1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

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1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- His coach called Jrue Holiday's slump "0 for the world." Even as the misses piled up, Holiday never felt the weight of it on his 21-year-old shoulders. All he could do in a thorny Game 4 was laugh about his struggles with teammate Evan Turner. "You've got to be happy when you play," Holiday said. "It really helps." Boy, did it help Philadelphia in the final minutes against Chicago. Holiday busted out of a game-long slump with consecutive 3-pointers that stretched a one-point lead into seven and helped the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 89-82 on Sunday and take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series. "Don't fear the consequences," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. It's the top-seeded Bulls who suddenly fear elimination. Spencer Hawes scored 22 points and Holiday had 20 to put the Sixers one win away from joining the short list of eighth-seeded teams that have won a series against a No. 1 seed. Andre Iguodala had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who have won the last three games after losing Game 1. Game 5 is Tuesday in Chicago. The short-handed Bulls played without Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). Rose is out for the season and Noah is day to day for the rest of the series. In NBA postseason history, the eighth seed has won a first-round series against the No. 1 seed four times, including last season when Memphis eliminated San Antonio. Golden State (2007), New York (1999) and Denver (1994) also pulled off the rare feat. "I'm not worried about it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I'm just worried about the next game. We do have more than enough to win with." The Sixers won three straight playoff games for the first time since Allen Iverson fueled their run to the 2001 NBA finals. Holiday was sensational down the stretch after a rocky first 3 quarters. He missed his first five 3-point attempts until he nailed one to make it 77-73. He hit another the next time down for a seven-point lead to the delight of a roaring sellout crowd. They were easily his biggest shots on a 7-of-23 night. He expects to hear the same noise in the next round. "We have to play like it's Game 7," Holiday said. "We want to win in Chicago." The undermanned Bulls kept at it and refused to use playing without their two biggest impact players as an excuse. C.J. Watson, who scored 17 points, hit a step-back jumper to make it a two-point game. In a whistle-happy game, Holiday went to the line with 51 seconds left and made both for an 84-80 lead. Suddenly -- and shockingly -- the Sixers are a win away from taking a playoff series for the first time since 2003. Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Taj Gibson chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds. Without a full roster, the Bulls barked at the refs, talked trash on the court and used every self-motivational tactic they knew to gain an edge on the Sixers. Noah, injured in Game 3, took charge on the bench as head cheerleader. Wearing a protective walking boot, he clapped, cheered and offered instruction in the timeout huddle. Noah was needed more on the court than as a de facto assistant coach. Boozer actively did his best to keep the Bulls in the game. He played through foul trouble to score 18 points through three quarters (matching his combined total for the first two games) and he fought for some of the tough rebounds Noah would grab. It wasn't enough. The Sixers made 22 of 31 free throws to Chicago's 11-for-14 effort. The Sixers only averaged 18.2 free-throw attempts this season. "Bottom line, we've got to play better defense without fouling," Boozer said. "You can't cry about the referees. It's the playoffs. If we could hold them to 17, 18 points in the fourth quarter, maybe we win that game." Iguodala played through right Achilles' tendinitis to make so many impact plays for the Sixers. He halted a Bulls run in the third with a 3 for a 57-56 lead. Bad leg and all, he still soared for a thunderous dunk on the break in the first half for an eight-point lead. One of the worst fourth-quarter foul shooters in the NBA, Iguodala even made both with 26.6 seconds left. "I think the adrenaline carried me through the game," Iguodala said. "It's hard to get on your toes, that's the hardest thing." Game 4 lacked the electric atmosphere early that accompanies a postseason game because the Broad Street Run was routed in front of the sports complex. The Wells Fargo Center was barely half full by tip and the announced crowd of 20,142 needed time to warm up. By the time Holiday hit his 3s, the arena was going wild. His sharp shooting in clutch time came at the right time after a slow start. Holiday and Turner continue to befuddle Collins with their inconsistency. The under-25 starting backcourt followed a solid Game 3 with a combined 3 for 22 for eight points in the first half. Lou Williams, perhaps the league's top reserve, failed to bail them out with a 2-for-10 effort in the game. Their struggles were a key reason the depleted Bulls kept the score tight even without their two stars. The Sixers crashed the boards early without Noah in the lineup and had 15 second-chance points in the half to grab a 10-point lead. Hawes hit the go-ahead 20-footer late in the fourth for the Game 3 winner and he continued his hot hand into Sunday. He had made seven of his first eight shots, including a 3-pointer right before the second quarter buzzer to send the Sixers into halftime with 44-42 lead. Notes: Boxer Bernard Hopkins, former NBA great Dolph Schayes, former Sixers great Julius Erving and actor Bill Murray attended the game. ... Philadelphia last won a playoff series when it beat New Orleans in 2003. ... The Sixers hold a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1984 East semifinals. ... 76ers CEO Adam Aron said there was nothing the team could do about the start time.

Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

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Papelbon's blown save snaps Nats' win streak against Royals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-6 walkoff loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium: 

How it happened: The Nationals were on the brink of their fifth straight win when Jonathan Papelbon took the mound Tuesday night, but waiting for him was the middle of the Royals' order in a lineup that can grind out at-bats and make their own luck as well as any team in baseball. They got to Papelbon and they did it their way: a soft infield single to beat a shift, a stolen base by a pinch-runner and two RBI singles to finish the job. The Royals didn't need a single extrabase hit to erase a two-run deficit and steal a win from the Nationals.

Mike Moustakas tied the game with his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth and Lorenzo Cain ended it on a walkoff line drive to center field, as the Nationals fell to 18-8 on the season. Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Chris Heisey homered, Wilson Ramos returned with three hits and Tanner Roark made it 7 1/3 innings. But it wasn't enough with Papelbon's second blown save of the season.

What it means: The Nationals have to still feel great about their road trip so far despite Tuesday's loss, but the Papelbon failure in the ninth has to be concerning. It was his second blown save this season in 11 attempts. That puts him on a troubling pace.

Papelbon's drop-off: Speaking of Papelbon. He now sports a 4.50 ERA on the season after allowing three runs on five hits on Tuesday. It was a tough night for the Nats' closer, who has blown four saves now in 35 outings since getting traded to Washington last July.

Ramos picks up where he left off: Ramos hadn't played since April 24 due to the death of his grandfather, but he had quite the return on Tuesday night. Ramos had three hits including two doubles, the first to score a run in the sixth inning. It was Ramos' sixth multi-hit game this season and his first since April 15. The Buffalo is now batting .344 through 16 games.

Rendon finally gets a homer: One of the biggest surprises this season so far for the Nationals has been the lack of power numbers for Rendon, who two years ago was one of the best players in the NL. He entered Tuesday night slugging just .290 and had yet to hit a home run in in 100 at-bats. Well, that homer finally came in the first inning off Chris Young, a solo blast to left field. It was Rendon's first home run in 191 at-bats dating back to Sept. 14 of last season. Rendon hit 21 homers in 2014 and has the potential for even more. Perhaps that swing can get him going.

Murphy goes yard: Murphy hit his third homer of the season on Tuesday, a solo shot to right field off Young to make it a 3-2 game. Murphy now has three homers in 26 games with the Nats, which puts him on a 19-homer pace over a full 162 game season. That's a notch or two ahead of the 14 homers he hit in 130 regular season games in 2015, which was a 17-homer pace over 162 games.

Harper keeps scuffling: With all the talk this week about who should star in Space Jam 2, Harper has looked in recent days like he's auditioning for a role. Maybe somewhere in the galaxy right now a Nerdluck is blasting homer after homer into the oblivion. Okay, maybe not. But the real life Harper had another rough night Tuesday with zero hits in five at-bats and three strikeouts. Harper has multiple Ks in three straight games and is now batting .256 on the year. 

Up next: The Nats and Royals close out their series in Kansas City with a 2:15 p.m. start. Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 2.25) will look to continue his excellent run to begin the season. Right-hander Kris Medlen (1-2, 4.87) will take the mound for the Royals. After Wednesday, the Nats move on to Chicago for a four-game series at Wrigley against the Cubs.

Trumbo's two home runs give Orioles the win over the Yankees

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Trumbo's two home runs give Orioles the win over the Yankees

BALTIMORE –- Mark Trumbo had a terrific first month with the Orioles. His second month began spectacularly, too. 

In April, Trumbo’s heroics were overshadowed by Manny Machado’s all around stellar play. While Trumbo was certainly in consideration for American League Player of the Month, Machado was the proper choice. 

When oddsmaker Bovada released its latest projections on AL MVP early Tuesday afternoon, Machado was the 15:4 favorite, but Trumbo was in the conversation as well with 10:1 odds. 

Trumbo’s two home runs on Tuesday night helped power the Orioles to a 4-1 win over the New York Yankees before 16,083 at Oriole Park. 

His first home run, which was his seventh this season was a long shot estimated at 414 feet, to deep left field. 

