Nationals

Hunter 2-0 as coach after Suns beat Clippers

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Hunter 2-0 as coach after Suns beat Clippers

PHOENIX (AP) Goran Dragic scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half and the Phoenix Suns held on to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 93-88 on Thursday night, improving to 2-0 under interim coach Lindsey Hunter.

Marcin Gortat added 15 points, including two free throws with 23.3 seconds left. Luis Scola and Markieff Morris had 14 apiece for the Suns, who had not won two in a row since a season-high, four-game winning streak ended on Dec. 19. Dragic also had eight assists.

The Clippers, who lost their third straight, were without Chris Paul for the fifth time in seven games because of a bruised right kneecap. The team is 3-2 without him.

Jamal Crawford led Los Angeles with 21 points. Eric Bledsoe scored 15 for Los Angeles and Blake Griffin 12.

With the victory, Phoenix pulled out of the cellar in the Western Conference at 15-28 to New Orleans' 14-28. The Clippers slipped to 32-12, 1 1/2 games behind West leaders Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The three-game losing streak is Los Angeles' second-longest of the season.

The Suns, who won at Sacramento on Wednesday night, scored six in a row to go up 86-79 on Gortat's layup on a pass from Dragic with three minutes left. But the Clippers reeled off the next six. Bledsoe blocked Dragic's shot and Crawford sank a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 86-85 with 26 seconds remaining.

After Gortat's two free throws with 23 seconds left put Phoenix up 88-85, Crawford was fouled on a drive to the basket, narrowly missing a chance at a game-tying, three-point play. Instead, Crawford, an 88 percent free throw this season, missed one of two free throws and the Suns led 88-86.

Phoenix got the inbounds pass to Shannon Brown, who was fouled on what officials ruled was a clear path to the basket. Brown made both free throws to make it 90-86 with 15.4 seconds left and the Suns retained possession. One free throw by Morris and two by Dragic wrapped up the scoring.

Hunter became the fourth coach in Suns history to win his first two games. The other three - Gentry, Scott Skiles and Jerry Colangelo - also did it as midseason replacements.

The wins came despite a rocky change of power. Earlier in the day, Elston Turner confirmed he has left the organization after being passed over to replace the fired Alvin Gentry in favor of Hunter, who was director of player development and had never coached before. Dan Majerle also left as an assistant coach after being passed over for the interim job.

Dragic scored the final nine Suns points in the first half, the last two on free throws after Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Crawford were called for technicals with .3 seconds left to put the Suns up 50-46 at the break.

Crawford scored seven straight points, the last two on a drive, to put Los Angeles ahead 62-59 with 4:17 left in the third quarter. Phoenix finished the quarter with a 6-2 spurt to lead 68-66 entering the fourth.

Notes: The Clippers lost four straight from Nov. 21 to Nov. 26. but had gone 24-5 since then. ... Ex-Sun Grant Hill got a warm reception from the crowd when he entered late in the first quarter for the Clippers. ... The Suns have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Clippers in Phoenix. They had won 10 straight before falling at home to the Clippers in their last meeting on Dec. 23. ... Four NBA interim coaches have won their first two games this season.

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Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Back before all this mania, Miami, as putrid as its season would be, loomed as a factor.

Handling the Marlins would be key for any contender. It wasn’t a question of winning, but of how much winning would occur against one of the league’s worst teams.

Following Friday’s 6-4 win in a sparsely attended Marlins Park, the Nationals moved to 14-3 against Miami this season. They are 16 games over. 500 for the year. They are plus-11 against Miami alone.

Asdrúbal Cabrera homered again, Trea Turner hit two homers, and Daniel Hudson pitched two innings to earn the save. So, the Nationals, 84-68, hold a one-game lead for the top wild-card spot. Milwaukee won again, joining a long list of teams to beat up on the Pittsburgh Pirates since the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule began. Pittsburgh may be the league’s worst team, at the moment, and the Brewers host it for two more this weekend.

Trouble is brewing for Chicago. It lost again to St. Louis -- this time a 2-1 mid-day defeat in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost four in a row. They are three games behind the Nationals and two behind the Brewers. Their path to 90 wins, which may ultimately be the threshold for postseason entrance, is narrowing.

