Bubba beat the rain, posts bogey-free 67 Sunday

Bubba beat the rain, posts bogey-free 67 Sunday

Bubba Watson’s bogey-free 67 in howling winds Sunday was just what the reigning Masters champion wanted to see in his final start before Augusta.

Trotz: Penguins had a 'heightened sense of desperation' in Game 2

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Trotz: Penguins had a 'heightened sense of desperation' in Game 2

You hear it all the time when it comes to the playoffs. When teams play those first two games on the road, the goal is also to walk away with at least a split. The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to earn that split in Washington by way of a 2-1 win in Game 2 on Saturday.

"We wanted to go back at least with one," Sidney Crosby said. "We played well the last couple games so I think we deserved at least to get a split."

"It's huge, I think," Kris Letang said. "It's a big momentum game that we're going home with."

For the Penguins, it was mission accomplished. Now the pressure falls on the Caps to do the same thing in Pittsburgh: take at least one of the two road games. To do so, they will have to have a much better start to Game 3 than they showed Saturday.

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Through two periods the Caps were out-shot 28-10. Somehow, the deficit was only 1-0 and the Caps were able to tie it with a strong third period, but the game could have gone much differently if the team had battled as hard for the first 40 minutes as it did in the final 20.

"We have to be better, plain and simple," head coach Barry Trotz said.

While he was not satisfied with the play of his team in the first two periods, he was also not surprised by how strong Pittsburgh looked at the start.

"What you see in the playoffs a lot of times is you go into a sereies and a team wins Game 1, there's a sense of heightened desperation on a team that lost that game and I sense that they had a heightened sense of desperation."

Now the Caps will need to feel that desperation heading into Pittsburgh. By losing Game 2, Washington has yielded home-ice advantage. Both teams need three more wins, but three of the remaining fives games of the series will be in Pittsburgh. If the Caps don't feel that "heigthened desperation" in Games 3 and 4, they could find themselves down 3-1 in the series when play returns to Washington on Saturday.

Where do the Caps need to improve? Well, that's not too hard to figure out.

Said Karl Alzner, "You need leave more of a mark early in the game."

MORE CAPITALS: WILLIAMS: 'WE WERE GETTING EMBARRASSED OUT THERE'

Hyun Soo Kim's improved play is winning over Buck Showalter

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Hyun Soo Kim's improved play is winning over Buck Showalter

BALTIMORE— A month ago, the Orioles were angry with Hyun Soo Kim because he didn’t want to go to the minor leagues. Now, he’s batting .600. 

Kim had three more hits in Saturday night’s game. He’s 9-for-15 in four starts, and he’s 2-for-2 in pinch hitting appearances. 

Manager Buck Showalter likes to say about players who campaign for more playing time: “You want to play more? Play better.” 

Showalter says it’s true in Kim’s case.

“That’s why I’ve played him,” Showalter said. “That’s how it works. Whose place should he take?” 

Both Kim and Pedro Alvarez, who has three multi-hit games this week, have hit recently, creating a happy dilemma for Showalter. 

“I like that challenge,” Showalter said. “I haven’t quite figured out how it works mathematically. It’s kind of hard.” 

The left-handed Kim has had all his at-bats against right-handers.

“You get an idea about guys, kind of who they might match up against well initially,” Showalter said. “You don’t know. I still don’t for sure. I know he’s had some good at-bats off certain guys. We’ll see if he can go to the next level against some other guys.” 

Showalter feels that Kim has made the most out of not playing most of the first month. He’s had quite an adjustment to U.S. baseball from South Korea. 

“I think Kim’s benefitted a little bit by being able to step back and watch something unfold that he didn’t know what was going to happen, the stadiums, the fields, the pitchers, all the things we do differently here,” Showalter said. 

 

Playoff scheduling has big implications for Stephen Curry's return to Warriors

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Playoff scheduling has big implications for Stephen Curry's return to Warriors

The NBA's playoff scheduling process may have indirectly given the Warriors a gift in their series against the Trail Blazers. A long midweek layoff means Stephen Curry could be back as early as Game 4. 

As noted by The Big Lead last Thursday, the way this second-round series was scheduled would change when Curry could return from his MLC sprain. 

He suffered the injury on April 24 by slipping on a wet spot on the Rockets' court. MRI results released the next day said he would be "re-evaluated in two weeks," making Monday, May 9 the earliest Curry could be cleared to return. 

That's also the date of Game 4. Check it out:

Game 1: Sunday, May 1 – Blazers at Warriors, 12:30 p.m. ABC
Game 2: Tuesday, May 3 – Blazers at Warriors, 7:30 p.m. TNT
Game 3: Saturday, May 7  Warriors at Blazers, 5:30 p.m. ABC
Game 4: Monday, May 9 – Warriors at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. TNT
Game 5*: Wednesday, May 11 – Blazers at Warriors, TBD TNT
Game 6*: Friday, May 13 – Warriors at Blazers, TBD ESPN
Game 7*: Monday, May 16 – Blazers at Warriors, 6 p.m. TNT

So the way the schedule shook out, the 2015 MVP may only miss three contests. If that's the case, the Warriors could lose every game without him and still have a chance to win the series with a healthy Curry. 

This isn't the only way the schedule could have been structured; instead of the lull between Tuesday's Game 2 and Saturday's Game 3, the NBA could have gone for an every-other-day slate with Game 3 on Thursday, Game 4 on Saturday and so forth. 

That scenario would have made Game 5 Curry's earliest return -- giving Portland the (unlikely) possibility of sweeping the series without ever facing Golden State's killer. But that's impossible now with the current schedule. 

Conspiracy theorists will point to the NBA's financial interest in having its biggest star on the court for more games, and giving its hottest team the best chance to repeat as champions. From an NBA brand perspective, wouldn't you want to prevent a fluke injury from sabotaging the league's next potential dynasty? 

But consider this benign alternative: The NBA typically schedules the second round with Games 3 and 4 over the weekend, either on Friday and Sunday or Saturday and Monday. 

Both the Spurs-Thunder and Warriors-Trail Blazers series have long midweek layoffs in order to keep Games 3 and 4 on Friday/Sunday and Saturday/Monday, respectively. That things worked out in the league's commercial interest may have been a happy accident! 

Scheduling preference, aside from financial incentive, could have been the deciding factor.

Or maybe both were. Look, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you, Portland fans.