Nationals

NBA Capsules

NBA Capsules

MILWAUKEE (AP) Matt Barnes scored 21 points, Blake Griffin had 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Los Angeles Clippers routed the cold-shooting Milwaukee Bucks 111-85 on Saturday night for their ninth consecutive victory.

DeAndre Jordan added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, which had lost three in a row in Milwaukee. Griffin had three spectacular dunks in a brief stretch in the third quarter.

It's the longest winning streak for the franchise since the Buffalo Braves captured 11 in a row during the 1974-75 season

The Bucks, who had won four in a row, shot 36 percent from the field.

Marquis Daniels scored 16 points for Milwaukee and Monta Ellis had 13, but went 4 for 14 from the floor. Brandon Jennings was held to nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.

TIMBERWOLVES 114, MAVERICKS 106, OT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Ricky Rubio made a triumphant return to the court with nine assists and eight points in 18 minutes, sparking the Timberwolves to an overtime victory over the Mavericks.

Andrei Kirilenko scored five of his 14 points in overtime while Rubio watched from the bench because of a minutes restriction on his surgically repaired left knee.

Nikola Pekovic scored 21 points for the Timberwolves, who won their fourth straight game despite playing without All-Star Kevin Love because of an illness.

O.J. Mayo had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds and Shawn Marion had 14 points and 10 boards for the Mavericks, who led by 13 early before Rubio came off the bench for the first time since tearing up his left knee in March.

WARRIORS 115, HAWKS 93

ATLANTA (AP) - David Lee had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Warriors completed an impressive road trip with a victory.

Stephen Curry collected 18 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for Golden State, which went in front to stay in the second quarter. Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry each had 19 points.

The Warriors capped a 6-1 tour against Eastern Conference teams, including a win at Miami. It was the team's first winning road trip of at least six games since a 4-3 trip in the 1970-71 season.

Al Horford led Atlanta with 17 points. Lou Williams scored 16 and Ivan Johnson had 15 points and nine rebounds. The Hawks had won 11 of 13.

Golden State completed a sweep of its two-game season series against Atlanta one night after a 99-85 loss at Orlando. It was Lee's seventh straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

KNICKS 103, CAVALIERS 102

NEW YORK (AP) - Raymond Felton scored 25 points, Tyson Chandler had 23, and the Knicks earned their fourth straight win, overcoming Kyrie Irving's career-high 41 points and the absence of Carmelo Anthony.

The Knicks improved the NBA's only unbeaten home record to 10-0 when Anderson Varejao missed the second of two free throws with 1 second left. It's the best home start for New York since the 1991-92 team won its first 11 at Madison Square Garden.

Anthony, the NBA's No. 2 scorer, missed the game after spraining his left ankle Thursday in the third quarter of a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

It almost wasn't enough thanks to Irving, who had no problems wearing a black protective mask after breaking a bone in his face on a hard fall Friday night against Milwaukee.

CJ Miles finished with 17 points for the Cavs, who had three masked men in uniform as they dropped their third straight.

HEAT 102, WIZARDS 72

MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat never trailed.

Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade each scored 13 for Miami, which outscored Washington 29-10 in the third quarter to build a 33-point lead. James had 16 points alone in the third, ensuring he would finish with at least 20 points for the 26th straight regular-season game and 42nd consecutive game overall dating to last season.

Chris Bosh added 12 points for the Heat, who turned 21 turnovers into 30 points.

Bradley Beal scored 19 points and Cartier Martin added 18 for the Wizards, who beat the Heat 105-101 in Washington on Dec. 4.

SPURS 103, CELTICS 88

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Tony Parker had 22 points and eight assists to help the Spurs get the win.

Gary Neal added 20 points, Danny Green scored 12 and Tiago Splitter finished with 16 points and eight rebounds for San Antonio (19-6), which overcame the loss of Manu Ginobili to improve to 8-2 at home.

Ginobili departed with a bruised left quad after he ran into Chris Wilcox's knee on a screen with 2:42 left in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce and Jason Terry each scored 18 points for Boston (12-11). Kevin Garnett added 13 points and Courtney Lee had 11.

Parker scored nine points in the final quarter. He had one turnover in 36 minutes.

GRIZZLIES 99, JAZZ 86

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Zach Randolph had 25 points and g16 rebounds, and the Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak.

It was Memphis' first win in Salt Lake City since an overtime victory on Jan. 24, 2007.

