Beal 'beyond mad' with calls, glad Wizards won

Beal 'beyond mad' with calls, glad Wizards won

WASHINGTON — An infuriated Bradley Beal held his head in disgust and was literally hopping mad at officials who called his sixth and final foul with 4:58 remaining in Game 4 after Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan ran into him chasing down an offensive rebound.

With the game and potentially their season hanging in the balance, the Washington Wizards managed to overcome the loss of their leading scorer and what they believed were “soft calls” by the officiating crew to even their best-of-seven series with a 106-98 win over the Raptors. Washington finished the game with a 14-6 John Wall-fueled run to win extend its postseason home winning streak to eight.

“We know what we can do to beat this team,” said Wall, who also dished out 14 assists. “We know what we got to do to stop this team.”

Beal scored 31 points before fouling out and watching Wall score eight of his 27 points in the last 3:50. Wall outscored the Raptors 8-6 while helping hold DeRozan (35 points) and Kyle Lowry (19 points) to four points during the last five minutes of the game.

With Beal out of the game, Wall shouldered the load for the Wizards. The All-Star point guard, playing in only his eighth game after undergoing knee surgery earlier this season, made or assisted on the final seven Wizards field goals and scored or assisted on 18 of Washington’s final 23 points according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Wall, who has 14 or more assists in three games in this series, also held DeRozan to two points and 1-for-5 shooting in the final six minutes.

“That’s John Wall,” center Marcin Gortat said. “I am glad he’s healthy. He is spoon-feeding me. I am getting fat now. Listen, if he plays the right way, he is the best point guard in the league. If he looks for his teammates and looks for the open possession where he can attack, he is the best.”

Washington struggled in the first half and fell behind 54-40 at the start of the third quarter. Frustrated by missed shots and fouls, the Wizards looked out of it as DeRozan went to the free throw line 12 times in the first half.

“I don’t know, I truly believe that some of those calls are very soft,” Gortat said. “I have never seen so many soft calls in playoffs, but I have to go back to the tape and watch it again. I may be wrong and had a bad angle.”

Beal clearly felt the officials had the wrong angle when they whistled the shooting guard for his sixth personal foul in the fourth quarter. He picked up his fourth on an offensive charge with 7:59 remaining, but Washington head coach Scott Brooks opted to keep him in with the Wizards trailing by six at that time. Beal scored six of his points to help Washington tie the game at 92-92 before fouling out when DeRozan ran into him chasing an offensive rebound.

Beal, holding his ground and hands up in the air, fell backward to the floor after DeRozan got tripped up on Beal’s right leg and hip chasing the ball toward the Wizards’ bench. Beal protested by hopping almost all the way to half court.

“When initially they called me for my sixth, I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated,” Beal said. “Pretty much any synonym you can add on that list. And I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game because I was so mad. I was happy they didn’t do that.

“I kind of gathered my emotions and thoughts and told my team that we are going to win regardless, because we still got John in the game and I love our chances.”

Now Washington feels much better about its chances, with the series shifting to Toronto and becoming a best-of-three now.

“We don’t look at the seeding or the numbers,” Beal said of the eighth-seeded Wizards being tied with the top-seeded Raptors. “That is just a number at the end of the day. That doesn’t determine who we are as a team, or the potential as a team. That is irrelevant.”

Hold that panic button: Cavs' role players step up to help LeBron and tie series

Hold that panic button: Cavs' role players step up to help LeBron and tie series

INDIANAPOLIS — Game 4 for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday followed many of the ongoing trends of their first-round series with the Indiana Pacers.

LeBron James, once again, was brilliant. The third quarter, once again, was problematic. And the Pacers, once again, played with no sense of fear for the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

What was different for the Cavs — and the reason they are heading back to Cleveland with the series tied 2-2 — is that a cadre of Cavs role players stepped up with their best performances yet of the 2018 playoffs.

Yes, James’ 32 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists were the biggest determining factors in Cleveland’s 104-100 Game 4 win, but it was Kyle Korver‘s 18 points (including two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter), JR Smith‘s 12 points (including an amazing 61-foot buzzer-beater to finish the first quarter) and Jordan Clarkson‘s 12 points off the bench (including going 5-for-5 in the first half) that pushed the Cavs over the top.

After dropping Game 1 on their home court, the Cavs have now won two of the past three games against Indiana, and if it wasn’t for blowing a 17-point halftime lead in Game 3, the series would be 3-1 in their favor.

Heading into the postseason, James warned this was a balanced Indiana team that the Cavs were getting tangled up with. He said that the razor-thin margin between the two teams — Cleveland the No. 4 seed, Indiana the No. 5 — wasn’t an accident.

The Cavs certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. George Hill missed Game 4 because of back spasms, and while Jose Calderon filled in amiably Sunday with five points on 2-for-4 shooting, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes, missing a starter always sends a ripple effect through a rotation.

