Knicks win first playoff game in 11 years

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Knicks win first playoff game in 11 years

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Amare Stoudemire raised his hands in the air, one covered in padding, as streamers fell from the ceiling above him. Finally, New York could celebrate an NBA playoff victory again. Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points, Stoudemire had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his return from a cut hand, and the Knicks snapped an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak by beating the Miami Heat 89-87 Sunday in Game 4 of their first-round series. "I think it's the first of many," said Stoudemire, his left arm back in a sling to keep his hand elevated. "Tonight was a great win for us, for our fans to finally get over that hump of those consecutive games that we lost, I guess the Knicks, lost over those years in the playoffs." Anthony made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 54.5 seconds left as the Knicks overcame another serious injury to win a playoff game for the first time since beating Toronto on April 29, 2001, in Game 3 of a best-of-five series. Baron Davis dislocated his right kneecap in the third quarter, just as the Knicks were making the run that got them back into the game after a dismal first half. "I'm just glad that we came together after that, kept our composure, kept on fighting and won the basketball game," Anthony said. LeBron James scored 27 for the Heat, who will try to close it out in Game 5 at home on Wednesday. Dwyane Wade had 22, but missed a 3-pointer on the last possession that would have given Miami a lengthy rest before starting the second round. "We'd love to take the week (off) but it's not in the cards for us to do that in this round," Wade said. "You know, we'll adjust. We play Wednesday in Miami at 7 o'clock. We'll be ready to play and give our fans another exciting game." Wade's errant shot set off a loud celebration from Knicks fans whose team was on the verge of getting swept for the second straight year, and third straight time dating to 2004. It didn't look as if the elusive postseason victory would come in this series, after the Knicks had been blown out by 20 points per game in the first three games. But they got a huge lift from Stoudemire, playing with padding over his hand just six days after he punched a fire extinguisher case after a Game 2 loss in Miami. And they got a sensational effort from Anthony, who shot 15 of 29 and was one point shy of his playoff career best after he made only 34.4 percent of his shots in the first three games. "We stepped up to the challenge," Anthony said. Now here comes another: The Knicks need a solution at point guard after Davis was carted off on a stretcher with his severe knee injury. Jeremy Lin is close to returning from knee surgery, but Iman Shumpert was lost with a torn knee ligament in Game 1. A day after the Dallas team that beat them in the finals was swept by Oklahoma City, the Heat failed in their attempt for their first sweep since beating Washington in the 2005 Eastern Conference semifinals. The series was on pace to be one of the most lopsided in NBA history through three games, but this one was within four points the entire fourth quarter, the crowd at Madison Square Garden growing louder with every play that moved the Knicks closer to their first playoff win in 11 years. Mike Bibby's 3-pointer with 1:23 left snapped an 81-all tie, but the Heat called timeout and ran a play that freed James for a wide-open 3 that tied it again seven seconds later. On the Knicks' next possession, Anthony came far beyond the arc to receive the ball after JR Smith picked up his dribble, then dribbled forward and pulled up for a 3 that made it 87-84 with 54.5 to play. The Heat turned it over on their next possession when Chris Bosh's pass sailed into the backcourt, and Anthony was fouled by Shane Battier attempting a 3-pointer. He made only one foul shot, and the Heat cut it to one again when James converted a three-point play while drawing Tyson Chandler's sixth foul. Stoudemire made a free throw with 14 seconds left to make it 89-87, and Wade lost control of the ball driving into the middle on Miami's last possession. He regained it and dribbled to the corner for a 3-pointer that was off. "I had a lane and then I kind of lost the ball. When I lost it, I knew that they'd recover by then so it made me dribble it out," Wade said. "We got the switch and I got a little step on Amare and I was about to go to my shot. I was about to go to my shot but I kind of fumbled the ball a little bit. I thought I got a good look. I thought it was going in. But it came up a little short." Stoudemire had surgery Wednesday to repair a muscle in his left hand and the Knicks had listed him as doubtful for Sunday, but he was back on the court during practice Friday and cleared to play in Game 4. He was back in his usual spot as the last player introduced during starting lineups, getting a loud reception, and he quickly picked the Knicks up after their sluggish start. "He's a good player. He's a great player honestly, and he gave them the spark that they needed," James said. The Heat jumped to an 8-1 lead, holding the Knicks without a basket for almost four minutes to start the game. Then Stoudemire had three baskets in a 12-2 spurt to give the Knicks the lead, and they were up 20-18 after one following two free throws by Anthony with 7.3 seconds left. The game then turned into a foul-fest, with 23 called in the second period. The Heat shot 19 free throws, making 14, while the Knicks were 8 of 9. Stoudemire and Chandler both went to the bench with their third fouls, but the Heat failed to pull away even after forcing the Knicks to miss their first six shots of the period while opening a 10-point lead. Both teams shot 33 percent in the quarter, played at a glacial pace while the teams paraded to the free-throw line. Miami led 44-38 at halftime. Miami led 51-40 before the Knicks' offense finally got going. Stoudemire made a jumper and converted a three-point play, Anthony made a layup, and Smith stole the ball and made a 3-pointer for a quick 10-0 run. James missed and the ball was batted up ahead to Davis, who drove in with a chance to give the Knicks the lead. But his leg buckled near the foul line and he crumbled to the court, called for a travel. Concerned teammates quickly waved for help, and Davis was wheeled off the court. But New York regrouped and surged into the lead, going up by six late in the period before taking a 64-61 advantage to the fourth. After making only 13 baskets in the first half, the Knicks shot 10 of 20 in the third, getting 11 points from Anthony. NOTES: Heat reserve C Eddy Curry (flu) was not with Miami for the game. ... There was a musical tribute during a second-quarter timeout for Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who died Friday of cancer.

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Prospect report: Connor Hobbs responds to healthy scratch

Prospect report: Connor Hobbs responds to healthy scratch

Hershey update: 19-11-7-2, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-3-0-0

The Hershey Bears have hit a rough point in their season with seven losses in their last eight games. The Bears managed to halt a five-game losing streak with a win Saturday over Lehigh Valley, but then lost both of their games since.

The loss of Madison Bowey certainly hurts, but goaltending has been an issue of late. In a midseason review of the AHL published on NHL.com, Patrick Williams writes, “Goaltending and a thin group of defensemen have slowed the Bears, but management with Hershey and the Washington Capitals are traditionally aggressive in making late-season moves to solidify any areas that need help.”

After a very strong start to the season, Vitek Vanecek has struggled of late. In his two starts over the past week, he allowed six goals on 30 shots to Lehigh Valley on Friday and four goals on 21 shots to Binghamton on Sunday. For the season, his save percentage has now dropped to .902.

Players tend to hit these rookie walls midway through the season as teams and coaches begin to learn more about a player and adjust accordingly. One thing Vanecek really needs to work on is tracking the puck through screens. That’s a difficult part of the game to learn, but an important one as the bodies just get bigger in the NHL.

Despite his struggles, however, Vanecek has still outplayed fellow goalie Joe Cannata so it would be unfair to blame Hershey’s recent slump on the rookie netminder. Still, Vanecek was a strength for this team early in the season and as of now that is no longer the case.

Sunday’s game against Binghamton was Star Wars Day in Hershey. You can see the highlights here:

The first takeaway from that video is clearly Hershey did not have the rights to the Star Wars music.  Jakub Vrana continues to impress this season with his great shot on the power play for the goal. It’s clear watching him that his talent is a step above the AHL level. If the Caps were a basement team this year, he’d be up in the NHL. As Cup contenders, there’s no real place for Vrana just yet, barring injury of course. In all likelihood, however, this will be his last season in the AHL.

Star Wars Night also featured a great fight by the always feisty Nathan Walker. If the injury bug hits the Caps at some point this season and the team finds itself in need of a bottom-six forward, I think he could make his NHL debut. He proved he can play with bigger players in the preseason and he gives great effort on every shift. He is a handful on the forecheck and capable of generating turnovers in dangerous areas.

Bears assistant coach Reid Cashman offered a mid-season evaluation of the team’s defensemen to the Lebanon Daily News. Here are his thoughts on Bowey:

He’s another young defenseman who is in his second pro season who has gotten better on a week-to-week basis until his injury. He has a lot of talent and is very athletic who is learning how to execute his retrievals and make his first pass. He has continued to develop and evolve but he won’t be a finished product for another couple years.

Interesting take on a player who I thought would make his NHL debut this season if not for the recent injury.

Cashman provides evaluations for the team’s other defensemen including Caps prospects Tyler Lewington, Christian Djoos, Darren Deitz and Colby Williams. It is definitely worth a read to see his thoughts on each player.

RELATED: Alex Ovechkin critical of officiating Monday in Pittsburgh

Other prospect notes:

Forward Shane Gersich has been tearing it up in the college ranks since his unbelievable spin move in November. That continued this week with a goal and an assist in North Dakota’s two games. As Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald notes, “Since that November night, Gersich has 12 goals in 13 games, ranking second nationally during that timespan—only behind Northeastern's Zach Aston-Reese (16 goals).”

Check out the full article on Gersich’s incredible season here.

Forward Brian Pinho remains the leading scorer for Providence College this season with 20 points in 22 games. In a midseason report of the Hockey East conference, Joshua Kummins of SB Nation writes that Pinho “has developed into a true top center this year.”

An interesting situation played out this week in the WHL for defenseman Connor Hobbs who scored a goal and an assist for Regina on Friday. You can see the highlights here:

The goal comes on a nice wrist shot, but the assist was very impressive as he showed off his stickhandling abilities and vision with a great backdoor pass to set up the goal. Even with the effort, however, Hobbs was made a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game. Why? Because what the video does not show is that Hobbs also took three minor penalties in what was ultimately a 6-5 loss.

How did Hobbs respond? With two goals and an assist in a 5-1 blowout win on Sunday which earned him first-star honors for the game. Hobbs was actually moved from defenseman to wing for the game and seemed to enjoy the experience.

“I found it so weird and forechecking was so much different than getting forechecked,” Hobbs said. “It was nice being on the other side of the pancake for that one.”

For more on Hobbs’ response to the healthy scratch, read this article from Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post.

Forward Garrett Pilon also earned first-star honors in the WHL over the week with his performance Tuesday as he led Kamloops to a 4-1 win over Moose Jaw. He recorded a goal and an assist in the game. Check out his great work on the forecheck to generate the goal here:

First-round draft pick Lucas Johansen did not earn any specific honors, but he did have an impressive week for Kelowna with one goal and four assists in three games.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps make special arrangements on dads trip for Oshie

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

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@Francis_Sports

New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

Redskins defensive lineman A.J. Francis opens up to JP Finlay on what it's like to play for Jay Gruden, his pick for defensive coordinator, and the latest on Kirk Cousins' contract.

Listen below, and if you'd like to hear more from Francis, check out his pro wrestling podcast Jobbing Out Show here

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