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Cards ace Wainwright on 15-day DL, could be out much longer

Adam Wainwright was a cheerleader on the St. Louis Cardinals' 2011 World Series title team, out the entire year following reconstructive elbow surgery, suiting up and slapping fives in the dugout.

The staff ace of the NL Central leaders might be reduced to that status again from an injury that came with him batting.

The two-time 20-game winner was set to undergo an MRI exam Monday to determine the extent of an injury to his left Achilles and ankle. He's already on the 15-day disabled list and the team was bracing for bad news, leaving the 6-foot-7 right-hander to put a brave face on a dire scenario.

"There's nothing I can do about it, so might as well not be nervous about it or worried about it," Wainwright said after Sunday's 6-3 loss at Milwaukee. "Worry doesn't do anybody any good."

The 33-year-old Wainwright had to be helped off the field after getting injured stumbling out of the batter's box after popping out in the fifth inning Saturday, saying the "foot just shut down on me."

"Unfortunately, it is not great news," general manager John Mozeliak said in a video on the Cardinals' website. "Any way you slice it, he is going to be missed for a while and potentially losing the season is very real."

Several published reports said the Cardinals expect Wainwright to be out for the season. Manager Mike Matheny would only say the pitcher will be examined when the team returns to St. Louis.

"I don't like to speculate until you have the full information, but if you ask me how I feel ... not good," Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "All those rumors floating around seem to have some validity to them."

Lefty Marco Gonzales, coming off a strong finish to his rookie season, is the likely long-term rotation replacement. But the 23-year-old Gonzales is also on the DL at Triple-A Memphis with tightness in his shoulder after making three minor league starts.

"I don't think he's going to be ready right out of the box, but not-too-far future I think he's going to be an option," Matheny said.

Other possibilities for Thursday's start at home against Philadelphia are middle reliever Carlos Villanueva and minor leaguers Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney and Zach Petrick. Lyons pitched with St. Louis last year.

"I'll just cover the whole thing and say we're looking at everybody and try to think long-term, try to think short-term and have a long list of guys that we think could come in here and help us out," Matheny said.

Several top pitchers have missed much or all of a season in recent years, among them Matt Harvey, Yu Darvish, Jose Fernandez and Zack Wheeler. None of that group were sidelined because of hitting.

Wainwright, who is 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts, was hurt a few days after Washington ace Max Scherzer injured his thumb batting. Those kind of incidents are likely to ramp up the long AL vs. NL debate on the designated hitter, as in whether it's worth having pitchers bat.

The three-time All-Star is 121-67 for St. Louis, and was their star closer in place of injured Jason Isringhausen in 2006 when they won the World Series.

Helped by Wainwright, the Cardinals have reached the National League Championship Series in each of the last four seasons. They lost to Boston in the 2013 World Series.

"You have to move beyond it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before Sunday's game. "A couple years ago, we lost our 3, 4, 5 hitters for the year. The season-ending ones are tough."

Before Sunday's loss, Matheny said any length of time without Wainwright would be tough.

"I think the test is going to be, with Adam, and everyone in here can see, the difference in our attitude," Matheny said. "We treasure every win we have, but it was different in here last night. We're just going to hopefully let the guys go back out there and play."

"They had a little time to think about some of this and the response and the answer is, we knew that some tests were going to come. And, this is a big one that we're getting early. Let's see what we're made of."

Like Michael Wacha before him, Gonzales made it to the majors less than a year after being drafted in the first round. He was in the running for the fifth starter spot in spring training along with Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia but began the year as the opening day starter in Memphis.

Garcia had the inside track on the fifth spot before experiencing a setback in his comeback from thoracic outlet surgery and he's also on the DL, working his way back.

Lance Lynn, the losing pitcher Sunday, said there was no extra pressure to step up and fill Wainwright's shoes.

"No," Lynn said, "we've just got to be ourselves."

---

AP stringer Jim Hoehn contributed to this report.

Mon, 27 Apr 2015 06:30:00 +0000
Paul, Clippers even series with 114-105 win over Spurs

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Chris Paul had 34 points and seven assists, Blake Griffin added 20 points and 19 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs 114-105 on Sunday to even their first-round series at two games apiece.

J.J. Redick scored 17 points for the Clippers and Austin Rivers provided an unexpected boost off the bench with a postseason career-high 16 points.

