Down at half, Lowry’s 24, bench help Raps top Wiz 102-92

For a team that had been 0-23 when trailing at halftime in road playoff games, the Toronto Raptors sure went about ending that drought and advancing in the playoffs in an usual way: The second unit, led by Fred VanVleet, created the comeback.

Using a tremendous effort at both ends of the court from reserves, and 24 points from Kyle Lowry, the Raptors came back to beat the Washington Wizards 102-92 in Game 6 on Friday night and end their Eastern Conference first-round series.

“On the road, in a hostile environment, I just wanted to be another support guy out there, that can ease the starters a bit,” VanVleet said. “You know, me running the team and playing defense and stuff, I can do those things in my sleep.”

It allowed DeRozan to play only 33 1/2 minutes total, and Lowry 31 1/2, compared with more than 40 each for Washington’s All-Star guards, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who looked tired by the end.

Indiana has double-teamed James on only 16 plays in the first five games, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, which is less than 4 percent of the 449 plays in which he has been involved on offense. The Pacers brought only one double-team in Game 5 and it was in the first quarter.

McMillan clearly doesn’t favor using an extra defender to force the ball out of James’ hands because it leaves others open. When the double has happened, though, James and the Cavs have struggled, mostly because the Cleveland roster has been in a collective slump throughout the series, shooting just 38 percent overall and 32 percent from 3-point range.

The sample sizes are limited, but over the past four games the Cavs are 1-of-10 shooting with a turnover in the possessions when James has seen a double-team. The data at least makes a strategy adjustment worth considering.

“They’ve changed their lineup and put 3-point shooters around him,” McMillan said. “Basically what they’re saying is if you help, we’re going to shoot the 3-ball. Which is what they want to do anyway. If you don’t help, he’s going to drive the ball to the basket.”jets_138

Jon Gruden: Raiders need Amari Cooper to be the player he was his first two years

Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. But in his third season last year, Cooper slipped to 680 yards. New Raiders coach Jon Gruden noticed.

“It’s like this, this is the first time I’ve been traded,” Quinn told reporters on Wednesday, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “You commit yourself to someone and you have your family turn their back on you.”

Quinn added that he was shocked by the news of the deal, even though he seems to welcome the move to Miami.

Per Salguero, Quinn called the move “a breath of fresh air,” adding that he was “suffocating” with the Rams.

“I’m not a West Coast guy, put it that way,” Quinn said.

Maccagnan selected Bryce Petty in the fourth round of that year’s draft and took Christian Hackenberg in the second round the next year. Petty has made seven unremarkable starts over the last two years and Hackenberg hasn’t played a single snap, which leaves the Jets still in search of a quarterback and leaves Maccagnan unfazed about the prospect of picking one again.

“I’m very confident from that standpoint,” Maccagnan said at last week’s league meetings, via NJ.com. “That doesn’t faze me. It’s the college draft. Guys you’ll hit on. Guys that don’t pan out, that’s part of the process. But we feel pretty good about this year’s group and where we’re situated.”

Maccagnan added that one has to “look at where the picks were made” when considering Petty and Hackenberg’s failure to pan out. Those represent smaller misses than taking a quarterback at the top of a draft while also illustrating how much is riding on this year’s pick for both the Jets and Maccagnan since another miss could leave the next swing to someone else.bills_067

Giants pleased with ‘show of commitment’ from Odell Beckham

Odell Beckham Jr. says he is planning to show up to the start of the Giants’ voluntary offseason program on Monday, and the team reportedly views that as a positive sign going forward.

According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, the Giants and their new coaching staff and front office view Beckham’s decision to join his teammates as “important.”

Bird was in such a good mood Sunday that he told a funny story about his only surgery prior to the shoulder procedure in’16.

“My wisdom teeth,” he said. “In high school. Three in one day. Losing your wisdom teeth is great. You eat popsicles and mashed potatoes…. That day or the day after, I got up to go to the bathroom and walked past the mirror and I kind of glanced and was like,’Wait a second.’ I looked back and I had brown mashed potatoes on my chin and my throat.”

Bird laughed again, then illustrated more confidence that better days are ahead.

“The more I’m out, the more I feel comfortable with where I’m at and what I can do to be plain and simple,” he said. “It’s weird. That’s how I feel about it.”