The Mets won their third consecutive game. They are hanging around, 3 ½ games behind the Brewers with nine remaining on the schedule. Their wild-card elimination number is six.

News for Philadelphia is more dire. The Phillies dropped to 78-74 Friday night following a 5-2 loss in Cleveland. They are now five behind Milwaukee. Their wild-card elimination number is a mere five. 

Which brings us to the more detailed math portion of this program. Here are the postseason chances for each team, according to fivethirtyeight.com:

Nationals, 96 percent

Brewers, 84 percent

Cubs, 15 percent

Mets, 5 percent

Phillies, less than one percent

Coming up Saturday:

St. Louis at Chicago, 2:20 p.m., Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA) vs. Quintana (13-8, 4.37)

New York at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m., Wheeler (11-7, 4.09) vs. DeSclafani (9-9, 3.93)

Washington at Miami, 6:10 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. Yamamoto (4-5, 4.87)

Philadelphia at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m., Vargas (6-8, 4.48) vs. Plesac (8-6, 3.64)

Pittsburgh at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m., Marvel (0-2, 9.00) vs. Davies (10-7, 3.70)

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Beyond the Scoreboard: NLL changes and social responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the Scoreboard: NLL changes and social responsibility

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST

  1. SportsBusiness Journal lauds corporate social responsibility. Amidst a recent roundup of sports CSR initiatives, SportsBusiness Journal noted that the first project on which educational platform developer EverFi collaborated with a sports property was “a financial literacy program that regional bank BBVA offered for use by elementary school students in a handful of NBA markets, including Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix.” When Houston hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2013, league sponsor BBVA arranged for Rockets star James Harden to appear at a participating school. “While it’s cool to have a BBVA banker come into the classroom, it’s even cooler if James Harden shows up,” said Jon Chapman, co-founder and president of global partnerships for EverFi, which has developed online educational modules on topics ranging from financial literacy to STEM to anti-bullying, branded for presentation by teams, leagues, and sponsors. After Houston, EverFi developed educational modules for the NHL and NHLPA around science, technology, engineering and math; for the NFL and the United Way around character development and African American history; for MLB focusing on learning loss during summer vacation; and with MLS around anti-bullying. We look forward to celebrating a Sport Business Handbook event with EverFi at their Washington, DC headquarters on October 2
  2. The National Lacrosse League announces details for the 2019-2020 season, which include divisional realignment, playoff format and schedule type after the addition of two expansion teams and new market Halifax. The league will feature 13 teams in the upcoming season after fielding 11 last year. To accommodate the addition of expansion teams, the New York Riptide, Rochester Knighthawks, and new market Halifax Thunderbirds, as well as maintaining an eye towards continued expansion, the NLL will shift to a three-division format in 2019-2020. “The league has had unprecedented expansion over the last three years. With two more teams coming in this year along with a new market in Halifax, we felt the need to reexamine conference alignments, schedule and playoff formats to prepare for future expansion. We also wanted to create exciting rivalries for the fans, the best travel scenarios for teams and players and competitive match-ups for our 13 franchises,“ said NLL Commissioner and Sport Business Handbook contributor Nick Sakiewicz. Along with unprecedented expansion, the NLL is clearly looking at unprecedented success.
  3. Cal Ripken, Jr.’s celebrity golf tournament draws in legendary athletes across major U.S. sports leagues. According to the Patriot News, the event, featuring such legends as Julius Erving, Lawrence Taylor, Ozzie Smith, and Jim McMahon, was held to benefit the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The inaugural golf outing was held in 2011, and since then, the event has raised several million dollars for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The principal goals of the foundation are to utilize baseball- and softball-themed programs in an effort to build character and teach life lessons to underprivileged children. Founded in 2001, the Foundation has served kids in all 50 states and in other countries such as Canada and Nicaragua. With over 20 Hall of Famers across the NFL and MLB, the event has an impressive amount of star power to help draw attention to giving back to those less privileged through baseball and softball.