US narrowly defeats Lithuania

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US narrowly defeats Lithuania

LONDON (AP) -- Still unbeaten, but perhaps more importantly, the U.S. is no longer untested. The Americans got a game against Lithuania -- and then some. They got a scare. Two days after running and gunning to a record-shattering 83-point win, the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team had to come back in the fourth quarter for a 99-94 win over a fearless Lithuania team that had the Americans in serious trouble until the closing minutes. LeBron James scored 9 of his 20 points in the final four minutes for the U.S. (4-0), which had looked nearly invincible in thrashing Nigeria 156-73 on Thursday night and breaking several records. But the Americans were reminded that the path to the gold medal is loaded with traps and Lithuania nearly sprang one. Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, Kevin Durant 16 and Chris Paul added seven rebounds, six assists and four of the U.S. team's 17 steals. Linas Kleiza scored 25 to lead Lithuania, which led by 84-82 with 5:50 to play. After the U.S. took a three-point lead, Lithuania would not go away and pulled within 87-86 on Darius Songaila's bucket with 4:12 left. That's when James, who has already won an MVP trophy and NBA title this year, took control. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Paul stole the inbounds pass, James took a pass down the right side and delivered one of his trademark dunks, a basket that brought the American players off the bench and seemed to restore world basketball order. After a basket by Deron Williams -- on a possession Paul kept alive with an offensive rebound -- James followed a Lithuania turnover with a left-handed layup, giving the U.S. a 97-88 lead and allowed the Americans to remain unbeaten -- though no longer untested as they get ready for Argentina on Monday. This wasn't easy, and that may be good in the long run for the Americans, who couldn't have helped but feel a little overconfident after Thursday's game when they made 29 3-pointers, scored 78 points in both halves and put on a breathtaking 40-minute display of international basketball. Lithuania had lost to Nigeria last month in a qualifying tournament, but that hardly mattered once the ball went in the air. With a roster featuring Kleiza, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, and several players who played collegiately in the U.S., Lithuania, which upset the U.S. at the Athens Game in 2004 and has won three bronze medals, went right at the Americans' star-studded crew from the start. In fact, Lithuania outrebounded the U.S. 42-37 and for long stretches it was the sharper team on the floor. Lithuania also shot an impressive 58 percent (38 for 65) from the field. But with a bench like no other, the U.S. simply wore Lithuania down in the fourth quarter, forcing several turnovers to swing the game in the final minutes. In the morning session, Russia, overlooked by many coming into the tournament, upset medal-favorite Spain 77-74 to win Group B. Afterward, Russia's Andrei Kirilenko, who recently signed with Minnesota, offered a prophetic take on the uncertainty of Olympic tournament play. "One night you can have 156 points, and a different night the ball could start missing," he said. That's exactly what happened to the Americans, who went just 10 of 33 from behind the arc and too often took a ready-fire-aim approach. Within four at halftime, Lithuania scored the first five points of the third quarter and took its first lead when Sarunas Jasikevicius knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 56-55. Lithuanian's lead lasted less than a minute as Durant hit a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run and the U.S. took a 78-72 lead into the fourth. Kleiza's 3-pointer from the left wing tied it 82-all, setting off chants by the Lithuanian crowd, which had been politely asked to stop whistling earlier. The Americans still trailed 84-82 before Paul, one of the only Americans to play well on both ends, made a 3-pointer. On Lithuania's next possession, Jasikevicius got trapped in the corner and flipped the ball blindly over his head, leading to a U.S. fastbreak and basket by Williams. After his squad rewrote a couple record books on Thursday, Krzyzewski canceled Friday's practice, giving his players a second chance this week to get out and to other events and root on their fellow U.S. Olympic teammates. The day off may have cost the Americans a little of their edge as they came out somewhat sloppy. Anthony, who scored a U.S. Olympic record 37 against Nigeria, didn't start but he came out firing as soon as he checked in, draining a corner jumper after being on the floor for all of 10 seconds. When Durant followed with a 3-pointer on the U.S. team's next trip, it seemed as if the high-powered Americans would shift gears and pull away. The Lithuanians, though, stayed close. They weren't intimidated, and with the 6-foot-8 Kleiza bulling his way inside and hitting jumpers, the Baltic ballers actually outplayed their more celebrated opponents for most of the first half. The Americans had some terrible possessions, settling for long jumpers instead of working the ball around. That selfishness nearly cost them and it may still be an issue.

