LeBron deals with cramping, lifts Heat in Game 4

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LeBron deals with cramping, lifts Heat in Game 4

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- A limping, grimacing LeBron James shook off the pain of leg cramps to hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer and the Miami Heat held on to edge the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-98 on Tuesday, taking a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. No team has ever blown a 3-1 lead in the finals, so James' resilient basket with 2:51 remaining looks likely to be the moment that clinches the title for the Heat. "He was hurting," teammate Dwyane Wade said. "But that's what it's about this time of the year. It would hurt more if we lose the ballgame, so it feels a little better if you can win it." Imagine how good it will feel if the Heat get one more victory. Better get well fast, LeBron -- you're one win from the biggest party of your life. Game 5 is Thursday and James will have a chance to finish a nine-year chase that started in Cleveland before he left for South Florida before last season. "Of course it's there to think about," said James, making it clear he plans to play. "I'll be ready for Game 5." With James watching the final moments, Mario Chalmers finished off a stellar 25-point effort that matched Wade. James had 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, missing a shot at a triple-double only because he was on the bench at the end with the thigh cramps. The Heat needed all James could give and more to hold off Russell Westbrook. He scored 43 points for the Thunder, who wasted an early 17-point lead but were never out of the game because of their sensational point guard. Kevin Durant had 28 points but James Harden threw in another clunker, finishing with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. Westbrook and Durant were the only Thunder players to score in the last 16:46. "Shots were falling," said Westbrook, who was 20 of 32. "It really doesn't mean nothing. We didn't come out with the win." James stumbled to the court on a drive midway through the fourth quarter, staying on the offensive end of the floor as the Heat regained possession on a blocked shot, and he made a short jumper that made it 92-90. After Westbrook missed a jumper, the Heat called timeout as James gingerly went to the court. Unable to walk off, he was carried to the sideline. He returned to a huge roar with a little over 4 minutes left and the Heat down two, and after Chris Bosh tied it, James slowly walked into a pull-up 3-point attempt -- perhaps doing so knowing he couldn't drive by anyone -- and drilled it. "That 3 was just sheer will and competitiveness, to contribute in some way," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. That made it 97-94, and when Wade followed with a layup with 2:19 left, the Heat finally had enough room to withstand Westbrook, who kept coming all night. "I was just trying to make a play," James said. "If I was out on the floor, I wanted to try to make a play with the limited mobility I had at that time, and I was happy I was able to come through." Chalmers, the player who was struggling so badly that the Thunder put Durant on him in hopes of avoiding further foul trouble, made 9 of 15 shots, scoring more points than he had in the previous three games. "LeBron James is one of the most dominant players in the game, and he explodes many nights scoring-wise," said Wade. "But we've always got his back, and certain nights like tonight when he wasn't feeling his greatest, you have guys like Mario Chalmers step up, big plays, big moments. "That's what this team is built on, and that's the reason we're playing together." The Heat led 2-1 in the finals last year but James' struggles were their biggest problem as they lost the next three to Dallas. He tried to play through the pain, but the Heat had to call another timeout and remove him for good shortly after his go-ahead basket, and Spoelstra said Miami couldn't keep playing four against five. Bosh finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for the Heat, who quickly climbed out of the 17-point hole by scoring 16 straight points, with Chalmers and backup Norris Cole helping steady them until James and Wade got going. "We're going to keep fighting," Durant said. "It's just frustrating, but we're going to keep fighting. That's how we've been since I got here." In foul trouble the last two games, Durant began the game covering Chalmers, an adjustment that freed him from the burden of defending James. It kept Durant safe from fouls -- but the Thunder probably didn't count on the scoring explosion from Chalmers after he totaled just five points over the previous two games. "I took that as a little sign of disrespect," Chalmers said.

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

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USATSI

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."