Then there’s a hungry Indiana team to contend with. The Pacers put all five starters in double digits in Game 4, and seven players total. Even though All-Star Victor Oladipo had another tough shooting night (17 points on 5-for-20 from the floor), Indiana was in it until the very end with big contributions from the likes of Domantas Sabonis (19 points on 9-for-12 shooting) and Myles Turner (17 points on 7-for-9).

As off as Oladipo was, the Cavs survived an even worse night from Kevin Love. He scored just five points on 2-for-10 shooting as he picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game and only continued to struggle from there.

As if the series — now reduced to a best-of-three — wasn’t must-see TV already, The Lance Stephenson Show reached a crescendo on Sunday with several standoffs with James and a tackle of Jeff Green that only escalated the growing animosity between the two teams.

Spurs' victory historic for Ginobili; Parker, too

Spurs' victory historic for Ginobili; Parker, too

SAN ANTONIO — Before the start of the NBA playoffs, no other player age 40 or older had scored double figures off the bench in a postseason game.

Manu Ginobili has now done that twice, and on the way earned win No. 132, giving he and Tony Parker the most playoff wins together of any teammates in NBA history.

“Of course, the feeling of the last quarter was great because we were all doing good,” Ginobili said after scoring 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting to help San Antonio defeat the Warriors 103-90 and force a Tuesday Game 5 in Oakland, California. “We were all fired up, and we saw we were in a great situation to get that win when we needed it,” Ginobili said. “Now, we have a few hours to feel good about this win, and tomorrow, we’ll start thinking about Game 5.”

Spurs acting coach Ettore Messina tried at first to cloak candor, but couldn’t resist when asked what it meant to coach Ginobili in the playoffs.

“I cannot lie to you,” said Messina, who filled in for Gregg Popovich for the second consecutive game as he grieves the death of wife Erin. “Even if it’s awful, because nobody would like to be in this situation for obvious reasons. At the same time, there is a little part of that that moves me be there with Manu in these playoff games. Really, that’s something that pushes you to try to be the best possible helper for him and the team, and don’t mess up anything; just help him to have a great game.”

Ten of Ginobili’s points came in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter with the Spurs trying to hold off a surging Warriors squad. Ginobili hadn’t scored 10 points or more in the fourth quarter of a playoff game since 2012. He’s now produced 10 points or more over the final six minutes in the postseason on five occasions throughout his storied career.

Ginobili played 25 minutes, and drilled a 23-footer with 27.6 seconds remaining to seal the victory and conclude the day’s scoring.

“I think he should come back two more years,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I smiled when he made that corner three right in front of us at the end of the game. It was just so typical Manu: [40] years old and 16 points, and hits the clinching three. He’s Manu. That’s what he does. I know he’s old because he was my teammate, and I’m old as dirt. So, if I played with him, he must be old.”

He’s accomplished, too.

Ginobili ranks No. 8 on the all-time playoff games list (217) and is among the top 25 postseason scorers ever.

Ginobili is also now one of just three players in NBA history age 40 or older to produce 15 points or more and 5 assists or more in a playoff contest, joining a list that includes John Stockton and Karl Malone.

“All heart and grit,” Warriors guard Shaun Livingston said. “He puts the Spurs on his back in big moments — fearless.”

Ginobili also moved into third in NBA history in postseason 3-pointers, passing Reggie Miller with his 321st career playoff bucket from range. Ray Allen (385) and LeBron James (337) hold the top spots.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored a team-high 22 points for the Spurs. “He makes things happen. He has no quit in him, and he definitely made some big shots tonight and some big plays.”

Ginobili admitted that playing with Messina at the helm brought back memories of their days together in the EuroLeague. Messina and Ginobili won a EuroLeague championship in 2001 with Virtus Bologna, and although the coach bemoaned the circumstances that linked them again as head coach and player, both soaked up the latest triumph with reverence.

“At moments when he talks to the rest of the team or he gets upset and yells at us, a lot of flashbacks,” Ginobili said. “Whenever we stop executing the way we should have, his old self comes back. So, it was good to see him coaching on this stage. Good memories.”

Four black travel bags designed for toting the team’s enormous sneakers lined the hallway just outside the San Antonio Spurs locker room 72 minutes before Sunday’s tipoff at the AT&T Center.

Everyone in the sparsely populated pre-game locker room was also well aware that the team’s charter flight would leave Monday at Noon for the Bay Area, where the Spurs will now face Golden State in Game 5.

So San Antonio fully expected to win Game 4. But the Spurs also understand they’re just the third team in the last four years to force a Game 5 with their backs against the wall while facing the Warriors, joining the Houston Rockets (2015 Western Conference finals), and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2018 NBA Finals). In those previous instances, Golden State closed out the series in Game 5, winning by an average margin of 11.5 points.

The Spurs entered the game Sunday having shot 24 percent (20 of 83) in the first three contests of this series, before hitting 53.6 percent from range against the Warriors.

“We’re not the best shooting team in the league, but we’re not that bad either to shoot 20 percent every game,” Ginobili said. “Today, we had a good night shooting. We’ll see if we can maintain that for next game. There’s not much you can do. You try to get the best shots possible, try to find the open teammate. Today, we did.”

Flyers' Couturier has hat trick despite torn MCL

Flyers' Couturier has hat trick despite torn MCL

Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier added another chapter to the book on hockey player toughness, scoring three goals and assisting on two others — while playing on a torn MCL.

Couturier’s effort wasn’t enough to keep the Flyers from getting eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs with an 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh, but it will no doubt earn him respect across the NHL.

Couturier injured his right knee in a practice collision with a teammate on Tuesday and missed Game 4 of the series. But with his team down 3-1 in the series, he returned and scored the game-winner in Game 5 on Friday, before his encore performance in Game 6 Sunday was overshadowed by a four-goal outburst from Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel.

The team had not divulged the nature of Couturier’s injury, but he told reporters after Sunday’s elimination that he had torn his MCL and that while it would not require surgery, it likely would have meant a four-week absence had it been the regular season.

“It’s tough, because we lost, obviously,” said Couturier. “I just tried to lay it all out there, and give it all I had. It’s too bad we didn’t come with the result we wanted.”

Couturier opened the scoring in Game 6 with a goal just 2:15 into the first period, then scored early again — at the :40 mark of the second period — to push the Flyers back into the lead at 3-2. But by the time he completed the his trick late in the third period, Guentzel and the Penguins had the game all but tucked away.

Couturier finished Philadelphia’s brief postseason with 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in the five games he played. He had 31 goals and 76 points while playing all 82 regular-season games.

Salah wins PFA Player of the Year award

Salah wins PFA Player of the Year award

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah was named the PFA Player of the Year on Sunday, punctuating a remarkable season that has already seen him set a number of records in his first year at the club.

Salah held off Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, considered his top challenger, and Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane to claim the honour at the 45th PFA Awards at Grosvenor House in central London on Sunday evening, which is given by Premier League players.

“It’s a big honour. I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it,” Salah said at the ceremony on Sunday evening.

Asked what it meant to become the first Egyptian to win the award, he said: “Hopefully I’m not the last one! I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Also among the finalists were three other City players — David Silva and Leroy Sane — as well as Manchester United’s David De Gea.

Salah scored his 31st league goal in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, equalling Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer for the most Premier League goals scored in a 38-game season.

The forward has three Premier League games remaining and could match Andy Cole’s record of 34 goals in a 42-game season set in 1993-94.

“You’re comparing your name with some great names,” he said, on the prospect of breaking the record. “To break the Premier League record is something huge in England and all over in the world.

“There are still three games to go. I want to break this record and also break the one for [42-game season]. Let’s see what will happen.”

Salah, who moved from Roma in July, became the first player to be named the Premier League Player of the Month three times in one season.

With 41 goals in all competitions this season, he became the first Liverpool player since Ian Rush in 1986-87 to reach the 40-goal mark.

De Bruyne, considered the most consistent player for the Premier League champions, acknowledged last week that Salah was likely to win the award.

Salah is the seventh Premier League player to win the award and the first to win it since Suarez in 2013-14. Rush also won it, as did Steven Gerrard, John Barnes, Kenny Dalglish and Terry McDermott.

Salah is a shoo-in for Liverpool’s end-of-season accolades and the man nicknamed “The Egyptian King” looks set to reign at Anfield for a long time to come.

Chelsea Ladies forward Fran Kirby won the women’s Player of the Year award, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

The PFA’s Merit award went posthumously to Cyrille Regis, the former West Brom forward who died aged 59 in January.

The award was recognition of Regis’ pioneering role in changing attitudes towards black footballers in England.

The team of the season was also announced. It consisted of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, defenders Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City, Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham, Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, the Man City midfield duo of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, Tottenham pair Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane, Salah and City’s Sergio Aguero.

Press Association Sport contributed to this report.

Giants' Belt sets MLB record with 21-pitch AB

Giants' Belt sets MLB record with 21-pitch AB

San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a Major League Baseball record Sunday when he battled out a 21-pitch at-bat against Los Angeles Angels rookie right-hander Jaime Barria.

Belt fouled off 16 two-strike pitches before lining out to Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun. The at-bat lasted 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

Belt broke the modern-day record (since 1900) previously held by then-Houston Astros infielder Ricky Gutierrez, who had a 20-pitch at-bat against then-Cleveland Indians right-hander Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998.

Barria threw 49 pitches in all in the first inning as the Giants loaded the bases, but he escaped without allowing a run. In contrast, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto retired the Angels in the first inning on just 19 pitches.

Belt saw eight pitches in his second at-bat against Barria in the third inning, this time singling as the Giants loaded the bases again, this time with no outs. Barria was then removed from the game after he had thrown 77 pitches.

He was charged with two earned runs as reliever Noe Ramirez allowed two of the runners to score.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.