The Giants drafted Apple with the 10th overall pick in 2016 for a reason. He has not lived up to his draft status in two seasons, but the new staff seems to believe they can get the most out of him.

“He’s a big guy; he can run; he’ll tackle and that’s the thing it takes to be a good corner, if you can get close in coverage,” assistant defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “Everybody, every day, the one thing you can always control is your technique. We’ll work that daily. Tackling, you’ll work that. But he has God-given ability that most people don’t have. He’s 6-1, runs a 4.4, and he’ll hit you. So, that’s something good to work with.”

The Giants are leaving all the things that happened in the past in the past, with Apple getting a chance to move forward.

Trubisky’s development through his second NFL season will be key for Chicago, especially now that the QB is equipped with improved surrounding talent and an offensive-minded head coach. The fact that the Bears expect Trubisky to become the franchise passer they’ve so desperately needed is why they’re here, because Daniel, who has worked with Matt Nagy in the past, is on the roster only to help the starter develop in the offense.bills_043

NFL free agent rumors: Jaguars to release WR Allen Hurns

The Jaguars have revamped their offense this season, and wide receiver Allen Hurns is set to become the latest roster casualty.

According to Pro Football Talk, Hurns will be released by the team, making him an immediate free agent.

“The last two outings have been a nightmare for me,” Kintzler said. “And hopefully in September, I’ll laugh about it.”

New York’s Steven Matz allowed one unearned run in five innings. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez went 5 1/3 innings, with one earned run, six strikeouts — and one face-saving catch of a comeback liner that was headed directly for his head in the third.

Nationals: LF Adam Eaton was out of the lineup, as expected, after tweaking his left ankle during an awkward slide home Thursday. But Eaton said he wasn’t in any pain and he pinch hit in the seventh Saturday.

The Tennessee Titans agreed to a contract with veteran defensive tackle Bennie Logan, the team announced Sunday.

Logan led the Chiefs’ defensive linemen last season in total tackles (54). He was second on the team in tackles for loss (10) and tied for sixth in sacks (1.5).

The Giants activated RHP Tyler Beede, and the 24-year-old right-hander will start Tuesday’s game for his major league debut. Beede, a 2014 first-round pick, will pitch in place of RHP Johnny Cueto, whose start was pushed back to Wednesday. In a corresponding move, the Giants optioned RHP Roberto Gomez to Triple-A Sacramento.

Diamondbacks: OF Steven Souza Jr., on the DL with a right pectoral strain, complained of discomfort Sunday after playing in a simulated game in which he homered twice in seven at-bats and threw from over 100 feet. An MRI showed fluid in the area of the injury. “This is part of the process,” Lovullo said. “I do not consider this a setback whatsoever.” … 3B Jake Lamb (left shoulder AC joint sprain) took dry swings and did some running and throwing Monday. He’ll ramp up baseball activities Tuesday.buccaneers_020

NFL free agent rumors: Dolphins sign RB Frank Gore to 1-year deal

Frank Gore is going home.

The 13-year veteran running back on Thursday agreed to a one-year contract with the Dolphins, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

A Miami native and University of Miami standout, Gore visited the Lions last week but left Detroit without a deal.

Gore, who turns 35 in May, was selected by the 49ers with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft and remained in San Francisco until he joined the Colts in 2015. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing nine times throughout his career and last rushed for 1,000 yards in 2016 with the Colts.

It showed.

“I think there was some external pressure that creeped in the room,” veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I think maybe as a veteran group, we probably don’t want to admit that it affected us. I think at times it definitely did.”

Suh, 31, began his career with the Lions, racking up 36 sacks in five seasons, but failed to live up to expectations after arriving in Miami in 2015 on a six-year, $114 million contract. He had 15 1/2 sacks in three seasons with the Dolphins.

Barrie gave Colorado a 2-0 lead in the second on a goal from the blue line that led to a challenge by St. Louis, which felt the puck left the zone. The officials took a long look before ruling it a good goal and determined “there were no definitive replays which showed that the puck left the attacking zone,” according to NHL situation room.

“I’m not going to blame the season on a bad call,” Yeo said.

Girard scored his first goal since Feb. 22 on a slap shot through traffic with 46 seconds left in the first period to give the Avs a 1-0 advantage. He was acquired by Colorado from Nashville in the three-team deal that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa in November.

