Which NBA team has quietly won 9 straight games?


Which NBA team has quietly won 9 straight games?

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce got the shot he wanted. Tim Duncan got the result. Duncan prevented Pierce from driving to the basket, forcing him to take a fadeaway jumper that clanged off the rim at the buzzer and the San Antonio Spurs held on for their ninth straight win, 87-86 over Boston on Wednesday night. "It was make or miss. I just didn't want him to go by me," said Duncan, who had 10 points and 16 rebounds. "To be honest with you, he probably got the shot he wanted." Pierce had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he couldn't maneuver into open space after Boston inbounded the ball with 7.9 seconds left. The 6-foot-11 Duncan stayed on him, forcing the 6-foot-7 Pierce to step back near the top of the key for a floater. "I think I got to a good place. Just missed the shot," Pierce said. "These things are not really pre-scripted. You get into pressure situations, sometimes they make and sometimes they don't." Danny Green scored 14 points, and Gary Neal had 13, including a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left that put the Spurs back in front after they blew a 17-point, first-half lead. Rajon Rondo had 17 points and 11 assists for Boston, which had won five in a row. Avery Bradley scored 19 points off the bench for Boston, and Kevin Garnett had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ray Allen returned after missing six games with a sore right ankle and added seven rebounds and five points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that brought Boston within a point. Green missed for San Antonio and Garnett got the rebound, but the Celtics couldn't convert. "We were trying to get a Duncan-on-Paul matchup because we thought we had the speed advantage," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "But his step-back is what he wants." The Celtics trailed 77-70 with 8:20 left before scoring 13 of the next 17 points to take the lead. San Antonio, which averaged 107 points in the first eight games of its winning streak, had 59 in the first half and 28 in the second. "It was a tale of two halves," Bonner said. "We weren't as sharp and didn't make as many shots in the second half, but we still played good defense, we rebounded the ball, kept us in it and made a few plays down the stretch to pull out the win." It was 36-all when the Spurs scored 12 consecutive points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Matt Bonner. After Bradley snapped the string with a jumper, San Antonio rattled off another seven in a row to make it 55-38. Boston cut it to 11 points by the end of the half and got within four in the third, holding the Spurs to nine points in the quarter. It was two points early in the fourth, and San Antonio led 77-70 before Garnett hit a pair of free throws, Rondo stole the ball and fed it to Bradley for a layup and then Garnett hit a layup to make it a one-point game. Notes: Kentucky coach John Calipari was courtside, two days after winning the NCAA championship. ... Pierce was the Eastern Conference's player of the month for March. He averaged 22 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists while leading the Celtics to a 12-5 record in the month. ... The Spurs were 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 0 for 8 in the third. ... All of San Antonio's points in the first quarter came in the paint.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

As Wrigley Field was still shaking in the aftermath of the Cubs’ first National League pennant in 1945 years, a clear-eyed Dave Roberts saw the blunders the Los Angeles Dodgers made in the National League Championship Series, but also acknowledged that his team ended the regular season with a record 12 1/2 games worse than the Cubs. 

“They beat us,” Roberts said. “We made mistakes. And you hate to have sour grapes, but the better team won the series. That's why you play seven-game series, and they showed it.”

The Dodgers took control of the NLCS with back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3, with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill shutting down a lineup that scored the second most runs in the NL (808) and led the league in on-base percentage (.343) in the regular season. But sparked by Ben Zobrist’s bunt in Game 4, the Cubs offense quickly returned to normal, scoring 10, eight and five runs in the final three games of the series.

What the Cubs did against Kershaw in Game 6 was described by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as a “masterpiece performance.” The guy who Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said “might go down as the best pitcher of our generation” couldn’t put hitters away and was punished for the mistakes he made, with Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo blasting home runs and Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist driving in early runs. 

Just having the the best record in baseball has hardly been a guarantee of playoff success, though. In the Wild Card era (1995-present), only nine of the 26 teams with the best record (either alone or tied for it) in baseball have reached the World Series. The Cubs are that ninth team.

“Up to this point, to the World Series, they have gone wire to wire,” Roberts said. “They win a hundred-plus games, they have really no weaknesses, and youth, veterans, starting pitching, they got the guy at the back end, so they catch the baseball, they can slug, they get on base, and they're relentless.”

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”