<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Fri, 22 May 2015 09:12:02 -0700 Fri, 22 May 2015 09:12:02 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ducks Beat Blackhawks 2-1 ]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 20:47:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP637489365620.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks bounced back from their heartbreaking Game 2 loss on Thursday night as they used a Simon Despres goal to grab a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. 

The win gives the Ducks back home ice advantage in the series, and it also gives them a 2-1 series lead with a chance to grab a stranglehold on the proceedings Saturday night at the United Center. 

The Blackhawks started out the game with a couple of power plays, but they were unable to get anything good going on either of them as the Ducks pushed hard on the forecheck. Ultimately, that pressure paid off as Marian Hossa was sent off, and Patrick Maroon scored on the ensuing Ducks’ power play to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Despite the goal, the Ducks couldn’t stay out of trouble, and Jakob Silfverberg was sent off after high sticking Jonathan Toews in the offensive zone. The Blackhawks couldn’t take advantage of the four minute double-minor penalty however, and the Ducks retained their lead.

It looked as though the Hawks would head into the intermission trailing, but Patrick Kane had other ideas. Skating into the middle of the offensive zone, Kane found himself all alone after two different Ducks defenders flew past him, and the talented winger fired a no-look backhanded shot into the cage past Frederik Andersen to tie the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes of action.

Through the first three minutes of the second period, the Ducks attacked relentlessly, racking up seven shots in that short span. Andrew Cogliano had a fantastic scoring chance to cap off the furious rally, but Corey Crawford stopped it to keep the game tied.

After that initial onslaught, the Blackhawks did a nice job of dialing back the pressure a bit, and they started to assert themselves a bit more. Kris Versteeg barely missed on a shot attempt after he somehow corralled a wayward pass from Andrew Shaw, and then Bryan Bickell was stoned on a short side chance against Andersen.

With just under a minute to go, the Ducks grabbed the lead back. Off of a face-off win by Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks cycled the puck around the zone, and Simon Despres stayed in the face-off dot after pinching in from the point. He eventually got a pass over to him across the ice, and he one-timed a shot past a sliding Crawford to make it a 2-1 game with one period to go.  

In that third period, the Ducks defense started out on a strong note as they held the Hawks to just one shot on goal in the first five minutes of play, but the home side continued to ratchet up the pressure as the period wore on. Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad both registered quality scoring chances in the ensuing minutes, but neither went as the Ducks stayed ahead in the game. 

In the final seconds, the Blackhawks had a golden opportunity to tie things up, but it was not meant to be. Kane got the puck in the middle of the offensive zone with less than 10 seconds left, but his shot skipped just wide of the cage as Despres came in and knocked the puck ever so slightly off course, and the Ducks escaped with the victory. 

The Ducks will look to take a 3-1 series lead on Saturday night as they take on the Hawks in Game 4 of the series. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. local time. 

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<![CDATA[Ducks vs. Blackhawks: Game 3 Preview ]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 17:13:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/5-19-15-_Ducks.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks played well enough to win Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night, but Marcus Kruger’s triple-overtime game-winning goal tied the series up at a game apiece and took away home ice advantage from the Ducks.

Despite that loss, the Ducks still have some things to be positive about as the series resumes in Chicago on Thursday night. For starters, their goaltender Frederik Andersen played some of the best hockey of his career on Tuesday in Game 2, going nearly two hours without giving up a goal and stopping 47 shots in a row before Kruger’s game winner.

In addition to Andersen’s goaltending, the Ducks continued to get solid production out of their bottom six forwards. Andrew Cogliano picked up a goal in the game to get the Ducks’ offense started in the game, and center Nate Thompson had an excellent game as well, holding Patrick Kane off the scoresheet for the second game in a row and picking up an assist in the losing effort.

Finally, the Ducks bounced back from a tough game possession-wise in Game 1 to beat the Blackhawks in those categories on Tuesday. After the Hawks scored two power play goals in the first period, the Ducks absolutely dominated the rest of the first period and the entire second period. Over a stretch of 13 minutes during that second period, the Ducks outshot the Blackhawks 17-1 and put pressure on the Hawks’ shallow defensive depth as they tied the game.

Unfortunately, that pressure and that goaltending didn’t get them a victory, but a repeat performance would certainly help them as they try to capture Game 3. In order to achieve that however, they will have to try to overcome a couple of unique obstacles as the series shifts to the Windy City.

For starters, the Blackhawks will have the advantage of last line change, and that could prove problematic for Bruce Boudreau. The Jonathan Toews line has been held in check nicely by the Ryan Kesler line so far in this series, but odds are that Joel Quenneville will aggressively seek out a more advantageous matchup, and the Hawks could get more scoring opportunities for that group.

That same factor could end up proving helpful to Patrick Kane, who has been the Hawks’ worst possession player in the first two games of this series as he’s been held in check by the Thompson line. Quenneville will likely try to get him out against Kesler or even the Ryan Getzlaf line, depending on situation, and that could help spark the winger as he looks to break out.

In addition to matchup issues, the Blackhawks also showed that their power play woes during Game 1 of the series were a thing of the past as they scored twice on the man-advantage in Game 2. That gives the physically-imposing Ducks a bit of a disadvantage, and they will have to try to play smarter defense as they try to stay out of the penalty box.

Minimizing the impact of matchup disadvantages and staying out of the box will help the Ducks, but it won’t be enough on its own. The team has to make sure that they keep their offensive depth as a weapon against the Blackhawks, and that means their second line especially will have to step up their game. Jakob Silfverberg is capable of that kind of play, and Kesler and Matt Beleskey will also have to produce in order for the Ducks to be successful.

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<![CDATA[Bumgarner Beats Dodgers, SF Sweeps LA]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 18:03:39 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-21+at+3.17.29+PM.png

All great works of art come in threes. Whether it's literature, film, or video games, the trilogy is one of the most dramatic events in popular culture. On Thursday, it occurred on the mound as the battle of reigning MVPs wrote it's third chapter.

For the third time this season baseball fans were blessed with reigning NL CY Young/MVP Winner Clayton Kershaw against the reigning World Series MVP Winner Madison Bumgarner.

Part three played out much like parts one and two, with a low scoring game, lots of strikeouts, and a Giants victory.

"There's not a lot to write about," Kershaw said after the game. "He's won every time."

Bumgarner hit a solo shot off Kershaw in the third inning and the Giants would tack on three more as San Francisco defeated Los Angeles 4-0 to complete their second consecutive sweep of their divisional rivals at AT&T Park.

"He's the best pitcher in baseball," Bumgarner said of his counterpart. "To be able to do that is pretty special."

To put the historical accomplishment in perspective, the last time the Giants swept the Dodgers in back-to-back home series in San Francisco, it was in the fall of 1961.

The Giants could not have been more dominant in the three-game series as San Francisco shutout the Dodgers in all three games, recording their major league leading eighth shutout on Thursday.

"We're not going to panic," Mattingly said. "We're going to be fine. We've hit a bumpy stretch, but we're still in a pretty good position."

The Dodgers struggles were magnified in the Bay Area as fans chanted "Sweep LA," throughout the afternoon. Cheering every time the Boys in Blue left runners on base for failed to knock in runners in scoring position. In total, Los Angeles was 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 29 men on base in the three-game series.

The Dodgers failures in those two categories have been atrocious. Over the past four games, the Dodgers have been shutout for 31 consecutive innings, stranding 32 runners on base over that span.

