Giants players thrive in All-Star Game

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Giants players thrive in All-Star Game

From Comcast SportsNet
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain helped the National League to a Giant blowout in the All-Star game. After all the talk about AL dominance during an offseason when Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder switched leagues, the NL romped to an 8-0 victory over the American League on Tuesday night. The World Series will start in the city of the NL champion for the third straight year. "It's a nice edge," the NL's Tony La Russa said after his final game as a manager. Flashing their bright orange spikes and booming bats, the San Francisco sluggers keyed a five-run blitz against Justin Verlander in the first inning. Cabrera homered and won the MVP award in the ballpark where he played last season, and Cain got the win in the NL's most-lopsided All-Star victory. "I didn't come to win an MVP. That's just a surprise," the former Royals outfielder said, his mother and grandmother next to him. "The same opportunity that Kansas City gave me last year is the same opportunity that San Francisco is giving me every day to showcase my talent." Chipper Jones singled in his final All-Star at-bat at age 40. Ryan Braun, an All-Star again after his drug suspension was overturned last winter, doubled, tripled and made a fine catch in the outfield to help give the NL its first three-game winning streak in two decades. Teen sensation Bryce Harper had a shaky All-Star debut with a walk, strikeout and missed catch. Fellow rookie Mike Trout, only 20, showed off his dynamic skills. Cain combined with Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of a lights-out staff on a six-hitter. The game was pretty much decided a few moments after it started. Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history off Verlander, who couldn't control his 100 mph heat. Cabrera singled and scored the first run, then hit a two-run homer against Matt Harrison in a three-run fourth. "I don't get many triples," said the slow-footed Sandoval, known as Kung Fu Panda. "We had some fun with that in the dugout." San Francisco fans, who made a late voting push to elect Sandoval and Cabrera to starting spots, might really appreciate the victory come October. The Giants are a half-game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. Rafael Furcal also hit a three-bagger, making the NL the first league with three in an All-Star game. As the All-Stars returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973, La Russa bid farewell to the national stage in the city where he played for his first major league team. Having retired after managing St. Louis to last year's World Series title, La Russa became just the fourth inactive manager to skipper an All-Star team and improved to 4-2. "Just lucky, like I've been 30 years," La Russa said. The NL boosted its advantage to 43-38-2 and won for just the third time in the 10 years the All-Star game has been used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. La Russa's Cardinals benefited from last year's NL All-Star victory, with St. Louis winning Games 6 and 7 at home against Ron Washington's Texas Rangers. "It's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win," said Washington, who lost for the second straight year. "They came out. They swung the bats. Once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in their hand, and they got the job done." Jones, retiring at the end of the season, also had one last All-Star moment, pinch hitting in the sixth and singling just past second baseman Ian Kinsler and into right field. Jones chuckled as the ball rolled through. La Russa asked Jones to address the team before the game and the Atlanta third baseman told players: "Whether you're 19 or 40, we are all equals here." "I am not going out losing my last one. So, you with me?" he added. At 19 the youngest position player in All-Star history, Harper had a shaky start when he entered in the fifth. The heralded rookie, wearing shiny gold shoes, didn't flash a Gold Glove and lost Mike Napoli's routine fly to left in the lights, allowing it to drop behind him for a single. Harper then caught Kinsler's bases-loaded flyball to end the inning, earning applause from the crowd of 40,933 at Kauffman Stadium, spruced up by a 250 million renovation that was completed three years ago. Harper tagged up on a long fly after his walk in the fifth, but got himself hung up in a rundown and tagged out. Trout, among a record five All-Star rookies, had a nice showing against two very different pitchers. The Angels outfielder singled and stole a base against Dickey's knuckleball, then drew a walk against Chapman and his 101 mph heat. "I'm going to remember this the rest of my life," Trout said. Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in big league history last month. He didn't have to be perfect in this one, allowing one hit in two innings for the win. "For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me," he said. "But I still tried to stay focused." Cain was followed by 10 relievers, with Jonathan Papelbon getting the last out with a runner on third base. Verlander had a puzzling outing. In games that count, he hasn't allowed five runs in an inning since April 2010, according to STATS LLC. He became the first All-Star to give up a five-spot since Houston's Roger Clemens in front of his hometown fans in 2004. "I know this game means something and you don't want to give up runs, but we're here for the fans," Verlander said. "I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners." In a 35-pitch inning, he threw five pitches clocked at 100 mph and another at 101. "Hitting 100 in the first inning? Normally you see the guy throw 93, 94 in the first and then hit 100 in the eighth. We saw him hit 101," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "The funniest part was Fielder said to him, Hit 101' and the next pitch he hit 101. Is it that easy?" La Russa, usually serious and tense after games, was playful after his finale, chanting "Mel-ky! Mel-ky! Mel-ky!" as the MVP walked to the podium. "If you're trying to win one game, there's not a better manager out there," Braun said. "It's only fitting that he went out with a win." NOTES: The NL extended the AL's scoreless streak to 14 innings -- its longest drought since 1995-97. ... The NL won for just the sixth time in a quarter-century. ... The NL had last won three straight in 1994-96. ... It was the first All-Star shutout since the NL's 6-0 win in 1996 at Philadelphia. ... The Giants' Barry Bonds was MVP of the '73 game.