The Clippers, who bounced back from a 100-73 loss in Game 3, host Game 5 on Tuesday. This is the only series that is tied after four games.

Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points, Tim Duncan had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Tony Parker added 18 points, but Paul proved too much.

Paul hit jumpers over Parker and Duncan in scoring six straight points for the Clippers beginning midway through the fourth quarter. He then drove the lane and kicked out to Redick, who drained a 3-pointer for a 106-92 lead.

Leonard followed with consecutive 3s to pull within 106-98, but Paul settled the Clippers with a pair of free throws.

The game grew tense in the opening minutes as Parker hit the floor on a drive and screamed for a foul on Paul, yelling, "I'm bleeding! I'm bleeding!" and pointing to a cut along his left eyebrow. Parker and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's tirades led Paul to scream for a technical that wasn't called.

"It's the champs, so no tech," Paul said.

Paul charged into Duncan off an inbounds two possessions later, drawing a blocking foul on the Spurs veteran. Both players stared angrily at each other, with Duncan rising and telling an official, "He kicked me! He kicked me!" after the foul.

The exchanges energized the lethargic Spurs, especially Parker, who keyed a run. Parker, who was limited to 17 points on 7-for-28 shooting in the first three games, had eight points in the opening 8 minutes.

Paul didn't need any added incentive, pushing his way into the chest of every defender the Spurs threw at him large or small to clear space for drives and mid-range jumpers.

The Spurs never trailed in Game 3, but DeAndre Jordan staked the Clippers to a 6-0 lead Sunday. He blocked the game's initial shot, a 13-foot jumper by Leonard near its apex and scored the Clippers first points on an alley-oop dunk. Jordan later set a jarring pick that dropped Leonard to the court and freed Redick for a layup to close the early run.

Jordan finished with six points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

TIP-INS

Clippers: The Clippers are 8-3 all-time in Game 4 of a best-of-seven series, but have never won a series after losing Game 3 when the series is tied 1-1. ... Jordan has 10 postseason games with at least 14 rebounds.

Spurs: Duncan became the first player in league history to play 9,000 minutes in the postseason. He also played in his 238th career postseason game, breaking a tie with Kevin Garnett for third all-time.

Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:39:00 +0000
Wall, Beal lead Wiz past Raptors 125-94 in Game 4 for sweep

WASHINGTON (AP) When Paul Pierce headed to the sideline with the Wizards leading the Raptors by 23 points in the third quarter, making Game 4 - and the series - all but over, he saw a standing ovation and waved, requesting more noise.

With Pierce helping show his younger teammates how to win, Washington emphatically completed the first sweep of a seven-game series in club history. And just as Pierce had hoped, the Wizards won't need to pull out their passports again.

The Wizards finished off the Raptors in four games by winning 125-94 Sunday night to quickly close the first-round Eastern Conference series, getting 21 points and 11 rebounds from Marcin Gortat, and 14 points and 10 assists from John Wall.

Six Wizards scored in double figures, including Bradley Beal with 23 points and Pierce with 14, and that duo made seven of the Wizards' team playoff-record 15 3-pointers.

After both Games 2 and 3, Pierce - the 37-year-old with an NBA championship ring from his days in Boston - declared that he didn't want to have to deal with going through U.S. Customs again, a reference to wanting to avoid having to travel back to Toronto for Game 5.

Not a problem.

Washington led by 16 in the first quarter, 20 in the second and by a whopping 32 - 102-70 - entering the fourth.

Washington has reached the second round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since getting to the NBA Finals in 1979, a year after winning the title. And the sellout crowd of 20,356 kept rising to cheer every made 3, salute every player who left for a substitute, yell "Sweep! Sweep!" - and, in not-so-diplomatic moments, occasionally chant "USA! USA!"

Next up for the No. 5 seed Wizards will be No. 1 Atlanta or No. 8 Brooklyn. Those teams play their Game 4 on Monday, with the Hawks up 2-1.

Toronto went 3-0 against Washington in the regular season, but failed to find any consistency from quarter to quarter in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry kept finding himself in foul trouble - he picked up his third midway through the first quarter Sunday - and shot poorly. He scored 21 in Game 4, while DeMar DeRozan had 14.

