No big deal, but the Spurs have won 20 straight

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No big deal, but the Spurs have won 20 straight

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tony Parker has found balance in his role as a scoring point guard. Two more wins, and the San Antonio Spurs will find themselves playing for another NBA championship. Parker had 34 points and eight assists, Manu Ginobili added 20 points and the Spurs stayed perfect in the playoffs with a 120-111 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night. The Spurs set an NBA record with their 20th consecutive victory bridging the regular season and the playoffs. They came in sharing the longest such streak with the 2000-01 Lakers, who won 19 straight before losing to Philadelphia in the first game of the finals. Those Lakers went on to win the championship and Parker's performance is yet another reason to think the Spurs will do the same. Guided by their All-Star point guard, San Antonio shredded Oklahoma City's defense with pinpoint passes for three quarters. The Spurs were shooting 63 percent from the field and 64 percent from 3-point range at one point in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 22 points in the second half. Parker went 16 for 21 from the field, including a 3-pointer. "Tony's been great all year," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's been really focused the entire season." Parker had his highest scoring average since 2008-09 (18.3 points), but he also averaged 7.7 assists in the regular season, a career high. In his 11th season, Parker finally feels comfortable knowing when his demanding coach wants him to pass and when to shoot. "It's always been a battle my whole career," Parker said, "when you're a scoring point guard and Pop wants you to score, then he wants you to pass, and he wants you to score, and he wants you to pass. You go back and forth. "It's always been the biggest room for me to improve, to find a happy middle between scoring and passing, and find that good balance," Parker said. "I think, over the years, I got better at it." The Thunder made a late surge to get within six points, but Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan helped San Antonio finish off the Thunder for a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 Thursday night in Oklahoma City. "First, we've got to worry about Game 3," Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. "Regardless of what's going on with this last game or the next game, we've got to worry about Game 3 and come in with the same mindset and try to get a win." Kevin Durant had 31 points, Westbrook had 27 points and eight assists and James Harden rebounded from a rough Game 1 to score 30 for the Thunder, who have lost two straight for the first time since early April. Oklahoma City dropped to 15-4 in games after losses this season. "There are no moral victories for us," Durant said. "We were down. We dug ourselves a hole. We did what we normally do, which is fight all game, and we lost." San Antonio picked up where it left off from the 39-point fourth quarter that turned Game 1 on Sunday. With sharp passes and hot shooting, the Spurs jumped to a 19-9 lead after the Thunder missed six of their first seven shots and had three turnovers in the first 4 minutes. The Spurs shot 52 percent (12 for 23) in the opening quarter and led 28-22. Durant was on the bench at the start of the second quarter, and Parker and the Spurs put together a 14-4 spurt to stretch the gap to 13 points. Westbrook hammered Parker's arm on a drive and he crumpled to the court. That didn't faze Parker, who scored the Spurs' next seven points to keep San Antonio rolling. The Spurs shot 58 percent (22 of 38) and had 13 assists in the first half. They also cut down their turnovers, committing only six in the first half after giving away 14 in the first two quarters of Game 1. "You never go out and say, We're going to start out fast,'" Popovich said. "You don't know what is going to happen. You just want your team to be aggressive. Good teams are aggressive and it is, it's a matter of making shots or not making shots." The Spurs resumed picking apart Oklahoma City's defense with precision passes after the break, scoring on five straight possessions. The biggest cheer from the crowd came after Ginobili flipped a behind-the-back pass to Parker in the corner for another 3 and the lead ballooned to 78-58. Late in the third quarter, the Thunder began intentionally fouling Tiago Splitter, a 32 percent free-throw shooter during the playoffs. That backfired, too. Splitter went 5 for 10 over a 54-second span before Popovich replaced him with Duncan, and Oklahoma City trailed by the same margin -- 16 -- that it did when Brooks called for the "Hack-a-Splitter" strategy. It may not have showed on the scoreboard, but the Spurs seemed to lose their edge after that. "There's a reason why you do it, to kill the rhythm," Parker said. "I think it got us out of our rhythm." Parker returned with 10:58 left and San Antonio leading 92-78, but he was shaky on offense for the first time. Gary Neal promptly curled around a screen and swished a 3-pointer, the Spurs' 10th of the game. Parker, Ginobili and Duncan were on the court together at the 8-minute mark, after the Thunder cut the deficit to eight. Ginobili's floater in the lane was only the Spurs' third field goal of the fourth quarter and put San Antonio up 99-89. The Thunder had the deficit down to six with just over 5 minutes remaining. The Spurs missed 12 of 15 shots during one stretch, but Parker hit an off-balance, high-arcing jumper with 3:39 left for a 107-96 lead and San Antonio controlled the game from there. At least now, the Thunder get to return home, where they are 5-0 in the playoffs. But only 14 teams in NBA playoff history have overcome 2-0 deficits to win series, and the Spurs show no signs of letting the Thunder back in it. Notes: The Spurs' winning streak is the longest in the NBA overall since the Houston Rockets won 22 straight between Jan. 29-March 18, 2008, all in the regular season. ... The Thunder are the first team to reach 100 points against San Antonio in the postseason. ... Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points, including three 3-pointers for the Spurs. ... Duncan blocked four shots to tie Hakeem Olajuwon for second in career blocks in the postseason (472). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the leader (476). ... Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher went 2 for 11 from the field after scoring 13 points in Game 1.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Who will surprise, who will play NT

