Nationals

Josh Howard ready to help banged-up Timberwolves

Josh Howard ready to help banged-up Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For the first time in his nine-year career, Josh Howard didn't have a team to play for when the season began. Questions about his health and some lingering memories of issues off the court kept teams away from the 32-year-old free agent.

Howard never considered calling it quits, instead working out in Dallas and waiting for the phone to ring. His patience paid off when the injury-ravaged Minnesota Timberwolves came calling, offering not just money but an opportunity to contribute right away.

Howard joined the Wolves officially on Friday, suiting up for the game against the Golden State Warriors. With six of Minnesota's top seven players out with injuries, Howard will be relied upon immediately to lighten forward Andrei Kirilenko's load and give the second unit some help on both ends of the floor.

``There are a bunch of fighters on this team and that's the stuff I love. Guys who don't quit,'' Howard said. ``I'm very excited for this opportunity and I'm going to give it my all.''

The versatile forward spent last season in Utah, a signing that helped the Jazz mitigate the loss of Kirilenko, who played last season in his native Russia. He averaged 8.7 points, but needed a minor surgery on his left knee during the season. It's the same knee in which he tore the ACL in 2010, an injury that slowed him for nearly two seasons.

Howard said the knee is feeling good now, and the Timberwolves are counting on that. They were missing Nikola Pekovic (sprained left ankle), Brandon Roy (sore right knee) and JJ Barea (sprained left foot) against the Warriors. All three are hoping to return next week, but the Wolves will be without Kevin Love (broken right hand), Ricky Rubio (left knee) and Chase Budinger (left knee) for an extended period of time. Love and Rubio aren't expected back until December, while Budinger will miss three to four months.

Coach Rick Adelman said Howard would get five or six minutes per half to start out until the team could gauge his conditioning. With all the injuries, Adelman has simplified the offense, so he thinks the transition to a new team will be a little easier for Howard.

``He's been in the league for a while,'' Adelman said. ``He picks things up pretty quickly. Any veteran like that sort of knows, and we know we can run certain things to make him comfortable. He'll be OK.''

The Wolves also are unconcerned by a past that includes some spotty behavior. Howard drew some massive headlines in 2008, when he said on a radio show before the Dallas Mavericks played a playoff game that he used marijuana in the offseason. He was also arrested for drag racing.

Those issues are in the past, and Howard said he didn't think they would prevent him from returning to the court.

``You know you're finished when you sign those papers saying that you're retired. I never did that,'' Howard said. ``I did what I was supposed to do as far as cleaning up my image and doing the things to make myself better and I've got this opportunity today.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.

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