"This is not the brand of Dodgers baseball we want to be playing," said starting catcher A.J. Ellis. "Hopefully going home, we can relax and play in a place we're really comfortable in front of our fans."

Bumgarner took Kershaw deep to left field for his first homer of the season. It was Bumgarner's first long ball since last September 23rd, 2014 at Dodger Stadium against Zack Grienke, and the first home run Kershaw has allowed to a pitcher in his career.

"I threw him a fastball right down the middle," said a frustrated Kershaw. "I should have respected him a little more."

Giants added another run in the bottom half of the fourth inning. After a leadoff double by Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence singled to right and Scott Van Slyke appeared to have Pagan dead to rights at the plate. After further review however, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis appeared to have missed the tag and Pagan was ruled safe.

Bumgarner (5-2) received a standing ovation for his efforts when he walked off the mound in the 7th inning. The southpaw allowed no runs on five hits, with six strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work and is now 2-0 with 1.31. ERA against the Dodgers this season.

Kershaw (2-3) hit the wall in the bottom of the eighth inning as he allowed back-to-back singles to Pagan and Posey before Dodgers manager Don Mattingly went to the bullpen. The relievers couldn't stop the bleeding and allowed consecutive singles to Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford to put the Giants up 4-0. Both runs were charged to Kershaw.

"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff today," Kershaw said. "I did whatever I could to make it work."

At times, Kershaw has looked like the best player on the planet this season, but mainly, he has looked pedestrian as his ERA jumped to 4.32 on Thursday. Kershaw allowed four runs on seven hits, with seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings. His four runs were the most he's every allowed at AT&T Park in his career.

The Giants move to 1.5 games behind the Dodgers for first place in the National League West and Los Angeles falls to 0-6 at AT&T Park on the season.

The six-game winning streak for San Francisco is the longest against their rivals since 1972.


Game Notes:
Buster Posey extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games. Madison Bumgarner now has 7 career home runs, the most among active pitchers since 2006.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Shutout Dodgers 4-0]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 02:41:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-20+at+9.48.55+PM.png

Another day, another shutout for the San Francisco Giants over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Buster Posey hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning and the Giants defeated the Dodgers 4-0 on a misty Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

Posey went 3-for-4 with a double, home run and two RBI as he extended his hitting streak to a season best 12 consecutive games.

For the second time in a month, Tim Lincecum dominated the Boys in Blue commanding the strike zone over seven strong innings holding the Dodgers scoreless allowing just three hits for his fourth consecutive win at home.

"We've gotten back where we are right now with quality starts," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "Timmy, he's on a nice roll now."

The Giants have won six-straight overall at home and have shutout the Dodgers on back-to-back nights for the first time since 2012.

Brett Anderson, matched Lincecum for most of the game allowing three runs on six hits in 6.1 innings. It was Anderson's third start in a row in the rain as heavy mist covered the field for most of the game.

"If there's a drought somewhere I should go there," Anderson joked of the weather during his starts. "If you're in need of some rain, send me there for a couple days."

Anderson was replaced by Yimi Garcia in the seventh inning and it was Garcia who surrendered the two-run homer to Posey. It was Garcia's fifth home run allowed in his last five appearances.

"My stuff was pretty good tonight," Anderson said after the game. "I had too many walks and made two pitches I wish I could take back. One was the double to Posey and the other was the atrocious pitch I made to Crawford."

Yasmani Grandal led off the fifth inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. However, the Dodgers failed to score extending their streak of men left on base without a run scored to 23.

"It's very difficult, especially when we're not getting guys on base," Grandal said. "It's going to happen. It might as well happen right now. It's early in the season still."

With the chants of "Beat LA," ringing throughout the park, the Giants rallied in the bottom half of the sixth with two outs. After a leadoff double by Buster Posey, Andrew Susac walked with two outs and Brandon Crawford drove in the run with an RBI single to left.

Grandal was robbed of a home run two innings later when Angel Pagan leapt at the wall and caught the ball just before it sailed over the center field wall.

Posey hit a 93MPH fastball to left center in the bottom of the seventh. It was Posey's seventh long ball on the season and his 23rd RBI on the year.

The Dodgers offense has been anemic as of late. Los Angeles has only scored two runs in their last 29 innings and are scoreless in 23 straight innings to date. They have left 23 men on base over that span.

Speaking of streaks, Lincecum is on a 22-inning scoreless streak of his own at AT&T Park.

The Giants have won five consecutive games against the Dodgers at home for the first time since 2003 and haven't won six-straight at home against Los Angeles since 1972.


Game Notes:
The Giants recorded their major league leading seventh shutout of the season.

Tim Lincecum passed Carl Hubbel for fourth on the San Francisco Giants all-time strikeouts list with 1,680.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hyun-Jin Ryu Could Miss Remainder of the Season]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 18:59:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/176*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-20+at+6.44.51+PM.png

Well, it's official. The Dodgers have lost another key member of their starting rotation. Just weeks after losing right-hander Brandon McCarthy to Tommy John Surgery, the team announced that left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu will undergo left shoulder surgery on Thursday.

The arthroscopic surgery is scheduled for Thursday, May 21st 2015 and will be performed by team physician Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. Ryu has been on the 60-day Disabled List since spring training with inflammation in his shoulder. Ryu and the Dodgers opted for rest and relaxation over going under the knife earlier in the year, but now surgery has become inevitable.

"It hasn't progressed as quickly as we all hoped, and he's worked extremely hard to get back," said Dodgers' President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. "It just isn't happening as quickly as he would like. It's not a totally clear-cut, black-and-white issue. It's more involved than that."

Ryu is expected to miss the remainder of the season, but admittedly, a timetable for his return is unknown until the doctor goes inside the shoulder to determine the severity of the injury.

It is the worst possible news to a team that has long feared that Ryu could be lost for the season. Ryu has gone 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA over the past two seasons as the Dodgers third starter behind Cy Yong winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke. With Ryu gone, and McCarthy out until 2016 with Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers starting rotation is in shambles.

Currently, the Dodgers have been working with injury prone, Brett Anderson, reliever turned starter, Carlos Frias, and newcomer Mike Bolsinger.

Certainly these three names don't strike fear in National League opponents who would have to face at least one if not two of the three in the playoffs should the Dodgers make it that far.

The Dodgers have former Atlanta Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy under contract, but the 28-year-old is coming back from two Tommy John surgeries over the past three years. Beachy is expected to make his 2015 debut in the minors next week and could be in the starting rotation as soon as next month.

More than likely, the Dodgers will look for help on the mound via the trade market. With a bounty of infielders available, look for the Dodgers to actively seek a trade for starting pitching making Juan Uribe, Justin Turner or Alex Guerrero available to potential suitors.

Twitter & Instagram: @MichaelJDuarte



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top French Open Stars, and 1 Who Missed the List]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 10:28:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/thumb-458711872.jpg

NBC’s coverage of the 2015 French Open begins this Sunday, May 24, at 1 p.m. ET. Follow along for live opening-round coverage, and don't miss the the live Women’s Final on June 6 and the live Men’s Final on June 7.

