US women overcome sloppy play to beat Croatia

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US women overcome sloppy play to beat Croatia

By DOUG FEINBERG LONDON (AP) -- Tina Charles and Candace Parker each had double-doubles and Angel McCoughtry provided a spark off the bench to help the U.S. women's team overcome a sloppy performance Saturday to beat Croatia 81-56 in their Olympic opener. Coach Geno Auriemma had said he was hoping that the Americans could play a style of basketball that would be entertaining and help grow the women's game internationally. That didn't happen Saturday. The U.S. struggled for the first three quarters before pulling away to win their 34th consecutive Olympic contest. The victory was far different than the 54-point pounding the Americans gave Croatia a week earlier. Despite missing its first 14 shots, Croatia hung tough for the first 30 minutes before the Americans finally could pull away. The U.S., which has dominated its opponents en route to the last four gold medals, only led 53-49 early in the fourth quarter before a 16-0 run put the game out of reach. McCoughtry started the burst with consecutive layups and Tamika Catchings capped it with a three-point play that made it 69-49. Swin Cash, who hadn't played in the first few quarters also had a three-point play in the spurt. McCoughtry finished with 13 points. Charles had 14 points and 10 rebounds; Parker finished with 11 points and 13 boards. Jelena Ivezic scored 22 points and Marija Vrsaljko added 19 for Croatia, which was making its Olympic debut. Vrsaljko missed the previous contest last Saturday as she was getting married. While the Americans had their way on offense in that contest, they struggled Saturday. The U.S. built a 9-0 lead early on as Croatia missed its first 14 shots. The Americans could have been up a lot more, but missed a lot of easy shots and turned the ball over. The U.S. finished with 21 turnovers. Vrsaljko finally got the Croatians on the board with a lay-in with 2 minutes left in the first quarter. The U.S. built its lead to 21-9 and looked poised to take command early before going cold from the floor. Croatia scored the next 14 points, capped by Luca Ivankovic's lay-in that gave the team it's first lead of the game, 23-21. Ivezic's 3 minutes later made it 26-23. Diana Taurasi had seen enough, hitting consecutive 3s to restore the Americans' advantage. The U.S. led 31-28 at the half. It was the second straight Olympics that the Americans struggled in their opener. They trailed the Czech Republic 13-2 before winning by 40 at the Beijing Games. The U.S. men's basketball team, who are also heavy favorites to win the gold, didn't make the women's opener. They had practice at the same time. The two teams marched together in the opening ceremonies and are staying in the same hotel Next up for the U.S. is Angola, which lost to Turkey 72-50 in its first Olympic debut. The Americans will also face China, Turkey and the Czech Republic in pool play. The U.S. beat the Czechs in the finals of the 2010 world championship to qualify for the London Games. The Czech Republic lost its pool opener, falling to China 66-57. In other early games Saturday, Russia rallied past Canada 58-53. Brazil played France and Australia met Britain later Saturday night.

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Caps getting goals from everyone on epic hot streak

Caps getting goals from everyone on epic hot streak

Since New Year’s Eve, the Capitals have been scoring goals at a ridiculous rate. In fact, they’ve scored more goals—54 in 11 games—than any other team in that timeframe.

And it’s not really all that close.

Consider:

  • Since the outburst began with a 6-2 over New Jersey on Dec. 31, the Caps have scored five or more goals eight times in 11 contests.
  • After Thursday’s 7-3 win in St. Louis, they’ve scored five or more goals in five straight games for the first time since February 2010.
  • They’ve chased four goalies from the opposing net: Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky; Chicago’s Corey Crawford; Philly’s Steve Mason; and St. Louis’ Jake Allen (twice).
  • Of the 54 goals, only seven have come on the power play.
  • Eighteen different players have scored. (Defensive defenseman Brooks Orpik needs to get with the program.)
  • During this prolific 11-game run, Justin Williams leads all Caps in with eight goals. Meanwhile, T.J. Oshie is second with six goals and Brett Connolly and Alex Ovechkin are tied for third with five.
  • The Caps are now averaging 3.20 goals per game, up from the 3.02 they scored a year ago.

RELATED: Caps' offense explodes again in rout of Blues

Over the first two-plus months of the season, offense was hard to come by for the Caps, who hovered around mid-pack in goals per game. These days, however, it seems almost every shot is finding the back of the net—and they couldn’t be enjoying it more.

“It’s always fun to score and see that a lot of different guys scored, too,” Marcus Johansson told reporters at Scottrade Center, where he recorded goal No. 15 on the season. “It’s good for the team and good for the confidence.”

The Capitals have also scored the first goal in each of the last nine games.

“It’s hard to score in this league, but it’s a lot easier and it’s a lot less draining when you score first,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re not chasing the game. There’s a lot more demand on every detail when you’re chasing the game because if you give up another one, it’s a bigger hole.”

Williams is as a hot as anyone in the league right now, but he still felt the need to issue a bit of warning to his teammates: Just because the goals are coming easily (and in big bunches) doesn’t mean they can count on it every night. They've still got to remain committed to the details that vaulted them to the top of the NHL standings.   

“It’s actually kinda strange now that everything seems to be going in,” he said. “I think internally you have to recognize the process and not get carried away with [the fact] that we’re scoring five, six, seven goals a night. That’s not going to last. You ride the highs [but] we need to understand reality.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps chase Jake Allen...twice

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Knicks

5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Knicks

Here are five plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 113-110 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night that are worth revisiting...

1. This first highlight was no precursor whatsoever to the game Carmelo Anthony was about to have, because he went off for a game-high 34 points, including a Knicks-record 23 points in the third quarter. 

But this one was a play he would like to forget. Melo had a wide open chipshot in the first quarter and completely airballed it:

2. John Wall led the Wizards with 29 points, 13 assists and three steals. Two of his points came on this nice left-handed slam in the first half:

3. Wall was just getting warmed up there. In this highlight he blows past Ron Baker and finishes for two:

4. Kristaps Porzingis returned for the Knicks after missing four straight games with a sore left Achilles'. It wasn't enough to lead New York to a win, but he did have this ridiculous putback dunk:

5. That dunk was nice, but this one sealed the victory for the Wizards. Here is Wall getting the rebound and taking it all the way for two with just :13 seconds left. Did he double-dribble? Who cares? The refs didn't catch it:

[RELATED: Wall and Beal not named All-Star starters, but there is a silver lining]