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.

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.