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

Jazz will make series with Warriors harder than it looks

So the Golden State Warriors don’t get a commuter series after all, and they get to play a team that plays as slow as they play fast, and they get to play at altitude – all things we will pretend matter greatly when this Western Conference semifinal series begins Tuesday night.

It won’t.

Well, let’s calm down a bit. It almost certainly won’t.

The Utah Jazz is not an easy out, not by a long shot. For one, they are not a mere shard of their former selves as the Clippers would have been. For two, they are pretty damned healthy as playoff basketball teams go. And for three, they are Memphis-funky, by which we mean like the Grizzlies, they pose conundrums unlike most teams that take awhile to break down and reassemble in a more digestible form.

On the other hand, they are not of Warrior quality, and though that seems frankly too smug by half, it is nonetheless true.

Now while the Golden States have their own issues – Steve Kerr’s head, Kevin Durant’s calf and Stephen Curry’s shoes – the Jazz are counterpunchers in the parlance. Not good enough to knock you out, but good enough to make you punch yourselves into exhaustion.

Golden State is 14-4 against the Jazz in the last five years, but it is the last year that counts most because this is the season in which the Jazz decided to attack the Warriors from beyond the three-point arc rather than the more traditional Rudy Gobert-Derrick Favors-low block route. Thus seems counterintuitive, especially when you consider that the one game Utah won, the 81st game of the season, they took 38 threes without Gordon Hayward playing, but head coach Quin Snyder has shown himself to be a more flexible coach than the one who collapsed at the college level.

But the way to understand the Jazz is not concern oneself with what they do but with what they will attempt to prevent the Warriors from doing. The Jazz ranks 2nd in threes allowed and percentage of those threes made, and they also rank a demonstrative last in pace.

So what we’re really talking about here, for those who want to get beneath the we’re-better-than-you-are nyah-nyah-nyah level, is whether Utah can make Golden State what it wants rather than the other way around. If Utah gets its way, the scores will be in the high-nineties, low-hundreds range, as they are 37-10 holding the opponent under 100 points (including the Clipper series), while the Warriors were held under 100 only six times.

Conversely, the Warriors held 29 teams under 100, and were 27-2 in those games, so the Warriors are actually more efficient than Utah even at a languid pace.

In other words, the Warriors are better at what Utah does than Utah is, which is probably why you will see and hear lots of smug this week and next among all non-Warrior employees. Barring injury, or Mike Brown quitting coaching and turning the job over to . . . well, actually the only name that might even pose a threat here is Quin Snyder . . . the Warriors have no business being extended beyond five games.

But that was the logic that fans took into last year’s Oklahoma City series, and the Memphis series before that. Not every series is 2016 Houston or 2015 New Orleans, and no titles are ordained, as anyone who watched the last five minutes of Game 7 last year an grumpily testify.

