Today is Thursday, October 27, 2016.
|Thursday, October 27, 2016|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Celtics||vs.||Bulls||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Wade opens Bulls career vs. Celtics
Thursday, October 27 at 3:31 AM (EDT)
The Chicago Bulls will have, perhaps, the most fitting opponent of any team in the NBA for a season-opening game Thursday night at the United Center.
Chicago will debut its retooled roster against the Boston Celtics, with the Bulls' "Three Alphas" -- otherwise known as guards Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo -- leading the way.
It is a familiar structural concept to Rondo, the veteran point guard who signed with the Bulls in the offseason. In the early stages of his career, Rondo was a member of the Celtics when the "Big Three," of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led Boston to the 2008 NBA title.
Rondo and Wade are both aging, but feel they can help Butler bring the Bulls back to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference -- if not achieve loftier goals.
Outside of the Bulls and their "Three Alphas," expectations are low. Butler, however, said he isn't paying attention to prognostications.
"I don't think (criticism) motivates us to do anything," Butler told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They're going to say and do whatever they're going to say and do whatever they want to do and say anyways. So ... motivation? Nah. Motivation is we get to go out and compete and put on for this organization every day."
Wade and Rondo weren't the lone additions to the Bulls' roster, however.
After trading former point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, the Bulls blew up last season's roster with a significant overhaul for coach Fred Hoiberg's second season. They will start out with 14 players, one short of the NBA maximum, and will have eight faces making their Bulls regular-season debut.
Along with Rondo and Wade, Chicago will unveil center Robin Lopez, recently acquired backup guard Michael Carter-Williams, rookie guard Denzel Valentine, guard Jerian Grant, guard Isaiah Canaan and German rookie forward Paul Zipser.
Wade, Rondo and Butler will start, along with Lopez and power forward Taj Gibson -- who earned a starting role over Nikola Mirotic. That starting five is geared more for slugging it out in the paint than spreading the floor and draining 3-pointers.
"We feel like (Gibson) has played excellent basketball throughout the preseason," Hoiberg said this week. "He's been good in practices. We've talked to our guys about that. Niko has had a couple good practices in a row now. You try to get him in a good rhythm coming out of the gate, but that's the way we're going to start."
The Celtics will be a good test for Chicago, after opening their season Wednesday night with a 122-117 win over against the Brooklyn Nets -- to whom they traded Garnett and Pierce in a deal that is paying dividends for Boston in a bevy of draft picks that were acquired.
Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points and nine assists against Brooklyn, and Jae Crowder added 21 points.
The Celtics are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, and they added four-time NBA All-Star Al Horford, who signed a four-year free agent contract worth $113 million. Horford's veteran experience up front is expected to mesh nicely with Boston's young core group.
He contributed 11 points, six assists and five rebounds Wednesday as Boston held on to top the Nets. Brooklyn trailed by 21 with 5 1/2 minutes left yet had two chances to tie in the late going.
"That's the NBA for you," Horford said. "I think it will humble you sometimes. We had a comfortable lead and we thought it was fine, but this is a good learning experience for our group."
Role players Marcus Smart (ankle) and Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) are injured to start the season, but the Celtics are confident their replacements can grant enough rest to the starters.
In the opener, the Celtics chalked up 36 assists on 48 baskets -- the most assists by a team in an NBA opener since 2001. They also committed 19 turnovers.
"We could have even had more assists if we knocked down our open shots," Thomas said.
|Clippers||vs.||Trail Blazers||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Clippers open season with rematch against Trail Blazers
Wednesday, October 26 at 6:19 PM (EDT)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Most pundits put the Los Angeles Clippers on a short list of contenders to make it to the NBA's Western Conference finals this season.
That's just fine with Doc Rivers, the president of basketball operations and head coach of the Clippers.
"It's not a burden," said Rivers, who begins his fourth season at the Clipper helm against the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night at the Moda Center. "Why should people expecting you to win ever be a burden I've never figured that one out."
"You should be excited and happy any time you're in the NBA and you're on a team that people think is good. That's a pleasure."
The Clippers are good.
The presence of All-Stars such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan plus veterans J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, the coach's son guarantee that.
Now the team has added depth with free-agent signings of forwards Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass and guards Alan Anderson and Raymond Felton to minimum deals.
It's ironic that the Clippers open the 2016-17 campaign against the team that knocked them out of the first round of the playoffs a year ago. Injuries to Paul and Griffin during the series play a large role in that, but it adds a bit of intrigue to the Clippers' debut game this season.
"We're excited," said Austin Rivers, who signed a three-year, $35-million contract in the offseason. "It's going to be a fun environment considering that's the team that knocked us out last year. We have our whole team back. So do they. It's going to be a fun game.
