Nationals

Short-handed Spurs fall to Heat, 105-100

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Short-handed Spurs fall to Heat, 105-100

MIAMI (AP) When Gregg Popovich gives his best players a night off to rest, it's not uncommon for the San Antonio Spurs coach to get letters from upset fans.

This time, he's going to hear from an upset commissioner - even after Popovich's short-handed team nearly knocked off the Miami Heat.

Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left gave Miami the lead, LeBron James finished with 23 points and the Heat rallied to beat the Spurs 105-100 on Thursday night - digging deep despite San Antonio's decision to have four top players resting at home in a move that bothered NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The Spurs played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, all sent back to San Antonio by Popovich, who said the move was in his team's best interest.

``I don't think Pop was in the wrong,'' James said.

Stern disagreed, calling the decision ``unacceptable,'' apologizing to fans and saying that sanctions against the Spurs will be forthcoming.

``Oh, it would have been great if we won,'' Spurs forward Matt Bonner said after hearing about Stern's statement. ``It goes back to what I was saying, I'm sure everybody else was saying before the game. We have faith in everybody on our roster. We think we have one of the deepest teams in the league.''

The Heat weren't disagreeing afterward.

``We survived,'' Chris Bosh said. ``And we won. They have a bunch of talented guys over there. I know that nobody's going to really give them credit, but they are a tough bunch.''

How tough? Try this - the Spurs led by seven with 4:48 left, and the margin was 98-93 when Gary Neal made a 3-pointer with 2:14 remaining.

From there, Miami closed on a 12-2 run.

But all anyone will likely remember from this one is Popovich's decision - and whatever Stern does as a result.

``I apologize to all NBA fans,'' Stern said. ``This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming.''

Allen scored 20 points, Dwyane Wade added 19 and Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, now 7-0 at home.

Neal had 20 points for the Spurs. Tiago Splitter scored 18 points, Nando De Colo added 15, Boris Diaw scored 12 and Bonner had 10 for San Antonio, which finished a six-games-in-nine-nights road trip with a 5-1 record. Bonner also had 10 rebounds, one more than he had grabbed all season entering the game.

``Pop is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs,'' Neal said. ``He did what's best for us.''

The Spurs' five starters Thursday night came into the game averaging a combined 23.6 points, or 1.6 points less than James averaged entering the game.

And when the Heat ran out to a 16-6 lead, it seemed a blowout was in the offing. After all, even the oddsmakers in Las Vegas expected it to be that way - the Heat were favored by six points in most sports books before the news broke that the Spurs' regulars were resting, after which the line swelled to 13.

Apparently, no one told the Spurs that the second-string was supposed to play second-fiddle.

San Antonio closed the first quarter on a 21-6 run, taking a 27-22 lead after the period, and simply did not go away. The Spurs led by as many as seven at one point, and after James Anderson made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds left in the third, San Antonio held a 76-73 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.

But once again, James-to-Allen proved magical for Miami.

With the Heat down by one, James nearly lost the ball in the lane, collected himself and kicked it out to Allen, who connected from the left wing to put Miami ahead to stay. James also set up Allen for a final-moment four-point play to lift Miami over Denver earlier this season, along with another late 3-pointer that helped the Heat edge Cleveland last weekend.

``Every time a guy turns his head I have to find the open spot so LeBron can see me,'' Allen said. ``Anything can happen out there. We put ourselves in such a tough situation, but we kept plugging away.''

Thing is, no one ever thought it would come down to that.

Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team.

``Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing,'' Popovich said before the game. ``In our case, this month we've had 11 away games, after tonight. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history.''

It's not unlike other moves Popovich has made before; in fact, not only did he give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili time off together toward the end of last season, which was condensed by a lockout, he actually flew home to San Antonio with them and took a two-game, pre-playoff sabbatical.

This decision, Popovich said, was more about a home matchup with surging Memphis on Saturday.

``Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night,'' Popovich said. ``Historically, when you're on a long road trip, that first game when you come home is really tough. And Memphis is one of the best teams in the league. They're of much more concern to us than playing four games in five nights. It's pretty logical.''

Given Stern's statement, it's also logical to think that the Spurs could know their penalty by Saturday as well.

NOTES: Miami last played on Saturday, at home; San Antonio had played on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, all on the road. ... A moment of silence was held before the game for Sasha McHale, the daughter of Houston coach Kevin McHale. Sasha McHale died Saturday at age 23. ... It was the third straight home game in which Miami trailed in the fourth quarter.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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