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Nets beat Knicks to split four-game series

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Nets beat Knicks to split four-game series

NEW YORK (AP) Joe Johnson made the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left and scored 25 points, leading the Brooklyn Nets to an 88-85 over the New York Knicks on Monday and a split of the four-game series between the city rivals.

Deron Williams added 14 points and 12 assists for the Nets, who cut the Knicks' Atlantic Division lead to one game. Brook Lopez had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Kris Humphries came off the bench for 11 points and 13 boards.

Carmelo Anthony had 29 points and seven assists for the Knicks, but missed all six shots in the fourth quarter and finished 11 of 29 for the game. J.R. Smith scored 16 points and Amare Stoudemire 15.

The Nets survived a pair of lengthy droughts in the second half but got 10 points in the final period from Johnson, who used to play for Knicks coach Mike Woodson in Atlanta and has become the player Brooklyn turns to for big shots in the clutch.

Anthony had his 26th straight 20-point game, tied with Stoudemire for third-longest streak in franchise history, but the Knicks were sluggish early in their first game since playing in London on Thursday and lost for the third straight time on Martin Luther King Day.

The Knicks led by three before consecutive 3-pointers by CJ Watson and Johnson gave Brooklyn a 78-75 lead. Smith scored, but then Johnson made another 3 and a jumper to extend the lead to 83-77 with 5:38 remaining before the Nets went cold again.

New York shut Brooklyn out over the next 5 minutes while scoring seven in a row, regaining the lead on Anthony's free throws with 40 seconds to play. But the Nets got the ball on the next possession to Johnson, who dribbled right toward the baseline and pulled up for the go-ahead basket.

Anthony missed badly on the next possession and the Knicks fouled Williams, who made both with 8.3 seconds to play for a three-point lead. Jason Kidd made one after the Nets fouled him intentionally, but the Knicks had one final chance after Williams hit just one of two on his next trip, ending a streak of 52 consecutive made free throws. Smith's rushed 3-point attempt bounced off the backboard and front of the rim.

The Knicks led the division by six games after beating the Nets here on Dec. 19, but the Nets have gone 11-2 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo while the Knicks have battled injuries and failed to play at the level they reached early in the season.

The Nets led 26-24 after one, then got a solid stretch from Humphries, who has struggled lately after losing his starting job. He scored seven straight points as Brooklyn went ahead by six, and the lead grew to 45-35 on Reggie Evans' free throw with 2:06 remaining in the half.

Humphries finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 12 first-half minutes, and the Nets led 47-41 at the break.

The Knicks shot under 35 percent in the first half and trailed by nine early in the third quarter before finally finding their legs. Stoudemire and Smith each had two baskets before Anthony's jumper capped a 10-0 run that gave New York a 63-60 lead during a span in which it held Brooklyn without a basket for five minutes. The Knicks led 68-65 after three.

It was the third tight game in the series, the games living up to the extra emphasis that was put on them since the Nets' move from New Jersey into the Knicks' city. Anthony was the dominant player in the series, a thrill for the Brooklyn native and a tough pill to swallow for the Nets, who desperately tried to acquire him two years ago before the Denver Nuggets instead took the Knicks' package.

But he couldn't quite reach his level of play from the first three games, when he averaged 37 points.

Notes: Richie Guerin holds the Knicks' record with 29 straight 20-point games. Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing had a 28-game streak. ... The Knicks fell to 18-9 on the holiday.

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

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Orioles clean house, fire 11 members of scouting and front office departments

Baltimore Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is dedicated to altering the direction of the organization and that was reciprocated Friday with the firing of 11 members of the scouting and front office departments.  

"We're in a period of change right now with the industry and we're in a period of change right now with the Orioles," Elias said. "Sometimes to make changes you've got to make changes."

Among those relieved were baseball operations director Tripp Norton, scouts Dean Albany, Jim Howard, John Gillette, Nathan Showalter, and Buck Showalter. 

Elias acknowledged the uphill battle ahead of filling numerous voids but insists it's just a part of the job 

"We're going to be very busy bringing people into this organization," he said. "This is just the organization moving along and adapting to the sport today."

Just one day removed from a judge confirming that the Orioles owe the Nationals nearly $300 million, Elias insisted this move isn't to save money.

"There are changes going on in the scouting business in terms of greater availability of information in general, video and data," Elias said. "There are instances where we will replace people's roles kind of man for man, head for head, spot for spot, but there's other instances where we're reconfiguring the way the scouts go about their business."

The O's will look completely different from this point out and players won't be the only changes.

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Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

Sleep-deprived Nationals win one they probably shouldn’t have in Chicago behind Aníbal Sánchez

The clubhouse wears have never been packed so quickly. Washington was sprinting as a group to get out of Pittsburgh on Thursday night following another three-hour-plus game with a 1:20 p.m. local start looming in Wrigley Field on Friday.

Max Scherzer finished his postgame comments in less than four minutes, then quickly moved to get cleaned up and join the others. Most lockers were vacant by the time media members reached the clubhouse, which wasn’t long after the game ended. 

Despite the scramble for minutes saved, Friday was supposed to be a loss. Las Vegas knew. The players and management knew. It was a bad spot. Night game, onto a plane, then a day game against a team which played at home the previous afternoon, and was 44-19 there -- the second-best home record in the National League. 

And yet, Nationals 9, Cubs 3, and it wasn’t that close.

Some bloops fell, some situations turned out lucky. Though, Aníbal Sánchez dominated. No voodoo or charms were involved.

He went through 8 ⅓ innings before being removed after 112 pitches. He was provided a shot to finish the game -- just 15 National League pitchers have a complete game this season -- but couldn’t. A rare Anthony Rendon throwing error cost him an out, then his opportunity for a solo close to the afternoon in Chicago.

Sánchez threw 31 four-seam fastballs, 31 cutters and 28 “splitters” among his 112 pitches. He worked as a marionettist, pulling strings to change positions and outcomes throughout the day. Matt Grace finished the game. No high-end reliever was used, resetting a bullpen which had to cover five innings in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The offense beat up Jon Lester. He didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Everyone in the lineup -- including Sánchez -- picked up a hit. Trea Turner’s single extended his on-base streak to 30 games.

Sánchez’s work piggybacked on what the other starters did against woeful Pittsburgh. Nationals starters have allowed two earned runs in the first five games of this seven-game road trip. The offense has averaged 8.2 runs in that span. It’s hard to fathom they lost once with both sides operating in such fashion.

All of this is just a continuation of a massive turnaround. Washington is 52-26 since its nadir May 24. Only the Dodgers -- who host the Yankees on Friday night -- have a better record in that span, and by just a half-game. They have won 10 of 12 and 13 of 17. Fivethirtyeight.com now gives the Nationals a 90 percent chance to make the postseason (this includes the wild-card game).

Wins like Friday emphatically move that needle. The Cubs are trying to wind their way into the postseason. They were also set up for a clear advantage thanks to the schedule. Instead, Sánchez, throwing as slow as 68 mph and as fast as 91, controlled the day, the offense rolled through the afternoon and everyone was ready for bed after a surprise win.

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