The Trail Blazers got a two-day jump on the season over the Clippers, coming from behind to defeat the Utah Jazz 113-104 Tuesday night in their home opener. Damian Lillard launched an unofficial MVP campaign by scoring 39 points, 16 in the decisive fourth quarter.
"The best way to show that I mean that is by going out and playing like it," the Blazers' two-time All-Star point guard said. "Tonight was a good start."
Portland had an outstanding offensive game, making 39 of 75 shots from the field (.520), 13 of 19 shots from the 3-point line (.684) and all 22 attempts from the foul line. The Blazers made their first seven 3-point tries and were 7 for 8 in the first half.
But Portland's defense -- a focus coming into this season -- was spotty at best, especially in yielding a 37-point third quarter to the Jazz.
"Sometimes we get into an offensive mode, because we have so many guys who can score," reserve forward Ed Davis said. "We can outscore 85 percent of the teams in the league. To be able to win night in and night out, though, you have to get stops. That's what we did in the fourth. We've got to have more quarters like the fourth and less like the third.
"You give up 37 in a quarter, no way you can win a game. Giving up 30 in a quarter is a lot."
The Blazers are special because of their camaraderie, Utah coach Quin Snyder said.
"They fit together really well," Snyder said. "Everybody embraces who they are. That's what makes them such a good team. They know their strengths. They complement each other. They're clearly an unselfish group, and that makes them hard to defend."
|Spurs||vs.||Kings||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Kings open new arena with visit from Spurs
Thursday, October 27 at 3:11 AM (EDT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento Kings waited a long time to kick off a new era of basketball, especially considering the franchise's recent fortunes.
Symbolically, they will step into the future Thursday when they open their shiny new arena.
The San Antonio Spurs may find that to be the perfect backdrop as the continue into their new era of basketball, one that kicked off in a way reminiscent of the old one.
Sacramento's new pad, the $557 million, 17,500-seat Golden 1 Center in the city's downtown area, will become the franchise's ninth home. It will be the Kings' third arena since moving to Sacramento in 1985.
The Kings simply hope they can win there. Sacramento finished 18-23 in its final season at Sleep Train Arena and hasn't been above .500 at home in a season since the 2007-08 campaign.
A win against San Antonio would add to the good feelings the Kings stirred up in a 113-94, opening-night win at Phoenix on Tuesday. Center DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points, and forward Rudy Gay scored 22 with four blocked shots as a Kings team that allowed an NBA-worst 109.1 points per game a season ago held the Suns to only 38 in the first half.
A victory for Sacramento on Thursday also would be the punctuation to a night of celebration that is supposed to mark a new path after 10 seasons of turmoil without a playoff appearance.
"The first thing we've got to do is learn how to compete, and the second thing then is to learn how to win," Sacramento coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. "We're not a young group, so if we can get through stage one quickly, then we can get to stage two."
The Spurs should feel right at home against a rowdy crowd. San Antonio laid a 129-100 beating upon the two-time Western Conference champion Warriors on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif., spoiling forward Kevin Durant's debut with Golden State and taking the air out of an arena overflowing with enthusiasm.
San Antonio also showed that life without Tim Duncan might be just as full of winning as it was with him. The Spurs are playing without Duncan as a regular part of their lineup for the first time since the end of the 1996-97 season. The Hall of Fame-bound center retired in June after a 19-season career during which San Antonio won five championships and never won fewer than 50 games in a full regular season.
With Duncan, the Spurs won 13 times in their past 14 visits to Sacramento.
Without Duncan, San Antonio hardly missed a beat in its opener. The Spurs didn't need him on the glass, outrebounding Golden State 55-35. They also seemed to have no issues finding replacements, running up a 54-16 advantage with their reserves. Guard Jonathon Simmons turned in a 20-point effort.
Guard Kawhi Leonard supplied the scoring with a 35-point night that included 15-for-15 shooting from the free-throw line. Only Duncan (twice), guard George Gervin and center David Robinson ever scored that many on a perfect night at the line for the Spurs, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
"If there was an outcome I wasn't expecting, it was this one," San Antonio's Manu Ginobili said after the game. "A 29-point lead against a team like them? I truly didn't expect it."
Optimism from a new arena aside, the Kings aren't sure what to expect during the season's early days. They jumped to a 19-point halftime lead against the Suns and looked dynamic at times. However, the contest was the first of 11 in the season's first 17 days, eight of which they will play with only one true point guard (Ty Lawson) wile fellow point guard Darren Collison serves an eight-game suspension after pleading guilty to domestic abuse.
Lawson played 36 minutes against Phoenix and finished with nine points, seven assists and six rebounds.
|Wizards||vs.||Hawks||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Howard set to make hometown debut vs. Wizards
Wednesday, October 26 at 6:10 PM (EDT)
ATLANTA -- The Washington Wizards will try to ensure the Atlanta Hawks' Dwight Howard Era gets off to a rocky start when they meet in the season opener on Thursday.
