Nationals

Rockets hand Jazz worst home loss, 125-80

201301282152787512718-p2.jpeg

Rockets hand Jazz worst home loss, 125-80

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) James Harden scored 25 points and the Houston Rockets rolled by the Jazz 125-80 on Monday night, handing Utah its worst home loss in franchise history.

The Jazz had won six straight at home but simply couldn't keep pace in transition. They were outscored 26-2 on the break and shot just 39.5 percent. Their previous worst was by 33 points to Milwaukee on Nov. 18, 1980.

Carlos Delfino and Marcus Morris each hit four 3-pointers for Houston, which made 16 of 34 from beyond the arc. Omer Asik had 19 rebounds as the Rockets (25-22) won their third straight.

Houston led by 21 points in the second, by 35 in the third and kept pouring it on fourth.

Randy Foye led Utah with 12 points.

The Jazz hardly looked like the team that had won nine of their previous 12. They fell behind by nine early but rallied to tie it at 22 late in the first.

After that it was all Houston, prompting fans to boo and head for the exits early in the third quarter.

At one point, Houston hit three straight 3-pointers, two by Morris and another by Harden, who took a seat on the bench with the rest of the Rockets starters the entire fourth.

Morris opened the fourth with another 3 just to put an exclamation point on the night.

The Rockets led by as many as 21 points in the second, thanks to aggressive moves to the rim by Harden and the 3-point shooting of Delfino.

Harden had 18 points by halftime and Delfino 14 in just 12 minutes off the bench as he hit his first four 3-pointers.

The Jazz scored 39 points in the first half.

Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson were a combined 0 for 7 to start and 5 of 18 at halftime.

By then it was over.

To think the Rockets had a hard time even getting to Utah. A blizzard had them grounded Sunday night in Grand Junction, Colo.

They arrived in Salt Lake City early enough for Jeremy Lin to slip in for the last screening of the documentary ``Linsanity'' during the Sundance Film Festival.

The movie premiered about a year after Lin began catapulting to worldwide stardom in New York. He was an afterthought only a month before, cut by the Rockets on Christmas Day and claimed by the Knicks off waivers.

He only took five shots Monday, but hit them all to finish with 12 points. Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson each added 12.

Morris finished with 16 points and Delfino 14.

Jefferson added 10 points for Utah but shot just 5 of 14.

The Rockets jumped out to a 15-6 lead as they hit 7 of 9 shots to open.

The Jazz were without third-leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who sprained his right shoulder late in Saturday's overtime win over Indiana. He had been averaging 14.5 points and shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc during the month. It was the first game he did not play since his rookie season three years ago.

Even he probably couldn't have made a difference in this one.

NOTES: Eighty-nine-year-old Wataru Misaka, the first player of Asian descent to play in the NBA, was at Monday's game to watch Lin warm up. Misaka, once discriminated against because of his Japanese ancestry, recalled writing Lin a note of encouragement ``when he was with Oakland back in the dark days when things didn't look too good for him. He didn't have all these fans at this time but he's made a lot of progress since then and I think he's in a much better place now.'' Misaka, who lives in nearby Bountiful, is a former point guard who played for the New York Knicks in the 1947-48 season and led the University of Utah to the 1944 NCAA championship. ``He broke a lot of barriers and racial stereotypes,'' Lin told the Houston Chronicle of Misaka. ``You have to pay respect to the people who came before you.'' Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

Quick Links

This is how the Nationals and Sean Doolittle got here, and this is where they go

This is how the Nationals and Sean Doolittle got here, and this is where they go

WASHINGTON -- The first taste of all this came in late April of last year. Sean Doolittle threw three games in a row for the first time in years, only two of which were save opportunities. 

“Guess the training wheels are off,” Doolittle joked then.

His blistering usage this season followed with another heavy April and May combination born of the team’s other faults. The club was sliding or injury-filled or both, playing tight games and acting desperate in the season’s early months in order to make the later ones matter. A turnaround was even more critical this season following last year’s stumble. Davey Martinez was brought to Washington with a mandate to reach the World Series. They didn’t even make the playoffs in year one.

Look at Doolittle’s year-over-year pattern: April and May of last year, 25 total appearances. April and May of this year, 23 total appearances. By the start of July in 2018, Doolittle was on the injured list. He made it until mid-August this season, leading the league in games finished, being used relentlessly by a manager who had no one to trust at the start, then didn’t turn to those he could once they arrived. Doolittle appeared in eight of the Nationals’ 14 games since the trade deadline passed, all while enduring a home run surge and talking publicly about fatigue.

So, why was he used so often?

“Doolittle's the closer,” Martinez said Sunday. “He's the closer of this team. We've said that before and this is based on conversations with Doo. If he's available, as we talked about, then he's going to pitch the ninth inning. He's always been in the game when he said he was available to pitch.” 

The conversation Sunday morning between Martinez and Doolittle was meant to figure out what’s next for the closer and team following Saturday’s harrowing appearance. Doolittle was pummeled that evening. His failing cost the team continuance of a win streak and a pertinent victory. He knew it. It stung.

So, the decision was to put him on the 10-day injured list because of right knee tendinitis. Martinez backed the news with a declaration: “Talked to him, talked to the medical staff. It came to a head when I talked to him that his right knee's bothering him. So, we want to get it right. So we put him on the IL. Hopefully, it won't take as long, he's back in 10 days and when he does come back, he's our closer. And I reiterated that to him. He's our closer, but we got to get him right.”

