Nationals

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BOSTON (AP) Austin Rivers won his first NBA game against his father as the New Orleans Hornets beat coach Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics 90-78 on Wednesday night.

Greivis Vasquez scored 15 points with 11 rebounds and Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans, which won for the sixth time in seven games and stopped Boston's six-game winning streak. Austin Rivers scored eight points against his dad's team; they became the fourth father-son matchup in NBA history.

Paul Pierce scored 12 points with 10 rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes. He shot 5 for 16 from the floor and made one of seven 3-point attempts as Boston went 4 for 18 from beyond the arc. Kevin Garnett scored 15 and Rajon Rondo had 11 assists.

Anthony Davis had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who were just 2 of 17 from 3-point range. But they have won eight of 12 since an 11-game losing streak that stretched through much of December.

SPURS 103, GRIZZLIES 82

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Tony Parker had 17 points and 11 assists and Tim Duncan scored 19 to help San Antonio beat Memphis, extending its home winning streak to 13 games.

The Spurs shot 58 percent from the field in becoming only the third team to score more than 100 points against the Grizzlies. Boris Diaw added 14, Kawhi Leonard 13 and Tiago Splitter 10 for San Antonio (30-11).

Rudy Gay scored 17 points as all five starters reached double figures for Memphis (24-13), which lost its third straight. Marc Gasol had 12 points, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph each had 11 and Mike Conley 10.

THUNDER 117, NUGGETS 97

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Russell Westbrook scored 32 points, Kevin Martin had 20 and Oklahoma City snapped Denver's six-game winning streak.

Kevin Durant added 20 points and tied his career high with five steals as NBA-best Oklahoma City led wire-to-wire for just the second time this season.

The Thunder opened a 16-point lead in the first quarter and remained in control throughout, pulling their starters for the fourth quarter with a 25-point edge. Denver mounted an 11-0 run against Oklahoma City's last five but that still only cut the deficit to 101-84.

Kosta Koufos had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets, who fell to 3-6 this season in the second game of a back-to-back set.

HAWKS 109, NETS 95

ATLANTA (AP) - Jeff Teague had a career-high 28 points and 11 assists, Zaza Pachulia finished two assists shy of a triple-double and the short-handed Atlanta Hawks ended Brooklyn's seven-game winning streak.

The Hawks played without leading scorer Josh Smith, suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for ``conduct detrimental to the team'' following an incident in practice Tuesday.

Pachulia had 13 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high eight assists. Al Horford had 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Hawks, who had lost six of seven, almost doubled their point total from Monday night's 97-58 loss at Chicago.

Brook Lopez had 22 points for the Nets, who lost for only the second time in 11 games under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Joe Johnson had 15 points while shooting 4 of 15 from the field in his return to Atlanta, where he played the past seven seasons. Johnson was a six-time All-Star with the Hawks but drew some boos from Atlanta fans.

MAVERICKS 105, ROCKETS 100

DALLAS (AP) - Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points, O.J. Mayo hit two tiebreaking free throws and Dallas held off a Jeremy Lin-led surge to beat Houston.

Lin and James Harden combined to score the last 18 points for the Rockets, who erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and got even at 97. After Elton Brand blocked a layup attempt by Harden, Mayo hit both free throws after getting fouled at the other end.

Lin had a chance to tie the score on free throws, but missed the second of two. The Rockets got one more chance to go in front, but Harden couldn't get a good look at a layup. Nowitzki won a scramble for the ball and hit two free throws for a 101-98 lead.

Dallas won its season-best fourth straight game while the Rockets lost their fifth in a row, also a season high.

Harden led the Rockets with 20 points but shot 5 of 23 from the field. Lin had 19 with some critical misses among his 6-of-10 performance on free throws.

Mayo and Shawn Marion scored 18 apiece for Dallas. Nowitzki had 10 points in the fourth quarter.

BULLS 107, RAPTORS 105, OT

TORONTO (AP) - Luol Deng hit a tiebreaking jumper with 3 seconds left in overtime and Chicago beat Toronto for the eighth time in nine meetings.

