Thunder have the Mavs where they want'em

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Thunder have the Mavs where they want'em

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki was hoping for the same kind of friendly bounce that allowed Kevin Durant to put the Oklahoma City Thunder ahead in their first-round playoff series. When Nowitzki didn't get it, the Dallas Mavericks could only settle for another frustratingly close loss and an uphill climb to survive in their first postseason since winning the NBA title. Russell Westbrook scored 29 points, Durant added 26 in an off-shooting performance and Oklahoma City clawed out a 102-99 victory over Dallas on Monday night to take a 2-0 series lead. The Mavs led in the final minute of both games in Oklahoma City but couldn't even manage a split as the Thunder gutted out two wins by a total of four points. "That's what the playoffs are about," Westbrook said. "Toughness." Durant hit two free throws with 50.4 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a 98-97 lead, and James Harden hit four more foul shots to close it out for the Thunder. Jason Terry missed two 3-point attempts from the left wing in the final 5 seconds that could have tied it and set up overtime. "We come away from these two games disappointed but not dismayed. You tip your hat to the fact that they have made some big time plays," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Now, we've got to go home and do the same." Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas. "We're just a couple bounces away from being up 2-0," said Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 31 points but missed both his shots in the final 75 seconds. "It's tough and it's frustrating, but we're going to keep coming. We're not going to lay down. If they beat us, we're going to make them earn it." Durant put the Thunder ahead to stay after salvaging two key points with Oklahoma City inbounding the ball with only 2.6 seconds left on the shot clock. He grabbed the inbounds pass from Harden while headed toward the sideline, and Terry was called for a foul for bumping him. Durant hit both foul shots, and Nowitzki missed his chance to answer with a fade-away 12-foot jumper from the left side. He compared it to Durant's foul-line jumper -- on which he later admitted he couldn't even see the rim -- that hit the front rim and backboard before falling in with 1.5 seconds left to win Game 1. "I've made it 100 times. It bounced, hit every part of the rim and bounced off," Nowitzki said. "That's kind of the way our season's been going. "They get that bounce last game and we don't get it, so that's frustrating." After that, the Mavs were fighting from behind. Shawn Marion fouled Harden on the rebound, and the league's top scoring reserve -- only eight days removed from a concussion suffered as the result of Metta World Peace's elbow to the head -- also converted both free throws. He hit two more with 15.6 seconds left after Terry got the Mavs within one with a driving layup. "We've just got to continue to take that punch from them and do a great job of sticking together," Durant said. "Games like this in the playoffs, they're going to get chippy and we know that. So, we've just got to play through it. This one nearly came to blows, literally. The tension escalated quickly after Serge Ibaka tried to block Nowitzki's jumper midway through the first quarter and smacked him in the left eye on his follow-through, without getting called for a foul. Nowitzki hit another jumper along the baseline on Dallas' next possession before he got shoved in the back by Kendrick Perkins while jockeying for rebounding position on a made 3-pointer by Durant. Perkins followed Nowitzki for a few steps before Nowitzki bumped him away, and Perkins responded by taking a swing at Nowitzki's head with his open hand. Official Zach Zarba stepped in front of Perkins and backed him away, and both were assessed technical fouls. "He tried to bully me and I bullied back a little bit and talked about some stuff, and moved on," Nowitzki said. The Thunder erupted a few minutes later, scoring the final nine points of the first quarter -- all within an 82-second span -- and then carrying over the momentum to build a 46-30 lead with 5:55 left before halftime. When Nowitzki and Perkins finally got back on the court together, the Mavericks' All-Star exacted some revenge while getting his team back in the game. He went on a personal 10-2 run, with all of the points coming while he was matched up against Perkins, to get the deficit down to 50-47. "It's playoff basketball. It's physical. We don't like the cheap shots when they give them, and they don't like them if we give them. That's the nature of competition," Carlisle said. "I love hard-played, clean, competitive playoff series. You throw the ball up and may the best team win. "The dirty (expletive) has got to stop. We don't want anybody getting hurt out there, either way." Notes: After going back and forth responding to each other's comments on how Oklahoma City's defense on Nowitzki was officiated in Game 1, Brooks insisted any dispute with Carlisle wasn't personal. Years ago, the two roomed together while playing in the Continental Basketball Association. "He was a good roommate. He didn't snore," Brooks said. "That's all it takes. Buy me a meal every now and then and not snore, you're a perfect roommate." He later playfully retorted: "If you want it to be personal, I was a better player. How many years did I play in the league? How many years did he play? I played over a decade. He played three." ... Marion hadn't made a playoff 3-pointer since 2007 before making two in Game 1. He had another in Game 2. ... Ibaka, who tied his regular season best with 22 points in the first game, got into foul trouble and scored only two.

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

Why Kyle Schwarber is untouchable and how Cubs plan to rebuild bullpen

NEW YORK – Let’s start with this boilerplate Theo Epstein quote and file it away for the next time Kyle Schwarber’s name appears on MLBTradeRumors.com or a fantasy-baseball proposal for the New York Yankees.

“I’m looking forward to Kyle Schwarber — who got hurt in a Cubs uniform and is working his ass off in a Cubs uniform — coming back and hitting a very big home run in a Cubs uniform sometime very early next season,” Epstein said.

The president of baseball operations clearly has a special bond with Schwarber, selecting the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, back when the industry consensus made it sound like a reach. Schwarber helped ignite those champagne celebrations last year by setting a franchise record with five postseason home runs. Epstein felt sick watching Schwarber wreck his knee in an outfield collision during the first week of this season, allowing him to rehab in Chicago and hang out in the draft room, essentially viewing him as an untouchable player because of his left-handed power and leadership qualities.