Howard was the biggest offseason acquisition for the Hawks, who hope to return to the Eastern Conference finals and beyond. Atlanta signed the 6-foot-11 center to a three-year, $70 million deal in the offseason after incumbent center Al Horford took less money to sign with the Boston Celtics.
Atlanta went 48-34 last season, finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and was swept by Cleveland in the conference semifinals. Washington went 41-41 to finish 10th in the East and missed the playoffs.
The Hawks are hopeful that the 30-year-old Howard, a native of Atlanta, can revive his career. He averaged 17.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks over his 12-year career, but slipped to 13.7 points for the Rockets last season.
"Playing at home, where people have great expectations for what is supposed to happen here, sometimes it can get a little nerve-racking," Howard said. "For me, I just try not to think about it. I just try to approach it as though it's any other game. But I know this city. They have their hopes real high on us and on me."
It's a new start for Washington, too. The Wizards fired coach Randy Wittman and hired Scott Brooks, who spent six seasons at Oklahoma City and took the Thunder to the NBA finals in 2011-12.
The Wizards are led by guard John Wall, who averaged 19.9 points and 10.2 assists last season, and Bradley Beal, who averaged 17.4 points while dealing with hip and leg issues that limited him to 55 games. Beal showed he was fully recovered in the preseason, when he effectively distributed the ball and had very few turnovers.
"Us as players are coming in with a mindset of whatever we have to do, getting it done," Wall said. "It's an all-new beginning for all of us, so we want to get off to a good start with a new coaching staff and new group of players we have on the team."
Washington is also expected to start Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards are hopeful that Morris can become the 3-point shooting threat the team has been missing.
The Wizards also expect to see second-year player Kelly Oubre Jr. take big strides forward and be a key player off the bench. He should play more than he did a year ago, when he averaged 11 minutes.
The Hawks had their starting five on the court at the same time in their final two preseason games. Atlanta will start Howard, forwards Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver and guards Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore.
Schroder will be the starter at point guard after veteran Jeff Teague was traded to Indiana. Malcolm Delaney will be the backup at point.
The Wizards play their first two games on the road, going to Memphis on Sunday, before playing at home on Wednesday against Toronto. The Hawks travel to Philadelphia for a game on Saturday afternoon.
|Wednesday, October 26, 2016|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
Kidd-Gilchrist, Hornets blow past Bucks
Thursday, October 27 at 12:02 AM (EDT)
MILWAUKEE -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appeared in only seven games last season, and he last played in a regular-season on Feb. 10.
When the Charlotte Hornets raised the curtain on the new season Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, the fourth-year forward made up for lost time.
Kidd-Gilchrist knocked down 10 of 18 shots for 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while playing 34 minutes to lead the Hornets to a 107-96 victory at the Bradley Center.
"He played a great game," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "You put him out there with Marvin (Williams) and Nic (Batum), and it gives us so much versatility defensively. They're able to switch so much stuff. The three of them can all contain the ball, help, play pick-and-roll defense. It makes rotations and everything a lot simpler."
Kidd-Gilchrist wasn't the only Charlotte player to enjoy a strong return from injury.
Center Cody Zeller, who missed the entire preseason with a bone bruise in his right knee, made the most of his 14 minutes, scoring 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Offense was plentiful for the Hornets, who shot 44.9 percent from the field despite going just 7-for-23 from beyond the 3-point arc. Charlotte also got 17 from Kemba Walker, 15 from Roy Hibbert and 13 from Williams, who sank three of the Hornets' seven 3-pointers.
"We just stuck to our game plan," Walker said. "We made all the right plays. We didn't turn the ball over too much. We got a lot of stops, pushed the tempo, we made shots. They made their run, but we were able to keep our composure and come out with a win."
Milwaukee got a game-high 31 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, 14 from Greg Monroe, 13 from Jabari Parker and 11 from Matthew Dellavedova. Antetokounmpo also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
"Giannis was off the charts tonight," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "He has to get his teammates to join him."
Looking similar to the team that struggled to score last season, the Bucks shot 42.4 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 16 tries from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We had shots that we didn't make, and we took some bad shots," Kidd said. "On top of that, just understanding that offensive rebounding and threes are something that we have to get better at."
Dellavedova hit his first 3-point attempt at the 7:41 mark of the first quarter, but the Bucks missed their next nine attempts from distance before Antetokounmpo connected with 4:18 left in the third.
By that point, though, the Bucks were already buried deep. An inability to stop the Hornets defensively, coupled with ice-cold shooting, doomed Milwaukee to a 24-point deficit in the third quarter.
The Bucks manage to claw back into the game early in the fourth, getting the margin down to 11 with nine minutes remaining. Malcom Brogdon got Milwaukee within nine at the 8:20 mark, but a three-point play from Kidd-Gilchrist returned the double-digit advantage for Charlotte.
