Nationals

James scores 30, Heat win again, top Jazz 105-89

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James scores 30, Heat win again, top Jazz 105-89

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James scored 30 points, Dwyane Wade added 21 points and seven assists, and the Miami Heat rode the strength of a big third-quarter run to beat the Utah Jazz 105-89 on Saturday night.

James added nine rebounds and seven assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Heat, who won their fourth straight game and next play on Christmas against Oklahoma City in a rematch of last season's NBA Finals. Shane Battier scored 15 and Ray Allen added 13 for Miami, which opened the second half on a 22-6 run to build a 69-49 lead.

Marvin Williams scored 16 for Utah, which got 15 from Gordon Hayward and 11 from Paul Millsap.

The Jazz played the second half without Mo Williams, who appeared to hurt his right thumb. Miami was without Chris Bosh, home with what the team said was a cold.

James has scored at least 20 points in all 24 Heat games this season, matching the longest run of 20-or-more efforts to start a year since Karl Malone did it for Utah in the 1989-90 campaign.

Maybe it was fitting that James tied Malone's mark in a game against the Jazz.

``Karl Malone's a great player,'' James said before the game. ``Awesome player, by the way.''

It also was the 29th straight regular-season game in which James scored at least 20 points and 45th consecutive overall.

That is just one of two streaks James has going.

He also didn't get called for a personal foul for a sixth straight game. James' most recent foul was an offensive call against New Orleans on Dec. 8. He has played 250 minutes, 4 seconds without being whistled for a personal foul, though he was hit with a technical for arguing a no-call late in the first half on Saturday.

``I'd be concerned if he was just standing around, if he was hiding and taking himself out of plays and taking mini-vacations on possessions,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``But he's been activating our defense. And when you have his type of athletic, God-given ability and you add that to his mind and then the preparation, he can be one or two steps ahead of the play - which allows him to be a playmaker defensively.''

As usual, he was a playmaker offensively, as well.

Miami scored the first eight points of the second half to finally create some breathing room. James started the half by making a jumper, then set up Battier - who started in place of Bosh - for a 3-pointer. Battier then made another 3 off an assist from Wade to give Miami a 55-43 edge by the time the third quarter was 90 seconds old.

The margin eventually grew to 20, but Utah wasn't done.

The Jazz cut the deficit by the end of the third, getting within 73-63, and the Heat lead was only eight after a free throw by Millsap with 4:40 remaining.

That would be the end of the drama.

James drove the lane for a left-handed layup with 3:55 left to put Miami back up by 12, and after a Utah turnover on the ensuing possession, Allen hit a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 97-82 lead.

Neither team led by more than six in the first half, one that ended with the Heat holding a 47-43 edge.

The NBA's new 90-second pregame countdown clock also played a bit of a role down the stretch.

The Heat were called for a delay-of-game technical with 8:24 remaining, in part because the team wasn't fully ready to go when the countdown-to-tipoff expired. That led to the team's first delay warning of the night, and the second came after Norris Cole scored on a reverse layup and then knocked the ball out of the hands of Utah forward Derrick Favors as he prepared to throw an inbounds pass.

NOTES: James was presented with the trophy commemorating his Eastern Conference player-of-the-month award for November (and the last two days of October) in a brief halftime ceremony. ... Utah closes its four-game trip on Sunday at Orlando. ... Wade's foundation, Wade's World, brought 50 people to the game as part of his three-day schedule of ``3 Under The Tree'' series of Christmas-themed charity events. ... Heat F-C Josh Harrellson also missed the game because of illness.

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Sean Doolittle, Nationals rethinking things after another rough outing

Sean Doolittle, Nationals rethinking things after another rough outing

WASHINGTON -- Jack White and his band, The Raconteurs, found their faces on the center field video board around 7:20 p.m. They waved sheepishly as the crowd murmured, somewhat confused by what they were looking at.

Finally, a graphic went up with their name and mild I-think-I-know-that-band clapping began. Their visit to Nationals Park was brief because they had to head a mile up the street to play an 8 p.m. concert at The Anthem.

