Nationals

Rings, a banner, a win: Heat top Celtics 120-107

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Rings, a banner, a win: Heat top Celtics 120-107

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James limped off with leg cramps two times in the second half.

He wasn't worried about the outcome. By now, he knows the depth of the Miami Heat roster. And on ring night, there was no way the reigning NBA champions were going to have their party spoiled.

Dwyane Wade scored 29 points, James finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds despite spending parts of the third and fourth quarters hydrating in the locker room, and the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 120-107 Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.

``A night that we won't forget,'' James said.

That's true, for a lot of reasons.

There were actual fireworks before the game to close the ceremony where the Heat got their championship rings and raised their title banner. There also were plenty of figurative fireworks late, first with Boston almost digging out of a 19-point hole and, after the outcome was decided, Rajon Rondo flagrantly fouling Wade by wrapping his arms around his neck on a drive.

In the end, though, the first Celtics-Heat matchup of this season was like the final one of last season - with Miami winning.

``It was good to cap this night off with a win,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Chris Bosh was dominant late, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Allen scored 19 points - needing only seven field goal attempts - in his first game with the Heat since leaving Boston over the summer.

Allen got chants from the Heat crowd, which is nothing new. Except this time, they were positive.

``Never thought I'd hear that here,'' Allen said.

Paul Pierce scored 23 points, Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists, and Leandro Barbosa scored 16 for Boston. The Celtics, who lost to the Heat in last season's Eastern Conference finals, were not on the court for the ring ceremony.

They almost wrecked the festive mood with a late comeback.

An 11-2 run late in the fourth quarter got Boston within 111-107 on Courtney Lee's layup with 2:09 left. That was the last Celtics' hurrah - Bosh scored the game's next seven points, sealing it for Miami.

``I thought they were the aggressor the whole game,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ``They got on the floor where they wanted to get on the floor. They took us out of stuff that they wanted to.''

Rashard Lewis scored 10 points for Miami, which held on even while James, last season's MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, dealt with cramps, first in his right leg and then his left.

``It's not an all-the-time thing,'' James said. ``I'm not too worried about it.''

The Heat got their championship rings from owner Micky Arison before the game, then watched the banner get hoisted to the rafters. More emotion came late, when Wade drove past Rondo - and the Celtics guard grabbed Wade around the neck. Wade appeared as though he was ready to throw the ball at Rondo in retaliation, and stopped himself.

``I thought he hooked me,'' Rondo said.

Wade had a different opinion.

``It was a punk play by him,'' Wade said. ``The league will take care of it. He clotheslined me, with two hands.''

While Rondo raised eyebrows by putting hands on Wade, Kevin Garnett made news by not offering his hand to Allen.

As Allen entered the game for the first time, he trotted toward the Boston bench, exchanging a handshake, embrace and a few words with Rivers, who hasn't hidden his displeasure about his former shooting guard's decision to sign with Miami and didn't sound certain before the game how he would react when he saw Allen in Miami colors. Allen then briskly shook hands with a few assistant coaches.

But when Allen tried to engage Garnett, the mutual pleasantries ended. Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulder as he sat on the Boston bench; Garnett didn't even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way.

``I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person,'' Garnett said. ``It was a blank. Obviously he's on the other side. It's time to play the game, man.''

Allen didn't seem flustered. His first shot in a Miami uniform was - what else? - a corner 3-pointer, which swished.

``He was by himself in the corner,'' Rivers said. ``You'd think we'd know better.''

The first Heat angst of the season came in the third quarter, when James walked slowly to the bench after a timeout with 4:40 remaining, favoring his right leg and then headed out the tunnel toward the locker room.

When he left, Miami led 79-70.

When he returned to open the fourth quarter, the lead was 93-76. The Heat scored the final eight points of the third, with Bosh, Allen, Mario Chalmers and Lewis all scoring in the final 2:17 to give the Heat their biggest lead of the game.

James - who dealt with cramps in last season's NBA Finals - opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to extend the run to 10-0, and Miami seemed well on its way. But he returned to the locker room a short time later, the cramps having flared up again.

``Once you start cramping, there's nothing you can do about it,'' James said.

Nonetheless, the Heat found a way to finish without the MVP.

``This was a great night,'' James said.

NOTES: Wade passed the 15,000-point mark for his career early in the second quarter, becoming the 123rd player in NBA history to reach that mark, according to STATS LLC. ... Rondo had at least 10 assists for the 25th straight regular-season game. ... The Celtics allowed 62 points in the first half; they gave up 62 or more only seven times in 379 regular-season and playoff games over the past four seasons. ... Miami players wore sneakers with gold somewhere in the color scheme; James' were primarily gold - in honor of the ring - and trimmed in white and red.

