Sharks edge Ducks, start road trip with 4-3 win


Sharks edge Ducks, start road trip with 4-3 win


ANAHEIM (AP) One night after the San Jose Sharks rallied from an early three-goal deficit, they came agonizingly close to blowing a three-goal lead of their own.Joe Thornton knows that's just the way it's going to be down the stretch while San Jose and Anaheim both look to carve out playoff berths in the tight Western Conference.
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Dany Heatley scored 14 seconds in, Ryane Clowe had a goal and an assist, and the Sharks hung on to beat the Ducks 4-3 Wednesday night for their second straight win after the All-Star break.Ben Eager scored his first goal with his new team and Antti Niemi made 27 saves one night after getting pulled for the Sharks, who moved even with Anaheim in the Western Conference standings. Defenseman Jason Demers even scored a rare goal during the Sharks' three-goal first period, but San Jose finished the game simply surviving the Ducks' late surge."We know there are going to be close, wild games," said Thornton, who assisted on Heatley's goal on the opening shift. "You hope there's not too many three-point games to keep everybody bunched up. We'd like to win them outright, the way we did the last two nights."After the Sharks rallied from an early 3-0 deficit for a 5-3 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night in San Jose, the Sharks went ahead 3-0 against Anaheim in the first 11:15. The Ducks got to 4-3 early in the third period and had several late scoring chances, but Niemi made just enough big saves.
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"I really liked our start," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We thought having played last night, we might have our legs underneath us while they were trying to find theirs, and that's what happened. It wasn't going to be easy tonight. We were fortunate to get out to the good early lead."San Jose has won six of seven during the best stretch of the defending Pacific Division champions' up-and-down season, but just five points separate fourth place and 12th in the West standings.
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Anaheim climbed back into the playoff picture by winning eight of 11 during January, improbably thriving while captain Ryan Getzlaf is out with broken bones in his face. But Jonas Hiller made an ugly return from his first All-Star game for Anaheim, getting pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots. The Ducks lost for the fourth time in 14 games."You can't win a lot of games when you're down 3-0 within the first 10-12 minutes," said rookie defenseman Cam Fowler, who scored a power-play goal in his third straight game. "I'm not sure if we were a little rusty after the break, but there are no excuses. We can't have a start like that. Our guys did a good job of battling back, but it just wasn't enough."Joffrey Lupul and Bobby Ryan also scored, and All-Star Corey Perry had two assists as the Ducks' four-game home winning streak ended. Curtis McElhinney made 17 saves and picked up an assist in relief of Hiller for Anaheim, which will play six of its next seven on the road.But the Swiss goalie's struggles against San Jose put the Ducks in a deep early hole. Hiller is 4-9 in his career against the Sharks, and Heatley scored his 19th goal on the Sharks' opening shift."The first shift was the worst-case scenario," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Later in the game, we got it going, but we still weren't sharp with some of the decisions with the puck. We haven't played that type of hockey in a long time."Eager followed several minutes later with his first goal since Nov. 19, when he played for Atlanta. Demers then capitalized on an assist from Clowe, chasing Hiller with his second goal in 46 games this season.Lupul scored the Ducks' first goal early in the second period, but Clowe converted a long rebound on a power play for his 14th goal.Fowler answered with a power-play goal on another rebound with 2:08 left in the second period. Ryan trimmed the Sharks' lead to one goal with 14:24 to play, putting a wrist shot through traffic behind Niemi for his eighth goal in 10 games."We got off our forecheck and kind of sat back and let them come at us," Heatley said. "We had to come back after that tough start yesterday and do things a little different this time, and it was the opposite game."Notes: Sharks C Logan Couture missed his second straight game with an apparent case of the flu. San Jose's top goal-scorer is among the favorites for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. ... Fowler has scored a power play goal in three straight games. ... Getzlaf is expected back next week during the Ducks' road trip through Western Canada. ... The Ducks wore their third jerseys.
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Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

SACRAMENTO -- It seems like yesterday that Michael Malone was leading a Sacramento Kings team featuring DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay into battle every night. Less than three years later, only Gay remains with the franchise and he’s out for the season with a torn left Achilles. 

Thomas left in a lopsided trade that yielded Sacramento Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception during the summer of 2014. Malone was let go with an 11-13 record 24 games into the 2014-15 campaign after Cousins went down with a bout of viral meningitis. Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans following a blockbuster trade on Sunday.

“I always go back and think - ‘what could have happened if myself, DeMarcus, Isaiah, a healthy Rudy, if we were all together?,’” Malone told a small group of reporters before shootaround on Thursday. “We’ll never know, but I like to think that a lot of positive things would have happened, because I felt like we had something good going here. And it wasn’t to be.”

Malone’s reputation as a defense-minded coach played into his firing. At the time, owner Vivek Ranadivé used musical metaphors to describe what he was looking for in his next head coach.

“We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised,” Ranadivé said. “What we need is a jazz director.”

