Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain


Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With Dwight Howard getting fouled in record-setting fashion, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy finally just sat back in his chair and stopped barking out orders. He walked into the huddle during a timeout early in the first half Thursday night, and his assistants started bombarding him with the usual play-calling suggestions. Van Gundy could only laugh. "I'm looking at them like, We're not going to run a play. He's going to foul him,'" Van Gundy said. "What are we going to bother with diagraming a play? Make the free throw, play some defense." That about summed up this historic night. Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain's nearly 50-year-old NBA record for most free throw attempts in a game, making 21 of 39 in the Orlando Magic's 117-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hacked Howard intentionally throughout, sending the notoriously poor shooter to the line early and often. Chamberlain, who Howard idolized growing up and used to have a photo clipping of the center in his Orlando locker, shot 34 for the Philadelphia Warriors against St. Louis on Feb. 22, 1962. Howard finished with 45 points and 23 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points to propel the Magic to their third straight victory. It also marked the first time a player had at least 40 points and 20 rebounds since Shaquille O'Neal -- another poor free throw shooter -- had 48 points and 20 rebounds against the Celtics on March 1, 2003, according to STATS LLC. "I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn't care if I missed 30," Howard said. "I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence." Monta Ellis had 30 points and 11 assists, and David Lee added 26 points and 12 rebounds for the short-handed Warriors, playing without injured starters Stephen Curry and Dorell Wright and backup center Kwame Brown. All that combined to take the Hack-a-Howard routine to a whole new level. Howard had never shot more than 24 free throws in a game -- which he had four times previously -- and fouled so early. Certainly, nothing compared to the Warriors' ways. Howard eclipsed his old mark with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter, getting hacked and held intentionally at the end of each quarter with mixed results. If nothing else, Golden State rookie coach Mark Jackson's strategy slowed down the pace and refused to let the Magic's potent shooters find their rhythm. Howard tied Chamberlain's record when Andris Biedrins fouled him -- and fouled out -- with 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, making 1 of 2 to give the Magic a 93-92 lead. Howard has shot just below 60 percent at the line for his career and entered the game at just 42 percent this season. "It's amazing that he made 21," Magic guard J.J. Redick joked. Golden State almost managed an upset behind the tactic. Klay Thompson put the Warriors ahead 107-106 on a 3-pointer with a little less than 3 minutes remaining, only to see Howard respond on the other end quickly. Howard floated a hook shot and then made a free throw to put the Magic back in front by two. After Ellis made a runner to even the score, Howard grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession and finished strong at the rim while getting fouled by Lee -- who also fouled out on the play. Howard made the free throw to complete a three-point conversion. Von Wafer finally sealed Orlando's victory with a 3-point with 36.9 seconds to play that stretched the Magic's lead to six, blowing a kiss to the crowd afterward. Jackson could only shake his head. "I can understand people thinking, Why?' But don't get caught up in the free throws," Jackson said. "Think about when we didn't foul him. It was dunks, hooks, at the rim. He's a great player. And he's a bad free throw shooter. Giving ourselves the best chance possible, we tried to mess up their rhythm, take their 3-point shooters out of it, which we did. They made plays." The undersized Warriors sent double-teams and traps at Howard and frustrated the All-Star center with fouls from the start. Jeremy Tyler intentionally fouled Howard with 8.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter, a tactic some teams utilize late in games with the center's well-documented struggles at the stripe, but rarely seen so early. Howard made 1 of 2. After scoring the first nine points of the game, Golden State relied on the cushion for most of the first half. Nate Robinson's running layup pushed the Warriors ahead 44-3, relying on a surprisingly strong defensive effort. And fouls. "A suggestion from one of my assistants was that we do it to Biedrins when he was in the game," Van Gundy said, breaking into his usual sarcastic remarks. "We weren't in the penalty. That could have been fun. We could've just walked up and down for a few minutes and see who makes the first free throw. But we could've just saved everybody and said, Let's let them shoot it at the same basket.'" That might've only prolonged the game, which was 2 hours, 39 minutes. Three more times in the second quarter, Jackson called for his players to intentional hack Howard as soon as he crossed half court. Howard was 5 of 6 from the line during that stretch. Orlando closed the half with a flurry of free throws and layups, part of an 18-9 run that sliced Golden State's lead to only four at the break. Howard shot 9 for 18 from the line in the first half. "We took a chance and said that we want Dwight to beat us," Lee said. "And he beat us." NOTES: Magic G Jason Richardson left with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter with a sprained left knee, the team said. He is day to day. ... Magic F Quentin Richardson sat out with a sprained left ankle. He remained hopeful to return Monday when the Magic play at the New York Knicks. ... Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber watched the game from courtside seats.

Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not


Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not

SAN JOSE – Brent Burns has resumed his place among the NHL’s highest scoring defensemen. His nine points (3g, 6a) puts him first among all blueliners, and ties him for second overall in the league scoring race with six others.

For the rest of the Sharks’ defense corps, though, the points haven’t been there just yet. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime score on Tuesday was the first goal by a Sharks defenseman that employs the use of a razor on a regular basis, while he and the four others on the back end have combined for just three assists in seven games.

While that lack of production is reflected in the team’s goals-per game average – 2.26, 26th in the NHL – coach Pete DeBoer isn’t all that concerned. He attributes it more to being unlucky than anything else.

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on the other team five-on-five. The puck has bounced, or we just haven’t finished,” DeBoer said. “We’re getting some chances. Most nights we’re out-chancing the other team, and usually that’s a formula for success for us.”

The Sharks have been a strong team in terms of possession, as the coach indicated. They are averaging 32.4 shots per game, fourth in the NHL, and are second in the NHL in shot attempt percentage in close games (56.3 percent).

Still, they could have more. Vlasic, Justin Braun, David Schlemko, Paul Martin and Brenden Dillon have a combined 51 shots on goal, but they’ve also had 48 attempts that have been blocked. In fact, Braun and Martin both have had more attempts blocked than have that made it through to the goalie.

“Five-on-five we haven’t really been getting the tips or the dirty goals around the net that come off shots, but that starts with us getting it through,” said Braun, who has seven shots, but 12 that have been blocked. “The more shots we can get towards the net the better chance we’ll have for the forwards to bang some home, and go from there.”

David Schlemko is also scoreless through seven games, but he managed six shots against the Ducks on Tuesday and has 17 for the year (with 13 blocked). Other than Burns, he’s been the Sharks’ most effective defenseman at getting the puck through.

Brenden Dillon (nine shots, eight blocked) and Paul Martin (five shots, 10 blocked) have one assist each.

Martin indicated that it gets harder and harder every year to get shots through, as more teams commit to getting in lanes. The Sharks also make it a point to put the puck on Burns’ stick as much as they can, considering how much of a weapon he is. Both are factors in those low point totals.

“A lot of times we key on making sure that [Burns] gets the puck. But teams do a better job each year at getting in lanes and blocking shots and fronting pucks and packing it in [around the net],” Martin said. “It’s harder to get pucks through to the net than it used to be.”

The primary role of the defense, of course, is to defend. Except for some notable lapses against the Rangers and Red Wings, the Sharks have been doing that fairly well, holding the opposition to just 24.9 shots per game, second in the NHL.

As long as they keep that up, and Burns continues to produce, the Sharks will be in a good position to win on a nightly basis.

“We’re defending well,” DeBoer said. “That’s our team defense, and that starts with us controlling the play, playing in the other team’s end [and] putting pressure on the other team. I think that’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on all the way back to the beginning of last year.”

Raiders enjoying change of scenery in Florida, but focused on football

Raiders enjoying change of scenery in Florida, but focused on football

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders hope central Florida is a home away from home. They’re treating this week in picturesque Sarasota as a normal practice week, with freedom to roam after practice and meetings and meals.

While that makes it sound like Raiders can take advantage of this beautiful beach town and the Ritz Carlton amenities, that isn’t exactly true. While there have been dinners and trips to the hotel’s beach club, most have become familiar with the quarantined event space housing most non-practice activities.

“I looked out this morning and realized there was actually water close by,” head coach Jack Del Rio said with a smile. “It only took me three days to realize that. We’re just going about our business really. Happens to be a beautiful city, but the work’s the same. Put the last game behind you, get ready for the next. Understand what they like, what they’re good at, who their strong players are. Who are some guys that are not as strong? We want to make sure we attack them, things like that. It’s very normal in terms of the preparation and the way we’re going about our business.”

The Raiders have a fixed routine through the heart of his practice week. They have morning meetings as always, with a walk thru conducted in a hotel ballroom. Then they eat and head out to the famous IMG Academy, located 16 miles north in Bradenton. Their first full practice was conducted Wednesday afternoon. 

The school/training space has some famous alumni and trainees including Cam Newton, Tim Howard, Andre Agassi and Amar’e Stoudemire.

A few Raiders have trained there as well. Amari Cooper participated in a national 7-on-7 tournament there, and three offensive linemen did pre-NFL draft work at a massive facility that also acts as a school for athletic children.

“I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s pretty nice,” Crabtree said. “I just don’t when all those guys go to school. It seems like it’s sports year round. That’s a nice facility and that’s good.”

The Raiders hope to mimic a typical game week, but it’s not always easy. This still feels like a road trip, though it’s a pretty nice one with perfect weather and a postcard’s backdrop.

“It’s just a change of scenery. I feel like we’re just enjoying it,” Crabtree said. “It’s beautiful. Sarasota, this is nice. Taking it all in and at the same time, we’re working every day. You can’t beat this weather. You can’t beat this scenery, the Ritz, you can’t beat none of this. I’m just taking it all in, enjoying it and playing ball.”

Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith compared this experience to training camp in Napa where a team really comes together, though it comes with a bit less stress.

“As far as team bonding goes, this has been a great experience,” he said. “It’s better than camp because we’re not fighting for jobs and things like that. This is our group, and we’re focused on getting ready to play."

There are ancillary benefits to a long Florida trip as well.

“I love it, man. The weather’s nice and there’s no state tax here,” Carr said with a laugh. “That’s always a good thing for the people that live here. (laughter) It’s been awesome. The people here have been great.”