The last time two teams met in their final game of the season while contending for the last available playoff spot in the conference was 2010. In that contest, Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers in a shootout.buccaneers_007

How Yankees messed with Billy McKinney before giving him the best news

Yankees outfield prospect Billy McKinney was looking forward to the weekend. He planned to leave minor-league camp for a few days to spend Easter with his family in Texas.

But when he arrived at the team’s minor-league development complex in Tampa on Friday morning, several staffers told him it was important to see Vice President of Player Development Kevin Reese before he started preparing for the day.

Reese knew of McKinney’s plans, so he started by telling the 23-year-old that he couldn’t go home. So, McKinney said, I was like,’Oh, what did I do now’

Outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (strained right oblique) and Clint Frazier (concussion) are also on the DL, forcing the Yankees to call up McKinney, whom MLB.com ranks as the team’s 19th best prospect.

It’s really unfortunate, especially with great players — Jacoby, Clint and Aaron — it’s tough, McKinney said. Obviously, I know Aaron getting hurt, everybody’s been through it. Hopefully they get him back on the field as soon as possible.

Arizona will be one stop of Mayfield’s tour, which will take him to Cleveland, Buffalo, both the Giants and Jets in New York, Miami and Denver, according to MMQB.

He made a season-high 10 receptions for 107 yards in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. The former Baylor receiver’s most productive season was 2013, when he caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards with Tennessee. –The Cleveland Browns announced they have agreed to contracts with former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton and former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis. Terms were not available, but Stanton’s deal was originally reported to be for two years. He becomes the third quarterback on Cleveland’s roster, with the team widely expected to take another with the first overall pick in next month’s draft.

Janis was a seventh-round pick by the Packers out of Saginaw Valley State in 2014. In 51 games with Green Bay, he had just 17 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown, though he famously caught a Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers with no time left to send a playoff game against the Cardinals into overtime in 2016. –The New York Jets announced that they signed former Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.patriots_091-223x223

McCourty joins twin brother on Patriots after being traded from Browns

He’s expected to draw a strong market for his services. He’ll now join his brother, who has played for New England his entire career since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft.

“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” Sanders said in one of the administration’s most comprehensive critiques to date. “The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”

The United States and two major European allies on Thursday called the toxin attack the “first offensive use of a nerve agent” in Europe since World War II.

The joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and Britain signaled a further ratcheting of international pressure on Russia that has been mounting since former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found comatose on March 4.

Lynch has spent the first four seasons of his career with the 49ers, who picked him in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of South Florida. He missed just two games through his first two years, collecting a combined 12.5 sacks. The 25-year-old has made just three starts while collecting 2.5 sacks over the last two seasons, compared to 16 starts through his first two seasons.

The Bears have been busy since the opening of free agency and Lynch is their third addition to the defensive side of the ball, along with the re-signing of linebacker Sam Acho and cornerback Prince Amukamara. They’ve also added wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, tight end Trey Burton, kicker Cody Parkey and quarterback Chase Daniel.

We watched Mayfield tape with Darrell Bevell, Wilson’s former offensive coordinator in Seattle, to learn how the undersized QBs stack up. Mayfield went into the throwing sessions wanting to prove a handful of things: (1) That he could throw from under center after taking three- and five-step drops; (2) That he could throw the deep balls and out-breaking routes more accurately than he did at the combine; and (3) That he could do it all while winded.ravens_070

Report: Crabtree’s 1st free-agent visit will be Ravens

After being released by the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, wide receiver Michael Crabtree is scheduled for his first free-agent visit with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Ravens have put an emphasis on the receiver position this offseason, already adding John Brown and Ryan Grant and releasing veteran Jeremy Maclin. Crabtree, 30, showed he could still be a productive player in his ninth season, catching 58 passes for 618 yards and eight touchdowns through 14 games as the Raiders had a down year in 2017.

“I look forward to playing here,” Cousins said during his introductory news conference Thursday. “As [general manager Rick [Spielman] said yesterday, this is a lifetime deal. That’s the goal. Yes, it’s a three-year deal but the expectation is from both sides that we’d raise our kids here and if everything goes as planned that I’d be here a long, long time.”

Entering his seventh season, Cousins has ranked as one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks since 2015, measuring third in completion percentage and game-winning drives. This and more played a big role in pushing him to the very top of NFL.com’s Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

But this day was about Smith, not Cousins, who becomes a part of the franchise’s history.