TV SCHEDULE

Sunday, May 24 1 - 3:30 p.m. ET First round (LIVE)
Monday, May 25 12 - 3 p.m. (all) First round (LIVE ET)
Saturday, May 30 12 - 3 p.m. ET Third round (LIVE)
Sunday, May 31 12 - 3 p.m. ET Fourth round (LIVE)
Thursday, June 4 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (all)  Women's semifinals (LIVE ET)
Friday, June 5 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (all) Men's semifinals (LIVE ET)
Saturday, June 6 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET Women's final (LIVE)
Sunday, June 7 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. ET Men's final (LIVE)



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[LA a Contender for 2020 Super Bowl — With One Not-So-Small Hitch]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 13:29:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/04-21-2015-nfl-stadium-inglewood-1.jpg

Los Angeles is in the mix as a possible home for the 2020 Super Bowl — if the city has a stadium. 

With discussions ongoing about a franchise returning to LA, the league said during NFL meetings Wednesday that if a stadium is built in LA by 2018, the city would become a candidate to host the 2020 Super Bowl.

While there's no stadium blueprint just yet, that doesn't mean there aren't plans for one. Two cities, Carson and Inglewood, are vying for an NFL stadium.

Even with a stadium, LA would be facing stiff competition.

New Orleans, Atlanta, South Florida and Tampa have indicated they will be bidding for both the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls. The owners won't decide on who gets hosting honors until next year.

"Anticipating that (a stadium) might happen, it was necessary to tell the competing clubs, the four clubs that were selected to compete for Super Bowl 53 and 54, there's a possibility that another club could be added to the mix, if there's a relocation proposal that is voted and if that proposal provides for a stadium to be done in time," NFL Vice President Eric Grubman said.

The Chargers and Raiders announced Feb. 19 they were working on a joint proposal to build a 72,000-seat stadium in Carson if they are unable to strike deals for new facilities in their respective cities. The Carson City Council voted in April to approve plans for the $1.7 billion football stadium that could house the team.

The council's move placed Carson in direct competition with Inglewood, where the City Council voted unanimously Feb. 24 to approve an initiative allowing for construction of an 80,000-seat stadium planned by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke at the former Hollywood Park racetrack site.

Although Kroenke is behind the project, the Rams have not announced any intention of moving back to the Los Angeles area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Hollywood Park Land Co]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Offer Late-to-Work Note After Longest Game in Team History]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 04:46:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/blackhawks-ducks-G2-3.jpg

Can you call in "hockey" to work? The Blackhawks say so. 

Following the Blackhawks' triple overtime win in Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks, a game that is now the longest game in Hawks history, the team shared their latest excuse note for fans who stayed up late to watch the game. 

The note, signed by the Chicago Blakchawks, asks for employers and teachers to excuse fans from their "lateness" or "sleepiness" Wednesday.

"He/she was up too late celebrating the win," the note reads.

But fans won't have much time to recover. The Blackhawks will look to defend home ice when the series resumes at the United Center Thursday night. The puck will drop at 7:00 p.m.



Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Curry's Daughter Steals the Show]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 18:38:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/0519-2015-RileyCurry.jpg

Few, if any, can steal the spotlight away from Steph Curry during this year's jaw-dropping, MVP season.

But 2-year-old Riley Curry did just that Tuesday night after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Curry, who dropped 34 points en route to the 110-106 win, brought along his daughter to the post game press conference.

Riley instantly stole the spotlight, waving to the media and telling her All-Star dad to "be quiet" after he was talking "too loud."

At one point during the press conference, Riley got off Curry's lap and disappeared from the camera's view while her father fielded questions from reporters.

But moments later she re-appeared under the press table and again waved at the audience.

Riley Curry, you are the real MVP.

Visit NBC Bay Area's Warriors page for more team coverage.


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<![CDATA[Hudson Outduels Frias in Rare Pitching Duel ]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 10:55:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/5-19-15_Giants.jpg

The Dodgers found themselves on the wrong end of the most unlikely of pitchers' duels on Tuesday. Carlos Frias matched Tim Hudson pitch-for-pitch, but a two-out rally by the Giants in third inning and a wild pitch late, were the only runs San Francisco would need as the Dodgers fell 2-0.

"I loved it," Frias said of the pitching duel with Hudson. "I love facing guys who compete too. You learn from those guys, the veterans. He pitched very well tonight."

Frias (3-1) pitched another great game allowing one run on seven hits in six innings.

"It's all about trust," added Frias of his success lately. "You got to trust how you pitch. My pitches are good, I just have to trust in them and keep trying."

Hudson was better however as the 39-year-old journeyman allowed no runs on five hits in 6.1 innings of work.

"I pitched just well enough to keep us in there," Hudson said. "I got away with some tough pitches."

It was San Francisco's sixth shutout of the season (tops in the Majors), and just the Dodgers second shutout on the year.

"We haven't been able to solve the 2015 riddle, that is the Giants," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "We give those guys credit. They're making pitchers. The ballpark is a tough park. You're always playing in conditions when you come here to San Francisco."

The game was scoreless for the first few innings until the Giants put together a string of singles with two outs in the bottom half of the third. Joe Panik, Angel Pagan and Buster Posey all found holes and the Giants scored the first run of the game.

The Dodgers allowed an unearned run to cross the plate in the bottom half of the eighth. Super-utility player Kiké Hernandez took over left field at the start of the inning and dropped a routine fly ball by Brandon Belt at the warning track. Two batters later, Belt scored on a wild pitch by Chris Hatcher.

The Dodgers only opportunity came in the 7th inning when they loaded the bases for Howie Kendrick. The Giants brought in Sergio Romo and Kendrick grounded back to the mound for the last out of the inning.

Hunter Pence made his home debut at AT&T Park and received a loud ovation from the San Francisco fans as Pence was instrumental in bringing a World Series title back to the Bay area in 2014.

"Everybody is happy to have him back," said Hudson of Pence. "He's our mascot. He's the guy who makes things work for us. He keeps our mojo going in the dugout."

Santiago Casilla worked a scoreless ninth to pick up his 10th save of the season.

The Giants are arguably the hottest team in baseball right now. After a 4-10 start, the Giants have gone 17-8, the best record in the league, including four consecutive wins to move within 3.5 games of the first place Dodgers.

Game Notes:
The Dodgers signed Cuban infielder Hector Olivera before the game.

Los Angeles is winless (0-4) at AT&T Park to start the season.
 

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<![CDATA[Game 2: Ducks vs. Blackhawks]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 23:33:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ducks-blackhawks-game-2-tuesday-may-19.jpg

For the third time in franchise history, the Anaheim Ducks went into triple overtime on Tuesday night, but the Chicago Blackhawks came out on top as Marcus Kruger's goal gave the Hawks a 3-2 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final. 

The Blackhawks' victory knots the series at one game apiece. Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano scored goals for the Ducks as they lost at home for the first time this postseason. 

For the second consecutive game, the Blackhawks got an early first period power play, but this time they were able to capitalize to take the early lead. Duncan Keith got the puck at the point after a quick cycle around the zone by the Blackhawks, and his shot was deflected by Andrew Shaw to beat Frederik Andersen and give Chicago a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks got another power play a few minutes later thanks to a Clayton Stoner infraction, and they scored again to take a 2-0 lead. On an odd play, Brad Richards fired a shot toward the net, and even though Marian Hossa deflected it just short of the goal line and seemed to push it back out of the cage, a Ducks defenseman slid into it and knocked it into the net to extend Chicago’s lead.

Undaunted, the Ducks pushed back really hard after the second Chicago goal, and they got the benefit of a lucky bounce to cut the Hawks’ lead to one. Andrew Cogliano stuck his skate out as a shot headed toward the Chicago net, and after the puck bounced off of Corey Crawford and Bryan Bickell, it slowly rolled across the goal line to make it a 2-1 game.

