From Comcast SportsNetEL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Metta World Peace harmed much more than his own tattered reputation when he viciously elbowed Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head.The Los Angeles Lakers troublemaker also deprived his team of his services as their starting small forward and defensive stopper for at least six playoff games while he serves his 10th suspension in the past decade.The NBA suspended World Peace for seven games on Tuesday for the inexplicable blow that gave Harden a concussion, keeping the former Ron Artest sidelined for most of the first postseason round.World Peace was ejected from Sunday's game against the Thunder for striking Oklahoma City's top reserve. He claimed the blow was an accidental, overzealous celebration of a dunk, yet even Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammates weren't defending his inexplicable actions."It's hard to get into a guy's head and know exactly what happened in that situation," Bryant said. "I haven't really spoken to him about it. You've really got to ask him."World Peace will miss the Lakers' season finale on Thursday at Sacramento and the Lakers' next six games. The playoffs open Saturday, and Los Angeles is likely to be the Western Conference's third seed -- and Oklahoma City is locked into the No. 2 seed, meaning the clubs could meet right after World Peace's suspension ends in the second round.He will lose nearly 348,000 in salary if he serves the entire suspension this year. If the Lakers exit the playoffs swiftly, the remainder of the suspension must be served next season.World Peace still hasn't answered media questions about his actions, but he issued a brief statement on his website, promising to follow up with a podcast."I apologize to the Oklahoma City Thunder fans and the OKC organization," World Peace wrote on ronartest.com. "I look foward (sic) to getting back on the floor with my teammates and competing for the Lakers fans."Commissioner David Stern alluded to Artest's lengthy history of on-court altercations and strange behavior in announcing the penalty in a statement. Although Harden appears to be recovering well, he hasn't been cleared to return to the Thunder."The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area," Stern said in a statement. "We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations."Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team accepted the latest suspension for World Peace, who has two years left on his contract with Los Angeles."His most recent lapse in judgment is not to be condoned or accepted," Kupchak said after praising World Peace as largely a model citizen with the Lakers."His actions could have seriously injured another player, and his absence during this suspension will hurt our team as well," Kupchak added. "While we accept the league's decision, we will be supportive of Metta and try to help him be more professional on the court."The suspension is the third career ban of at least seven games for Artest, whose rap sheet might not fit on a basketball card at this point.He got an 86-game suspension in 2004 -- the longest ban for an on-court incident in NBA history -- for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans, and he served a seven-game suspension in 2007 for his no-contest plea on a domestic violence charge.Even before his odd decision to change his name to promote peace last year, he had largely rehabilitated his image during three seasons with the Lakers, winning the NBA's top citizenship award last spring for his charity work in mental-health awareness. Yet World Peace also slammed his forearm into the face of Dallas guard J.J. Barea in the closing minutes of a home playoff loss to the Mavericks last season, earning a one-game postseason suspension.World Peace leveled Harden moments after dunking over Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant in the second quarter of the Lakers' double-overtime victory over the Thunder. While pounding his chest with his right arm, World Peace cocked his elbow and threw it at the back and side of Harden's head.He claimed the elbow was completely accidental in a brief postgame statement, but later acknowledged on Twitter that the blow "looks bad."World Peace didn't speak to the media after the Lakers' practice Tuesday, heading to the locker room at the moment media members entered the gym at the Lakers' training complex. But Bryant acknowledged the obvious problem for the Lakers, who lose a starter and their defensive stopper right before the postseason."It's an unfortunate situation," Bryant said. "James, from what I hear, is OK. As far as Metta goes, he has to focus on himself, and however many games they give him, they give him. He just has to be prepared, and when he comes back, just step right in and be ready to go."Bryant and the Lakers are clearly torn between supporting a teammate and recoiling from World Peace's actions. Harden and Bryant are friends.Almost to a man, the reaction from Oklahoma City was similar.From general manager Sam Presti to coach Scott Brooks to Durant and the players, the Thunder responded that they were more concerned about Harden than the suspension."The league did it. You've got to live with it," Durant said, echoing the sentiments of his coach and GM. "We can move past it now. We're just worried about getting James back in the locker room."Center Kendrick Perkins was the lone exception."Just a play that was uncalled for," he said. "He could have seriously injured somebody, so I do think it was fair. Obviously, they looked at it a few times because it took them a couple days to finally give the suspension."Perkins added that "if he could go back and change the hands of time, he would take that play back.""It's just not good for our league, especially on a national TV game," Perkins said. "That highlight's going to just keep getting played. We don't want to be labeled as that type of league."Brooks wouldn't weigh in on the possibility World Peace could return from suspension for a second-round matchup with the Thunder."I'm not concerned with who we play, as long as we play as hard as we can and play to the best of our abilities," Brooks said. "You can't focus on matchups. You can't focus on individual players."Lakers coach Mike Brown, who professed ignorance of what happened after the game, said he finally viewed a replay and spoke with World Peace about it briefly, but said he didn't attempt an in-depth evaluation of what World Peace was thinking."You're concerned about it," said Brown, an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers when Artest precipitated that infamous brawl in the stands. "He's a starter for us, and he's important to what we do. ... What was going through his mind, I haven't talked to him. What Metta said is he shouldn't have done it. He's got to keep his cool."Brown said World Peace gave him the same explanation of the elbow as an excited accident."What am I supposed to do, call him a liar?" Brown asked. "He said it was accidental. Now was it accidental or not? I don't know."The Lakers will be further depleted in Thursday's finale without Matt Barnes. The Sacramento native and backup swingman is out with a sprained right ankle, but the team is optimistic he'll be back for the playoffs.With World Peace and Barnes both out, second-year pro Devin Ebanks will get more playing time. Ebanks, who should be fine after dropping a 55-pound weight on his hand Tuesday, played extensive minutes against the Thunder, contributing little offensively but making two big defensive plays in the final minute of the second overtime.Bryant realizes the Lakers will miss World Peace, who entered perhaps the best stretch of his up-and-down season when Bryant sat down for seven games to rest his bruised shin earlier this month. World Peace is averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while regularly matching up against the opposing team's top scorer."He was playing extremely well," Bryant said. "It happened. When he comes back, he's going to be playing the same way he was playing before he left, if not better. He'll have time off. He'll have a chance to get in even better shape. He might be better when he comes back."
CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.
That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.
Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.
By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.
It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)
This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.
“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.
“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”
Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.
Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.
Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.
But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.
“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.
“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”
CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.
The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.
Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.
“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”
Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.
With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.
But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.
“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.
“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”
Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to fangraphs.com.
“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”
Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.
The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.
Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.
“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.
“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”