Team USA, Durant gets off to winning start vs. France

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Team USA, Durant gets off to winning start vs. France

By Tom Withers
LONDON -- Hardly dreamy, still dominant. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, LeBron James added eight assists and the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team opened tournament play with a rough-and-ragged 98-71 win over France on Sunday. Seeking a second straight gold medal to match the one they won in Beijing four years ago, the Americans expected a tough test from a French team featuring San Antonio guard Tony Parker and five other NBA players. The U.S. was never in real trouble, and after overcoming some major foul issues and sloppy play, the superstar-laden squad finally put France away in the second half. Kobe Bryant had said this team could beat the 1992 Dream Team that changed international hoops forever at the Barcelona Games. That matchup is mythical, but the London Games aren't and this U.S. team will have to play much better in upcoming games if it plans to maintain American dominance. With first lady Michelle Obama on hand to cheer on the U.S., Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler added nine rebounds apiece Kevin Love finished with 14 points for the Americans. The U.S. will next play Tuesday against Tunisia, beaten 60-56 by Nigeria in the tournament opener. As they left the floor, the U.S. players stopped to hug the first lady. Parker, playing with goggles to protect a surgically repaired left eye, scored 10 points but France, which trailed by just one point after the first quarter, fell to 0-5 in Olympic competition against the USA. Ali Traore led the French with 12 points. With the U.S. leading 52-36 at halftime, Durant opened the second half with a 3-pointer, Bryant dropped one from long range and after James dunked an alley-oop pass from Deron Williams, the Americans led 64-43. Au revoir, France. The U.S. team's lead ballooned to 78-51 after three quarters, allowing coach Mike Krzyzewski to rest Bryant, James and Durant for most of the fourth quarter. With the game well in hand, Krzyzewski even gave 19-year-old Anthony Davis, the top pick in June's NBA draft, his first taste of Olympic play. Unlike his peers, Krzyzewski has the luxury of a deep bench and he was forced to go it early and often in the first half, when the Americans racked up fouls. After the U.S. started the game by missing its first six three-point attempts, Bryant, James and Durant started finding the range from beyond the arc. The trio finished the game a combined 6 for 12 from three-point range while the rest of the U.S. went 2 for 13. Parker nearly missed these Olympics. The 30-year-old recently underwent surgery after he was hit with broken glass during a nightclub fight in New York. Parker was not involved in the bottle-throwing melee between R&B singer Chris Brown and members of rapper Drake's entourage. He was able to break down the U.S. defense early on, but once the Americans forced the ball from his hands, the French had no one else to turn to. American's multimillion dollar conglomerate of hoop talent came out of the locker room singing on the way to the floor for pregame warmups. Their chants caught the attention of several Brazilian players still doing interviews following a tight opening win over Australia. As Bryant, James and Durant filed onto the hardwood, some of France's players turned to take a look. The U.S. players weren't nearly so jovial at halftime following a sloppy, foul-filled first half in which the Americans were whistled for 18 personals and complained about some calls. Anthony and Russell Westbrook spent the final six minutes of the second quarter on the bench after picking up their third fouls. A few days ago, France's Ronny Turiaf likened the U.S. team's ability to play big or small to a two-faced beast. "That team is like a Gemini," said Turiaf, who will play with Paul and the Clippers next season. "They have two faces, a nightmare-nightmare." But the U.S. team was its own worst enemy in the first quarter. Too often, the American settled for jump shots rather than driving to the basket. The Americans missed all six 3-pointers in the opening period, and when France's Yannick Bokolo drained a 3 in the final second, France was within 22-21. James opened the second quarter with a 3 and the U.S. quickly went on an 11-0 run before it was slowed down by a rash of fouls -- several of them needless. Fortunately for the Americans, the French made only 1 of 11 3-pointers and missed seven free throws, allowing the U.S. to take a 52-36 halftime lead.

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Capitals forced overtime but couldn't keep up against Hurricanes in preseason opener

Capitals forced overtime but couldn't keep up against Hurricanes in preseason opener

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ preseason opening loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1 in overtime, on Monday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Prospect Madison Bowey scored on the power play with 6:02 left to play to force overtime and give the Capitals’ prospect heavy-lineup a chance. But Justin Faulk rifled a shot past Drew MacIntyre on the power play to lift the Hurricanes with seven seconds remaining in the extra session. Carolina’s first goal was scored by Patrick Brown, who ripped a shot over Vitek Vanecek’s glove with 18 seconds left in the first period.

What it means: The storyline to watch is the injury suffered by Tom Wilson late in the second period. The Capitals said the big winger suffered an upper body injury and would not return for precautionary reasons. Although it was not immediately clear when Wilson got hurt, he did catch a shoulder from Jordan Staal with 3:18 remaining in the middle frame. Staal was whistled for elbowing and Wilson glided to the bench and took a seat. It should be noted that Staal and Wilson had been jawing at one another for much of the game.

Halfsies: Vanecek stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced, including a couple of big pad stops on the penalty kill in the first period. Overall, the 2014 second-round pick was mostly solid in his NHL debut but has work to do on his rebound control. Vanecek was replaced by Drew MacIntyre midway through the second period. MacIntyre, meantime, finished with 14 stops, including three in the extra session.

Anticipated debut: 2016 first rounder Lucas Johansen had a solid pro debut skating alongside veteran Taylor Chorney. Johansen, the 28th overall pick in June, skated 19:06. He finished with one shot, one hit and a minor penalty. Best word to sum up his performance? Uneventful, which is meant as a compliment for a rookie defenseman making his NHL debut.  

A-Team: With Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup, associate coach Todd Reirden handed out three alternate captain ‘A’s — to Orpik, Wilson and Jay Beagle. Orpik wore an ‘A’ last season; Wilson is expected to take on a bigger role on and off the ice this season; and Beagle is a hardworking, heart-and-soul guy.   

Inside the box score: Prospect Nathan Walker finished with a game-high six hits in 13:18 of ice time.

Look ahead: The Capitals face the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday night. Some of the players who suited up against the Hurricanes also might make the trip to Bell Centre, but Reirden said final decision on a lineup wouldn’t be made until after the coaches meet after Monday’s game. “For sure some players will play back-to-back games,” Reirden said before the game. “But we want to see how things go in terms of what people do with their opportunity. That’s the beauty of training camp.” 

RELATED: Tom Wilson left Carolina game in the second period with an injury

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Wilson Ramos exits Nats game vs. D'Backs with injury

Wilson Ramos exits Nats game vs. D'Backs with injury

The Nationals suffered another injury to an important player on Monday night, as All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos fell down holding his right leg on a throw home in the sixth inning on Monday night against the Diamondbacks.

Ramos was then helped off the field by trainers and teammates as Pedro Severino came in to replace him. Others in the Nats dugout looking stunned as he went straight to the locker room.

Ramos had surgery in 2012 to reconstruct his knee after tearing both his ACL and MCL. He missed the team's first playoff run because of it and has since blossomed into one of the best catchers in the majors.

Ramos fell down on a wet field after the game was resumed after a 20-minute rain delay. The 29-year-old is set to hit free agency this offseason for the first time in his career.

The Nationals are already without Bryce Harper (thumb) and Daniel Murphy (strained buttock) temporarily. Starter Stephen Strasburg is out indefinitely with a right flexor mass strain. Losing Ramos for any period of time would be a big blow with the playoffs right around the corner.

More on this story as it develops...

[RELATED: Thoughts on the death of Marlins star Jose Fernandez]

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