Carlos Boozer had a season-high 36 points and 12 rebounds, and Joakim Noah added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls.

Deng scored 19 points and Richard Hamilton had 15 as Chicago won its fourth straight road game. The Bulls have won nine of their past 11 away from home.

Boozer's double-double was his Eastern Conference-leading 21st, and his 11th in 13 games against the Raptors.

Alan Anderson fouled out with 27 points, matching his career high, and Kyle Lowry had 26 as Toronto lost its third straight.

MAGIC 97, PACERS 86

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 15 rebounds to help Orlando snap a six-game home losing streak with a victory over Indiana.

Orlando has won two of its last three, having also slipped past the streaking Los Angeles Clippers last week. It was the Magic's first home victory since Dec. 19.

The Magic led by as many as 22 points, breaking the game open with a big second-quarter run that included a barrage of 3-pointers. The Magic connected on 12 of their 21 attempts from beyond the arc for the game.

Paul George had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Indiana. George Hill added 15 points.

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

Max Scherzer’s black eye receded from the full-circle package to a dark half-moon before he took the mound in Miami. And his memory reminded him of the last time he was there. It was April 20 and produced his worst start of the season: 5 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs, a loss to drop his record to 1-3 and raise his ERA to 4.34. The latter number has declined in every start since.

Scherzer’s eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday night against the Marlins drove his ERA down to 2.52. His league-leading strikeout total again increased by 10 for the fourth consecutive game. He walked no one. It took just 94 pitches -- 71 strikes -- to reach that point Tuesday in the Nationals' 6-1 win.

Two questions emerged after the outing: Is Scherzer back in the National League Cy Young Award race? Is this the best month of his career?

The first is an easy yes. His 4.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs) coming into the night was by far the best of any pitcher in the major leagues. National League ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu is second in the NL at 3.3. Scherzer leads the National League in innings pitched, strikeouts, starts and strikeouts per nine. He is third in strikeout-to-walk ratio, fourth in WHIP, fourth in OPS against, seventh in batting average against. In a nutshell, Scherzer is again dominating while doing the heavy lifting. He makes every start. He gets into the seventh inning or later 58.9 percent time. He handles all comers.

His June blitz, in particular, has put him back in the Cy Young discussion. Following Tuesday night’s man-handling of Miami, Scherzer has a 0.97 ERA in the month. He’s struck out 54 and walked five. His WHIP is 0.70. Each start has lasted seven innings or more. He’s thrown 70 percent of his 536 pitches for strikes.

Why is he so diabolical? Look at the first three innings Tuesday against the Marlins. A 14-pitch first included some effort and 10 fastballs. Scherzer picked up no swinging strikes on those fastballs, which meant the eager Marlins were getting a good look at the pitch. So, he changed.

In the second inning, Scherzer threw five four-seam fastballs, four sliders/cutters, (Scherzer calls his 90-mph pitch often identified as a “cutter” his “power slider”), three changeups and three curveballs. That mix produced five swinging strikes.

In the third inning, six fastballs, five sliders, one changeup, three swinging strikes.

Which is the complication for the opposition. He will move off whatever is not working and immediately dispatch a fresh bouquet. He can command all of it, throw any of it when he wants, and he’s been obsessing over it for almost a week. Good luck.

An age-35 season is not supposed to be a time of ascension, but, as he is wont to do, Scherzer appears to be running against perceived norms. 

June of 2017 is the only month of his career to challenge June of 2019 for personal supremacy. The numbers that month: 0.99 ERA, 36 ⅓ innings pitched, 51 strikeouts, six walks, a 0.55 WHIP. He made five starts that month. He’s already made five this June, struck out more batters and walked fewer while carrying a lower ERA.

Scherzer has a start remaining this month. It comes against one of his former teams, the Detroit Tigers. No major-league club has scored fewer runs. That mix should further define this as the best month of Scherzer’s Hall-of-Fame bound career and help answer the Cy Young question, too.