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Gio Gonzalez has plenty to work on before Nats playoffs begin

Gio Gonzalez has plenty to work on before Nats playoffs begin

Gio Gonzalez' seesaw 2016 regular season is officially in the books. Next stop: the NL Division Series where he will face the L.A. Dodgers, likely in Game 3 and possibly with one of the two teams' season on the line. Either way, it will be important.

Over the years, teams have trotted out far less accomplished pitchers in playoff games, ones with nothing close to the track record of Gonzalez. And for long stretches this season, he has been effective, like in July and August when he held a 3.16 ERA across 11 starts.

But a lot has happened since August for Gonzalez, both on the field and off of it. In his five starts since, he's given up 19 runs in 23 innings. That stretch includes his 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday night against the Diamondbacks, when he gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks and threw a whopping 100 pitches.

Just in time for the playoffs.

The Nationals have an unenviable situation without Stephen Strasburg, who is rehabbing a right flexor strain, and with Joe Ross still building his workload. They better hope the version of Gio Gonzalez they see in the NLDS is better than the one they have witnessed over the last several weeks.

“It wasn’t that good, but we didn’t score any runs either. He had a lot of pitches in a short period of time," manager Dusty Baker said after the Nats' 3-0, rain-shortened loss.

"They ran his pitch count up. They didn’t swing at very many balls and it looked like they were trying to wait on his fastball."

Gonzalez will now have to make adjustments in bullpen sessions over the course of the next 12 days. He will have to do that with a lot on his mind. Gonzalez heads to the funeral of close friend Jose Fernandez on Thursday and was pitching with extra emotion against Arizona. 

“He’s an emotional-type guy," Baker said. "I talked to him a little bit about Fernandez and he was pitching for him and for us. Just wasn’t a very good night."

Now Gonzalez will have plenty of time to grieve and recalibrate before he sees the Dodgers. Whether that hurts or helps has yet to be determined.

“It can [help]. Just depends on, not only can it reset him, but after things have subsided some… they say time heals all wounds, but some wounds take longer to heal," Baker said.

"It probably won’t really set in until after the season when he’s back in Miami and around and Jose’s not around. Hopefully, he can have a couple good ‘pens and get it back together because we’re certainly going to need him come playoff time."

Gonzalez does have some success against the Dodgers to build off of. He holds a 1.69 ERA across 32 innings vs. L.A. since 2012 and held them to one run through six earlier this season.

Gonzalez is also just ready for a fresh start.

"You start the postseason with a zero ERA. It's a new series. New way to look at it," he said.

[RELATED: Podcast: Can Nationals win without Wilson Ramos?]

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If hairline fracture not enough, Cowboys Dez Bryant reportedly fined

If hairline fracture not enough, Cowboys Dez Bryant reportedly fined

Even when things are going well in Dallas it seems like controversy is never too far away. The latest stems from wide receiver Dez Bryant injuring his right knee during last Sunday's victory over the Bears. 

News of the severity of the injury did not emerge until Wednesday, when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett revealed Bryant suffered a hairline fracture where his tibia bone hits the knee. 

Why the wait? Reports from Dallas show that Bryant missed his scheduled MRI on Tuesday and the tests could not be held until Wednesday. Bryant also missed team meetings on Tuesday. 

MORE REDSKINS: PREPARING WITHOUT DOCTSON

Due to missing the meetings and MRI Tuesday, Bryant has been fined an undisclosed amount, per the reports

The injury comes at a tough time for the Cowboys as the offense has moved the ball well with rookie QB Dak Prescott. 

Dallas has won two games in a row after a narrow loss to the Giants to open the year. In three games, Bryant has 150 receiving yards and a touchdown. 

Against Washington in Week 2, Bryant went for more than 100 yards receiving. Late in that game, the Redskins began to shadow Bryant with Josh Norman.