Ravens

NBA Capsules

NBA Capsules

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James scored 32 points and finished one assist shy of a triple-double, Dwyane Wade scored 27 and the Miami Heat rallied both early and late before beating the Dallas Mavericks 119-109 in overtime on Wednesday night.

Chris Bosh scored 17 points and Ray Allen added 15 for Miami, which extended its Eastern Conference-leading record to 22-8. The Heat trailed by 12 in the opening minutes, and then dug their way out of a six-point hole in the final 3:02 of regulation.

James had 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Heat, who wound up going on what became a 16-3 run late, including 7-0 to start overtime.

O.J. Mayo scored 30 and Dirk Nowitzki - still working his way back from knee surgery - added 19 in 29 minutes for the Mavericks, who fell to 0-6 in overtime this season.

Vince Carter had 15 points, Chris Kaman scored 14 and Darren Collison finished with 11 for the Mavericks.

NETS 110, THUNDER 93

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Joe Johnson scored a season-high 33 points, Deron Williams added 19 points and 13 assists, and Brooklyn snapped Oklahoma City's 12-game home winning streak in a game featuring the first ejection of Kevin Durant's career.

The Nets squandered a 23-point lead and allowed Oklahoma City to tie it at 85 before ripping off a 23-8 run to seize control right back. Durant was ejected near the end of the surge, arguing with Danny Crawford after the referee had already issued a technical foul against Kendrick Perkins.

Durant scored 27 points and Russell Westbrook had 26 points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the third time at home this season.

Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo got a win against the team that fired him back in 2008.

WARRIORS 115, CLIPPERS 94

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Stephen Curry scored 25 of his 31 points in the first half, David Lee finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds and Golden State coasted past Los Angeles.

Harrison Barnes had 13 points and nine rebounds, and Curry added eight assists and six rebounds to pace Golden State's 26-8 spurt to start the game. The Warriors handed the Pacific Division-leading Clippers their second loss in two nights after winning a franchise-record 17 straight games.

Jamal Crawford scored 24 points off the bench and Chris Paul had 23 points and six rebounds for the Clippers, playing with heavy hearts after learning of the death of owner Donald Sterling's son earlier in the day. Starting small forward Caron Butler also wasn't with Los Angeles because of personal reasons.

GRIZZLIES 93, CELTICS 83

BOSTON (AP) - Mike Conley had 23 points and nine assists to help Memphis send Boston to its fourth consecutive loss.

Rudy Gay scored 19 points and ex-Celtic Tony Allen had a season-high 15 points for Memphis.

Paul Pierce scored 17 for Boston, but he had just one basket in the third quarter and none in the fourth while missing seven of his last eight shots.

Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who trailed by 18 after the opening basket of the fourth quarter but closed the gap to 83-78 with under 5 minutes to play on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jason Terry.

Boston began fouling and the Grizzlies made their shots, hitting 8 of 11 from the line down the stretch.

SPURS 117, BUCKS 110

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Tim Duncan had 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and San Antonio used torrid first-half shooting to beat Milwaukee for its seventh consecutive victory.

Tony Parker added 23 points and 11 assists for the Spurs, who shot 52 percent from the field for the game and withstood a second-half rally by the Bucks.

Brandon Jennings paced Milwaukee with 31 points. Bucks rookie John Henson scored a career-high 20 points and added nine rebounds. Mike Dunleavy had 19 points.

ROCKETS 104, HORNETS 92

HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden had 31 points and seven assists to lead Houston over New Orleans.

When he couldn't find a rhythm from beyond the arc, Harden took to the paint, where he scored 16 of his points. Houston outscored New Orleans 60-28 in the paint.

Harden has led the Rockets in scoring for 14 straight games, not including a Dec. 10 loss to San Antonio where he was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Omer Asik had 21 points and eight rebounds, and forward Patrick Patterson scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, adding nine rebounds in the game.

RAPTORS 102, TRAIL BLAZERS 79

TORONTO (AP) - Terrence Ross scored a career-high 26 points, DeMar DeRozan had 24 and Toronto snapped an eight-game losing streak against Portland.