Otto Porter, who played college basketball in the same arena for Georgetown, heard choruses of his first and last names when he entered late in first quarter and again after he made a corner 3 in the second. On defense, he gave DeRozan fits, inducing a stepback jumper that barely touched the rim, then drawing an offensive foul.

The No. 4 seed Raptors extended their history of brief postseasons: Their past five trips ended with first-round exits.

The Wizards are experiencing a revival of sorts, led in large part by Wall, the No. 1 overall pick the 2010 draft and an All-Star the past two seasons.

Washington won 46 games this season, the first time the club topped 45 since it was known as the Bullets in 1979, back before anyone on the current roster other than Pierce had been born - and he was only about 18 months old at the time.

The Wizards led by as many 16 points in the first quarter and ended it ahead 36-22, despite taking about half as many shots as the Raptors. But Washington made 13 of 15 free throws, while Toronto took only one foul shot.

Weathering a mini-run by the Raptors, the Wizards closed the half up 66-50. Gortat was a major reason, delivering 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, along with eight rebounds.

After Gortat made one basket while getting fouled, Wall jumped up and down on the sideline, twirling a red towel overhead. Then he sauntered out onto the court to chest bump Gortat and whip the towel at him playfully.

---

TIP-INS

Raptors: Toronto has never won a best-of-seven series. The only time the Raptors advanced was in a five-game series against the Knicks in 2001. ... Toronto's record for a postseason margin of defeat is 33 points, a 121-88 loss to Philadelphia in 2001.

Wizards: Washington last eliminated an opponent from the playoffs without dropping a game all the way back in 1982, when it "swept" a best-of-three series 2-0. ... Through the game's first 1 1/2 quarters, Beal had 15 points - only one fewer than Toronto's starting five combined.

Mon, 27 Apr 2015 01:27:00 +0000
Embarrassed early, Blackhawks hit their stride just in time

CHICAGO (AP) It smacks of desperation. And it's more a hunch than a real strategy.

But when pressed, most coaches will admit few things motivate pro athletes better than embarrassing them.

Ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who overcame another big first-period deficit and then a goalie swap for the second time against the Nashville Predators. The result was another 4-3 win Saturday night that closed out their first-round playoff series in six games and left Chicago awaiting the winner of the Minnesota-St. Louis matchup.

As they had for most of the series, the Blackhawks started sloppy and paid the price. Predators winger James Neal notched two quick goals, and then teammate Matt Cullen picked defenseman Duncan Keith's pocket along the left boards and put Nashville ahead 3-1 just past the midway mark in the first.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, experiencing something very much like deja vu, had seen enough. In the opening game of the series at Nashville, he pulled Corey Crawford after he gave up three goals on just 12 shots and replaced him with rookie Scott Darling. The Hawks roared back from a 3-0 deficit to win in double overtime.

After Darling started Game 6 by surrendering three goals on the same number of shots, Quenneville pulled the switch again. Chicago didn't need any extra periods to shake the Predators this time. It was 3-3 by the end of the first.

"It's never a situation you want to be in, but you might be right that it's a wake-up call," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "We know we can't hang our goaltenders out to dry the way we have numerous times in this series."

"But when we get that first or second goal, especially at home," he added, "I think there's that feeling across our lineup that we can take control of a game."

Before that could happen, though, Crawford needed a confidence boost of his own. He came in cold with just less than nine minutes left in the first and almost immediately faced a high whistling shot from Neal.

"The first one clipped my glove and went off the post," he recalled. "Then I settled down and started seeing pucks a lot better."

Apparently, so did his teammates. Other than that wrister by Neal, they didn't allow Nashville another shot on net for the next four minutes. Keith, a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, was clearly embarrassed when Cullen, a 38-year-old veteran, went through him like a revolving door for the Predators' third score.

He got his revenge in the third, using some deft stick-handling to end a cat-and-mouse duel with Nashville defenseman Seth Jones near the left boards, freeing up enough space to rip a slap shot that beat netminder Pekka Rinne high on the stick side at 16:12.

"You don't want to have to rely on something like that," Keith said, referring to the goaltender swap. "We're a proud team and any time you get drilled the way we did, you know it's not their fault. ... At the same time, we knew there was lots of time left. So we used it as a kind of reset."