The Ducks continued to hammer away over the final few minutes of the period, with their fourth line generating some sterling chances and Ryan Getzlaf hammering a slap shot off of the crossbar. None of their shots found their way into the back of the net however, and Chicago held onto their lead after 20 minutes of action.

The Blackhawks ratcheted up the pressure early in the second period, but after the first few minutes it was all Anaheim. Ryan Kesler stole a puck from Johnny Oduya and fired in a quick shot, but Crawford made the save. Andrew Cogliano then had an opportunity that bounced off of Crawford and nearly deflected in off of Oduya, but the goaltender was able to smother it and keep the game tied.

With about two minutes remaining in the period, the Ducks finally capitalized on their pressure and tied the game up. Ryan Getzlaf got to a loose puck at the top of the face-off circle, and his shot was deflected in by Corey Perry to tie things up at 2-2.

By the time the second period came to an end, the Ducks had outshot the Blackhawks by a 17-1 margin over the final 13 minutes of play, but the game remained tied with one period to go.

The Blackhawks got an early 5-on-3 power play in the third period as Ryan Getzlaf was sent to the box, but they were unable to convert as couldn’t muster much offense. Patrick Kane then gave the Ducks a power play of their own shortly thereafter, but the Hawks’ penalty kill stood tall again and kept the game tied.

Over the final minutes of regulation, the Ducks got another power play thanks to a Marcus Kruger penalty for holding, but the Blackhawks once again killed it off. Brandon Saad did some great work to finish off the kill, and the game headed to overtime with both teams seeking to make a serious mark in the series.

The overtime period saw several good chances for both teams, but neither could convert as the game was forced into a second extra stanza. The Ducks had a power play thanks to a careless Niklas Hjalmarsson penalty, but the Hawks’ penalty kill was once again stout. Two other Anaheim shots found iron in the period as well, with Perry and Sami Vatanen each ringing shots off the post. No shot would go however, and the game headed to a second overtime.

That second overtime also came and went without a goal going on the board, but not without some drama unfolding. The Blackhawks got a power play thanks to a too many men penalty on Anaheim, and it appeared they had won the game when Andrew Shaw hit a puck into the net, but it was ultimately waved off, as Shaw illegally head-butted the puck into the cage.

The Ducks got several more scoring opportunities of their own over the course of the final minutes, with Vatanen once again ringing a shot off the post, but nothing would get past Crawford as the game headed to triple overtime.

That triple overtime seemed like it would pass without a goal, but a good bit of fortune for the Blackhawks ended up sealing the victory for Chicago. Brent Seabrook hammered a shot toward the net after getting a favorable bounce off the boards, and even though the shot hit Marcus Kruger, the center was able to collect the rebound and flip it past Andersen to give the Hawks the victory. 

Game 3 is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. local time on Thursday night, and will take place at the United Center in Chicago. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Win No. 2 Pick in Draft Lottery]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 19:02:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/Lakers-NBA-Draft-Lottery_451291514.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers moved up two spots and secured the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery, which was the first piece of great news the franchise has received in quite some time.

The Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery and jumped up to get the No. 1 overall pick with the New York Knicks coming out as the biggest losers in the lottery. New York finished with the worst record in the 2014/15 season and ended up getting jumped by the maximum of three teams despite having the best odds to win the lottery. 

Lakers representative Byron Scott sat with a slight smile and with arms folded as the results were slowly revealed in a 30-minute special that took its time revealing the results.

Immediately, fans and team officials rejoiced at the news that the Lakers had jumped up. With the selection, the Lakers are in line to draft either Jahlil Okafor out of Duke University or Karl-Anthony Towns out of the University of Kentucky.

The two prospects are considered the cream of the 2015 draft crop. Depending on which player the Timberwolves select, the Lakers would be expected to select the other. If Towns ends up with the Lakers, he would find a fellow Kentucky Wildcat in Julius Randle, who was the Lakers' lottery pick in 2014/15.

Another interesting result from the 2015 Draft Lottery is that the Timberwolves will likely have the three No.1 overall picks from the past three drafts playing together. Minnesota acquired Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland in a trade for Kevin Love, and Wiggins won the NBA Rookie of the Year award for the 2014/15 season. Anthony Bennett was drafted no. 1 overall in 2013 and also came along in the same trade for Love.

For the Lakers and LA, No. 2 felt like winning the lottery. Tuesday was a good day in Laker Land, a place where there have not been many good days recently.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks vs. Ducks: Game 2 Preview ]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 16:12:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ducks8.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks have yet to drop a game on home ice during this postseason, and they will look to continue that run of success on Tuesday night as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.

Sunday’s Game 1 victory saw a bit of everything for the Ducks, with Frederik Andersen playing his best game of the postseason and several under-the-radar players stepping up into big roles for the team. Players like Jakub Silfverberg, who had a goal and an assist, and Nate Thompson, who also had two points in the victory, stepped up even as star players like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were largely held silent in the game.

In addition to the offensive push that they got from their bottom six forwards, the Ducks also executed their defensive strategy almost flawlessly in the victory. Every time the Blackhawks would bring the puck into the offensive zone, at least two Ducks players would collapse in near the net and prevent shot attempts from getting through. To add to the effectiveness, the team also had their remaining forwards stay out near the point, aggressively forechecking and preventing the Hawks from making the cross-ice passes necessary to get Anaheim over-rotating at the bottom of their formation.

That approach didn’t always work, as the Blackhawks did get some quality scoring chances from some of their key contributors like Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, but for the most part it really helped keep Chicago at bay. They are a team that thrives on being able to possess the puck and move it around the zone at will, so having to deal with Anaheim’s physicality and defensive strategy really seemed to throw them off in Game 1.

As the two teams get back together, the Ducks’ gameplan should remain somewhat similar to their Game 1 strategy. Forcing the Blackhawks to play a perimeter-based game is certainly the way to go, as that will prevent rebound opportunities that could find Andersen out of position in the crease. Their bottom six forwards will also be looked at heavily in this game, as players like Marcus Kruger and Jonathan Toews are excellent at clamping down on the top two lines as part of the Hawks’ defensive system.

If there is one thing that the Ducks need to clean up, it’s ensuring that their physicality doesn’t leave them susceptible to counter-attack. The Blackhawks have a couple of tremendous puck movers on their blue line, with guys like Johnny Oduya and Duncan Keith both able to kick start the Hawks’ transition offense with precision stretch passes. If the Ducks get too focused on hammering the Blackhawks with body checks, then they could leave themselves vulnerable to that kind of attack.

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<![CDATA[Patriots Won't Appeal Punishment]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 13:17:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2015-05-19-13h12m20s15.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Tuesday that the team will not appeal the penalty handed down by the National Football League in the wake of the Deflategate controversy.

Speaking from the NFL owners' meetings in California, Kraft said he decided to accept the punishment in an effort to "end the rhetoric." He said that while he still believes the penalty handed down was "unreasonable and unprecedented," he respects Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"The entire process has taken way too long," he said. "I can try to end it, or extend it."

Kraft also acknowledged that his position on how to handle the situation has changed.

"I think maybe if I made the decision last week it would be different than it is today," Kraft said.

The NFL fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks as punishment for the deflation of footballs below the league-mandated minimum for the AFC championship game. 

Quarterback Tom Brady was also issued a four-game suspension, which he has already appealed. His appeal must be heard within 10 days of its filing on May 14.