Malone is back in Sacramento Thursday night as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets and he’s looking for his first win against his former club in his fifth opportunity. He also heads a group that leads the Kings by a game and a half in the standings and boasts the NBA’s fourth highest scoring average at 110.6 points per game. 

“I can’t remember all the things that were said when I was fired, because there was so much being said,” Malone stated. “But I know one of the things that was being said was ‘style of play.’ There were people that were not in my corner that used that as a way to get me fired. Now we’re one of the highest scoring teams in NBA.”

“I look at you people, you were wrong,” a smiling Malone added while looking directly into a news camera. 

Known for his ability to connect to Cousins, Malone was as shocked as anyone to hear that the Kings traded the talented 26-year-old. The two have remained close, despite no longer working together.

“That was definitely a surprise over All-Star break,” Malone said. “Surprise for me, even a bigger surprise for him from what I understand.”

Malone has very little time to worry about his former player. He has to prepare his Nuggets team for a new-look Kings roster that has played a gritty, hard-nosed style all season long. With 26 games remaining, his team sits in the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and they face a team that is backed into a cormer.

“They have a chip on their shoulder,” Malone said. “You make a big trade like that and I’m sure the players in that locker room are going to say, ‘Everybody’s writing us off because we don’t have DeMarcus.’ They’re going to come out and try and prove everybody wrong. They beat Boston, a very good team, without DeMarcus, and I’m sure that’s the model they’re going to try to use moving forward.”

A straight shooter through and through, Malone spoke on a variety of topics before heading out to the floor to prep his team for the 7:30 start at Golden 1 Center. 

“I just want to get a win, period,” Malone said. “The grudge is gone, this is part of the business. I knew the rules when I signed up, I really did.”

Malone understood the reality of taking over a fledgling franchise under new ownership and management when he took the Kings job. Sacramento gave him his first head coaching opportunity in the league, which he is grateful for, but his departure was anything but clean. The grudge might be gone, but those who covered Malone during his time with the Kings know full-well that playing this franchise will always be personal. 

Power of science: Warriors thriving with chemistry experiment

Power of science: Warriors thriving with chemistry experiment

OAKLAND -- Zaza Pachulia holds his own during competitive games of poker on the airplane alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson - they call it the "Good Guys Table." Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee, one-time teammates with Denver reunited in Oakland, hold secret chats.

"We're building an empire," Iguodala joked. "We've got secret stuff we can't talk about."

Jonnie West - son of Hall of Famer and Warriors executive Jerry West - joins Curry, Pachulia and Thompson for their card games.

"It depends how Klay feels. If he's tired, then no card game," Pachulia said.

With all that was made before the season about adding Kevin Durant to an already star-studded roster, Golden State's players have jelled just fine. The NBA-best Warriors (47-9) are gearing up for the second half and what they hope is another championship run, and chemistry sure isn't holding them back.

Two-time reigning MVP Curry and KD love to watch each other accomplish amazing things on the floor, along with Draymond Green and Thompson and all of the others who contribute off the bench.

Curry initially allowed Durant to find his groove, then began to assert himself more and increase his shots. Experience playing together is the biggest factor to keep building team bonds, if you ask Iguodala.

"Weathering storms builds chemistry and adversity builds chemistry," he said. "The season's long and you want to have all types of ups and downs. And that's where you build it the most, and off the court, plane rides. I think when you play with teammates seven, eight years, you're still building throughout that time. You continue to learn about each other. You've just got to understand that that's part of the process and you've got to want to learn from one another."

The Warriors are counting on every advantage they can gain, on and off the court. During flights, team dinners, anywhere.

After a heartbreaking Game 7 to end last season's NBA Finals, Golden State's players want nothing short of a championship. Many of them got a taste winning the title two years ago for the franchise's first in 40 years.

Steve Kerr, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, gets a kick out of watching his teams come together each year.

"It's one of my favorite parts of coaching honestly, is seeing how a team comes together, seeing the relationships develop, seeing guys laughing together, seeing who hangs out with who," Kerr said. "It's great. This team has a really, really good chemistry that developed really quickly. Obviously, we had the core group intact from last year. We lost some key guys, too. The additions have been great. The chemistry is really good."

Pachulia took it upon himself to be a part of that. With constant attention on the Warriors, he knows the importance of sticking together through all of the many challenges that come in an 82-game season - and those things prepare a group for the postseason.

"You wish for the chemistry to come right away because you're kind of feeling pressure, a lot of talk's going on from outside," Pachulia said. "The reality is it's a process. It takes some days, it takes some games. It takes some bumps as well for the team to get on the same page and get the chemistry right. You've got to go through the process. I just don't see it the other way. We couldn't wait for these 40 or 50 games to pass and see where we were going to be. I feel really confident where we are right now, with everything we had throughout this 50 games, even the losses we had unexpected. It made us better, it made us stronger. You can appreciate it, honestly. We care about each other. We're on the same page. Keep going. We're not going to stop."

For Iguodala and McGee, the "chatter" stays between them.

"I have a lot of really in-depth conversations with JaVale McGee," Iguodala said, "about life."