Doolittle found a mechanical tweak earlier in the season which made him his most potent. His body position was higher, his release point hidden longer and his drive down the mound maximized. Of late, his fatigue has undermined those priorities. Doolittle is rolling through the load period in his windup. His arm is trying to generate power his body typically would. The ball is exposed earlier. Simply, hitters can see a slower-moving ball sooner. 

While Doolittle rests and retools, Martinez will hunt for how to operate without him. Daniel Hudson (1.08 ERA, heavy usage since arriving) and Hunter Strickland (1.29 ERA) are the logical choices. Why they weren’t being used as such to save Doolittle appearances before is moot now. They’re in. He’s out.

Roenis Elias and Greg Holland are also part of the equation. Elias (hamstring) is heading toward a mound session, perhaps in the next few days. If he didn’t absent-mindedly swing Aug. 2, much could be different. He could handle the seventh, aligning Hudson and Strickland for later outs and saving Doolittle. Instead, he’s thrown ⅔ of an inning since being acquired July 31. 

Holland has thrown two scoreless innings for Harrisburg since being signed and stashed after his release by Arizona. The Nationals are confident they can again retool Holland the way they did last year in a striking turnaround which led to a 0.84 ERA in 24 appearances. If he’s league average at the end of the bullpen, it’s a boost.

Washington has a minimum of eight more games to decipher how the new alignment will be deployed. Max Scherzer’s “probable” return Thursday will force a move in the rotation. Erick Fedde or Joe Ross (most likely Fedde) could end up back in the bullpen or in the minors.

The Nationals are 5 ½ games out of first place in the National League East. They hold a 3 ½-game lead in the wild-card race. Only the juggernaut Dodgers have a better run differential following Sunday’s homer-laden win against Milwaukee. 

Which means there is room for a breath, a reset, a rebuild of their closer. The season is going to boil down to September. Without a top-tier Doolittle, it has a limited chance of finishing where they payroll and demands expect it to.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

elena-delle-donne-mystics-usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Washington Mystics set WNBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game without Kristi Toliver

WASHINGTON – Shey Peddy rarely gets to see the floor as a part of the WNBA-leading Washington Mystics. Sunday was only the 10th game of her WNBA career, playing in garbage time of what was going to be another dominant Mystics victory. 

She only managed three points on one made basket, but it was perhaps the biggest basket of the night. As Peddy, 30, caught a pass at the wing in her right hand, she quickly squared up and delivered a 3-point basket for Washington. It was the Mystics’ 18 such basket from range on the day, a new WNBA record. 

This is just the latest in the plethora of record-breaking performances for the Mystics in 2019. A massive 107-68 victory over the Indiana Fever is starting to feel habitual for those in the Entertainment and Sports Arena. More records falling on a daily basis.

Which, by the way, winning by 39 points also gave the Mystics their 11th win of 20 points or more to build on their current WNBA record. There are seven games still left on the schedule.

“When you shoot 39 threes and make 18 of them and you have 30 assists for the game, coach has to be pretty happy,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. “The world looks really good when you’re making shots.”

Even more impressive is that the Mystics accomplished such a feat without one of their star players Kristi Toliver. Entering the contest she had made the second most 3-point baskets on the team and did so at a 36% clip. But had the Mystics had Toliver, Peddy would not have been in the lineup. She recently signed a seven-day player contract with the team to fill Toliver’s roster spot. 

Production was from all corners of the roster to set the 3-point mark. Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers both had four each from long range as the bench added six.  Emma Meesseman, who came off the bench, led the unit as they combined for 36 points. 

In total, nine of the 11 eligible players on the gameday roster made a 3-pointer, with all 11 scoring a point. The only one who didn’t get one long ball attempt was center LaToya Sanders.

While the team was unaware of the record, they consciously knew that Sanders was the only one who didn’t shoot a 3-point shot.

“We’re going to get [LaToya] to shoot one. I’m going to give it to her real late in the shot clock, watch,” Natasha Cloud said postgame. 

The center has attempted two threes in her entire seven-year career. 

Like all games throughout the season at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C., there was a match lit underneath the Mystics (20-7) in the opening moments of the contest. They jumped out to a 24-4 lead over Indiana and held the Fever without a basket from the floor for the first seven minutes. 

An admirable 13-0 run by the Fever (9-17) momentarily made it a game in the second quarter. However, right after the spark the Fever’s top player Candice Dupree exited the game with a finger injury. She spent the rest of the game courtside sporting a splint. 

Elena Delle Donne contributed to three of the team’s recording-breaking 3-point baskets. She also recorded her 11th game with 20-plus points as she led all scorers with 25. 

In addition to the setting the WNBA’s 3-point record, having nine separate players hit one also set another record. Recording 30 assists put them two shy of another single-game high. 

It all came as the Mystics closed their toughest stretch of 2019: three games in five days. Their next goal? Rest, and they’ve earned it on their six-game winning streak.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas no matter what. Once we clinched a playoff spot, we didn’t come into this game thinking ‘alright let’s relax.’ We came into this game, ‘okay let’s continue to separate ourselves.'” 

MORE MYSTICS NEWS: