Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

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Spurs lose for the first time in, well, forever

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The streak is over. The series may only be beginning. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Thabo Sefolosha set playoff career-bests with 19 points and six steals, and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak by beating the Spurs 102-82 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night. Oklahoma City closed its series deficit to 2-1 and will host Game 4 on Saturday night. "We never thought these guys had an advantage over us even though we had lost a few," Durant said. "It was just good that we took it to 2-1. We didn't want to go down 0-3." Sefolosha threw a wrench in the Spurs' well-oiled offense at the start, getting four steals in the first 3 minutes. The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers and scoring their least points all season. San Antonio had been averaging 109.4 points during its month-and-a-half winning streak and had been held to double digits only twice. "We just played a good basketball game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. "That's who we are. That's how we win." Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson led the Spurs with 16 points apiece. Tim Duncan had 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting, taking 11 of San Antonio's first 25 shots as the offense went through the All-Star center instead of Parker. "They played like it was a closeout game, both offensively and defensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They were very active, physical, they moved the ball well on offense. They did all those things better than we did. They beat us good." The Spurs, who already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs, were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. The Lakers won 11 straight to start the 1989 and 2001 playoffs, getting swept in the NBA finals the first time and winning it all the second. The Spurs hadn't lost since April 11 against the Lakers at home. "We are a prideful team. It's no fun being down 0-2. It's no fun," Brooks said. "But we weren't looking at the game thinking, Oh my gosh, we have a chance to be down 0-3.' We were looking at the game that we have a chance to be 1-2 after this game, and I give our guys a lot of credit. They believe in each other and they always play hard for each other." Parker and Duncan didn't play in the final 15 minutes, and Popovich pulled the plug after a series of three straight turnovers allowed the deficit to reach 23 points early in the fourth quarter. Sefolosha had a right-handed dunk off a lob pass from Russell Westbrook, who followed with his own two-handed jam on an alley-oop pass and Sefolosha followed with a reverse layup on another turnover-fueled fast-break chance to push the lead to 86-63 with 9:48 left. The Thunder put together another 9-0 run coinciding with Manu Ginobili coming out of the game, and featuring Serge Ibaka sticking his tongue out after nailing a jumper from the top of the key. Brooks soon followed suit and pulled his own front-line players with the game well in hand. "You're not going to beat this team by playing one-effort basketball," Brooks said. "You're going to have to have two, three, four, even five. And they make you do that because they pass the ball so well, they spread the floor so well." Popovich said the Thunder played harder and smarter than the Spurs. "They did definitely play with a lot more energy, a lot more passion than us tonight," said Parker, who committed five turnovers. The Spurs wiped out a 24-point deficit in Game 3 against the Clippers in Los Angeles in the last round, but they weren't recovering in this one. San Antonio managed only 24 points in the paint after averaging 46 through the first two games of the series and 47.8 through the playoffs. Oklahoma City already held a 28-8 scoring edge in the paint while taking a 54-41 halftime lead and it never got better for San Antonio, which couldn't get any closer than 11 points in the second half. "We wanted to bounce back after two losses like that. We had to play better and we did that tonight," Sefolosha said. "We played with energy, we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift." The Thunder scored the game's first eight points, feeding off Sefolosha's steals, but San Antonio recovered in time to take the lead with more than 5 minutes left in the opening period. Oklahoma City took the lead early in the second quarter and there was no looking back. Sefolosha set up Ibaka's two-handed dunk and hit a 3-pointer during a 13-1 run, with San Antonio's only point coming on a free throw by Ginobili after Durant was called for a technical foul while arguing a call from the bench. Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 15 when Kendrick Perkins grabbed Westbrook's airball and dunked it with two hands. Notes: Duncan did have five blocks to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA playoff record of 476 by one. ... Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted before the game that he planned to attend but "was denied by the team to be in their arena." Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said the rapper's representatives demanded front-row seats but none were available. "We'd love to have him at a game, but like anyone else, he needs a ticket," Mahoney said. ... Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin presented TNT analyst and former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley with a pair of boots, a steak and an order of lamb fries -- a dish that leaves out the otherwise undesirable part of the anatomy out of its name -- during the pregame show.

