechkin...and it’s working

When the starting lines were announced on Saturday, you may have been surprised to hear Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson were starting against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan.

Because the game was in Tampa Bay, the Capitals had to give their starters first. That means Lightning coach Jon Cooper saw the Caps’ were starting their top line and decided to put out his fourth.

And it worked.

On Saturday, Paquette scored just 19 seconds into the game and Callahan scored 33 seconds into the second period. Ovechkin’s line did not manage a shot on goal for the first two periods of the game. Ovechkin did finally score, but it came late on a six-on-five with Braden Holtby pulled and it was not against the fourth line.

The fourth vs. Ovechkin matchup is something the Lightning began in Game 2. No three forwards have played more against Ovechkin at five on five in any game since Game 2 than Kunitz, Paquette and Callahan. Prior to Game 5, they matched up against Ovechkin around six to seven minutes per game. On Saturday, however, Cooper went all in.

At five on five play, Kunitz was on the ice against Ovechkin for 13:04, Paquette for 13:42 and Callahan for 13:46. The results speak for themselves as that line outscored Ovechkin's 2-0. In fact, for the series Ovechkin has produced six points and only two of them have come at five-on-five play.

A fourth line vs. a top line matchup is a risky move because it takes time away from your top offensive playmakers. You typically see top lines face each other or a first line against a second line because, when you line match you are letting the opposing coach dictate how much your own players play. With a fourth line matchup getting essentially top line minutes, that takes time away from players like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

If you look at the five-on-five time on ice for Game 5, Kucherov skated 14:06 and Stamkos 13:37 while Kunitz was on for 14:00, Callahan for 14:45 and Paquette for 14:57.

It is a risky move, but it makes sense for the Lightning. Through four games, the Capitals were the better team five-on-five, but Tampa Bay’s power play was unstoppable. Using the fourth line is a good strategy for Cooper in situations like in Game 3 and Game 4. The Lightning slowed Washington’s five-on-five production and Stamkos and Kucherov still produced enough on the power play even with reduced minutes. It also works for games like the one we saw Saturday.

In a game like Game 5 when your team jumps out to a 3-0 lead, you can afford to roll your lines even if it means giving the fourth line more minutes than the first.

You would think a fourth vs. first matchup would give the Capitals a distinct advantage, but it has not worked out that way. The fourth line has been able to stifle Ovechkin and Co. enough and the Lightning's power play has made up the production lost by the first line's reduced minutes. When the fourth line can score two goals of its own, well, that's just an added bonus.

Ovechkin has to lead his line to a better performance in Game 6. If the Caps’ top line can’t get the better of the Lightning’s fourth, then this series will be over on Monday night.

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