In other words, Utah will make this harder than it looks, even if it doesn’t end up looking that hard, if that makes any sense, which it actually doesn’t.

Just trust us on this. Utah lost 10 games by double digits this year. They fall reluctantly and with considerable rancor. But these are the Warriors, and ultimately, the chances are considerable to the point of prohibitive that they will indeed fall.

We think.

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors marched through the first round of the playoffs, winning by an average of 18 points while sweeping Portland, the second round shapes up to be considerably more difficult.

The Utah Jazz are much deeper, play some of the best defense in the NBA and play their home games at altitude, which partially explains why only five teams posted better records at home.

That the Warriors won two of the three regular-season meetings is somewhat inconsequential. In two of those games, Utah was without All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill. Power forward Derrick Favors missed all three games.

Regardless of the results of this series, there definitely will be a different look.

Here is our preview of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series (first-round statistics in parenthesis):

MATCHUPS

POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry (29.8 points per game, 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds) vs. George Hill (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.1 rpg): Hill’s availability was been crucial to the regular-season success of the Jazz; he missed 33 games. Utah was 15-1, however, when he scored at least 20 points. Curry may be the most dangerous scorer among all point guards, and he’ll be a load for Hill. EDGE: Curry.

SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson (18.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) vs. Joe Ingles (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg): Aside from a couple brief hot streaks, Thompson struggled with his shot in the first round. He’ll fix that, and he’ll torch Ingles (or Rodney Hood). Ingles is crafty inside but of most concern when he’s beyond the arc. He has little chance of producing offense with Thompson as the primary defender. EDGE: Thompson.

SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant (21.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) vs. Gordon Hayward (23.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg): Two All-Stars, only one of which is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Jazz, quite simply, have no answer for Durant’s offensive arsenal. Their best hope is that he is assigned to Hayward and has to expend energy on defense. EDGE: Durant.

POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, 4.3 blocks per game) vs. Boris Diaw (6.0 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.7 rpg): Oddly enough, Diaw, because of his bulk and passing ability, is one of the few players who can give Green fits. Diaw won’t score much, but Utah could play through him at times. Green will try to run the big man off the floor. EDGE: Green.

CENTER: Zaza Pachulia (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) vs. Rudy Gobert (8.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg): Pachulia will need plenty of help from his bench, and he’ll get it. His role will be to free up scorers for shots coming off picks. Opportunities will be there, because Gobert tends to hunker down in the paint. He’s a terrific shot-blocker, but don’t be surprised if the Warriors test him inside. EDGE: Gobert.

SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala (7.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), 4.5 apg) vs. Joe Johnson (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg): This is a fun matchup of wily veterans who rely on profoundly different styles. While Iguodala plays fast and is disruptive on defense, Johnson is deliberate and offensive-minded and is playing very well. Johnson also is among the game’s best clutch shooters. Iguodala finds more subtle ways to make an impact. EDGE: Even.

BENCHES: The Warriors are about as healthy as they have been at any time over the past two months, which means they are deep with players capable of producing. Matt Barnes is ready and Shaun Livingston is set to return no later than Game 2. The Warriors have considerable size, and they’ll need it. JaVale McGee and David West will come in handy against the likes of Favors, Diaw and Gobert. Both benches were effective in the first round. EDGE: Warriors, but it’s slight.

COACHING: With Steve Kerr out indefinitely, Mike Brown remains as acting head coach. He has plenty of postseason experience, as does veteran assistant Ron Adams. Jazz coach Quin Snyder did a tremendous job in the regular season when a slew of injuries could have knocked the team off course. He also is coming off his first playoff series victory as a head coach. EDGE: Warriors, due to experience.

ORACLE VS. VIVINT: Oracle Arena was massive for the Warriors in their first round, at times waking thunderous echoes of the “We Believe” experience in 2007. Vivint Smart Home Arena has a well-earned reputation for hurling loud insults at visiting players. The Utah crowd had better be careful, though, because the Warriors tend to thrive off crowd abuse. EDGE: Oracle.

PREDICTION: Warriors in four, five if they get bored.