See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

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See what had the Rangers' coach so enraged

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a milestone, sewed up home-ice advantage when the playoffs start and drew the ire of another divisional opponent on a busy Thursday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie the Pittsburgh franchise record for wins and the Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Pittsburgh earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive season and will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It was in the aftermath of a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Penguins counterpart Dan Bylsma "gutless" and Philadelphia forward Daniel Briere said Joe Vitale was "trying to hurt me" after a late-game check. After Thursday's game, Rangers coach John Tortorella was even more scathing, calling the Penguins "one of the most arrogant organizations in the league" during a profanity-laden tirade following Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik's knee-to-knee hit on New York center Derek Stepan. "It's a cheap, dirty hit," Tortorella said. "I wonder what would happen if we did it to their two whining stars over there. I wonder what would happen. So I'm anxious to see what happens with the league with this. Just not respect amongst players. None. It's sickening." Orpik was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play. "They whine about this stuff all of the time, and look what happens?" Tortorella said. "It's ridiculous. But they'll whine about something else over there, won't they?" One of those stars Tortorella was referring to, Evgeni Malkin, had his 49th goal Thursday. He added an assist to give him 107 points and extend his lead on Steven Stamkos in the scoring race to 11 points with one game to play. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who were playing for the first time since clinching the top seed in the conference. New York and Vancouver Canucks, which lost in regulation, are tied for the most points in the NHL (109). New York rested Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in 11 games after he sustained a swollen right forearm during Tuesday's victory against Philadelphia. Lundqvist said after the morning skate that if the game was crucial that he would have played. The Rangers gave no update on the condition of Stepan, who remained on the bench but did not play after the hit from Orpik. Bylsma compared the hit to one Letang received from Dallas' Eric Nystrom last month. Nystrom was not fined or suspended by the league. "You see here where (Stepan) jumps out of the way and Brooks is on his track and looking to hit the guy at an angle, and he trying to get out of the way creates that scenario," Bylsma said. Orpik was not available to reporters after the game. Almost lost in the postgame insults was Fleury tying Tom Barrasso with his 226th victory for the Penguins. Fleury's 42nd win of the season is one behind the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne for the league lead. "A great honor for me to catch up to a guy like that who's been on top and won a couple Stanley Cups," Fleury said. Kunitz picked up his 200th assist on Malkin's 49th goal with 10:54 left that elicited chants of "M-V-P" from the Penguins' 250th consecutive sellout crowd. Pascal Dupuis assisted on Richard Park's second-period goal to his point streak to 16 games, longest in the NHL this season. Tyler Kennedy also scored for the Penguins (50-25-6), who reached 50 wins for the second time in franchise history. But the Rangers had little to play for other than possibly winning their first Presidents' Trophy since 1993-94 or to make runs over their final two games at breaking team records for wins and points established during that Stanley Cup season. New York was clearly not pleased at perhaps losing their fourth-leading goal-scorer in Stepan in what was a virtually meaningless game. "It was pretty gutless and dirty, and (Orpik) is known for sticking his knee out and his elbow out," Rangers goalie Martin Biron said. "I don't really care what he says in defense of what he did, it was dirty. "It was what (Orpik's) done all his career, and he's going to continue to do that unless somebody just gets him either with a suspension or whatever. Those are hits that aren't going to be in the game much longer because it's very dangerous." Kunitz's career-high 25th goal came at 1:11 of the first. Dubinsky tied it 3:12 later when he slammed home a rebound of a Ruslan Fedotenko shot, his 10th, but Kennedy gave Pittsburgh the lead for good 8:27 into the game with his 11th of the season and fifth in his past 10 games. Park -- in the lineup only because wingers James Neal and Steve Sullivan were not because of lower-body injuries -- made it 3-1 with his seventh at 5:11 of the second. Anisimov's goal came during a five-minute power play with 2:14 left, but Letang answered with an empty-netter at 19:11. The Penguins beat the Rangers for the fourth consecutive time this season and won for the third time in their past four games. "Both teams played pretty hard to make sure they're playing good playoff hockey going into the playoffs," Crosby said. NOTES: The game was the 500th of Biron's career. He's won only 13 of 35 career decisions against Pittsburgh. ... The Penguins announced their season team awards throughout the game during stoppages. Malkin was selected most valuable player. ... The announced crowd of 18,585 set a new Penguins season attendance record of 742,608 -- with one game remaining. ... The Rangers had won their previous four on the road and five of their previous six in Pittsburgh. ... When leading after two periods, the Penguins are 31-0-3 this season. ... Pittsburgh D Matt Niskanen (upper-body injury) did not play.

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.

Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.

“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.

Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.

It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.

“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.

When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.

Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).

When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.

The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.

“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”

 

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.

Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.

“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”

The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).

That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.

“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.

Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.

He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.

Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.

“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.

“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”

Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.

“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”

Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.

There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.

For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.

“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.

“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”