Lynx look to repeat as WNBA champs vs. Fever


Lynx look to repeat as WNBA champs vs. Fever

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For years, the Minnesota Lynx were irrelevant in the WNBA, a listless franchise that couldn't figure out a way to even make the playoffs let alone contend for a title.

Now they're looking for two straight championships.

The Lynx host the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, hoping to become the first repeat winners since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.

It's been a startling climb for a team that made the playoffs just twice in its first 12 years. But starting with the hire of coach Cheryl Reeve and the trade for hometown star Lindsay Whalen in 2010 and going right on through with the acquisitions of Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin and drafting Maya Moore, the Lynx are suddenly the class of the league.

``When I was hired I knew we had a group here that there would be a window of opportunity,'' Reeve said. ``Once we made the trade for Whalen and we got Rebekkah Brunson in here, we knew we had a foundation. We added to that Maya Moore and Taj, so now there's that window of opportunity. It's just a great time to be a part of it.''

The group that also includes dynamic forward Seimone Augustus steamrolled through the playoffs last season. But the Lynx have found that defending that crown has been an entirely different experience.

The Seattle Storm pushed the Lynx to the limit in the Western Conference quarterfinals, missing a shot in the closing moments of Game 3 that would have eliminated them. The Lynx then had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat the Sparks in Game 2 to complete a sweep of Los Angeles to get back to the finals.

``Definitely tougher. You start off the season with a target on your back,'' Augustus said. ``I feel like this season we've gotten everybody's best game, from the last-place team in the league all the way up to the second- or third-place team in the league.''

Nothing figures to change now. The Fever have shown resilience throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs to reach the finals for the second time.

They were down 1-0 in each of the first two rounds before rallying, including a 16-point win at Connecticut in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals despite losing star scorer Katie Douglas early in the game to a left ankle injury. It is uncertain if Douglas, who scored 51 points in the first two games of the series, will be able to play on Sunday night.

``We're not afraid of anybody,'' Fever forward Eriana Larkins said. ``I think we play better with our backs against the wall.''

They've shown that so far. They faced elimination four times in these playoffs. Their 3-point shooting - the Fever hit 10 against the Sun in Game 3 - means they're never out of a game. And the swagger that comes with playoff success is evident.

``If we play like we did (in Game 3),'' Erin Phillips said, ``absolutely we can beat them.''

The Lynx had all of last week off, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Whalen is nursing a bone bruise on her left wrist and an injured finger on her left hand. Having two days off at the beginning of the week proved valuable.

``Nothing's come to us easy,'' Brunson said. ``We've had to grind out a lot games where I think we caught a couple teams by surprise last year. We were new. We were up and coming.

``But now everyone knows what we're doing, knows what to anticipate, knows what to look for. So they are giving us their best games. But we're here. We made it and that's the important part. We persevered through everything that anybody threw at us this season.''

Tamika Catchings and the Fever will throw a little more. The Fever lost to the Lynx in both meetings this season, but by just two at home on Sept. 14 and seven on the road three days later.

``They are the defending champs,'' Catchings said. ``We lost to them twice this year, but I think in the games that we lost we played really well for about 20 to 25 minutes and we let the game slip away from us for about the last 15 minutes. On this team, we have to focus on playing 40-minute games.''

Given the difficulties this season, a title this time might prove more rewarding.

``Once you win one, it's really hard to come back and win another one, especially back-to-back,'' Brunson said. ``The road is hard, but it would be extremely satisfying if we can go ahead and conquer this.''


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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