The NFL Players Association formally requested Goodell recuse himself as an arbitrator in Brady's appeal later Tuesday afternoon and asked for a neutral party to set in.

"If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review," the union said in a statement.

If it is upheld, Brady would miss the first four games. The Patriots open the NFL season at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, then travel to Buffalo before a home game against Jacksonville. After a bye week, their fourth game will be in Dallas.

Brady would be eligible to return for the fifth game on Oct. 18 at Indianapolis. The probe began after the Colts complained that Brady used deflated footballs in their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game.

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<![CDATA[What We Learned From American Pharoah's Preakness Win]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 08:27:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/American-Pharoah-Preakness-15-May-2015.jpg

That was easy, wasn't it?

Two weeks after struggling but winning the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah ignored thunder, lightning, rain and the opposition and splashed his way to a seven-length victory in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

And now, it's on to the Belmont Stakes on June 6 for a shot at the Triple Crown and racing immortality.

"He's just an amazing horse," trainer Bob Baffert glowed after winning his sixth Preakness. "Everyone talks about the greatness, and it's just starting to show now. To me, they have to prove it. Today, the way he did it, he just ran so fast. It was like poetry in motion."

Here are some things learned about American Pharoah from the Preakness:

POST POSITION

Inside or outside, American Pharoah is one tough customer. Saddled with an unfavorable No. 1 post, the 3-year-old colt broke a bit slow, but was urged to the lead by jockey Victor Espinoza. In the eight-horse field, only Mr. Z gave chase but for just a little while. AP, as owner Ahmed Zayat sometimes calls him, motored along the rail and cruised home for his sixth straight win. In the Derby, he drew the No. 18 post, started from No. 16 after two horses were scratched, and won by a length despite not being on his A game. For the upcoming Belmont Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles the longest and most grueling of the three races, post position won't be an issue. By the way, the last horse to win the Preakness from the No. 1 post before Saturday was Tabasco Cat in 1994.

NO SLOP FOR YOU

Rain or shine, track condition is not a problem. American Pharoah gave every indication he could deal with a torrential downpour two months ago in Arkansas. A champion as a 2-year-old, his debut this year came in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He won there, too, by 6 1/4 lengths. So once the skies opened on Saturday, there wasn't too much concern about how the sloppy track would affect his performance. "So much rain we had, and so much water, it's insane," winning jockey Victor Espinoza said. "American Pharoah was traveling super in there." How bad was it? "I saw a picture of the track with a river running on the rail, and I thought he's got to run through that?" Baffert said.

BIGGER, STRONGER

A two-week turnaround took nothing out of American Pharoah. Maybe it did, but it didn't look that way. His stride was a graceful as ever — much better than it was in the Derby — and as Baffert says, he "floats over the track wherever he goes." In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, though, Baffert knows that can change. After all, this will be the trainer's fourth attempt to give racing its first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. American Pharoah has won six of his seven lifetime starts, and looks as strong as ever. Then again, 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones looked awesome, too, after his record 11 1/2-length win in the Preakness — but three weeks later in the Belmont, he was run down in the final yards by Birdstone. "I've seen horses that you don't see it until two weeks later (after the Preakness)," Baffert said. "That's when it starts showing up on these horses. I've been through it. About two weeks out, you'll start seeing if it's getting to them a little bit, and that's why it's so difficult (to win a Triple Crown).

COTTON PICKIN' RAIN

So now we all know American Pharoah is fitted with ear plugs — or else his ears are stuffed with cotton — for his races, because he's sensitive to noise. Not a good thing for a horse going for a Triple Crown and performing before 100,000-plus fans. Nonetheless, the cotton worked again, and he was as attentive as he needed to be. He may have covered the 1 3-16 miles in the slow time of 1:58.46, but he finished ahead of everyone else and was not distracted. "I could tell they (the horses) didn't like it when they got pelted like that," Baffert said. "And I was worried about the cotton balls in his ears. How is he going to react? Maybe I should take them out." No need.

CAN HE DO IT?

Can American Pharoah end a 37-year Triple Crown drought that began after Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978. Here's a sampling of opinions from three Triple Crown winning connections:

Penny Chenery (owner, Secretariat): "The question will be how quickly he recovers and doesn't lose too much weight. He seems to have a level head, though, and seems to be in command of his talents."

Steve Cauthen (jockey, Affirmed): "He looks like the real deal."

Ron Turcotte (jockey, Secretariat): "The sport needs a Triple Crown winner and he could very well be the one."

THE OPPOSITION

Now that American Pharoah has dusted off his rivals in the Derby and Preakness, who's left to take him on in the Belmont? Well, it sure looks like a bunch of Derby also-rans who skipped the Preakness are going to show up in a bid to play Triple Crown spoiler. Among them are a bunch trained by Todd Pletcher: Materiality (sixth in the Derby), Carpe Diem (10th) and Peter Pan Stakes winner Madefromlucky. Also probable are Frosted (fourth in the Derby), Keen Ice (seventh), Mubtaahij (eighth) and Frammento (11th). "I really don't think about the third leg yet," Baffert said. "It's going to be tough. I've always said this is the easiest of the three legs, and the next race is going to be ... everybody right now is sharpening their knives getting ready."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[George Parros on Going Roggin]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 20:45:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ROGGIN_TWITTER_TZ_1200x675_446912067851.jpg What does Fred have in store on tonight's show? Former Ducks winger George Parros joins Fred on Going Roggin. Does he think the Ducks have a chance to take the Blackhawks down?]]> <![CDATA[Ducks Beat Blackhawks in Game 1]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 15:13:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ducks+hawks+game+1.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks took a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, and they withstood a late charge as they finished off a 4-1 victory in the contest. 

Brad Richards scored the lone goal of the game for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves as the Blackhawks find themselves behind in a series for the first time this postseason. 

The Blackhawks got a power play just over a minute into the game when Corey Perry slashed Patrick Kane in the neutral zone, but it was Anaheim that had the first good scoring chances. Jakub Silfverberg nearly scored a short-handed goal off a Ryan Kesler rebound, but Corey Crawford made the save as the net came off the moorings to keep it scoreless.

After that failed power play, the Blackhawks seemed to take control of the tempo of the contest. Patrick Sharp had a nice one-timer from the slot off of a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, but Frederik Andersen made the save. Kane then got a loose puck in the middle of the ice and nearly scored into an empty cage, but Andersen hit the shot up over the net. Off the ensuing face-off, Sharp got another shot off at the net, but Andersen made the save once again.

The Ducks started pushing back a bit after the midway point of the period, and they ultimately scored to take the lead. David Rundblad failed to break up the zone entry by the Ducks, and Jakub Silfverberg made a gorgeous play as he circled around to the boards and fired a pass back to the point. Hampus Lindholm then ripped a shot in toward the net that evaded Crawford, and the home team grabbed a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks had a few more good chances to score late in the first period, but the game-tying goal wasn’t coming. Teravainen established possession through the middle of the slot, but the Hawks couldn’t force in a shot through traffic as the Ducks held onto their lead through 20 minutes of play.

After the intermission, the Ducks started pushing back at the Blackhawks, and they were rewarded with a goal. Johnny Oduya and Rundblad both failed to clear the puck from behind the net, and then Nate Thompson’s shot toward the front was kicked out by Crawford. Kyle Palmieri then picked up the rebound and rifled a one-timer over the goaltender’s shoulder, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 advantage.

The damage could have been even worse for the Blackhawks later in the period as Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off for tripping, but the Hawks’ penalty kill came up big against the league’s top-ranked power play as they killed off the infraction. Matt Beleskey did have one good shot on goal during the man-advantage, but Crawford blocked it away to keep it a two goal game.

With less than a minute to go in the period, the Blackhawks finally were able to solve Andersen as they scored a key goal. Brad Richards made the play happen as he wrestled the puck away from Francois Beauchemin at the blue line, and then his breakaway ended with a goal as he snuck a shot between Andersen’s blocker and chest to make it a 2-1 game after two periods of play.

As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got a pair of power plays but were unable to convert on either of them. Richards did come close to getting his second goal of the day on the first man-advantage situation, and Brandon Saad had a killer rebound chance as well, but Andersen made some good saves as he kept his team in front despite the pressure.

Just after the halfway mark of the period, the Ducks got an odd-man rush scoring chance thanks to a missed play by Duncan Keith, and they made Chicago pay. Crawford was able to stop the initial shot off the stick of Andrew Cogliano, but Thompson picked up his second point of the day as he flipped the puck past the sprawled out goaltender to give Anaheim a 3-1 lead with about eight minutes to go.

The Blackhawks ended up surrendering an empty net goal late in the third period, and they find themselves trailing in a series for the first time since they trailed 3-2 in the Western Conference Final last season. They will try to even things up when the two teams meet for Game 2 in Anaheim on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Central time. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ducks Beat Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 ]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 15:12:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/473779886.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks took Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference Final over the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Sunday afternoon.

The Ducks had a late insurance goal from Nate Thompson and also got an empty netter from Jakub Silfverberg as they won their sixth consecutive home playoff game. Frederik Andersen made 32 saves as he helped the Ducks to a 1-0 series lead. 

The Blackhawks got a power play just over a minute into the game when Corey Perry slashed Patrick Kane in the neutral zone, but it was Anaheim that had the first good scoring chances. Jakub Silfverberg nearly scored a short-handed goal off a Ryan Kesler rebound, but Corey Crawford made the save as the net came off the moorings to keep it scoreless.

After that failed power play, the Blackhawks seemed to take control of the tempo of the contest. Patrick Sharp had a nice one-timer from the slot off of a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, but Frederik Andersen made the save. Kane then got a loose puck in the middle of the ice and nearly scored into an empty cage, but Andersen hit the shot up over the net. Off the ensuing face-off, Sharp got another shot off at the net, but Andersen made the save once again.

The Ducks started pushing back a bit after the midway point of the period, and they ultimately scored to take the lead. David Rundblad failed to break up the zone entry by the Ducks, and Jakub Silfverberg made a gorgeous play as he circled around to the boards and fired a pass back to the point. Hampus Lindholm then ripped a shot in toward the net that evaded Crawford, and the home team grabbed a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks had a few more good chances to score late in the first period, but the game-tying goal wasn’t coming. Teravainen established possession through the middle of the slot, but the Hawks couldn’t force in a shot through traffic as the Ducks held onto their lead through 20 minutes of play.

After the intermission, the Ducks started pushing back at the Blackhawks, and they were rewarded with a goal. Johnny Oduya and Rundblad both failed to clear the puck from behind the net, and then Nate Thompson’s shot toward the front was kicked out by Crawford. Kyle Palmieri then picked up the rebound and rifled a one-timer over the goaltender’s shoulder, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 advantage.

The damage could have been even worse for the Blackhawks later in the period as Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off for tripping, but the Hawks’ penalty kill came up big against the league’s top-ranked power play as they killed off the infraction. Matt Beleskey did have one good shot on goal during the man-advantage, but Crawford blocked it away to keep it a two goal game.

With less than a minute to go in the period, the Blackhawks finally were able to solve Andersen as they scored a key goal. Brad Richards made the play happen as he wrestled the puck away from Francois Beauchemin at the blue line, and then his breakaway ended with a goal as he snuck a shot between Andersen’s blocker and chest to make it a 2-1 game after two periods of play.

As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got a pair of power plays but were unable to convert on either of them. Richards did come close to getting his second goal of the day on the first man-advantage situation, and Brandon Saad had a killer rebound chance as well, but Andersen made some good saves as he kept his team in front despite the pressure.

Just after the halfway mark of the period, the Ducks got an odd-man rush scoring chance thanks to a missed play by Duncan Keith, and they made Chicago pay. Crawford was able to stop the initial shot off the stick of Andrew Cogliano, but Thompson picked up his second point of the day as he flipped the puck past the sprawled out goaltender to give Anaheim a 3-1 lead with about eight minutes to go.

The Blackhawks had a few more chances late in the game, but they weren't able to convert and Anaheim ultimately finished off the victory with an empty net goal. After a shot from the blue line rang off the post, the puck bounced into the net off of Jonathan Toews' skate and slid into the cage to give Anaheim their 4-1 margin of victory. 

The Hawks will try to even up the series on Tuesday night as the teams reconvene for Game 2 of the series in Anaheim. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Clippers Lose Game 7, Rockets Advance Despite Late Rally]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 15:17:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rockets-vs-Clippers-Game-7_5-17-15.jpg

The Houston Rockets eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers with a victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday afternoon, as the Clippers gave up a 3-1 series lead to lose the series 4-3.

For the second time in two rounds, the Clippers faced Game 7. Unlike the first round, however, the Clippers faced the elimination game on the road this time. Houston would use its super charged building to launch a fast start for the Rockets, and the Clippers never led at any point in the deciding game of the series.

Led by James Harden scoring 12 points in the first quarter, the Rockets held a seven-point lead after 12 minutes. Both teams started out playing frantic basketball, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers sounded concerned about how fast his team was playing during his television interview prior to the start of the second quarter.

For the Rockets, Dwight Howard picked up two quick fouls but begged his coach to stay in the game. Rockets coach Kevin McHale would allow his center to stay on the court late in the first quarter, and the gamble would pay off in the second period.

Howard would tab 11 points in the second period to give the Rockets' center a double-double at the intermission: 12 points and 11 rebounds. Fueled by Howard and Harden, the Rockets led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but a late run by the Clippers saw the visitors enter the locker room down by 10 points.

In the third quarter, the Clippers would surge forward and cut the Rockets' lead to only three points when J.J. Redick made a layup with 8:32 to play in the third quarter. Suddenly, the Clippers appeared to be ready to charge past the Rockets. Harden, though, would step forward to ensure that the Rockets did not give up the lead. The bearded point guard, who sat for the majority of the fourth quarter's Game 6 comeback victory, helped his team reestablish a double-digit lead over the next three minutes.

Along with Harden, 38-year-old Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni came in to help the Rockets blow up the lead to 17 points by the end of the quarter. With 12 minutes of basketball led to play, the Clippers attempted to play the fouling game with Dwight Howard, a move the reflected the Clippers' state of desperation.

Six minutes remaining in their season, the Clippers still trailed by 16 points. However, the Clippers would make it interesting and cut the lead to single digits in the final few minutes. With 1:26 to play, the Clippers cut the lead to eight points and fouled Howard. Howard would miss both free throws, and the Clipper would get the ball with 1:25 to play. Despite the poor finish, the Rockets still managed to finish the game on top.

The Rockets advanced to the Western Conference Finals where they will face the Golden State Warriors.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks vs. Ducks: Five Chicago Players to Watch]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 10:16:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/218*120/ducks7.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks have had a relatively simple road to the Western Conference Final, losing only once as they dispatched the Jets and the Flames, but the road will get a lot tougher starting on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 at the Honda Center.

