Nationals

Lynx beat Sparks 94-77 in Western finals opener

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Lynx beat Sparks 94-77 in Western finals opener

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Playing strong close to the basket has the Minnesota Lynx one win away from a return trip to the WNBA finals.

Maya Moore scored 20 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lynx beat the Los Angeles Sparks 94-77 Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference finals.

Seimone Augustus added 16 points for the defending champion Lynx.

Candace Parker scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Alana Beard added 16 points, but Kristi Toliver, who came in averaging 26 points in the playoffs, was held to 12.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Sunday in Los Angeles, where the Lynx are 4-21 all-time.

``It was a really good team win,'' Moore said.

Minnesota held a 37-25 rebounding edge, outscored the Sparks 46-34 in the paint and held a 20-2 advantage in second-chance points to improve to 19-1 at home this season.

``We did not answer or match their physicality and we paid for it,'' said Sparks coach Carol Ross. ``We ended with four offensive rebounds, just one at halftime. You can't survive that way.''

Parker had 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, but only one other Sparks player had more than two - reserve Nicky Anosike with four.

``We really have to put a lot of our focus on our effort and what we do once the ball is shot and it hits the rim,'' said DeLisha Milton-Jones. ``They cannot get second-chance points, because it puts us in a world of trouble.''

Besides Brunson, who has 46 rebounds in four playoff games, including three double-doubles, Augustus had six rebounds for Minnesota, Moore had five, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Amber Harris each had four.

``We just kept going. We never gave up. We never gave in. We knew that was going to be key for this game, to limit their second chance points. They crash the boards pretty hard,'' Brunson said. ``We really locked in. We focused in. We did a great job.''

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was especially impressed by the 42-year-old McWilliams-Franklin keeping rookie Nneka Ogwumike in check. The latter was averaging six boards a game.

``Ogwumike is just so impressive athletically. She has a lot of fast-twitch muscles and Taj doesn't have any, but Taj has intelligence and she plays on angles. And like she said, `Coach, I may not get a rebound, but I will block her out.'''

Minnesota, which averaged a WNBA-best 86 points during the regular season - just two more than Los Angeles, took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Sparks 32-16 for a 48-31 halftime lead.

As part of a 14-2 run, the Lynx scored six points on the break and added another down low before a 3-pointer by Moore finished the surge. After Milton-Jones missed a long jumper for the Sparks, Harris scored her first postseason points with back-to-back layups for a 38-23 lead.

A 3-pointer by Candice Wiggins, steal and layup by Monica Wright, and a 3-pointer by Augustus put the Lynx up 46-26. After Parker scored five straight points for the Sparks, Lindsay Whalen scored on a putback at the buzzer.

Playing with a broken left ring finger and a bruised left wrist, Whalen finished with 12 points.

``She plays with so much heart and it's contagious,'' Moore said.

Minnesota increased its lead to 24 in the third quarter before Parker, who is averaging 27.3 points in the postseason, began to find success down low. She scored eight points during a 16-5 run that got the Sparks within 66-53 late in the quarter.

``This team didn't wait for us to wake up,'' Parker said. ``For three-fourths of the game we laid down and took it.''

Los Angeles pulled to 73-63 midway through the fourth, but the Lynx answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Moore and Wright.

Moore was 5-for-5 from the field in the final quarter.

``She was tremendous. She hit back-breaking shots,'' Ross said. ``She wants the ball and knows what to do with it when she gets it.''

Toliver was quiet through three quarters, with just two points and no assists, before getting 10 points in the final 10 minutes.

``One thing I know about Kristi is that she'll come back stronger in the next game,'' Parker said.

McWilliams-Franklin set a league record by playing in her 59th career playoff game.

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

For a long time, Major League Baseball had the best, most exciting trade deadline among the four major sports. In recent seasons, that excitement has been eclipsed by the popularity of the NBA, but baseball still stands ahead of football and hockey in terms of in-season movement.

In an effort to shake things up a bit, baseball’s trade deadline underwent some changes in the offseason.

Notably, while July 31 has always been deadline day, in past years it was a bit of a misnomer. July 31 was technically just the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline in years past. The month of August has always allowed trades to be made as long as players pass through waivers. If a player is claimed off waivers, his team can either pull him back, let him go for nothing, or negotiate a deal with his claiming team only.

This obviously made for much more limited movement in August, but it was always an option. 

Not anymore. Now? July 31 the *only* deadline.

The August revocable waivers trade deadline was always a bit convoluted, and it never made much sense to have more than one deadline. So it’s logical to think the powers that be would want to simplify things for the league.