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Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

If you were looking for a moment in Tuesday’s game that exemplified the proverbial passing of the torch in Baltimore, it came early.

In the top of the third inning, past Oriole superstar Manny Machado crushed his 100th career Camden Yards home run. It was especially fitting that the ball traveled far enough (455 feet, to be exact) to land in the *visitor* bullpen.

In the middle of the fourth inning, future Oriole superstar (fingers crossed) Adley Rutschman was introduced to a sea of adoring fans wearing orange and black, a sight the former Oregon State Beaver is all too familiar with.

It was hard to tell which player received the louder ovation. The fact that both players, neither of whom was playing for the Orioles Tuesday night, elicited such receptions highlights the crossroads this franchise finds itself at.

Manager Brandon Hyde spoke to this effect pregame.

“Obviously when the game starts I’m going to try to win the game and go with the guys we have,” Hyde told reporters. “I’m also looking at the big picture. I think everybody is really aware of where we are organizationally. It’s the start of the process we laid out months ago. Anytime we get extremely talented guys in our organization, it’s bright, and it feels good, and there’s excitement. And I totally understand it and I feel that too.”

Fans could be forgiven for forgetting there was even a game to be played Tuesday evening, with the excitement surrounding Rutschman’s introduction and the long-building buzz for Machado’s return coinciding on the same day. That can be true of the state of the franchise overall right now.

It’s easy to talk about top draft picks and high-level prospects in the minors, but there are games going on every night for the big league club as well. But with another historic season taking place on the field, it’s much more appealing to look elsewhere.

Adley Rutschman provides a level of hope fans can’t get from the Major League roster, and Hyde recognizes that.

“We’re just looking to get talent, guys that can be impact players,” Hyde explained. “You don’t want to label a guy or put too much pressure on someone, but obviously he’s done a lot of really good things at the amateur level and we’re really excited to have him in our organization. So there’s a lot of excitement.”

The Orioles manager came to Baltimore from a Chicago Cubs franchise known for developing high-end talent.

“I was the farm director when we drafted Bryant, obviously saw Almora and Baez and all those guys,” Hyde answered when asked how Rutschman compares. “He’s along those lines of being a real mature kid, looking forward to go play, you can tell he’s really excited and we’re obviously looking forward to getting him going and watching him play.”

Of course, it’s not just former Cubs prospects who have provided a template for success Rutschman can follow. Somebody a little closer to home just so happened to be sitting in the third base dugout Tuesday night.

“Just soak it all in, enjoy it all," Manny Machado told the media to laughter when asked what advice he would give Rutschman. "You know I wasn’t a number one overall pick, so it’s different. I mean just enjoy yourself. It’s an opportunity that he worked for his entire life to get to that situation, he finally got drafted by a ballclub...the only advice I can give is to continue to have fun, just enjoy yourself every moment of the way and just keep working as hard as you possibly can to reach your goals. Just because you got picked, one of those goals is scratched off, but there’s so many more to be accomplished. Just keep working as hard as you can to be the best person you can be, the best ballplayer you can be, and everything else will just take care of itself.”

It’s a mature response from a matured player, one who not too long ago found himself in the same position as Rutschman: top prospect for a franchise desperate to field a winner.

Trying to build that winner is GM Mike Elias, who emphasized just how critical bringing in a player like Rutschman is.

“This was the biggest decision this organization is going to make this year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome,” Elias said Tuesday. “We’re looking for building blocks and found a big piece of that with Adley.”

It’s going to be a few years until Rutschman is able to truly take over the mantle of face of the Orioles. As Hyde reminded the media, “it’s still so far away.”

For now, Rutschman will have to settle for face of the rebuild, a position Machado was all-too-familiar with. 

But even an elongated timeline couldn’t keep Tuesday from feeling like a milestone in the history of the franchise, at the intersection of it’s past, present and future. It was a figurative passing of the torch, if not a literal one.

It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Fans at the park felt that as they welcomed back Manny Machado with open arms.

And if their warm reception for Adley Rutschman is any indication, they are more than ready to love again.

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