Can anyone beat the Spurs?

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Can anyone beat the Spurs?

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs mowed down another opponent, using their guile under pressure to close out another perfect playoff series. Tim Duncan scored 21 points, Tony Parker added 17 and the Spurs beat the Los Angeles Clippers 102-99 on Sunday night to win their second-round matchup 4-0 and advance to the Western Conference finals. "They played great, they made it tough on us," Parker said. "The last 2 minutes we got the stops we needed. Everybody did something." The Spurs extended their winning streak to 18 games and their playoff record to 8-0, tying the third-best postseason streak in franchise history. "Until we go all the way, I can't compare this team," said Parker, who has won three NBA titles with the Spurs. "We're just trying to stay focused." Danny Green and Gary Neal added 14 points each, and Manu Ginobili and Thiago Splitter had 11 each. "We needed a game like that. It arrived at the perfect time," Parker said. "We battled. We executed our plays, made big baskets." San Antonio could find out as soon as Monday night who it will play next. Oklahoma City leads the Lakers 3-1 in their series, with Game 5 on Monday. "We haven't done anything yet. We've won two rounds," Duncan said. "We haven't done anything so you can't qualify or classify our team as anything other than that we've gotten this far." The Spurs trailed much of the fourth until tying the game twice in the final 3:32 before their 30-something trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili took over most of the scoring. "Their experience showed with their execution," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. "Tim looks great and the rest of the guys are feeding off that." Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 assists, Blake Griffin added 21 points, and Eric Bledsoe had 17 for the Clippers, who blew a six-point lead in the fourth quarter when Paul faltered in the final two minutes, usually a time when the All-Star guard is at his best. "We had our opportunities and we couldn't convert," Del Negro said. "We made our mistakes at some key moments and that was the difference." Both nursing injuries, Griffin and Paul combined to score 21 of the Clippers' 28 points in the third quarter when they took their first lead of the game. In the fourth, Bledsoe came up big, scoring 11 in a row, to extend the lead to 90-85 with 5:38 remaining. After Reggie Evans missed two free throws, Green hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 92. Duncan's hook put the Spurs in front 96-94 before Paul tossed up a one-handed shot that rose to the top of the backboard before dropping straight in as he crashed into a baseline photographer. He made the free throw to put the Clippers ahead by one. Parker scored consecutive baskets and the Spurs regained the lead, 100-97, with 1:47 left. Paul's two free throws drew the Clippers within one. After a timeout, Paul drove the basket and lost the ball. He fouled Green, who made the first and missed the second to keep the Spurs ahead for good. "I messed up, bad decisions," Paul said, holding his 2-year-old son on his lap. "I should have shot it and I missed the shot, all on me." Paul then missed another shot, and Mo Williams fouled Parker, who missed the first and made the second with a second left. "To let my team down in that situation is probably the toughest part of the season," Paul said. "We scrapped, we played hard. At the end of the day, playing hard isn't always enough. You got to execute. On that last play, at least we could have gotten a shot off and I turned the ball over." DeAndre Jordan added 10 points. Paul had best performance of the series after sub-par efforts in the first two games. He'd been playing with a strained right hip, while Griffin has a sprained right knee, an injured left hip and got stitches for a cut lip in the first half. Neither team led by more than five points in the third period. Duncan had 10 points for the Spurs. Bledsoe's putback slam dunk gave the Clippers 75-74 lead going into the fourth. The Spurs stretched their lead to 12 points with Duncan sitting out the opening 7 minutes of the second quarter. The Clippers closed on a 14-6 run to trail 51-47 at halftime. Paul got it started with a 19-foot jumper and ended it with a 3-pointer. Early in the spurt, Griffin ran into Ginobili's shoulder, fell and one of his top teeth went through his lip. He left the court with 2:20 remaining to get two stitches on the inside and outside of his lip. Los Angeles began the game on a 9-4 run before San Antonio scored 14 unanswered points, reminiscent of its 24-0 third-quarter spurt Saturday that led to the Spurs' eventual 10-point victory in Game 3. Notes: Duncan, Parker and Ginobili played in their 130th postseason game together, the most played as an active trio in the league. ... Duncan finished with nine rebounds, just short of notching his 135th career playoff double-double. ... The Clippers have lost all seven of their playoff series after losing Game 1. ... The Spurs had a 40-36 edge on the boards, while the Clippers outscored them in the paint, 56-50.

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Orioles magic number reduced to 2 with win over Yankees

Orioles magic number reduced to 2 with win over Yankees

NEW YORK—In a dramatic week for the Orioles, this may have been the most difficult day. 

Seven days ago, the Orioles came off a four-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox that finished their hopes of an American League East championship, and since then they’ve won six of seven games and are within two games of their third trip to the postseason in the last five seasons. 

This day was challenging because of the persistent rain that fell throughout the game and continued during it. Major League Baseball was determined to play the game, and the Orioles simply ignored the foul weather and pulled off an 8-1 win on Friday night over the New York Yankees before a crowd announced at 33,955 at Yankee Stadium. 

The crowd was in fact thousands smaller than the announced figure, and the several thousand on hand braved game time temperatures of 56 degrees, wind and rain.

The conditions were deplorable. Rain fell throughout the day, but Major League Baseball was determined to play on Friday night, and the Orioles didn’t let the awful weather deter them as they moved a step closer to the postseason. 

With their 8-1 win over the New York Yankees before 33,955 at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles reduced their magic number to two for clinching a postseason spot. 

