Warriors host struggling Magic after sub-par road trip


Warriors host struggling Magic after sub-par road trip

March 11, 2011

ORLANDO (41-24) vs.
WARRIORS (28-36)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Plus

OAKLAND (AP) -- After narrowly defeating one of the Western Conference's worst teams, the Orlando Magic are hoping for a much better effort against another one.

Seeking a season-best fourth consecutive road win, the struggling Magic will try for a sixth straight victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

Orlando (41-24) sits fourth in the East and is chasing Miami for the Southeast Division lead but has played poorly since beating the Heat last Thursday. The Magic followed that win by losing back-to-back home games for the first time since December, averaging 83.0 points and 17.5 turnovers against Chicago and Portland.

They were better offensively Wednesday night to open a five-game road trip, but they were outrebounded by 15 and trailed heading into the fourth quarter against a Sacramento team which entered with the West's second-worst record.

Jameer Nelson, though, scored 12 of his season high-tying 26 points over the final 12 minutes and led Orlando to a 106-102 win.

"We played poorly. We didn't put much into the game, got crushed on the glass. I'm not happy, but we got a win. We'll take it and move on," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We've said (we'll change) a lot. We say a lot of things."

Dwight Howard returned from an automatic one-game suspension for picking up his 16th technical foul and recorded 16 points and 15 rebounds, extending his double-double streak to 22 games -- two shy of a career high.

Jason Richardson, who spent his first six seasons with the Warriors, has made 17 of 26 from 3-point range in the last four games while averaging 20.3 points. Richardson is averaging 22.8 points against his former team - his most versus any opponent.

While the Magic had a hard time overcoming the Kings, they've had little difficulty against Golden State, winning the last five meetings by an average of 19.6 points. Orlando won 110-90 on Jan. 3 in the lone meeting this season as Howard had 22 points and 17 rebounds, Richardson added 20 points and eight Magic players scored in double figures.

The Warriors (28-36), who are 12th in the West, return home following a 2-5 road trip which dropped them seven games back of Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot.

They lost 94-90 at New Jersey on Wednesday as Monta Ellis was held to 16 points, nearly nine below his season average.

REWIND: Warriors end road trip with loss in New Jersey

"We're not happy at all. We won two games on (the trip). That's not enough to get us where we want to be," Ellis said. "We just have to move on from this one and grind the rest of the 19, 18 games we have left."

Golden State, loser of seven of nine overall, has been held to an average of 86.0 points on 38.2 percent shooting in its last two home contests.

The Warriors are 2-6 at home when scoring less than 100 points. The Magic, who have won their last four trips to Oakland, have limited teams to an average of 95.2 points during their last five road games.

David Lee, who missed the Jan. 3 meeting with a bruised back, has seven double-double in his last eight games.

Stephen Curry, scoring 17.9 points per game over his career, has averaged 12.3 on 37.8 percent shooting in three games against Orlando.

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


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


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.