Before the game gets underway (puck drop is scheduled for noon), we have five Blackhawks players that the Ducks will have to focus their efforts on if they want to be successful in this series.

Niklas Hjalmarsson

There is plenty of attention paid to the Blackhawks’ top forwards, but an underrated part of their offensive success is their ability to start plays in transition. Hjalmarsson is a big part of that push forward up the ice, as his stretch passes and ability to effectively steal the puck deep in the defensive zone really help put teams on edge.

The Ducks have to be cognizant of his ability to get the play going the other way, and they’ll have to make sure to play just a bit more conservatively when the talented defenseman is looking up ice to make a play.

Patrick Kane

As the legendary Dan Patrick axiom goes, “you can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him.”

Kane has been romping through the playoffs so far this year, scoring seven goals (including tallies in five straight games coming into this series) and looks to be fully healed from the collarbone injury that ended his regular season back in late February.

Kane’s speed is one thing to defend, but his ability to fire off quick and accurate shots in space is another. The Ducks are going to have their hands full in this series with him, and the only way to really be successful is to try to limit the amount of time he has to react with the puck and to try to force him to the outside of the ice.

Duncan Keith

The Blackhawks have talented players all over their roster, but Keith is arguably their top Conn Smythe candidate during this postseason. With the Hawks’ lack of defensive depth, Keith has been rock steady on the blue line despite having to play extra minutes, and he has also been a huge help on the offensive side of things, scoring twice and dishing out eight assists in the postseason.

The only real hope that the Ducks have of stopping Keith is to be as aggressive as possible with their forecheck through the neutral zone, and to get him skating as much as possible when on the attack. Keith is a workhorse but a prolonged series and tons of work could make him vulnerable, so the Ducks will have to try their best to outwork him.

Brandon Saad

When talking about the Blackhawks, the first two guys that come up are inevitably Kane and Toews, but Saad is proving this postseason that he can be just as viable a weapon. His speed is dangerous, his vision has proved problematic for the Wild and Predators and he plays some of the most responsible defense that fans are liable to see from a forward of his youth.

Just like with Kane, the Ducks will have to make sure that they keep Saad to the outside of the ice as much as possible, and they also have to focus on disrupting his zone entry whenever possible. He is capable of creating havoc when he brings the puck into the offensive zone, so challenging him at the blue line will be critical for the Ducks in this series.

Jonathan Toews

The Blackhawks’ success over the past six seasons has come as a direct result of Toews’ maturation into a dynamic leader and a stellar player at both ends of the ice. He can win faceoffs, score highlight reel goals, play Selke-caliber defense, and never seems to lose his cool even when the pressure is at its highest.

The Ducks will have an interesting time trying to decide which line to use to stop Toews in this series, but the responsibility will likely fall to Ryan Kesler and the second line. That group has been solid offensively, but can they handle Toews, Saad, and Marian Hossa? Only time will tell, but that might well be Bruce Boudreau’s best option.

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<![CDATA[Rockies Hit Three Homers, Beat Dodgers 7-1]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 23:09:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/473667212.jpg

Carlos Gonzalez, Daniel Descalso, and Nolan Arenado all homered for Colorado and the Rockies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 on a night the organization honored the 1965 world championship team led by Sandy Koufax.

Gonzalez has been in hibernation to start the season, but is finally heating up for Colorado. Just 48 hours after hitting the game-winning three-run home run in the ninth inning of Thursday's game, Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored on Saturday.

"Anybody can have bad months," said Gonzalez of his slow start to the season. "I've seen myself hit .200 and then hit .300 by the end of the season. That's my goal now. I'm going to do my best, and whatever happens, happens.

Gonzalez underwent season-ending knee surgery last August and hadn't faced big-league pitching in nearly six months before the season began.

"He's one of the best in the game, but he hasn't been doing as good this year," said Dodgers starter and former 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. "I didn't want to nibble around him that early, so I threw him a fastball and it was a terrible idea.

Jorge De La Rosa was resplendent for the Rockies pitching a two-hit shutout over 7.1 innings for his first win of the season.

"I was attacking the hitters more aggressively today," De La Rosa said. "The way I threw against them last time I was a little wild. My changeup was working, but I mixed up all my pitches."

De La Rosa (1-2) was dominant retiring 18 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff double to Kike Hernandez to start the game. De La Rosa had a chance to go for the complete game shutout, but appeared to pull his groin after fielding a grounder in the eighth inning.

"He [De La Rosa] was throwing all his first pitches for strikes and mixing them up really well," Hernandez said. "He did a good job tonight and we couldn't make the adjustments."

Hernandez made an incredible play in center field in the top half of the 4th inning when he tracked down a deep fly ball on the warning track before crashing face first into the wall.

"My face feels fine," joked Hernandez. "But we're still waiting on the MRI results on the wall itself, so hopefully the wall will be OK."

Greinke suffered his first loss of the season allowing just one run on four hits in six innings.

Greinke (5-1) received no run support for his efforts on Saturday. Other than the first inning homer he allowed to Gonzalez, Greinke was once again in Cy Young form striking out five before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth.

Coming into the game, Greinke was riding a 10-game winning streak and had not lost since August 9th of 2014. In addition to having his career-best winning streak snapped, Greinke's phenomenal 20-start unbeaten streak and 16-game winning streak against National League West opponents also came to an end.

Greinke's last loss within the division was also against the Rockies back on September 28, 2013. Making it nearly two years since the right-hander lost to an NL West opponent. Despite the loss, Greinke still leads the major leagues in ERA at 1.52 on the year.

The Rockies did most of their damage off Southern California reliever Sergio Santos. Santos pitched the sixth and seventh allowing five runs on three hits (two of them homers). He did finish the inning with four strikeouts, becoming the sixth player in Dodgers history to accomplish the feat.

Kenley Jansen also struck out four albeit on 14 pitches a night earlier.

"His [Jansen's] was the better way to do it," joked Santos after the game. "Better to do it with no runs coming across."

Howie Kendrick hit a single in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

The Dodgers streak of 10 consecutive home series win was snapped with the loss as the best Los Angeles can do is tie the series at 2-2 tomorrow.

Game Notes:
The Dodgers honored the 1965 World Series Championship team before the game as all fans in attendance received a replica World Series Ring. Members of the team including the great Sandy Koufax, Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Wally Moon, Ron Perranoski, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Ron Fairly, Jim Lefebvre, Al Ferrara and Sweet Lou Johnson all took part in the Old Timers Game.

Colorado's manager Walt Weiss returned to the Rockies dugout just three days after an emergency appendectomy had him in a local Los Angeles hospital.

Alejandro González Iñárritu the Oscar-winning director of Birdman was in attendance for the game.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dodger Legends at Old Timers Game]]> Sat, 16 May 2015 18:40:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/Magic+Johnson+and+Sandy+Koufax.jpg Former Dodgers' players, Hall of Famers, and legends came out to the stadium on May 16, 2015 for the annual Los Angeles Dodgers' Old Timers Game.

Photo Credit: Ron Cervenka]]>
<![CDATA[What to Know About the French Open]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 10:18:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/450285812.jpg

The French Open is the second of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the most prestigious individual competitions in tennis.

The tournament, also known as Roland Garros, begins on May 24 in Paris and lasts through June 7. 