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the fifth off Luis Severino. That gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead, and it was Trumbo’s eighth, and his second two homer game. The first came on Apr. 15 at Texas when he became the first Oriole to hit two in an inning. 

“I think it’s been a lot of fun. At-bats wise, I think I’ve done kind of what I was hoping to do. There’s still a number of things I’d like to accomplish as we go and shore up a few mechanical things, but as far as the numbers themselves go, I think it’s about all I could ask for,” Trumbo said. 

Trumbo doesn’t have to be the man in the Orioles lineup. There’s Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. 

“I think it is a big help. I think getting a chance to see a few similar hitters in front of me and how they are attacking those guys can be a huge advantage if I’m hitting fifth, they have to go thru Manny and Jonesey. It really is a situation where you can totally be yourself, have your at-bats, try and contribute the way you do, and you don't have to do a single ounce extra because everyone is going to do their part,” Trumbo said. 

Manager Buck Showalter has tried to convince his hitters to “pass the baton,” not to feel an extra responsibility. 

“I think all [hitters] are sometimes where they don’t feel like they’ve got the weight of the world on their shoulders. But this is not like his first time in the big leagues. He’s got a pretty good track record of what he’s doing now in April and now May,” Showalter said.

“I think he’s a guy, regardless, I could tell about halfway through the spring it was going to be a pretty good fit in a lot of areas other than what he would bring statistically. He seems to really fit in quickly and I felt that way whether he was hitting like he is or not. He’s been a real good fit for how we have to do it.”

The Orioles (15-10) scored their second run in the fourth when Jonathan Schoop doubled with two outs and scored when Severino (0-4) dropped Mark Teixeira’s relay on Ryan Flaherty’s grounder to first. 

Machado started at shortstop in place of J.J. Hardy and for the third time this season, made an ill-advised dash for third. Machado doubled to start the fifth, and ran for third when Adam Jones grounded to shortstop Didi Gregorius. Machado was easily thrown out. 

Chris Tillman didn’t have a clean inning until his last one, but allowed just one run in seven innings. 

Tillman (3-1) gave up five hits, walked four and struck out nine including his last three in the seventh. It was the second straight start in which Tillman equaled his career high in strikeouts. 

“I think it’s being able to throw my offspeed for strikes. It’s been something that I worked on a lot last year and it never really came along for me in spring training. I kind of had a good feel for it and was able to carry it over. In bullpens, I worked hard on that. It's something that [Matt Wieters] has to consistently remind me of throughout the game. In certain counts, he's calling a breaking ball where I normally wouldn't do it. He's keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure,” Tillman said. 

New York (8-16), loser of six straight, scored in the second off Tillman on a run-scoring single by Gregorius. 

Tillman is the second Orioles pitcher to work seven innings this season. Ubaldo Jimenez on Apr. 7 was the first. 

Brad Brach, who often works the seventh, pitched a scoreless eighth in Zach Britton’s temporary absence. 

Darren O’Day recorded his second save with a scoreless ninth. 

NOTES: Alex Rodriguez suffered a strained left hamstring. … CC Sabathia (1-2, 5.06) faces Tyler Wilson (1-0, 3.06) on Wednesday night.

MORE ORIOLES: WILL MACHADO MOVE TO SHORTSTOP WHILE HARDY IS OUT?

Stray cats and elephant poop: The strange stories of the NHL playoffs

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USA TODAY Sports

Stray cats and elephant poop: The strange stories of the NHL playoffs

Every year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs bring out some compelling storylines...and a few weird ones. Just like the story of the stray cat in San Jose.

Prior to Friday's game between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, a stray black cat jumped out onto the ice.

The cat of course became an instant celebrity, especially after San Jose won the game 5-2 and was dubbed "Joe PAW-velski" after team captain Joe Pavelski.

After receiving interest from several fans wishing to adopt the cat, the Sharks released a statement saying it would be brought to an animal shelter to ensure it did not have a microchip and was a stray and then it would be made available for adoption.

The Sharks won both of their first games at home and now the series heads to Nashville. Hoping for some luck of their own, the Predators tried to recreate the moment.

In other animal related news, the series between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues has sparked an interesting wager between two zoos.

According to Yahoo Sports' Puck Daddy blog, the losing zoo's vice president will have to travel to the winner’s zoo, wear a jersey and hat of the winning team and shovel 250 pounds of elephant poop.

I guess it's true what they say about vice presidents, they always have to shovel someone else's poop.

RELATED: Alan May not buying NHL's explanation for Letang suspension