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What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

This is the Nationals’ first time in Miami this season, and the team finished with a 3-2 loss against the Marlins on Friday night. Here are a few things to look for as they enter the second game of the three-game series against the Floridians: 

  1. Friday night’s situational hitting was poor, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas reported. The Nats left 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.However, the Nationals’ offense has changed this season. This was exemplified in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, in which both Adam Eaton and Victor Robles bunted to get hits.
  2. Eaton singled on a bunt in the first inning, eventually scoring on a Juan Soto RBI single, while Robles also reached base safely in the third following Eaton’s strategy and then stole a base. These creative plays helped get men on base, but again, more often than not they stayed there. Brian Dozier hit his second home run of the season in the seventh inning, a solo shot which gave the Nats their second and final run of the night. Dozier had a rough start to the season, and after Friday’s game, he has just two RBIs – both via solo homers. He has a batting average of .182, and he’s lost playing time to Howie Kendrick as the season has moved forward. Kendrick has a batting average of .477, the highest on the roster.
  3. Anthony Rendon continued his hit streak, extending it to 17 games with a double Friday. This is the longest hitting streak in the MLB this season, as well as the third baseman’s personal record. Within the organization, Rendon is chasing Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush’s record, which stretched to 33 consecutive hits in 1933. Can he get another on Saturday?

 

Download the MyTeams app for coverage from NBC Sports Washington of the Nationals/Marlins game on Saturday. The game broadcast will be at 6:10 PM ET on 106.7 the Fan and MASN2. 

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

The Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins, 3-2, Friday night to drop back to 9-9. Here are five observations from the game...

1. For all the offseason efforts at improvement, winning the National League East could come down to its one member which is trying to lose.

The four spenders each play Miami 19 times. By the end, going 11-8 against the in-the-tank Marlins may become a lamentable part of some team’s 2019 legacy. They either brought in a marquee pitcher, a generational outfielder or a former MVP third baseman. But they didn’t do enough against the Marlins, costing themselves the single, taut playoff spot that emerges from the division. It’s a viable storyline to project.

The Nationals took their first negative step toward that fate Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

The situational hitting was poor -- Washington left 10 runners on base. The starting pitching was so-so -- Anibal Sanchez took the loss. The bullpen made one dire mistake -- Matt Grace’s first pitch hit left-hander Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the decisive run. The luck wasn’t great -- Caleb Smith, a quality left-hander marooned in Miami as the staff’s best pitcher, was on turn. Anticipate him representing Miami at the All-Star Game this season.

Brian Dozier homered. Mark that in the positive column. Joe Ross pitched two innings of quality relief. Put him next to Dozier.

Otherwise, the loss was sigh-worthy for a team trying to lurch forward, ending its up-and-down run of the first three weeks.

2. Another day, another hit for Anthony Rendon.

His sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in Major League Baseball this season. It’s also an extension of a personal best for Rendon.

Rendon’s 15 extra-base hits in 17 games is a Nationals/Expos record.

Who is he chasing for the organization’s hit streak record? Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush, who hit safely in 33 consecutive games back in 1933.

Manush played for the Senators from 1930-1935. He hit .336 when he set the Washington record for consecutive game with a hit. He led the league in triples (17) and hits (221) that season.

Manush won a batting title in 1925 when he hit .378 for Detroit. Rendon is currently hitting .377 in the opening weeks of the season.

3. Sanchez was ok. Not great, not terrible. Just ok.

He lasted 5 ⅓ innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six. His ERA is 4.91.

Regression for Sanchez this season was expected. His 2.83 ERA in Atlanta last season came strongly against the current of his previous pitching. Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA over the three prior seasons.

However, this has been a leap back, a full two runs in arrears of last season’s ERA. More troubling than the ERA is Sanchez’s path through lineups. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down.

As the season moves along, a comparison point for Sanchez will be the results of left-hander Wade Miley in Houston. The Nationals made a multi-year offer to Miley which was better than the offer he eventually settled on with the Astros, according to a source. Miley ended up signing for just one year in Houston because the free agent market went south, and Washington quickly pivoted to Sanchez. Keeping track of the two via ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) during the season will be a fun exercise. Coming into Friday, Miley was by far the better pitcher in that department, 129 to 95. Another bloated outing from Sanchez only increased that gap.

4. The Nationals hoped to play a different brand of offense this season. They wanted to deploy more athleticism, using speed and contact to produce runs.

They took the idea to the extreme Friday. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles both bunted for hits. Eaton scored Washington’s first run after reaching base via his drag bunt up the first base line.

Robles stole second and ended up on third following his bunt in the same direction in the third inning.

Creative work at the plate for both.

5. Another bullpen twist hit Friday. Austen Williams was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right AC joint. Austin Adams was called up to replace him.

Williams had a disastrous outing Wednesday in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Giants. He allowed four earned runs -- on two home runs -- after the Nationals entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead. Williams’ inability to get an out in the ninth eventually forced closer Sean Doolittle into a game he never should have entered.

Doolittle’s entrance also complicated the current series in Miami. He pitched back-to-back games to close the series against San Francisco. His Friday availability was in question because of that, though the Nationals didn’t end up needing him.

The right-handed Adams, 27, joins the team from Triple-A Fresno. He struck out 12, allowed a hit and didn’t give up an earned run in his six innings with the Grizzlies.

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