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Miley is magnificent as Orioles move up in playoff hunt

Miley is magnificent as Orioles move up in playoff hunt

BALTIMORE—Wade Miley wanted that complete game. He walked off the mound one out short of it, but with the satisfaction that he’d showed the Orioles why they traded for him nearly two months ago. 

In Miley’s first nine Orioles starts, there was only one win. Not only did he get a solid one on Saturday night, but his performance helped push the Orioles back into the second wild-card spot.

Miley allowed one run on seven hits in 8 2/3 innings, matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and not walking a batter in the Orioles’ 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks before 40,610 at Oriole Park.

Combined with the Detroit Tigers’ 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon, the Orioles moved past Detroit and lead them by a half-game. 

Recently, Miley talked with Orioles pitching great Scott McGregor, and McGregor, who is still in the organization had some advice. 

“We just talked about if there is such a thing as trying too hard. ‘Try easy’ is what he told me. That kind of just stuck,” Miley said. “Rather than trying to be max effort out there every time, just got to relax and execute pitches,” Miley said. 

Miley (9-13) was rolling until Brandon Drury’s double scored Paul Goldschmidt with two outs in the ninth. 

After Miley received his warm ovation, the former Diamondback looked over at Goldschmidt and showed him his middle finger, which was caught on television. 

Miley began his post-game remarks by apologizing and expressing his admiration for Goldschmidt, who had three of the seven hits against him.

Manager Buck Showalter wasn’t pleased to take Miley out, and replace him with Tyler Wilson, who recorded the final out. The fans loudly booed the decision.

“They certainly weren’t cheering me. I was thinking about flipping it to Tyler about halfway across the outfield and walk off with him. I didn’t think I had enough arm to reach Tyler,” Showalter said. 

Miley’s wife is due to give birth to their first child within the next two weeks, and he appreciated the fan support.

“That’s kind of what we play for. That’s the reaction you want. Yu obviously want to go out there and do good and do your job and it worked out tonight,” Miley said. 

Mark Trumbo, whose 45th home run in the fifth inning gave the Orioles a 6-0 lead, played with Miley in Arizona, and empathized with his former teammate, pointing out a few starts back that it’s difficult to be traded during the season. 

“I’ve seen him a lot. I’ve seen him a lot more than most people in this room. I know what he’s capable of,” Trumbo said. “I’ve seen when he was going well. This is what you can expect for him. Tremendous tempo, he was working in and out. He had all his pitches going. That was just a great job tonight.”

The Orioles (84-71) scored a run in the first off Robbie Ray (8-14) when Manny Machado’s single scored Adam Jones. 

Matt Wieters led off the second with a drive to right that Yasmany Tomas couldn’t handle, and Wieters was on third with a double and the error. He scored on J.J. Hardy’s fly ball. 

Trey Mancini became the third player in major league history to homer in his first three starts in the fourth inning, and the Orioles lead stretched to 5-0 on Chris Davis’ two-run single. 

The Diamondbacks’ Carlos Quentin (2006) and Colorado’s Trevor Story (2016) are the other players to homer in their first three at-bats. 

“It’s been incredible, you know? I could never imagine it happening this way, and it’s still hard to believe. A week ago, I was down in Florida prepared for this, but it’s cool, a week later, with everything that’s happened, to be here in Baltimore and to contribute to it, to a postseason run,” Mancini said. 

A night before, Showalter used nearly all of his top-tier relievers: Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens and O’Day in the 12-inning win. 

Miley’s deep start enabled Showalter to rest his core as well as Oliver Drake and Tommy Hunter, who also pitched Friday night, and Donnie Hart, who didn’t. 

We got to the point where three guys, maybe four, three for sure we were not going to push the envelope on tonight. Not that one day is going make that much difference, but with the day game tomorrow, if we had to push the envelope on them we’d really be short tomorrow,” Showalter said. 

