Orioles

Thunder hold off Jazz 104-96, sweep homestand

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Thunder hold off Jazz 104-96, sweep homestand

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kevin Durant scored 25 points, Russell Westbrook made a two-pronged bid for his sixth career triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder finished off an impressive homestand by beating the Utah Jazz 106-94 on Friday night.

Oklahoma City won all three games by double digits and made a bid to win three in a row by at least 20 points for the first time in 25 years before a late charge by the Jazz.

Westbrook ended up with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals. Kevin Martin scored 19 points for the Thunder.

Enes Kanter scored a career-high 18 points, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter as Utah pulled within five before Oklahoma City closed it out.

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ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

Baseball, on occasion, lets people’s imaginations run wild. 

From the time the first pitch of a game happens until the final out is recorded, anything — theoretically — is possible. That notion stays relevant even as it’s expanded upon to an entire season. Or, in 2020’s case, a 60-game season. 

And after a 5-3 start to the season, which is now a 5-4 start, some people let their thoughts run free about how likely the Orioles were to make a serious playoff push. 

But some, like ESPN’s Karl Ravech, don’t think the Orioles can sustain their stellar hitting and sturdy-enough bullpen for the entire season.

“I don’t think the Orioles can over the course of 60 games,” Ravech said on NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk Podcast. “I do think over the course of 10, maybe 20, be in it. But a lot of times during a baseball season, the first couple of weeks out of the gate you’re surprised by it. Similarly out west, and I don’t mean to dismiss the Orioles, the Rockies are off to a really good start. To me, the Rockies have better players than the Orioles do.”

After an embarrassing loss to the Red Sox on Opening Day, expectations for the Orioles, which were already low to begin with, cratered amongst the fanbase. But they rebounded to win the next two, and after two-straight losses to the Yankees, swept the Rays in a three-game set at Camden Yards. 

RELATED: ESPN NOT CONVINCED BY ORIOLES’ HOT START, PUTS THEM LAST IN FIRST POWER RANKINGS

With so many questions surrounding every team in the division aside from the Yankees, some hypothesized that, if a miraculous season for the Orioles were to happen, this is the script for such a year to occur.

The Rays were just swept by the Orioles, the Red Sox have an atrocious pitching staff and the Blue Jays still have yet to settle into a permanent home for the season. With an expanded playoff format, the season started in the right way for the Orioles.

“I don’t think the Orioles have the staying power in that division, and playing against the two divisions that they do,” Ravech said.

But while an impressive start was a bit surprising, especially considering some individual achievements across the roster, it’s still not terribly early to think about a playoff race with nearly one-sixth of the season complete.

Yet, despite blazing starts at the plate for Rio Ruiz, Jose Iglesias and Hanser Alberto, and strong performances on the mound from John Means, Miguel Castro and Alex Cobb, the Orioles still have a lot to prove to show the league they are even capable of staying in the playoff chase. 

After all, this team was projected by many to barely, or not even at all, reach the 20-win plateau. 

For now, though, the Orioles having any realistic, no matter to what degree, conversations about a playoff run are a very welcome sign in Baltimore.

“To me, this was always going to be, for better more than worse, but for better or worse, the most memorable baseball season that I’ve ever experienced,” Ravech said. “I think a lot of the baseball fans at home for a million reasons will look at it that way as well. Especially if your team is in it. If you’re rooting for the Orioles, what you think would be a throwaway year, at least for the first month, you’re not throwing anything away.”

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This unusual offseason won't affect how Ron Rivera uses Washington's rookies in 2020

This unusual offseason won't affect how Ron Rivera uses Washington's rookies in 2020

The eight players who make up the Washington Football Team's 2020 draft class are a part of a wave of rookies who have experienced an offseason that's been unlike any other. 

Chase Young, Antonio Gibson and the rest of Ron Rivera's first haul of selections with the franchise didn't get any minicamps or OTAs this offseason. They've been learning through computers and phones instead of through their facemasks and on-field reps since joining the NFL in April. 

Only recently have they set foot inside of the Ashburn facility, meaning the next month and a half is all they'll receive to prepare themselves for their first pro action. That's not how the schedule is supposed to unfold.

And yet, Rivera still won't be scared to lean on them come Week 1, as he anticipates sticking with his go-with-the-young-guys-approach that he's had throughout his career even in these unusual circumstances.

"I’m not going to sell any of our rookies short," Rivera told the media on a Tuesday Zoom call. "I think some of them have come out and done the things that we expected them to do. They’ve caught our eye, they’ve caught our attention and now the big thing will be how do they handle the rest of it?"

RELATED: RON RIVERA MIGHT NOT SAY IT OUTRIGHT BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE WASHINGTON IS DWAYNE HASKINS' TEAM

Rivera, who continues to come across as someone more interested in finding solutions to problems as opposed to excuses to use in light of those problems, is treating Washington's training camp as his own, condensed offseason.

He explained Tuesday that he's instructing his staff to act is if they're currently in OTAs. The earlier portion of camp is going to be devoted to the teaching of base fundamentals that would normally be focused on in May, and then, when the pads come on, the rookies can test those basics out against their teammates.

"I do like the way the ramp-up period is," Rivera said. "Going through these phases and kind of simulating the growth. ... Each time, it’s just another step and another step as we gradually go forward to determining who our team’s going to be as we get into the first regular season game."

Rivera was specifically asked about Saahdiq Charles and Antonio Gibson, two picks who could really factor in on offense, and how they're progressing so far. The coach labeled Charles as a "big, athletic, strong" lineman with "a lot of talent" and called Gibson a "very bright young man" capable of handling what might be a host of responsibilities this season. 

"It’s going to be real interesting to watch how they develop and grow," Rivera said of the group overall.

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That process may actually go smoother this August, at least according to Rivera. Typically, first-year players can suffer fatigue about two-thirds of the way through camp because of the "overwhelming effect of all the material" they're given. Rivera thinks that's "going to change" in 2020 because the draftees should be feeling fresh and yearning for instruction and work.

Yes, the rookies must keep improving as September nears. Rivera is clearly fine with praising them now, but the true compliment will come if he slots guys like Gibson, Charles and Antonio Gandy-Golden into major roles when Week 1 arrives.

But while some coaches may use this offseason as a reason to not feature their newest additions, Rivera's holding firm. He's planning on rolling out his top 11 on offense and defense, regardless of age and experience. That's yet another simple Rivera idea Washington should benefit from.

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