The Grizzlies outscored Utah 28-10 in the third quarter to turn a 10-point halftime deficit into a 72-64 lead entering the fourth. The Jazz shot just 15 percent (3 of 20) in the quarter after shooting 56.4 percent at halftime.

Al Jefferson led Utah with 21 points. Paul Millsap added 12 and Gordon Hayward 11 for the Jazz (13-12), who have lost two straight.

Marc Gasol added 16 points for Memphis (15-6), including nine in the decisive third.

MAGIC 107, BOBCATS 98

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo each scored 20 points as the Magic handed the Bobcats their 11th straight loss.

Jameer Nelson added 16 points and six assists for Orlando, and J.J. Redick had 14 points, including a big 3-pointer down the stretch. Nikola Vucevic finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

The Magic have won three of four.

Kemba Walker had a career-high 32 points for Charlotte. The second-year point guard was 11 of 19 from the field, and also had seven assists.

BULLS 83, NETS 82

CHICAGO (AP) - Joakim Noah had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and helped force a key turnover as the Bulls rallied for the win.

Nets star Deron Williams missed a jumper that would have tied it in the finals seconds, helping Chicago win for the fifth time in six games.

Noah and Luol Deng trapped Joe Johnson late in the game, resulting in one of Brooklyn's 18 turnovers. Deng turned the mistake into a basket that tied it at 79.

Brook Lopez had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes for Brooklyn, which played for the fourth time in five days.

Marco Belinelli led Chicago with 19 points and made two free throws to cap an 8-0 run in the closing minutes.

PACERS 88, PISTONS 77

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - David West had 23 points and George Hill added 18 points and seven assists to lead Indiana to the victory.

Paul George added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Pacers (13-11), who have won three in a row to move two games over .500 for the first time this season.

Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 18 points and added eight rebounds. Rodney Stuckey had 15 points and seven assists, and Brandon Knight added 14 points.

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Will Juan Soto follow the same path as Mookie Betts?

Will Juan Soto follow the same path as Mookie Betts?

The gasps came again in New York on Wednesday, this time when Juan Soto ripped his hands in and then through a slider which meandered up and inside. The resulting fly ball went 466 feet to right field, confusing camera operators and announcers alike. Nationals play-by-play man Bob Carpenter, calling road games from Nationals Park, wasn’t quite sure where the ball went or landed because it left camera view. The Mets’ broadcasting crew had a better view in Citi Field. Ron Darling uttered a precise summary while the ball traveled: “Whoa.”

Soto hit a 463-foot home run two days earlier which drew similar awe. Darling said then he had never seen a ball hit to that part of Citi Field -- dead center beyond the iconic rising apple. And, what Soto is doing overall is rarely seen. He’s hit two of the five longest home runs in Citi Field since 2015 (Nos. 3 and 5, respectively) in three days. He tied Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson with 60 home runs before turning 22 years old thanks to the two he hit Wednesday night. Only four players -- Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Eddie Matthews and Ronald Acuña Jr. -- have more before that age. Soto turns 22 on Oct. 25. He is being shorted 109 games this season because of the abbreviated schedule and his late start in it. Yet, he’s still chasing down history.

The short season makes comparison points for his future fluid. However, he is running steady with the early days of one player in particular: Mookie Betts. The far-away question for the Nationals is whether their paths when no longer under team control will go the same.

First, to now. Soto’s first home run Wednesday prompted a response from the official NASA Twitter account when it was asked to locate the launch to right field (“We'll look for it when we get back to the Moon in 2024. Cool?”). But, there was a detail attached to his second home run which may be more telling of his actual ability.

Left-handed Mets reliever Chasen Shreve was able to get Soto to rollover a fastball away for a double play in the third inning. Left-handed pitchers typically try for this precise outcome from Soto by pitching him outside. He often foils it by not taking the bait and instead taking a walk or pushing the ball the other way. Against Shreve, Soto left his principles: he swung at a pitch outside of the strike zone and did so with more of a hook swing than one designed to drive the ball somewhere between left-center field and right-center field. Stay through the middle and good things will happen. It’s a mantra for him. He vacated the idea, then pulled his helmet off at first base and bounced it off the ground following the double play.

He faced another left-handed pitcher in his next at-bat. Justin Wilson tried the same approach as Shreve. He was throwing away, but not far enough. A fastball caught the outside portion of the plate. Soto had cleared his head, drove through the pitch, and hit an opposite-field home run. That, more than distance, shows mental genius at 21 years old.

