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Rubio works through frustration in comeback


Rubio works through frustration in comeback

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Ricky Rubio swiped the pass in the open court and darted down the lane with Derrick Williams on his wing.

Rubio zipped the kind of behind-the-back pass that made him a sensation in Minnesota during his rookie season, the kind of flashy play that put rear ends in the seats at Target Center and made the Timberwolves one of the most exciting young teams in the league last year.

This time, the pass landed right in Nets forward Gerald Wallace's gut for a turnover and everyone - the fans, his teammates and Rubio himself - was reminded that the magic of last season was a long, long time ago.

Ten months after surgery on his left knee, Rubio is still shaking off the rust. It's been a process filled with frustration. The only thing slower to come around than the breakup of the scar tissue in his knee are the crunch-time minutes he desperately craves and the victories he helped deliver for the Timberwolves before he was injured last season. It has all tested Rubio's patience and positive outlook like never before.

It reached a boiling point Wednesday night against the Nets when Rubio walked to the scorer's table to check into the game with about four minutes to play. While he was waiting, J.J. Barea hit a 3-pointer, so acting head coach Terry Porter decided to stick with Barea down the stretch rather than go back to Rubio.

The smile that was a fixture on the Spaniard's face most of last season was nowhere to be found, and teammates Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic had to pull him aside during a timeout to offer words of encouragement and calm him down.

``TP preferred to play the players we were playing,'' Rubio said after the game, still smoldering from the decision. ``I don't know what to say.''

The cute, cuddly Ricky Rubio - the one who posts pictures of bunnies whispering to each other on his Twitter account and preaches positivity above all else - was nowhere to be found in that locker room, replaced by an angst-ridden 22-year-old who hasn't recovered from the torn ligaments last March nearly as quickly as he was hoping he would.

In the 14 games since his season debut last month, Rubio is averaging 4.2 points. 5.0 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game. He is shooting just 24.6 percent from the field and is 0 for 11 on 3-pointers and still feels some discomfort in his knee on occasion.

``Sometimes I want to penetrate and I don't feel like I have the power to do it,'' he said this week. ``Maybe I have it. But it's like, sometimes, that confidence has to come back. ... So you have to try to find some space to work on that, then do it in the games, too.''

Rubio has been on a strict minutes limit since his return aimed at safely easing him back up to full speed. With Rick Adelman away tending to his sick wife, Porter has been instructed to keep Rubio at 28 minutes per game for the time being. Rubio has been pushing for more because he thinks that is the best way for him to get the feel, the timing and the conditioning back.

Barea committed five fouls in about five minutes, was torched by C.J. Watson on the defensive end and played uneven offensively in the fourth quarter. But Porter wanted his scoring punch in a lineup missing Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy to injuries. A day later, Rubio and Porter had yet to discuss the decision, but planned to before the team left town for a game at Washington on Friday. The Wolves have lost seven of their last eight games and are in danger of fading from playoff contention.

``I'll have to talk to him,'' Porter said Thursday. ``Everybody's frustrated, I think, with the whole situation and there's nothing wrong with that. From a competitive standpoint you want guys to be frustrated when they don't get a chance to play in the fourth quarter.''

Williams sat the entire fourth quarter as well. He said he's seen Rubio that upset before, but usually it comes behind closed doors and not in public.

``Ricky's a competitor,'' Williams said. ``He wants to play. We were both in that situation yesterday. You've just got to keep your head high, stay focused. We've got more games to win.''

Rubio said after practice that he understood why Porter made the decision he did, but didn't hide his desire to be on the floor in the game's biggest moments.

``I was hot and of course there is respect for the teammates who were on the court,'' Rubio said. ``I'm going to say the same thing always. I always want to play, even when I don't deserve it. I have ambition and I want to play and I want to try to help the team and I want to be in there in the last minutes.''

Rubio said he respects Porter and is sure they can get back on the same page. And he isn't ready to give up on recapturing his mojo this season just yet.

``I don't want to think about next season,'' Rubio said. ``I don't want to lose this season. I live in the present and I want to do as good as I can right now and I'm going to work as hard as I can to get healthy this season.''


Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

Chad Ricardo

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

In Saturday's match-up of the 2018 WCAC championship, Gonzaga came out ahead again - this time beating DeMatha 28-26.

Gonzaga broke up DeMatha's attempt at a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

Caleb Williams finished with four touchdowns for the Eagles. In 2018, the Eagles beat DeMatha on a legendary Hail Mary pass from Williams to receiver John Marshall.




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Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros outlasted the New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-center, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park and earning himself AL Championship Series MVP.

"Beautiful game," Altuve said. 

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, the postseason star -- undefeated since May 22 -- could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. 

Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and flashy outfield defense helped Houston's relievers defeat the Yankees and their vaunted bullpen. 

It almost fell apart in the ninth. Gio Urshela singled off Osuna leading off for his third hit of the game, and LeMahieu put a ball into the first row of seats in right field -- inches over the glove of leaping George Springer -- to tie it at 4. 

Altuve, a 5-foot-6 sparkplug touted as Houston's heart and soul, didn't let this one get away.

"I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time," manager AJ Hinch said. "I think MVP is what he is." 

The teams combined to use 14 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 9 minutes. 

Houston's bullpen got a lift from flashy outfield defense. Right fielder Josh Reddick dived for Brett Gardner's liner for the second out of the sixth. An inning later, left fielder Michael Brantley laid out for Aaron Hicks' shallow floater and doubled off Aaron Judge at first. 

Gurriel, a holdover from Houston's 2017 championship team, was 1 for 20 to start the ALCS before his drive in the first inning. The shot into the Crawford Boxes was his first connection this postseason. 

It's the third time Houston has eliminated New York in the past five postseasons. The Astros won the 2015 wild-card game in the Bronx and beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2017 ALCS before winning their first title. 

Washington is seeking its first championship in the 51-season history of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise. The original Washington Senators won their only championship for the nation's capital in 1924 and last reached the World Series in 1933 before becoming the Minnesota Twins for the 1961 season.

Gary Sanchez had an RBI single in the second and Urshela homered in the fourth. 

Alex Bregman gave the Astros an insurance run with an RBI on a forceout in the sixth inning. 

Brantley's double play elicited one of the loudest ovations of the night -- before Altuve's blast -- from the sellout crowd of 43,357 which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who watched from the front row in personalized orange Astros jerseys.

New York lost its fourth straight ALCS after falling in 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Yankees will go without a World Series appearance in a calendar decade for the first time since the 1910s.

Altuve doubled off opener Chad Green with one out in the first inning and Bregman drew a walk with two outs. After a short visit to the mound, Gurriel knocked the next pitch into the seats in left field for a 3-0 lead. The runs were Houston's first with two outs in the series. 

Houston had been 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position before that big swing. 

Brad Peacock, who threw eight pitches in a scoreless eighth inning Friday night, became the fourth pitcher ever to finish a postseason game and then start the next day, and the first since 1924. 

He needed seven pitches to retire the side in the first before running into trouble with two outs in the second. Josh James ended the inning by striking out Gardner. 

Ryan Pressly had another gutsy escape, too. He hurt his right knee again fielding a bases-loaded grounder by Didi Gregorius but limped over to tag him for the final out of the third. Pressly, who grimaced as he went toward the dugout after one pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on Aug. 22 and returned Sept. 20. Pressly also got two strikeouts with the bases loaded in Game 4.