Cousins' big night not enough; Blazers top Kings


Cousins' big night not enough; Blazers top Kings


SACRAMENTO (AP) Nate McMillan thought the Portland Trail Blazers needed a wake-up call, so the coach made them watch their disappointing loss to Houston.This horror film definitely got to the Blazers.Wesley Matthews scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Portland pulled away for a 107-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who were coming off a 103-87 home loss against the Rockets and had dropped three of four overall. Andre Miller had 19 points, Nicolas Batum added 17 and Patty Mills finished with 14."I tortured them this morning by making them watch last night's game," McMillan said. "We showed them just what they looked like (against Houston)."
REWIND: Rockets beat Blazers 103-87
McMillan has used the tactic in the past, but Aldridge admitted it's typically a good motivator."I might have fell asleep (watching the film)," Aldridge joked. "Seriously, you don't want to see yourself looking that bad. We know defensively we looked bad against Houston. We really picked it up tonight."Rookie center DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have lost two straight and six of eight. Marcus Thornton scored 26 points, Beno Udrih added 13 and Jermaine Taylor and Jason Thompson each had 10."For the most part, this was an example of an experienced team jumping on mistakes at an opportune time that an inexperienced team made," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We did a lot of good things, but we couldn't come away with a win."Portland put together a 7-0 run to take a 102-95 lead with 51 seconds left. Batum made a wide-open 3-pointer, Gerald Wallace dunked off an alley-oop pass from Matthews and Aldridge converted a long jumper during the surge.The Trail Blazers, who have won a season-high five consecutive road games, are one of a handful of teams fighting for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference."It's March and every game counts," said Batum, who had three of the Blazers' 11 steals. "We have 21 games remaining, so every game is a big one because the Western Conference is a tough place to play."Sacramento played its first game in Power Balance Pavilion but it's unclear how long the Kings will remain in their renamed home. The building had been called Arco Arena since the inaugural game on Nov. 8, 1988.On Tuesday, the Maloof ownership group received an extension from the NBA for filing an application for relocation next season, setting up a fight between California cities for the franchise. The Kings already are in talks with Anaheim, which is looking for an NBA team to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Ducks.RELATED: NBA extends relocation deadline for Kings
Sacramento drew its second sellout crowd of the season on Monday night, thanks to an organized effort by fans to launch a campaign to keep the team. But there were plenty of empty seats - attendance was 12,286 - against the Blazers as new reports painted an even grimmer picture of the team remaining in the city.Cousins helped the Kings pull within three points midway through the third quarter. But the Blazers built the lead to 79-73 heading into the fourth.Guard Brandon Roy, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in January, didn't play against the Kings because the Blazers have decided to rest him when they play on consecutive nights.Coming off consecutive losses where they had 83 and 87 points, the Blazers had plenty of offense early on against the Kings. Aldridge scored 16 points and Miller had 13 to lead Portland to the Blazers to a 61-53 halftime lead."Even though they have injuries and their star players have been injured, LaMarcus has done a great job of stepping up and filling in," Cousins said.NOTES: Rudy Fernandez, a key reserve for the Blazers, missed his second straight game with the flu. ... Kings F Francisco Garcia suited up for the game, but didn't play. Garcia has missed 21 straight games with a strained left calf, but may return for Saturday's game at Utah. ... Mills made 6 of 8 shots and his 14 points came in 14 minutes. ... The Kings have until April 18 to announce a move.

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series finale in Chicago:

Giants (20-28)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Mac Williamson (R) LF
8. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (1-5, 4.57 ERA)

Cubs (24-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Miguel Montero (L) C
8. Javier Baez (R) SS
9. Eddie Butler (R) P (1-0, 2.00 ERA)

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.

Cooper’s made that old hat.

The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.

Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.

He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.

Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.

“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”

Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.

“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.

Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.

“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”

That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.

Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.

“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.

“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”