The Mets are the defending National League champs — with all due respect, as Joe Maddon might say, quoting Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby character in “Talladega Nights.” But the Yankees might be the New York team the Cubs should focus on now.

While the Mets returned home to Citi Field on Thursday as a third-place team — six games behind Washington after getting swept at Nationals Park — the Yankees will be in no man’s land on July 1 at 39-39.

The Bronx Bombers now have another month to decide whether or not they will become trade-deadline sellers for the first time in a generation, how breaking up the Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances bullpen could set them up for the future. And what surrender would mean for a YES Network/Yankee Stadium/27 World Series titles business plan. 

Epstein viewed Thursday’s action – the San Diego Padres flipped closer Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins while the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves – as more of a reaction to the July 2 international signing period (and Clayton Kershaw’s back injury) than a sign that the market would start to move quickly.

“We’re talking to clubs, just trying to see who might be available and where we might have matches,” Epstein said. “But there’s nothing real imminent. There’s usually a flurry of activity around (this time). Despite the trades today, I think it might end up being more of a slow-developing market. We’ll see. We’re not close to anything.”

Remember, the Cubs rebuilt their bullpen on the fly last summer with Clayton Richard (acquired for a dollar from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate), Trevor Cahill (released by the Braves and Dodgers before signing a minor-league deal) and Rodney (a two-time All-Star the Seattle Mariners had designated for assignment).

While Schwarber-for-Miller buzz is great on talk radio and Twitter, for now the Cubs will go with the grab-bag approach, looking at internal options like Carl Edwards Jr. and Joel Peralta, hoping for good news on their Tommy John cases (Joe Nathan, Jack Leathersich) and waiting for Justin Grimm to get locked in again.

“It’s pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items,” Epstein said. “Last year was actually more typical. They don’t all work out — that’s not what I’m saying. But if you have a plan and a process — and you’re willing to kind of cycle through guys (and) ride things out — you often get rewarded in the end.

“For a postseason bullpen, if you’re thinking that far in advance, you’re not talking about eight guys. You’re talking about three or four guys that you can lean on heavily. It’s being open-minded, being willing to let guys ride through their downturns and make adjustments, so that they can find it.” 

Minor League Roundup: Cubs, Sox prospects get ready for Futures Game

Minor League Roundup: Cubs, Sox prospects get ready for Futures Game

Each week, CSNChicago.com goes down on the farm for a minor-league report from both the Cubs and White Sox system, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

A pair of Charlotte Knights have made the Triple-A All-Star game in the International League. Matt Davidson and Leury Garcia will represent the Knights in the All-Star game on July 13.

Davidson, a 25-year-old third baseman, is batting .268/.349/.444 in 75 games this season with 10 homers and 46 RBIs – both leading the club. This will also be Davidson’s third career All-Star appearance. It’s possible he could miss the game, as he was promoted to the big leagues on Thursday, where he promptly broke his foot in his first game.

Garcia is batting .315/.366/.393 on the year with two homers, 18 RBI and a team-leading 12 stolen bases. It’s his first career All-Star selection.

Though Carson Fulmer has been struggling this season, the White Sox top prospect will pitch in the All-Star Futures Game on July 10 in San Diego.

In 75 innings this season in Double-A Birmingham, Fulmer has a 5.28 ERA with 44 walks and 75 strikeouts.

Zack Collins’ college career ended last week after the Miami Hurricanes got eliminated from the College World Series, but his pro career could get underway next week.

The White Sox first-round selection in this year’s draft will take some time to rest and then report to the team’s Glendale, Ariz. facility on July 2. The 21-year-old catcher will eventually start at Single-A Winston-Salem.

The White Sox also signed Tony Campana to a minor league deal on Thursday. The 30-year-old outfielder was released by the Washington Nationals on Monday.

Campana spent last season with the White Sox but sat out the entire season with a torn ACL.

CUBS

As All-Star week approaches in the majors, the minor-league All-Star games are getting underway.

At the Triple-A level, Cubs prospects Daniel Vogelbach and Armando Rivero were named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.

Rivero - a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher - has been in the Cubs' system since 2013 and has a 2.39 ERA and 1.142 WHIP this season. He has also struck out 49 batters in 37.2 innings.

Vogelbach has been making headlines among Cubs prospects all season. The 23-year-old first baseman has been absolutely raking, posting a .308/.422/.556 slash line on the season with 15 doubles, 15 homers and 55 RBI in 73 games. 

Over the last month, Vogelbach has taken his game to another level, hitting .323 with a 1.098 OPS, driving in 22 runs in 28 games on 16 extra-base hits (8 homers, 7 doubles, 1 triple) and has also drawn 18 walks compared to only 18 strikeouts. 

Meanwhile, Iowa third baseman Jeimer Candelario is headed to the Futures Game, which will be played in San Diego the day before the MLB Home Run Derby.

Candelario, 22, started the season in Double-A (where he hit just .219), but has been killing the ball since his promotion to Triple-A, hitting .344 with a 1.079 OPS in 21 games.

In the Futures Game last season, Kyle Schwarber took home MVP honors.

Elsewhere in the Cubs system, big-league pitcher Adam Warren continued to get stretched out to return to the parent club as a starting pitcher. Warren tossed five innings (73 pitches) Thursday for Triple-A Iowa, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out three.

He may be back up to the majors next week, at which time the Cubs will insert him into the starting rotation.

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

Preview: White Sox take on the Astros Friday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Houston Astros on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Friday’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Mike Fiers

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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