Capitals

Lynx-Sparks Preview

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Lynx-Sparks Preview

The Minnesota Lynx completely overpowered the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference finals opener.

Neither team expects a repeat in Game 2 on Sunday when the series shifts to Staples Center.

The defending champion Lynx are one win away from a return trip to the WNBA finals after Thursday's easy 94-77 home victory over the Sparks. Maya Moore scored 20, Seimone Augustus added 16 and Rebekkah Brunson had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, which outhustled Los Angeles in a number of areas.

The Lynx had a 37-25 rebounding edge - including 13-4 on the offensive end - and outscored the Sparks 46-34 in the paint while holding a 20-2 advantage in second-chance points.

"Don't be fooled by what we did," said Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who had six points and four rebounds. "L.A. is a great team. They're going to make changes, start attacking, doing a lot of great things that made them successful during the regular season.

"And we're going to have to be even better than we were (Thursday). We have to forget this game. It was great, but we have to forget it and act like this next game is the first game."

The Sparks would also like to forget about Game 1.

Candace Parker had 25 points and 11 rebounds, but only one other Los Angeles player had more than two boards - reserve Nicky Anosike with four. Kristi Toliver, who averaged a team-best 17.5 points in the regular season and 26.0 points in the conference semifinals, scored 12. Ten of those came in the final 5:37 when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

"One thing I know about Kristi is that she'll come back stronger in the next game," said Parker, who is averaging 27.3 points in the playoffs.

Returning to Southern California should give Toliver and her teammates an edge.

The Sparks went 16-1 at Staples Center in the regular season, which includes two victories over the Lynx. They are 21-4 all-time against Minnesota in Los Angeles.

"You're at home, you play looser, you're happy," McWilliams-Franklin said. "You slept in your own bed. You come out to your home fans."

In the Sparks' regular-season finale 2 1/2 weeks ago, Parker and rookie Nneka Ogwumike each had 22 points and 11 rebounds in an 92-76 home win over the Lynx.

Ogwumike, who averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in the regular season, was hounded by the 42-year-old McWilliams-Franklin in the opener, however, and was limited to six points and two boards.

Los Angeles forward DeLisha Milton-Jones doesn't see that happening again.

"What you can expect on Sunday is a better showing by the Sparks," Milton-Jones told the Lynx's official website. "We're definitely going to be a much more mentally prepared team."

If necessary, Game 3 would be Wednesday at the Target Center, where the Lynx are 19-1.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

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2018 NBA Mock Draft: What's changed after the combine

Something that used to be a rare occurrence has now happened four years in a row.

The Phoenix Suns had the best odds of winning the NBA lottery, and they did, landing the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

Over the last four years, the team with the NBA's worst record has landed that top spot each year. Before this stretch though, dating back to 1985, only four teams that had the worst record still won the lottery.

Nine teams have also jumped at least five spots to get to No. 1 during that period as well.

Now the order is set (until any trades of course) and teams have had a chance to check out many of the top players at the combine.

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This draft is loaded with big man prospects too, from DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba, along with countless others likely going in the top-14. 

There's also the very intriguing Luka Doncic, who most still believe won't go back to Real Madrid, even with him leaving the door open. 

A few names jumped into the first round since the last mock draft, which is something we always see after the combine. 

As for the Wizards, we know they need an athletic big man, and sitting at pick No. 15, they may just get one, although he brings a lot of mystery. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT