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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Redskins' staring defense is sharp in small preseason sample of work

Redskins' staring defense is sharp in small preseason sample of work

Judging by the small sample size that the NFL preseason has become it looks like the Redskins’ starting defense is ready to go for the start of the NFL season.

The Redskins’ opponents had six possessions with their staring quarterbacks in the lineup, which usually means that those teams had all of their healthy starters in the game. In those six possessions the Redskins’ opponents mustered 53 yards of total offense.

As far as the starting quarterbacks, the Redskins didn’t face anyone who is bound for Canton five years after retirement. But there wasn’t a Case Keenum in the group either. Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Ryan combined to complete six of 18 passes for 46 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns. That comes to a combined passer rating of 33.3.

This is a major improvement over the 2015 preseason when starting quarterbacks were much sharper against the Redskins’ defense. Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford, and Joe Flacco completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 73.1. That’s not stellar but still effective.

This year the other teams apparently wanted to get the QBs some work and didn’t run a lot. The Redskins gave up 36 rushing yards on eight attempts. That’s an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. Over a year that would be an improvement over last year (4.8 per carry) but still well above the league average (4.1).

It’s hard to overemphasize the small sample sizes involved here. It would be a mistake to draw any sweeping conclusions from a few dozen snaps. But among the goals of the preseason are to look competent and, as Jay Gruden said, create some “positive vibrations”. The Redskins defense can check the boxes next to both of those.

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Orioles need win to avoid sweep in the Bronx

Orioles need win to avoid sweep in the Bronx

Today's Game:

Baltimore Orioles (70-59) New York Yankees (67-61), Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, 1:05 p.m.  

Starting pitchers:

Kevin Gausman (5-10, 3.92) vs. CC Sabathia (9-10, 4.33) 

Keys to the Game:

Can Gausman win his first road game as a starter in more than two years? He last won a road start on Aug. 17, 2014.

Can the Orioles get to Sabathia? He's 19-8 with a 3.33 ERA in 36 starts against them. 

News and Notes:

The Orioles are three games out of the AL East lead for the first time since May 31.

The Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive games for the third time this season. 

Nolan Reimold is 13-for-39 (.333) with two home runs against Sabathia. Matt Wieeters is 7-for-43 (.163) with a home run. 

The Orioles have lost five of six at Yankee Stadium this season. 

In road games, Gausman is 5-21 with a 5.22 ERA. At home, he's 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA.

Gausman is 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 14 games against the Yankees.

Current New York batters are hitting .213 against Gausman. 

RELATED: How long will Jones be out?

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Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

When the Ravens entered training camp, tight end was considered the deepest position on the team after the signing of veteran Ben Watson and the return of Dennis Pitta from two serious hip injuries.

But now, the Ravens are staring at the prospect of having just one healthy tight end for their Week 1 game against the Bills.

Watson suffered what is believed to be a season-ending Achilles injury on the first play of the Ravens preseason game Saturday night against the Lions, and Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed) remain sidelined with injuries. Two other tight ends, Darren Waller and Nick Boyle must begin serving suspensions when the regular season starts – Waller four games and Boyle 10.

So of the top six tight ends on the depth chart, Crockett Gillmore is the only healthy one who will be on the roster for the Sept. 11 opener.

But Gillmore, who had one catch for 2 yards in the Ravens 30-9 win Saturday night, said no one is in panic mode.

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“This is an organization that has dealt with those kinds of things since I’ve been here, and we’ve always had guys step up,” Gillmore said.

Watson’s injury does have a painful ring of familiarity; the Ravens lost veterans Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith to season-ending Achilles injuries last year.

“It’s not like we’re sweating bullets around here,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play.”

The problem is, at least two of them – Waller and Boyle – can’t play early in the season. Pitta has been out with a broken finger sustained in a scuffle with Kamalei Correa in a stadium practice earlier this month, and Wiliams has missed the past two preseason games. Their availability for Week 1 remains uncertain.

Watson’s injury could open the door for Daniel Brown to make the team, at least until Waller’s suspension is over, depending on the progress of Pitta and Williams.

Another option might be to look to utilize fullback Kyle Juszczyk more often in a hybrid role.

 “That’s a versatile guy that can do everything,” Gillmore said.

“We’re not sweating,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a bunch of receivers, too. We’ll make it work.”