Nationals

Heat roll past Suns, 124-99

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Heat roll past Suns, 124-99

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 22 points and the Miami Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 124-99 on Monday night.

Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and Ray Allen had 15 for Miami (3-1), which is averaging 111.8 points to open the season. Allen became the 24th player in NBA history to eclipse the 23,000-point mark when he made a free throw with 1:01 left in the third quarter.

Shannon Brown led Phoenix with 18 points off the bench, making five 3-pointers. Luis Scola had 15 points, Goran Dragic finished with 13 points and nine assists, and Marcin Gortat scored 12 for the Suns.

The Heat put the game away with a 23-6 run in the third, a spurt fueled by 10 points from James and five 3-pointers in a span of less than 5 minutes.

Udonis Haslem finished with 12 points and Mario Chalmers had 11 assists for the Heat, who finished 15 for 26 from 3-point range, and outrebounded Phoenix 49-38.

It was a milestone night for two Heat players - Wade played his 600th regular-season game, and Allen became the fourth active player to reach the 23,000 point plateau.

Of course, those are hardly the only big numbers Miami's enjoying these days.

The Heat have reached 119 points in all three of their home games - the first time they've done that since James, Wade and Bosh teamed up to play in Miami over the summer of 2010. They didn't have to play big minutes to get there, however: No Miami starter played more than 30 minutes against the Suns (1-3).

The Heat shot 59 percent in the first half to 38 for Phoenix, though the margin was hardly a runaway - 65-53 Miami at the break.

After three lackluster defensive showings to start the season against Boston, New York and Denver, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told his team before Monday that things needed to improve in a hurry.

Apparently, the Heat listened. Miami opened on a 10-2 run, led 30-16 after 10 minutes and never trailed.

Still, the outcome was hardly a lock midway through the third. Phoenix was within nine early in the period after a basket by Gortat, and Scola connected on a drive with 6:34 left in the third to get the Suns within 75-65.

That's where Miami decided enough was enough.

Wade set up James and Chalmers for 3-pointers that came 24 seconds apart, and the Heat were well on their way. Chalmers, Battier and James - again - made 3's later in the run, which was capped by Allen making a pair of free throws with 1:01 remaining, the second of those being point No. 23,001 of his career.

It wasn't like James, Wade and Bosh needed a whole ton of help. Through three quarters, they combined to shoot 26 for 39. The Suns, as a team, were 26 for 68 - and needed a shot by Shannon Brown from near midcourt as the third-period buzzer expired just to match the field-goal total by Miami's ``Big Three.''

The lead reached as many as 30 in the fourth.

NOTES: The game was played on the 24th anniversary of Miami's first NBA game, a 111-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Allen has 62 points on 33 field-goal attempts with the Heat. ... Suns reserve center and former Miami player Jermaine O'Neal was not with Phoenix because of a family matter. ... Heat G Norris Cole banked one in from midcourt to end the first quarter, giving Miami a 34-25 lead. ... Heat G James Jones appeared in his 500th NBA game.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bolstered their forward depth and its penalty kill by re-signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin before he hit unrestricted free agency next month. 

Washington has officially re-signed forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract extension, a move that goes a long way toward re-establishing a third line that had some openings entering the offseason. 

Hagelin, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 just four days before the NHL trade deadline. Hagelin played primarily on the third line – although injuries in the Stanley Cup playoffs pushed him onto the second line. 

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Hagelin had three goals and 11 assists in 20 regular-season games with the Capitals and became an instant staple on the penalty kill. His 47 minutes, six seconds on the PK in those 20 games were enough to rank sixth among all forwards on the team.

Traded twice last season, Hagelin had a total of five goals and 14 assists with the Capitals, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins in 58 games. He had a sprained knee (medial collateral ligament) with Los Angeles that kept him out for 20 games.  

"[Hagelin] was a good fit,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on April 26. “I thought he fit seamlessly from day one. Really liked him on the third line, the way we used him, we bumped him up obviously with the [T.J.] Oshie injury. Our PK got a lot better. Fits in well with his teammates. It's a really good fit for us, yes." 

The Penguins traded Hagelin to the Kings on Nov. 14. He was a key part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, which came at the expense of Washington in the playoffs each time. 

This was the last year of a four-year, $16 million deal that Hagelin signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015. He was always viewed as a likely trade chip for Los Angeles, which finished in last place in the Pacific Division and eventually flipped him to the Capitals. 

Even after the disappointing first-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Hagelin said he was open to re-signing with the Capitals before he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. His signing follows the trade of defenseman Matt Niskanen on Friday. The NHL Draft is this coming weekend in Vancouver with more moves expected.   

“I liked the fact that I got a good look from the coaches,” Hagelin said on April 26 of his time with the Capitals. “I got to play with good players, I got to play in key situations. I felt comfortable here.”

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