NOTES: The Orioles have 13 wins in interleague play, the most in club history. … Jones walked twice. His 38 walks set a career-high. … Braden Shipley (4-4, 5.49) faces Dylan Bundy (9-6, 4.13) on Sunday afternoon in the final home game of the regular season.  

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Nationals took relatively smooth road to winning 2016 NL East

Nationals took relatively smooth road to winning 2016 NL East

Whether the Nats reach their ultimate goal of winning a World Series this season will be determined on the chilly nights and under the bright lights of October, but on Friday night they took a necessary step towards getting there.

With their 6-1 win over the Pirates on Friday night, and the Mets' loss to the Phillies, the Nats won the National League East division championship for the third time in the last five years. For the first time since 2014, there will be postseason baseball in Washington.

A lot has happened since they were eliminated from playoff contention last September. They hired a new manager in Dusty Baker and made key offseason additions like signing Daniel Murphy in free agency. Throughout this year they made upgrades by calling up leadoff hitter Trea Turner and trading for closer Mark Melancon. 

Their rotation has been a work in progress with spot starts from rookies and veterans. Stephen Strasburg signed a contract extension and then became a Cy Young contender before injuries disrupted his season. Joe Ross was also injured for months and Gio Gonzalez battled inconsistency. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark led the way as two of the best pitchers in baseball.

Their lineup saw Bryce Harper win NL Player of the Month in April, then drop off and fall into the worst slump of his career. Ben Revere, who was acquired this offseason to play a key role, didn't play to his career norms and neither did Ryan Zimmerman. It was Murphy and All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos who helped them stay afloat offensively. In the second half, Anthony Rendon caught fire and Turner changed everything with his speed and consistency at the top of their order.

Their bullpen has changed dramatically since Opening Day. Gone is Jonathan Papelbon, who was released after Melancon came over from Pittsburgh in a deadline trade. They traded for lefty Marc Rzepczynksi in August and added many September call-ups once their roster expanded.

As expected, the Nats' most potent competition within the division came from the New York Mets, the reigning NL champions. But New York was beset by injuries early on and lost Matt Harvey for the season. Lucas Duda and David Wright missed significant time, as did Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom. They played well enough to remain in playoff contention, but couldn't keep up with the Nationals.

The Nats beat the Mets 12-7 in their head-to-head series. That was a big change from 2015, when the Mets went 11-8 and swept the Nationals in two key series, one at the trade deadline and one in early September. This time it was the Nationals who took advantage, most notably with a sweep in late June and three straight wins in a four-game series in July. 

The Nationals have been mostly consistent this year, but they have had their downs, including a season-high seven-game losing streak in late June. That trimmed their division lead from six games to two in a span of one week. But the Nats followed that with six straight wins, including their sweep of the Mets on June 27-29. They came out of that stretch with a six-game lead in the NL East and never really looked back. Both the Mets and Marlins began to slide, while the Nats once again gained momentum.

The tone was set for the Nationals by their best start in team history. They began the year 18-7 mainly by beating up on lesser opponents including division foes Philadelphia and Atlanta. It wasn't until April 29, their 22nd game, that they played a team that made the playoffs the year before. That was the St. Louis Cardinals, but they had no trouble with them and earned in St. Louis to kick off an impressive road trip that also included two wins at the defending-champion Kansas City Royals.

Who the Nationals play in the playoffs has not been determined, though the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be the most likely scenario. The Nats went 1-5 against them in head-to-head battles. Against the Chicaco Cubs, who clinched the NL Central, they went 2-5. Against the Giants and Cardinals, who could also be playoff bound, they went 4-3 and 5-2, respectively.

The Nationals will have to win plenty more games to bring home the first World Series title for a Washington baseball team since 1924. But the now know they will at least have a spot in the tournament, something they know is no small feat.

[RELATED: Why don't college coaches jump to MLB? Nats players offer theories]

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