Toronto, which began the game tied with the Orioles (88-72) for the top wild-card spot, lost to Boston, giving the Orioles the top wild-card spot. Detroit, which beat Atlanta, is trailing by 1 ½ games.

“That’s about as tough as you ever want to play in,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That was tough, you really got to be ready to play.” 

Showalter claims not to do too much scoreboard watching. 

“Not much at all until I had no choice because it was right behind the pitcher’s head every time I looked out there. I caught a couple glimpses, but I don’t watch it that much. I really don’t. I watch our scoreboard a lot,” Showalter said. 

In the past several seasons, Yankee Stadium hasn’t been kind to the Orioles. They’d lost 11 straight series openers since their last win on Aug. 31, 2012. 

Yovani Gallardo bulled through the conditions, and allowed a run on two hits in six innings. 

“It was hard to grip the ball and that sort of thing, and slipping off the mound and whatever. It gets tough for everybody in the field, but my main focus was after we got the lead was get the guys to swing the bat, throw the ball over the plate,” Gallardo said. 

“The last thing you want to do is start walking guys and getting yourself into trouble. When I did, I was able to make some pitches.”

Gallardo (6-8) didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning when Brian McCann singled. Gary Sanchez scored when the next batter, Mark Teixeira hit a sacrifice fly to left. 

Aaron Hicks singled to start the fifth, but Gallardo didn’t allow another hit. 

The Orioles offense went to work and their eight runs were the most since Sept. 10. 

Jonathan Schoop equaled his career high with five RBIs, a two-run double in the fourth and a three-run homer, his 25th of the season, that capped a six-run fifth inning. 

Adam Jones hit his 29th home run to lead off the inning against Michael Pineda (6-12), and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run homer, his major league leading 47th to chase Pineda. 

“We got a power team, and everybody is capable of catching one. The power is just one thing. We pitch, we defend, and we prove that we score not only when we hit home runs. We score when we move the runner over, sac fly, everything. We're a really good team,” Schoop said. 

Gallardo, and Darren O’Day who pitched the eighth, are two players who could play pivotal roles if the Orioles get to the postseason. 

Gallardo isn’t certain of making the postseason roster, and O’Day, who has been hurt much of the year, delivered a spotless eighth inning. 

“That was good tonight, especially in those conditions. If we could get in, he’d be a nice piece for us to add that we’ve been missing. That was encouraging tonight,” Showalter said. 

NOTES: The Orioles are the 12th team in major league Trumbo’s 47th home run ties Chris Davis (2015) for the fourth most home runs in team history. … Wade Miley (9-13, 5.40) faces Luis Severino (3-8, 5.75) on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. The six runs in the fifth were the most the Orioles scored in the fifth inning this season. … The three home run inning was the Orioles’ 10th this season, most in the majors. … The Orioles became the fifth major league team to hit 250 home runs. 

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Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-4 loss over the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: If the Nationals want to sew up home field advantage in their first playoff series, they still have more work to do — and only have two more games to do it.

The Nats were unable to help their cause Friday night, falling to the Marlins 7-4 in a rain-soaked affair that began nearly two hours after its scheduled start time.  

While the offense couldn’t come through late, it was starter A.J. Cole that put the Nats in a bind in this one. The 24-year-old rookie right hander forcing Dusty Baker to go to his bullpen early after yielding four runs (two earned) on six hits in just three innings of work.

But all it took was one inning for the Nats to even things up. Anthony Rendon and Stephen Drew opened the fourth with back-to-back solo home runs, and RBI hits by Jose Lobaton and Trea Turner make it 4-4 heading into the fifth.

The bullpen subsequently cracked, however, yielding a runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to give the Marlins a 7-4 edge. The offense couldn’t mount a late rally, and that was all she wrote.

What it means: The magic number for home field advantage in the NLDS remains at two. As of this post, the Dodgers have yet to complete their game against the Giants, so there’s still a chance it could fall to one by Saturday morning.

Rendon reaches homer milestone: With his fourth-inning solo shot, Rendon became the latest Nats hitter join the 20 home run club. In fact, the Nats tied the 1965 and 2003 Braves as the only National League clubs with six players with 20-plus long balls in a season. (Interestingly enough, the Cardinals mathed that feat the Nats later in night after a Matt Holliday home run.)

But back to Rendon: For all the talk that the Nats offense sans Wilson Ramos will suffer, remember that Rendon has been one of the team’s best hitters since the All-Star break. Since then, he’s notched 11 homers, 20 doubles and 51 RBI. In other words, he’s fully returned to his ‘Tony Two-Bags’ form of 2014.

More accolades for Turner: D.C.’s favorite rookie had another one of his patented performances Friday night, going 2-for-3 with an RBI single, a triple and two stolen bases. He became the fourth player in MLB history to notch 10 home runs and 30 steals in less than 100 games, joining Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonds and current Nats first base coach Davey Lopes. Since the break, he leads the team in both extra-base hits and steals. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Harper struggles: In his first game back since injuring his left thumb, Bryce Harper looked looked very much like a hitter trying to regain his timing at the plate. In four at-bats, he struck out four times — three of them swinging. It’s just one game, of course, but he and the Nats are quickly running out of time to rev up for October.

Up next: The Nats will continue their quest to gain home field advantage in the middle game of this three-game set. Washington will send Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86 ERA) to the hill to oppose Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 5.02 ERA).