“We’re not looking in the rearview mirror,” said Williams, the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel. “We’re going forward, and that’s where we are today. Everything is going forward, nothing behind us.”

The Redskins wanted it to be a special occasion. Williams used the word “historic” to describe the day to a packed auditorium, and the news conference was timed to be televised live on local TV.

Robinson and Watkins got paid most, but Richardson (five years, $40 million from the Redskins) and Wilson (three years, $24 million from the Dolphins) can’t complain about averaging $8 million in annual salary coming off limited production.canucks_003

Anthony Davis: Pelicans would have contended for title if DeMarcus Cousins not hurt

As New Orleans star Anthony Davis prepares for the second half of the season with the Pelicans holding on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, he still thinks about what could have been this year had teammate DeMarcus Cousins not ruptured his Achilles.

“You kind of have that Russell Westbrook mentality when [Kevin Durant] went out,” Davis said. “Russ just went out there and played, and he shot 40 shots sometimes, you know, whatever it takes to help your team win, and I’m kind of taking that approach.

“I think it’s 3 through 10 is all right there [in the West], so we want to make sure we’re in the mix. We can’t let this thing go away.”

Davis said the Pelicans have been playing for one another — “playing with a lot more energy, a sense of urgency” — but that simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough.

“I’ve done that before, and nobody talks about it. Nobody talks about it at all,” he said. “I feel like we can do more. We have to. You know, they all say basketball is a game of runs. This might be our run. You know, you don’t know, and you just got to play it out and see where it goes from there.”

Editor’s update: Super Bowl 52 blew past the over/under with relative ease. The point total was set between 48 and 48.5 points, depending on your sportsbook of choice. This game went past the number late in the third quarter on a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. With the score, the Patriots cut the Eagles lead to 29-26.

Neither defense has really shown a whole lot of much in this game. The Eagles have led since kicking a field goal on their opening drive. They have pushed the lead to double digits three different times, but the Patriots keep clawing back as Brady is on pace to surpass his own record for passing yards.

The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will collide on Sunday for the NFL’s richest prize: a Super Bowl crown. Super Bowl 52 will take place in Minnesota, and many analysts and fans believe the Patriots will walk away with their sixth Super Bowl victory.

Odd Shark’s predicts New England will win the game, 29.3–16.9. They also favored the Patriots by 4.5 points. The best over for Super Bowl 52 is 48 (-105), and the best under is 48.5 (-105).jays_596_d34162f049e5e40e-180x180

NFL Honors 2018 live stream: How to watch the awards show online

Tom Brady will almost certainly be your 2017 NFL MVP. The rest of the league’s year-end awards? They won’t be settled until the NFL Honors show, 24 hours before Brady plays in his eighth Super Bowl. The NFL Honors take place at the Northrop Memorial Auditorium at the University of Minnesota at 5 p.m. local time, but will be broadcast on tape delay on NBC (live stream at NBC Sports) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Saturday.

Important distinctions like the league’s top rookies, defenders, offensive threats, and the Walter Payton Man of the Year will all be handed down on the eve of the Super Bowl.

The event will also unveil the newest class of NFL Hall of Fame inductees. This year’s finalists are Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Edgerrin James, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Everson Walls, Ty Law, Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Joe Jacoby, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca, Robert Brazile, Jerry Kramer, and Bobby Beathard.

The broadcast kicks off at 9 p.m. ET. The awards will be hosted by Rob Riggle, whom viewers may recognize from his role as “not Frank Caliendo” from Fox’s pregame show.

Another option if the NFL is looking for a big Super Bowl halftime show reunion would be to have Timberlake call upon his old bandmates from NSYNC.

People have been discussing the potential for an NSYNC reunion ever since Timberlake was named the headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show back in the fall. In November, JC Chasez told US Weekly, “I always keep an open mind,” when talking about the possibility of a Super Bowl halftime NSYNC reunion.

This wouldn’t be new territory for the defunct boyband, as they performed at the 2001 Super Bowl alongside Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Nelly and Mary J. Blige.

Former bandmate Joey Fatone — a Giants fan — also says the gang won’t be getting back together at the Super Bowl.

“I’m here right now,” Fatone told TMZ Sports the weekend before the Super Bowl when they spotted him in Los Angeles. “If I was doing something, I’d be at rehearsals right now … there’s your proof.”bears_087-223x223