Almost five hours later, right at midnight, Christian Yelich’s fly ball landed just above the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field. He zipped around the bases with little admiration for his 41st homer. Javy Guerra bent at the waist when looked toward the fence from the pitcher’s mound.

The Nationals trailed, 13-12, heading into the bottom of the 13th inning. Sitting behind home plate? White and The Raconteurs. They had returned for plenty of post-concert baseball because the Brewers and Nationals spent the night pulverizing each other in a 14-inning, 15-14 Milwaukee win. 

However, they missed the most important part because closer Sean Doolittle suffered another disastrous night. When he’s flat this season, he’s all the way down to ground level, incapable of recording almost any outs.

Saturday’s line was a garish: ⅓ of an inning, four hits, four earned runs, three home runs, depleted velocity, increased dejection. Saturday was Doolittle’s third outing this season where he allowed four runs. It was his second such monstrosity in just more than a week.

Now the team has to figure out what to do with him.

“I felt great [Friday],” Doolittle said. “That was the best I felt in the last several weeks. And then [Saturday] man, I just didn’t have anything. So, yeah, we’re going to have to figure something out. I’m going to have to figure something out because this team, they deserve better right now.”

Doolittle has allowed seven home runs since July 29. His fastball typically runs around 94 mph. Saturday, Ryan Braun hit a 90-mph fastball into the seats. Doolittle’s arm appeared sapped on Aug. 17 with his team hanging on to a wild-card spot and tracking first-place Atlanta.

He’s downtrodden as much as frustrated after changing his pregame routine, postgame routine and bullpen warmup. No alteration has re-energized his sagging left arm.

So, he and Davey Martinez will talk Sunday about what to do. Unlike earlier in the season, the Nationals have authentic options to handle the ninth inning. Daniel Hudson appears to be the top candidate if anyone is going to give Doolittle a night off or temporarily replace him if he has to go on the 10-day injured list. Hunter Strickland could also be used. Fernando Rodney is a fall-back plan, as well as a way to close the gap created by moving another reliever to the ninth.

“I’m not saying anything definitive, but I definitely want to have a conversation with Doo, and figure something out,” Martinez said. “What best for him, what’s best for the club and just make sure that he’s ready.”

Asked directly if Doolittle is healthy, Martinez said Doolittle told him pregame Saturday he was able to pitch. In the bullpen, Doolittle started to learn he was not.

After Christian Yelich’s second-pitch home run, Doolittle’s first instinct was to attribute the damage to Yelich’s greatness. That was until the video board showed his fastball traveled just 92 mph. Keston Hiura doubled. Mike Moustakas homered. Braun homered. Doolittle scratched his head.

“I just...I don’t know,” Doolittle said. “It just wasn’t coming out tonight. That part of the order, that team? There’s really nowhere to hide.”

He tried sliders as a salve, but his second pitch is more for blindsiding than problem-solving. Eventually, Martinez removed Doolittle from the mound once Hudson was ready. Doolittle conceded postgame his workload would have to change in some manner.

“I think so at this point,” Doolittle said. “I’m giving everything I got, but, I don’t really...I don’t know. It’s really, really tough. It’s frustrating. This time of year, with whole well we’ve been playing lately, with everything’s that at stake, everything this team can still accomplish, you want to be out there. You want to help the team. But, I haven’t been pulling my weight here these last couple weeks.”

Sunday, how his weight is distributed could change.

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Stephen Strasburg gets a visit from living legend, Jack White

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Stephen Strasburg gets a visit from living legend, Jack White

Two days after claiming his 15th victory of the season, Nationals' pitcher Stephen Strasburg received a visit from a very special fan.

The legend. Jack White.

Strasburg has sported the walk-up song, Seven Nation Army, since 2010; the song was created by rock duo "The White Stripes," which was made up of Jack White and Meg White. 

With the amount of success Strasburg has seen in his career don't expect him to change his walk-up song anytime soon. 

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