Ed Davis had 19 points and Amir Johnson 17 in Toronto's first victory over the Trail Blazers since a 116-109 double-overtime win on Jan. 13, 2008.

Ross had a career-best six 3-pointers as the Raptors won for the eighth time in nine games and opened their season-high, six-game homestand in style, leading by as many as 25.

Rookie Damian Lillard led Portland with 18 points while LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

PACERS 89, WIZARDS 81

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Paul George had 29 points and 13 rebounds, D.J. Augustin scored 18 points, and Indiana beat Washington.

George had 10 points in the first quarter as the Central Division-leading Pacers (19-13) led by as many as 17 points against the team with the NBA's worst record.

The Wizards (4-26) wouldn't go away easily, battling back to within 51-49 in the third quarter before the Pacers pulled away.

Roy Hibbert added 13 points for the Pacers, who won their sixth straight home game. Ian Mahinmi added nine points and 11 rebounds.

Jordan Crawford scored 20 points for Washington, which fell to 1-14 on the road this season. Kevin Seraphin scored 16, Nene added 15 points and Bradley Beal scored 14 for the Wizards.

BULLS 96, MAGIC 94

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Carlos Boozer had a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds, Luol Deng scored 23 points and Chicago hung on to beat Orlando.

Taj Gibson added 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who played without center Joakim Noah. Chicago was outrebounded 37-34 in Noah's absence but exploited an injury-plagued Magic front court, outscoring them 42-32 in the paint.

Jameer Nelson missed a leaning jumper in the closing seconds that would have tied it, sending Orlando to its seventh straight loss overall and fifth in a row at home.

Nelson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore hip and scored a season-high 32 points. Nik Vucevic finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Arron Afflalo added 19 points for the Magic.

KINGS 97, CAVALIERS 94

CLEVELAND (AP) - Jason Thompson scored 19 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 18, leading Sacramento over Cleveland for its second road win of the season.

John Salmons' 3-pointer from the corner with 52.9 seconds remaining gave Sacramento the lead for good, 92-90. The win broke a seven-game losing streak away from home for the Kings, who are 2-13 on the road and played without injured guards Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, their second and third-leading scorers.

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points to lead Cleveland, which has lost nine of 11 and is 3-11 at Quicken Loans Arena, where it has dropped five straight.

Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, the league's leading rebounder, missed his seventh straight game with a bruised right knee.

JAZZ 106, TIMBERWOLVES 84

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Gordon Hayward scored 17 points, Enes Kanter had 15 and Utah beat Minnesota to snap a three-game losing streak.

Paul Millsap started 7 of 7 for Utah and finished with 14 points, and Jamaal Tinsley had 12 on 6-of-8 shooting.

Tinsley started in place Mo Williams, who learned earlier in the day he will be out six weeks after opting for surgery on his right thumb.

The game marked the return of Andrei Kirilenko, who played 10 seasons for the Jazz before being allowed to leave via free agency two years ago. He hit his first three shots but finished with just 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

Alexey Shved and Kevin Love led Minnesota (14-14) with 13 apiece and Love added 10 rebounds but neither shot well.

SUNS 95, 76ERS 89

PHOENIX (AP) - Luis Scola scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half and Phoenix beat Philadelphia to snap a six-game losing streak.

Goran Dragic added 20, Shannon Brown scored 12, and Marcin Gortat had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Suns.

Jrue Holliday had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double for the 76ers, who are 2-7 in the second half of back-to-back games. Dorell Wright and Thaddeus Young had 14 points apiece for Philadelphia.

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How the Ravens will try to slow down the NFL’s best offense in Kansas City

pat-mahomes-chiefs-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

How the Ravens will try to slow down the NFL’s best offense in Kansas City

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have got a big problem on their hands. Or, more accurately, they’ve got a bunch of problems to deal with.

The Kansas City Chiefs have, since the beginning of last season, been the NFL’s best offense. With reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, all-pro Travis Kelce at tight end and a seemingly replenishing stable of speedster wide receivers, the offense has been nearly unstoppable.

