Don't look now, but the Knicks are 5-0

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Don't look now, but the Knicks are 5-0

From Comcast SportsNetORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- In their first four games, the New York Knicks surprised many by consistently performing above preseason expectations and jumping out to an unbeaten start.Another night and another victory later, the Knicks' breakout beginning doesn't seem to have an end in sight.Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, J. R. Smith and Raymond Felton each added 21, and the New York Knicks held off the Orlando Magic 99-89 Tuesday night to improve to 5-0.The victory extended New York's NBA-best start. The Knicks have won their first five games for the first time since opening the 1993-94 season 7-0 on their way to the NBA finals. The Knicks remain the league's only unbeaten team."Defense, we buckled down," Anthony said. "We kind of slowed them down, kept them off the glass rebounding. Once we had a chance to rebound the basketball, get out and make some shots, we didn't turn back from there."J.J. Redick scored 18 points and Arron Afflalo added 13 for the Magic, who were stunted by 20 turnovers that led to 24 New York points. Orlando dropped its fifth consecutive game and continues to struggle without starters Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu."You have to want to win more, simple as that," Afflalo said. "There's not one man on this team that's going to do it, (we) pretty much have to want it more."New York coach Mike Woodson has made no secret of the fact that for the Knicks to continue their recent output long-term, keeping his older team well-rested will be a necessity.A three-day rest following their dominating win over Dallas on Friday was perfect timing for a Knicks squad that played its first three games in just four nights.It showed against and Orlando team whose younger players were fearless attacking New York early on.But so much youth on the floor also gave way to some careless mistakes late in the second half. Orlando pulled to 82-80 before the Knicks went on a 13-4 spurt to take a 95-84 lead with 2:36 to play and put the game away.New York led by just a point at the break, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said that kind of effort wasn't there early."We weren't playing hard enough," Woodson said. "You can't just roll the ball out and think because their record indicates that they may not be good or they're struggling as a team -- any team can beat you in this league ... We got a few stops, and scored a bucket and we were able to secure the win. But it was a tough victory tonight."The Knicks will have another break from game action Wednesday before playing at San Antonio Thursday night.Despite not scoring more than 75 points in none of their previous three losses, the Magic kept pace with the Knicks -- who came in as one of the league's top scoring teams.The Magic's younger players were right in the middle of the action, with rookies Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson knocking down several big shots and making key defensive plays in the third quarter as the Knicks inched back in front and took a one-point lead into the final period.The Knicks traded the lead with the Magic at the start of the fourth, with Orlando continually able to slip inside the paint.But along with Anthony's big night, the Knicks were also able to sustain the Magic's efforts as Smith continued his hot streak from the 3-point line, connecting on both of his attempts. He is 13 of 18 overall for the season from behind the arc.Even with the loss, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said there still some positives for a team that piecing together lineups at the moment."We can't afford to make mistakes, but for me at the end of this game I was pretty proud of our guys and their effort tonight," Vaughn said. "That's a good ball club on both ends of the floor and we made them earn a win tonight."Trailing 35-25 midway through the second quarter, the Magic used a 16-4 run to move ahead 41-39. Orlando carried that momentum into as 53-49 halftime lead.In his fourth game of the season since returning to action from offseason sports hernia surgery, Harkless provided a lift off the bench with 10 points in the half.It helped offset another big scoring half by Anthony, who topped the Knicks with 16 first-half points.The Magic also outrebounded the Knicks 25-16 in the opening 24 minutes, while getting 34 points in the paint against a larger Knicks front court.Orlando maintained its edge on the boards but didn't get nearly as many second-chance opportunities in the second half.Smith said the Knicks are enjoying where they're at right now."It's great. It's a great feeling," he said. "We want to keep it going. So we can't get too lackadaisical like we did in that first half."Notes: Nelson missed his sixth straight game with a strained right hamstring and groin. ...The game was stopped for about 10 minutes between the first and second quarter after Jamie Woode, a former college cheerleader and Magic Stunt Team member, fell during a routine and was wheeled off the floor on a stretcher. She was transferred to a nearby hospital where she was breathing on her own and moving her extremities, according to paramedics who attended to her.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.