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 27, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 146 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 106 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 17
—Training camp starts (7/27) 61
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 75

The Redskins week that was

Here are some of the most popular post from the last week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com

How well will the Redskins' defense adjust to six new starters? The Redskins unquestionably got an infusion of defensive talent but as we have seen in the past that does not guarantee better results. Throw a new defensive coordinator into the mix and it could take some time for this unit to reach its full potential. I think that there will be struggles early in the season and a better (but not dominant) unit by the time November rolls around.

Which Redskins will surprise in 2017? Every player carries expectations into the season. Some will be better than we believe right now (think of what many thought Vernon Davis would do last year) and some will play worse (Josh Doctson). I take out the crystal ball to figure out who will exceed expectations and who will fall below them.

Don't count out 3rd straight franchise tag for Cousins—Yes, Bruce Allen said that he is willing to franchise tag Kirk Cousins for a third time next year, a move that would cost $34 million for one season. But I think that’s a total bluff; the Redskins’ salary cap situation for 2018 would make such a move very difficult for them to pull off. The best hope for Cousins being a Redskin in 2018 is getting him signed to a long-term contract by July 15 of this year. The tone of the conversation regarding a new deal has been positive lately but the team must come up with a serious offer for a deal to happen.

For Redskins, finding a nose tackle needs to be a priority—Well, it’s up to Jim Tomsula to “make” a nose tackle. Phil Taylor is a true NT and he will get a shot. But he hasn’t played a snap since 2014. Undrafted free agent Ondre Pipkins also has nose tackle size at 6-3, 325. But he is a long shot, as are the Redskins’ chances of being significantly better against the run if they don’t find someone, anyone to be an adequate solution as the nose tackle.

Did Vernon Davis make the NFL change celebration rules? Although I prefer the John Riggins way of celebrating a touchdown—hand the ball to the referee because you’ve been in the end zone before and you expect to be back again soon—elaborate celebrations don’t bother me. After a TD in a game I’m covering I’m focused on writing about the scoring drive. When I’m watching at home, my attention goes to Twitter or to the refrigerator. I do think that it was dumb for the Redskins to lose 15 yards of field position because Vernon Davis put a jump shot over the crossbar so that’s why I’m glad that the NFL changed the celebration rules.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Orioles get shut out by Astros, lose fifth straight game

Orioles get shut out by Astros, lose fifth straight game

HOUSTON -- Jake Marisnick and Carlos Beltran each homered to back a solid start by Joe Musgrove, and the Houston Astros beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-0 on Friday night.

Marisnick went deep with one out in the third inning, and Beltran's shot to the second deck in right field came with two outs in the sixth.

Musgrove (4-4) allowed four hits in seven innings before the bullpen closed it out to send the Orioles to their season-high fifth straight loss.

Musgrove bounced back after allowing eight hits and a season-high seven runs in a season-low three-plus innings in an 8-6 loss to Cleveland in his last start.

The Orioles weren't able to string any hits together until the eighth inning when a double by Hyun Soo Kim and singles by Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy loaded the bases with no outs. But Chris Devenski struck out Seth Smith before retiring Adam Jones and Manny Machado on fly balls to escape the jam.

Ken Giles struck out one in a perfect ninth for his 14th save.

Kevin Gausman (2-4) yielded eight hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings for the Orioles, who have dropped seven of their last nine.

Machado had two hits, but the other three batters at the top of Baltimore's order went 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts, including four by Smith.

Marisnick homered in his second straight at-bat after hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of a 7-6 win over the Tigers on Thursday night. George Springer followed with a single and Josh Reddick reached on an error by Schoop. But the Astros were unable to add on after Gausman retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Marisnick has six home runs this season after hitting just five last year.

JIMENEZ TO BULLPEN

The Orioles have moved struggling right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen and will move reliever Alec Asher into the rotation to start on Sunday. Jimenez is 1-2 with a 7.17 ERA in nine appearances with eight starts this season. Asher has started two games this season but has worked mostly as a reliever and is 1-2 with a 2.17 ERA.

"I think he deserves the opportunity ... the challenge is that it takes a guy that's been pitching well out of our `pen," manager Buck Showalter said. "But we've been challenged to try and figure out a way to get a little deeper in some of the games, and it doesn't really matter who we've got in the bullpen if we don't."

UP NEXT

Orioles: Wade Miley (1-2 2.59 ERA) is scheduled to start for Baltimore on Saturday. He allowed six hits and three runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to Toronto in his last start and hasn't gotten a win since April 14.

Astros: Ace Dallas Keuchel is expected to come off the disabled list to start on Saturday after missing just one start because of a pinched nerve in his neck. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner has brushed off a tough 2016 season by opening this year 7-0 with a 1.84 ERA. The left-hander has the second-lowest ERA in the majors and his wins are tied for most in the big leagues.