They’ve scored 34 points per game this year. Mahomes has passed for 821 yards and as a team, they’ve averaged 479 yards each week. 

Now it’s the Ravens turns to get a chance at stopping, or at least slowing down, the NFL’s most vaunted attack.

“World-class tight end, world-class sprinters out there at wide receiver,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “Obviously you’re talking about an offense that averages over 35 points per game last year. It doesn’t look like there’s any drop-off from last year. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

The man leading it all, Mahomes, is perhaps the league’s most talented quarterback. He won MVP last season after throwing for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. 

This season, he’s already ushered in discussions that he could throw for 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns, which would completely shatter the NFL’s previous records. In his third season, he’s already one of the league’s most feared players.

“You have to play to the whistle,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “He’s a guy that can extend the play – smart guy, big arm, strong arm. They have a lot of different movements and gadgets and a lot of different things going on with their offense, so you have to have disciplined eye control, 100 percent communication and just play as a unit for 60 minutes.”

One of Mahomes most dangerous traits, however, is his ability to throw the ball on the run. With a cannon for an arm, Mahomes is just as dangerous throwing across the field while scrambling as he is while he’s stationary in the pocket. 

In last year’s thrilling Week 14 game, a 27-24 Ravens loss, Mahomes threw his first no-look pass, which caught the eye of the NFL and was one of the highlights of his stellar season. 

Later in the game, with the Ravens up by seven, Mahomes and his offense were faced with a fourth and nine. After Mahomes took the snap, the play broke down and he had to scramble to his right. On the move to his right, he threw the ball across the field nearly 40 yards in the air to Tyreek Hill, who took the ball into the red zone. 

Multiple Ravens players and coaches said they still think about that play and game, even into this season.

“You keep him in the pocket as much as you can,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You make him throw under pressure as much as you can. You cover the guys as well as you can. Then, you play football. That’s what you try to do. If he throws one up down the middle again, hopefully, we’ll get it this time.”

Mahomes’ arm strength is just one of his abilities as a passer, of which there are many. By far, however, that’s what can change a defense the most.

“The thing about Mahomes, is once he scrambles, he’s looking across the field, down the field, he’s not scared to make those type of throws,” safety Earl Thomas said. “Most quarterbacks won’t try that.”

It might be easier to handle Mahomes, however, if he didn’t have a team full out some of the best receiving weapons in the league. 

Unfortunately for the Ravens, he does. 

Even without Tyreek Hill, who is out with a shoulder injury, the Chiefs have been able to replace him with a host of other speedy receivers that both the Jaguars and Raiders weren’t able to figure out.

“Hill runs about a 4.21 40, (and) they put in a guy that runs about a 4.22 40,” Martindale quipped. “They’re fast.”

Sammy Watkins leads the team in receiving with 247 yards and three touchdowns, but the rest of the wideouts are loaded with speed, too. Demarcus Robinson has 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Mecole Hardman has 61 yards (albeit on four receptions) but is as speedy as ever. 

Then, at tight end, Kansas City has perhaps the game’s best tight end in Kelce. He’s got 195 yards and a touchdown this season. 

The receivers and their speed are one thing, but when they can take the top off the defense only to have Kelce under the middle, the Chiefs present a world of problems for opposing defenses.

“He’s just going to be hard to cover,” Harbaugh said of Kelce. “I don’t care what you do, how you cover him, how many guys you put on him – he’s going to be a challenge to cover. You don’t really expect to shut him out. We’re going to try to keep the batting average down just a little bit. I’m sure we’ll throw some different things at him.”

The man calling the shots is Andy Reid, one of the most respected and creative offensive minds to ever stand on the sidelines in the NFL. 

The Chiefs can hurt you through the air and even on the ground. Running back LeSean McCoy has averaged five yards a carry over 20 carries this season, too.

Even with left tackle Eric Fisher out with an injury, it’s hard to find a significant weak part of the offense. And that includes behind the white lines.