Reportedly, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will not only help simplify in-season moves, but also help jumpstart offseason activity. The thinking is if teams have even just one fewer option to improve their roster midseason, then contenders will be forced to get aggressive in the offseason.

It remains to be seen if that will come to fruition, but one forthcoming change does seem pretty obvious. The singular trade deadline should make for a much more active July.

Both buyers and sellers have to commit to a direction earlier in the season now. Last year, for example, the Nationals executed their mini-firesale in mid-August, once it had become clear they were not going to compete for the postseason. At the end of the July they were still undecided, which is why they held onto Bryce Harper.

Considering how long it can take major deals to come together, teams have to essentially decide by the All-Star break if they are in or out on competing for October. It will be especially difficult for teams to read the writing on the wall when they are hovering around .500.

As of this writing, there are 10 teams within six games of .500 in either direction, and that doesn’t include organizations like the Red Sox, Nationals and Athletics who have quality records but are way behind runaway division leaders. Will they want to trade away controllable assets for a shot at a one-game Wild Card berth?

General Managers who can forecast their team’s likelihood of competing, and respond accordingly, will be rewarded under the new system. Orioles GM Mike Elias already began his team’s sell-off, trading Andrew Cashner away weeks before the end of July. By contrast, in 2018 both Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman were moved by the Orioles with under an hour to go on deadline day.

It’s hard to perfectly predict all the ways rule changes can affect a sport, but in the case of the singular trade deadline, it’s obvious that teams are now required to commit earlier, with fewer games of information from which to work.

That’s exciting for a sport that could use some more player movement-related excitement.

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Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Last summer, NBC Sports Washington put together guides that detailed the best bars and restaurants to watch the Capitals' Stanley Cup run and FIFA World Cup. Earlier this summer we gave you some spots around Nationals Park too.

With summer 2019 halfway through and baseball in full swing, it's time to highlight the go-to spots to eat and drink around the ballpark that forever changed baseball. 

In no particular order, consider these: 

Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  • Always packed, it's the number one go-to bar for Orioles fans before and after the games 
  • A dozen beers on tap, both local and national brands
  • Great deals throughout baseball season

Sliders Bar and Grille, 504 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another bar adjacent to Camden Yards
  • Less crowded than Pickles, but just as good when it comes to snacks and drinks
  • Bottle, canned, and draft beer options
  • Gameday specials built around the Orioles season

Abbey Burger Bistro, 1041 Marshall St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • A bit further (about a mile walk) but well worth it
  • Famous for, you guessed it, their wide selection of crafted hamburgers
  • Endorsed by Oriole legend Adam Jones, who even created a burger for their menu
  • Also make spiked milkshakes for adults looking to cool off with a tasty treat

The Yard, 110 S Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Inside the Marriott Inner Harbor 
  • Quieter, less-crowded option compared to more popular pregame locations
  • Crab-based breakfast options for fans looking for an early start

Camden Pub, 647 W. Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Two blocks from Camden Yards
  • Special discounts with game tickets
  • Variety of food options, including well-known wings

Quigley's Half Irish Pub, 633 Portland St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Federal Hill location, a block away from the stadium
  • Another less-crowded option, with standard bar fare
  • Just as likely to host baseball fans and neighborhood regulars alike

Pratt Street Ale House, 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Three blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards 
  • Dozens of beer options, plus signature cocktails and wine choices aplenty
  • Well-known nightlife spot for postgame celebrations

Seafood Options:

L.P. Steamers, 1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Have to drive instead of walk (9 minutes by car)
  • Considered a go-to spot for Maryland-style seafood 
  • Mentioned specifically by Manny Machado upon his return to Baltimore

Phillips Seafood, 601 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minute walk to Camden Yards, right in the heart of the Inner Harbor
  • Huge letters outside the building a part of the local skyline
  • Famous for their crabcakes, but serve all kinds of seafood and non-seafood options

Rusty Scupper, 402 Key Highway, Inner Harbor Marina, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another slightly further, pricier option for local seafood
  • Beautiful view right on the water
  • Live patio entertainment
  • Happy hour from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday

Postgame Dessert Options:

Insomnia Cookies, Federal Hill, 1059 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • 20-minute walk from the stadium
  • Wide variety of deluxe cookie options, plus brownies, ice cream, cake and dessert sandwiches
  • Open until 3 a.m. every night

Polar Roll Creamery, 600 E Pratt St Suite 105, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minutes from Camden Yards, on the Inner Harbor 
  • Rolled ice cream
  • Watch yourserver roll the ice cream in front of you

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