It follows the Australian Open in Melbourne and precedes both Wimbledon in London (June 29 to July 12) and the US Open in New York City (Aug. 31 to Sept. 13).

The French Open is held on clay courts, which are slower than outdoor hard and grass courts. Crushed brick is used to form the upper layer of the red clay court surface, while limestone, clinker and stone make up the remaining layers, as well as drainage pipes.

The courts are built with 1.1 tons of red clay and 100 people are responsible for maintaining them during qualifying rounds and the tournament, according to the French Open’s official website.

Here are more fun facts about the French Open: 

1891: The year the world championships of clay-court tennis were created and first held on the courts of Stade Francais club in Paris. The tournament was reserved for members of French clubs. Women’s singles were added in 1897.

1928: The year Helen Wills became the first American to win the women's singles title. Donald Budge became the first American to win the men’s singles title in 1938.

3 hours and 4 minutes: The longest final in women’s singles titles: Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez in 1996 (6-3, 6-7, 10-8).

9: Spanish legend Rafael Nadal, 28, has won a record-breaking 9 of the last 10 men’s singles titles. Swiss Roger Federer won the 2009 title, while Nadal suffered his first ever defeat at Roland Garros in the fourth round. He won his first French Open title in 2005.

5: The number of Nadal's losses on clay so far this year, The Associated Press reported. It's the first time he's lost more than three in a year on clay since 2003. 

10: The number of French men to win the men’s singles title since the tournament included foreign athletes in 1925.

15 and 20: The number of finals featuring the top two seeds in men’s and women’s singles, respectively. Last year, No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the 2014 title, while No. 1 Serena Williams beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova for the 2013 title.

22: The number of matches Djokovic has won in a row heading into the French Open

17 years and 3 months: Michael Chang was the youngest person to win the men’s singles title (in 1989).

31.06: The amount of string, in miles, (50 kilometers) used by the official tournament stringers, Babolat, in 2014.

149: The Roland Garros speed record belongs to American Taylor Dent, who served at 149 mph (240 km/h) in 2010.

250: The number of ball kids, ages 12 to 16, who worked the matches in 2014. Eighty percent were boys, with eight coming from French overseas territories and protectorates.

60,000: The number of tennis balls used during the three-week competition in 2014.

1,650,000: The prize money in euros ($1.7 million) awarded to the 2014 women’s and men’s singles champions, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal.

1,800,000: The prize money in euros ($2 million) that will be awarded to the women's and men's singles champions this year, according to the AP. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Racing in Their Bones: Behind Top Jockeys' Dynasties]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 12:42:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/american+pharoah+derby+race.JPG

Javier Castellano would never have been a jockey if his father had had his way.

Abel Castellano had ridden horses for almost 30 years in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and broken ribs and a shoulder along the way. He knew how tough the job was.

But his son Javier would awaken as a child and get out of bed when his father returned from the track. Javier fell in love with racing, and once he finished high school, he followed his father to the track.

"I always looked up to him, because he was a great jockey," said Javier, 37, the top thoroughbred jockey in wins and earnings heading into the Preakness Stakes this weekend.

“It’s very risky, but it’s a beautiful sport,” he said.

On Saturday in Baltimore, he will ride Divining Rod in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will take all his concentration, he said, and it's easier when his family understands the pressures he faces.

Many riders in this year's Triple Crown come from long lineages of jockeys, trainers and agents — mostly men, though occasionally women. In families with deep roots in racing, the jockeys grow up around stables, learn from their fathers and uncles and root for their siblings in their races.

Trevor McCarthy, 20, knew by the first grade that he wanted to be jockey like his father, Michael.

As a boy, Trevor would go with his father to the Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington, first riding the ponies that led the horses to the post, then the horses themselves. He credits his father with much of his success.

"He’s put a lot of effort into making me the rider I am," McCarthy said.

McCarthy — who will be on Bodhisattva on Saturday, his 21st birthday — said he always looked up to his father, a jockey turned trainer and jockey's agent who also gallops horses in the mornings.

“He loves it, he loves that I ride," he said. "Sometimes he gets a bit nervous watching, a bit nervous and concerned at times, but overall he loves it."

His mother, who competed in barrel races in high school in upstate New York, is just as proud, he said.

Competing against McCarthy, the Preakness' youngest rider, will be Gary Stevens, a racing veteran who at 52 will be the oldest jockey at Pimlico on Saturday and who like his young rival was raised among horses, their trainers and jockeys.

Stevens twice returned to racing after he had retired, and has acted in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” and worked as a racing analyst for NBC Sports and other outlets during his time away from the track. Two weeks ago, Stevens rode Firing Line in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second to American Pharoah. He has previously won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont stakes three times each.

Stevens was raised around horses in Boise, Idaho, the youngest of three boys. His brother Scott is also a jockey, and his brother Craig is a jockey agent and horse trainer. Their father is a horse trainer; their mother was a rodeo queen.

"She could ride, and she’s pretty,” he said.

Only Stevens' wife, Angie, does not ride.

All of the Stevens brothers played sports — football, baseball and wrestling — and they hunted and fished.

“We all wanted to play pro football, except for my middle brother Scott," Stevens said. "He always just wanted to be a jockey.”

He called all of his brothers in the days before the Preakness, and though they did talk about horses, no one brought up Saturday’s race.

"It’s kind of my peaceful time,” Stevens said. “It was more little brother calling his two big brothers, and just getting some free time off of not worrying about the Preakness. Sort of going back to my childhood with my brothers."

The bond of brotherhood also looms large for Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to victory at the Kentucky Derby and hopes to do the same Saturday. His older brother was also a jockey.

Espinoza, now 42, grew up on a farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, playing soccer, baseball, basketball — every sport but golf. He rode horses, but he was afraid of them.

“I had no clue about racing,” he said. “My family, they never were interested in the races. We are farmers.”

But Espinoza followed his older brother Jose to Cancun, where the two brothers learned to train horses, and eventually moved to California to ride them.

Victor never chose to become a jockey, he said. He rode horses to survive, for what he thought would be a short time.

“For me, it's not just a fun thing,” he said. “It's a job that I have to do.”

It's also a job that has profoundly affected his brother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was thrown from a horse crossing the finish line in Saratoga in 2013. Jose no longer rides, and his brother says his condition is improving.

Though Jose was in Baltimore last year to watch his brother ride California Chrome in the Preakness, he will not travel this year. But he will watch the race, Victor Espinoza said.

"I try not to bring it up at all," Victor said of his brother’s injury. "For me, I just want him to be 100 percent."

Castellano, who will ride Divining Rod on Saturday, is reminded daily of the risks, too. His wife Abby, the daughter of the national director of the Jockeys' Guild, grasps the sacrifices he must make, he said.

Castellano loves his sport but appreciates how dangerous it can be. He must watch his weight. He has little time off. He travels in the winter from his home in New York to race in Florida. The first year, his wife moved with him, and they enrolled the children in school in Florida for three months, but the disruption wasn't good for them, he said. So now they stay in New York, and he is separated from them.

"It's a funny business," he said. “You can be in the top right now, and then if I spill, you can die or you can be paralyzed.”

His daughters cared more about the hats at the Kentucky Derby than about riding, he said, but there is also his 2-year-old son.

Would he like his son to follow him to the racetrack?

"I don't want to talk about that," he said, laughing, though he admitted he would support his son if he wanted to be a jockey. How could he not? he asked.



Photo Credit: AP]]>