“Andy Reid, to me, we’re talking about all these young and innovate offensive coordinators, he’s the grandfather,” Martindale said. “He’s the OG of the innovators of offense. The offense he has in Kansas City, everybody steals from. He’s the king of the RPO, he’s the king of the shots, he’s the king of the screens. I think we’re just the men for the job, but it’s a tough out.”

The Ravens think they can be that out for the Chiefs. They added Earl Thomas in the secondary in the offseason, and even with Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young sidelined, still boast one of the top units in the NFL.

And not only are the Ravens prepared to stop the Chiefs explosive offense, they’re confident, too.

“Luckily, the Ravens have me playing free safety, controlling the deep end,” Thomas said. “I plan on eliminating all the big plays.”

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Projecting the Caps’ opening night roster after first round of cuts

Projecting the Caps’ opening night roster after first round of cuts

The Capitals are a week into training camp and the opening roster is starting to come into focus. The first round of cuts was made on Thursday and while none of the names were all that shocking, it does tell us that the team does not intend to get cute with its roster makeup with Evgeny Kuznetsov out.

Here’s a projection of the Caps’ opening night roster through the first cuts and first week of camp.

Offense

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnett Hathaway
Chandler Stephenson

Suspended: Evgeny Kuznetsov

The top two lines are all but set. They have been practicing this way for much of camp and it seems unlikely that Todd Reirden will start that way and then randomly shuffle his top six.

Stephenson did little to help his stock on Monday with an underwhelming performance in the preseason opener against a pretty bad Chicago lineup. I see him in Washington the first week but sent down to Hershey once Kuznetsov returns. He is someone who could probably clear waivers even if it not done on the traditional waiver dump right before the league season officially starts. Boyd did a little better than Stephenson on Monday and I think he will ultimately get to stick around this season in case the team wants to boost the offense of the fourth line. For now, he can be inserted in on the third line at center.

Defense

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas
Christian Djoos

The conversation around Kempny shifted a bit on Wednesday. The sense I was getting prior to that was that the team was all-in on Kempny being ready for the first game of the regular season. Reirden reiterated that on Wednesday, but also said he would like to get him into a preseason game if possible. To me, that may be a sign that Kempny is progressing. Even if he is not ready for the preseason, I do believe he is on pace for the start of the regular season at this point.

I felt Jensen looked pretty comfortable in the preseason opener on Monday. Granted that was against a bad roster, but he red plays well, jumped up into the offense and, critically, he was able to hold his own on the left side which is something he was really dreadful at last season.

Gudas scored a goal on Wednesday, but I thought he looked a bit slow in his own end. As of now, I still give Jensen the edge in that race and I think Gudas will be better off on the third pair anyway.

Djoos was better than Siegenthaler on Monday, but I feel Siegenthaler bought himself some time with his performance in the playoffs last year. It is going to be really hard for the Caps to justify Djoos’ salary as $1.25 million is too much for a No. 6-7 defenseman. Ultimately, the onus is on him to show the team he is someone they simply cannot afford to lose.

There is a way for the team to keep Djoos, but it depends on who backs up Braden Holtby.

Goalie

Braden Holtby
Vitek Vanecek

Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov played well enough on Wednesday that replacing Pheonix Copley seems like a real possibility. You need to see more from them than simply half a preseason game, but we will get that chance as the preseason rolls along. The problem here is Copley’s $1.1 million cap hit. If Vanecek and Samsonov can get the job done for less money -- and it looked like they could against St. Louis -- then Copley is likely headed to waivers.

Why Vanecek over Samsonov? First off, with this roster projection, the team could afford to keep Djoos with Vanecek as a backup with his $716,667 cap hit, but not with Samsonov's $925,000 cap hit. The cap is that tight. Getting Samsonov consistent playing time is also important for his development. He will get that in Hershey, but not in Washington. Vanecek is waiver exempt so the team will still be able to shuffle Samsonov and Vanecek to make sure they both get NHL playing time. That added flexibility is a plus as well. Otherwise, it would mean putting Copley on waivers in the middle of the season when he is probably more likely to get claimed.

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