The Predators will have the entire offseason to examine what happened. They earned home-ice advantage in the first round by finishing second - a place ahead of Chicago in the Central Division - but suffered a major blow early in the series when defenseman Shea Weber went down with a lower-body injury. They also played without forward Mike Fisher for a large chunk of time,

Afterward, coach Peter Laviolette wasn't in the mood to look back at his first year with the team.

"It's probably a better question for another day," he said.

"The objective was to get to this point," Laviolette added a moment later, "but that wasn't the whole objective, so disappointing right now."

That was obvious from the mood in the Predators' locker room. Rinne was still replaying some of the tougher chances that beat him, wondering what difference a save or two might have made.

"Throughout the series I felt like some of the games, the puck had eyes," he said. "You look at least three games, the winners ... just find a way through the maze and, obviously, that feels disappointing. ... You feel like maybe you get a break one of these games and it hits something and it doesn't go in."

"It's frustrating," he said finally, "but now I have way too much time on my hands to think about these things."

Sun, 26 Apr 2015 06:58:00 +0000
Curry leads Warriors to 109-98 win and sweep of the Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Stephen Curry had 39 points, eight rebounds and nine assists and Golden State cruised to 109-98 victory over New Orleans on Saturday night, completing a sweep of their first-round playoff series.

Klay Thompson added 25 points for the Warriors, the NBA's top overall seed, who will wait to host Game 1 of their second-round series against the winner of the Portland-Memphis matchup.

Draymond Green added 22 points and 10 rebounds for Golden State, which led 67-54 at halftime and widened the gap to as many as 24 points in the second half before the Pelicans briefly cut the deficit to single digits in the final minutes.

Anthony Davis had 36 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans and Eric Gordon had 29 points.

Golden State shot 50.6 percent from the field, including 13 of 24 from 3-point range. Curry was 6 of 8 from deep, while Thompson was 4 of 7 and Green 3 of 6.

BUCKS 92, BULLS 90

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Jerryd Bayless made a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds pass to draw Milwaukee within 3-1 in the Eastern Conference playoff series.

With 1.3 seconds left, Jared Dudley threw a high-arcing pass toward the basket from side court. Bayless caught the ball and quickly threw up the layup for the game-winning basket.

Bulls guard Derrick Rose walked away in frustration after trying to guard Bayless. The Bucks won their first playoff game in five years.

Chicago had a chance to win with the game tied at 90. But Milwaukee's Khris Middleton tipped a dribble away from Rose to force a steal. Bucks coach Jason Kidd called a timeout to set up the final play.

Game 5 is Monday in Chicago.

Jimmy Butler had a playoff career-high 33 points for the Bulls. Rose finished with 14 points, while Pau Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

O.J. Mayo finished with 18 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:42 left, while Dudley had 13 points and five assists while Bayless had 10 points.

NETS 91, HAWKS 83

NEW YORK (AP) - Brook Lopez had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Thaddeus Young added 18 points and 11 rebounds as Brooklyn cut Atlanta's lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference series.

The Nets seized control with an 18-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters after the Hawks grabbed their first lead since the opening basket, then went on to beat the No. 1 seed for the first time in seven meetings this season.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 19 points for the eighth-seeded Nets, who can tie the series with another victory here Monday night in Game 4.

DeMarre Carroll scored a playoff career-high 22 points for the Hawks, who were denied what would have been their second 3-0 lead since moving to Atlanta in 1968. Paul Millsap added 18 points and 17 rebounds.

GRIZZLIES 115, TRAIL BLAZERS 109

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Marc Gasol had 25 points and Memphis took a 3-0 lead in their playoff series with Portland.

Courtney Lee had 20 points and Mike Conley added 14 before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a facial injury. Memphis was already thin at point guard with reserve Beno Udrih sidelined with a sprained right ankle.

Game 4 is Monday night at Portland.

Nicolas Batum's 3-pointer got Portland as close as 94-91 with 2:23 left. But Tony Allen's basket ended Portland's 9-0 run and Randolph added free throws.

Batum finished with 27 points for the Blazers, who have dropped seven straight games, including four to wrap up the regular season, and CJ McCollum added 26.

Zach Randolph had 16 points and the Grizzlies won their seventh straight against Portland, including a sweep of the four-game regular season series.

Sun, 26 Apr 2015 05:52:00 +0000

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