“He makes in-game adjustments better than any young hitter I’ve ever seen,” Davey Martinez said.

RELATED: SOTO BLASTS LONGEST HOME RUN OF HIS CAREER AGAIN

Now, to the future, via the past. Betts came up as a 21-year-old in Boston. Soto is 21. Betts played half a season at that age, moved to 19th in American League MVP voting the following year, then put his name among the elite his third season when he finished second in MVP voting. He also won a Gold Glove and went to the All-Star Game. Betts pulled together a 9.5 bWAR season in 2016 as a 23-year-old outfielder.

Soto finished second to Acuña Jr. in National League Rookie of the Year voting in his first season. He ascended to ninth in NL MVP voting as a 20-year-old via a 4.6 bWAR season. His current OPS is 1.444. It won’t last. And, this is not a full season to chase Betts’ MVP-runner-up numbers. It does indicate further ascension.

It is also another year of Soto’s service-time clock. The Nationals hold team control of Soto until 2025. Next year he will again make a pittance relative to his peers, when he receives a slight raise from the $629,400 he is making this year. The following year, 2022, he can start to cash in  via arbitration. His salary will progressively climb year after year from there -- with several chances to set a record for arbitration pay should his play be maintained.

The rub arrives in 2025. Soto can become a free agent that year. So can Victor Robles. And, Soto is represented by Scott Boras, who is loathe to do anything other than enter free agency with his clients.

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So, the Nationals will eventually be faced with a similar decision the Boston Red Sox needed to make with Betts: can they afford their star? If not, should he be traded?

Boston was in a bind. It dumped current cash (David Price) and future cash (Betts) in exchange for three prospects. In essence, it was an organizational reboot.

The Nationals don’t tend to operate that way. They have not been forced to rebuild since the initial buildup from franchise newbie to contender was completed. They also do not want to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax whenever possible, pick singular spots for big contracts and are yet to approach Soto about an extension. Needing to choose between him and Robles complicates the process further.

So, for now, maybe it’s best to watch the mammoth homers, listen to out-of-town announcers react with shock, then giggle at tweets from NASA. Four more years of Soto in Washington are guaranteed. Nothing beyond that is.

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Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

Three home runs, Rio Ruiz flip, power Orioles to series victory and sweep opportunity vs. Phillies

With two outs in the eight inning and the Phillies threatening to tie the score, Andrew McCutchen hit a sharp ground ball to the left side of the infield. 

Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz dove to his left, corralled the ball, and as he was falling, flipped a backhand shovel that rolled to second base just in time for the final out of the inning. It was one of the Orioles' best plays, on offense or defense, all season long. 

The standout defensive play kept the Orioles ahead 5-4, a score they’d win by, in their second straight win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It was the team's second-straight series win.

“That was a huge play,” Chance Sisco said. “It was crazy. Just going into the hole, obviously, is a tough play. And then I don’t know what happened, he stumbled a little bit and fell to the ground. I don’t know what it takes just to get that ball out of his glove. Just a great play.”

Ruiz’s defensive play assuredly prevented a run, and with a bullpen that had to work big innings, that play’s significance cannot be overstated.

“He’s just reading the ball really well, his feet are great, he’s just playing outstanding defense at third base,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That play that he made in the hole, that was game-saving and really won us the game.”

Ruiz had a good night at the plate as well, as he hit a solo home run — as did Anthony Santander and Sisco, to lead the way offensively for the red-hot Orioles.

RELATED: HOW SOON IS TOO SOON FOR THE O'S TO START THINKING ABOUT THE DEADLINE?

After falling down 3-1, they rallied to tie the game in the fourth inning then took the lead in the fifth. An insurance run, by way of Sisco’s home run, gave the Orioles a two-run lead entering the eighth inning. 

Then, they held on — aided by Ruiz’s absurd defensive play — to push their record to 9-7 with a chance for a sweep over the Phillies on Thursday.

Through 16 games of the 2020 season, the Orioles have already surpassed some people’s expectations of what figured to be a year without any notable or exciting games. 

Now, they’re just riding the wave.

“It seems like good teams have different guys on different nights,” Hyde said. “And right now, that’s what we have. We had some big hits tonight. Chance Sisco, Smitty. Middle relief is what won us the game, to me. We pitched well and we got enough runs to hold on.”

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