Was this the best finish of 2012?

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Was this the best finish of 2012?

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Andrew Luck was down to his last shot and his final option to lead the Indianapolis Colts to victory.Luck dropped back, then moved up to avoid pressure and buy time for a teammate to get open, tossed a short pass to Donnie Avery, and the receiver did the rest -- racing untouched for a 14-yard touchdown and giving the Colts a 35-33 comeback win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday."You always hesitate throwing the ball not in the end zone, for fear of the clock running out with a guy in bounds," Luck said. "Took the calculated risk that Donnie could get there in the end zone, and he did."Luck made all the right moves when it mattered most, making his transition from Stanford to the NFL look relatively smooth to help Indy win a game in a way it hasn't since just after his 1st birthday.The last time the Colts scored a game-winning TD with no time remaining on the clock was Sept. 30, 1990, according to STATS LLC, to beat Philadelphia 24-23.Luck has won more games (eight) than any rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era. He broke the mark by Sam Bradford, who helped St. Louis win seven games two years ago, and also surpassed Jim Plunkett in New England during the 1971 season.The Colts (8-4) stayed in control of the AFC wild-card race by winning for the sixth time in seven games. Luck helped them move a step closer toward being in the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons, only this time without Peyton Manning."Some teams find ways to win," Indy interim coach Bruce Arian said. "Others don't."The Lions (4-8) lost for the fourth straight time, including three in a row at home after leading in the final quarter.They're the first team to lose three straight games when leading with 2 minutes left in regulation since San Diego did it in 2000, according to STATS LLC, and the first since at least 1983 to blow leads that late in three home games in a row."This is a tough league for tough people, and we'll find out now who is tough," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.Luck is -- that's for sure.Ndamukong Suh, who was fined 30,000 for kicking Houston quarterback Matt Schaub last week, sacked Luck on his first snap and he was hit and hurried many more times by a hard-rushing frontOn the game-winning play, though, Detroit let Luck run through a slowly collapsing pocket as the final seconds ticked away and he took advantage."If the pass rush does their job, he doesn't get free the scramble and he never finds that receiver," Schwartz said. "All game, we focused on taking away his step-up lanes, and then on the last play, we don't do it."Luck, who was 24 of 54 for 391 yards with four TD passes, made up for matching a season-high three interceptions by doubling his previous season high with his final TD on the winning, fourth-down play that started with 3 seconds left.He had two interceptions in the first half and threw a third in the fourth quarter. He has thrown 13 of his 16 interceptions on the road.Fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton had six receptions for 100 yards and Avery had five catches for 91 yards and two scores, the first of which gave the Colts their only lead -- until his second one won the game."I had no choice but to score," Avery said. "It was the slowest 11 yards that I ever felt like I ran."Calvin Johnson had a career-high 13 receptions for 171 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown that gave Detroit a 30-21 lead late in the third quarter. Johnson made a one-handed grab that set up Mikel Leshoure's TD in the second quarter. Johnson had at least 125 yards receiving for the fifth straight game, matching an NFL record set in 1966 by Pat Studstill with the Lions."Calvin Johnson is always a bright spot," Schwartz said. "Maybe I should have had him on defense for the last play."Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick overall in 2009, was 27 of 46 for 313 yards with two TDs and an interception late in the first half that hurt his team's chances of adding to its 24-13 lead.Stafford also missed Johnson at times late in the game, including on the Lions' last scoring drive when he threw behind him in the end zone and that led to Jason Hanson's fourth field goal that gave them a 33-21 lead with 8:41 left.Luck threw his third TD pass to LaVon Brazill to make it 33-28 with 2:39 left. Then, Nick Harris' poor punt from the 50 gave Luck the ball at his 25 with 1:07 left and no timeouts and the quarterback pulled off another dramatic finish.NOTES:Lions WR Ryan Broyles (right knee) left the game, leaving the team thin at the position because it left Titus Young inactive because of his behavior and previously lost Nate Burleson to a season-ending knee injury. ... Colts OL Joe Reitz left in the first quarter and didn't return after undergoing a concussion evaluation. ... Indy rookie TE Coby Fleener, who missed the previous four games with a shoulder injury, made a twisting, 26-yard TD catch in the second quarter. ... Tigers star Miguel Cabrera was wearing a Suh jersey, as one of his guests at the game.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

This is the NBA Finals that will define the Warriors forever

There are no more ways to extol the virtues of the Golden State Warriors without redundancy. They have owned three consecutive regular seasons and three consecutive Western Conference playoffs, and just finished savaging the last one faster than any team since the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who didn’t have to play as many games as these Warriors did.

But now the season begins, and in the pass-fail world of the NBA Finals, this is the one that will define the Warriors for the ages.

After mugging the San Antonio Spurs, 129-115, to close out the West final in the minimum number of sanctioned events, the Warriors now wait for the resolution of Cleveland-Boston to begin the final assault on their destiny.

They did so without giving in to their occasional predilection for easing up on the throttle. They took an early lead, widened it slowly and carefully and made damned sure the Spurs never felt like they could do as the Celtics had done the night before in Cleveland. The Warriors were coldly efficient (well, okay, those 17 turnovers were bothersome but not ultimately an issue) at both ends of the floor and all points inbetween, and the result and its margin were both fair representations of the difference between the two teams.

In dispatching the Spurs, they became the first team ever to put 120 points on a Gregg Popovich-coached team three consecutive times; indeed the only time Popovich ever had one of his teams allow 120 in back-to-back games was when the 2005 team that eventually won the NBA title beat the Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors, both in overtime.

And while this series will be remembered as the one in which the Spurs had the least amount of weaponry, it will also be the one in which the Warriors will be remembered for wasting only one of the eight halves they played. It is difficult, in other words, to make the case that San Antonio would have won the series even with Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. We do know it would still be going on, but the outcome seems only slightly more in doubt in such a case.

But as this affects the Warriors, this next series will dictate all of it. Win, and they can claim a mini-dynasty. Lose, and they will damned in the court of public opinion in ways that make last year’s 3-1 memes seem downright charitable.

It is the price they pay for being very good already and then adding Kevin Durant without giving up anything of real substance. It’s the price they pay for wanting it all and then doubling down for more.

People and teams who did that are not treated kindly unless they win everything that can be won, and the Warriors are now that team – like the Yankees of lore and Patriots of today, they are the standard of both excellence and excess, and marrying the two without danger is not possible, as they learned a year ago.

But that was then, Draymond Green’s wayward hand and five minutes of 0-for-everything shooting is just history. They can adapt and avenge if not eradicate the hard lesson of 2016 and be thought of as the team they all believe themselves to be.

All they have to do is take the Celtics or Cavaliers and ender them inert. They don’t have to do it in four games; chasing numbers is a fool’s errand as they discovered last year chasing the now-meaningless 73.

They just have to do it four times, and if they play as they have, winning 12 consecutive games by an average margin of 16 points and change  against three other quality teams, they will succeed at the hardest level basketball can create. And whatever people may say of them good or ill, they will have achieved what was demanded of them by both supporter and detractor alike.

And that, to paraphrase Kevin Durant, is what they came to do. Win the thing, and not worry about the numbers -- especially not the style points.