"I think we did a good job there moving the ball and defending the ball," Antetokounmpo said. "We rebounded the ball there, and we were able to run. That's why we came really close in the game."
Milwaukee cut the deficit to nine one more time, but a Williams 3-pointer made it a 101-89 game with just under three minutes left.
"Every time we made a run, they hit a 3," Kidd said.
The Hornets return to action Friday, when they travel to Miami to face the Heat, an opponent they pushed to seven games before intimately falling in a first-round playoff series last season.
The Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night then travel to Detroit for their first back-to-back set of the season.
NOTES: Milwaukee SG Tony Snell was unavailable for the season opener because of a sprained left ankle. He has not been able to practice with the Bucks since he was acquired from Chicago in exchange for PG Michael Carter-Williams on Oct. 17. ... F/C Frank Kaminsky was inactive for Charlotte as he recovers from a sprained left ankle suffered in an exhibition game Oct. 21 against Minnesota. ... The Hornets won the season series 3-1 a year ago and are 52-50 against the Bucks since Charlotte returned to the NBA in 2004.
Davis scores 50, but Pelicans fall to Nuggets
Thursday, October 27 at 12:25 AM (EDT)
NEW ORLEANS -- It was not exactly five on one, but it was about as close to that as a playground game of keep-away.
Despite a monster 50-point performance by New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, the Denver Nuggets suffocated Davis' teammates to secure a 107-102 victory in the season opener Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center.
"When you play against a great player, you have a problem you need to answer: Are you going to shut him down and create problems elsewhere or are you going to let him get his and hope nobody else goes off?" Denver coach Mike Malone said. "Anthony Davis give him credit got 50 points. The Denver Nuggets got the win, and that's the most important thing."
Davis' 50-point performance was only the third such performance in a season opener since the 1963-64 season. The other two belonged to a guy named Michael Jordan.
"It's tough," Davis said. "We had some chances, but we gave them too many easy looks at the beginning of the game. It would have been more satisfying if we had won, but the way I played, I'm going to have to bring, probably not 50 every night, but get somewhere along those lines every game to give ourselves a chance to win. That's the bottom line. I just got to keep finding guys and trust those guys that they're going to make shots."
The imbalance in the Pelicans offense -- one that is missing guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans -- was striking. The four other New Orleans starters combined for 29 points and eight rebounds. Davis aside, the Pelicans went 21 of 58 from the floor (36.2 percent). New Orleans missed 16 of 19 3-point attempts.
Davis, meanwhile, had 16 rebounds, seven steals, four blocks and five assists to go with his eighth career 40-plus outing.
The Nuggets' tall lineup of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, along with reserve forward Kenneth Faried, crushed the Pelicans on the boards, 58-34, and Denver used its dominance near the basket to hold a 14-3 edge in second-chance points.
Nurkic led Denver with 23 points and guard Will Barton added 22. Barton also pulled down a key offensive rebound on a missed 3-point attempt by Danilo Gallinari to give Denver a 100-94 lead down the stretch.
Faried, coming off the bench, steadied the Nuggets in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans cut an eight-point deficit to two. Faried made all three field goal attempts -- a short hook, a driving layup and a rebound follow -- and grabbed three rebounds and two steals. He also took a pair of charges from Dante Cunningham and Lance Stephenson.
"Kenneth Faried off the bench was a difference maker," Malone said. "I give him a lot of credit because he's a guy who started his whole career, not feeling sorry for himself, and going out there and finishing the game and helping us get a win. We don't win the game without Kenneth Faried."
Davis scored his 50 points on 17-of-34 shooting from the field and 16 of 17 free throws. He finished nine short of his career high of 59.
"I thought AD played great, did a lot of good things for us," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "If they're going to commit three guys to AD, then we've got to have guys step up and make shots. Obviously, we've got to try to make enough plays to get over the hump."
Faried said he simply loves doing his job, whether that means starting or coming off the bench.
"Just another day at the office, you know," Faried said. "We were just able to get the win, and that's all that matters. It's more exciting to get the win than to worry about my stats."
Davis said he knows he will be required to carry the load until Holiday and Evans get back to provide some offensive firepower.
"I'm ready to go, so how many minutes do you need me, that's how many I'm going to play," he said. I'm going to get a good massage tomorrow."
NOTES: Opening night saw an intriguing comparison between two highly regarded rookie prospects -- Pelicans G Buddy Hield (sixth overall pick out of Oklahoma) and Nuggets G Jamal Murray (seventh pick out of Kentucky). Hield went 2 of 8 and missed all three 3-pointers. Murray was 0 for 2. "I think it was personal preference," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of the club's decision to take Hield over Murray. "Jamal, I think, is going to be a really good player, and he was right there on our radar as well. We think both of those guys are going to be great shooters in the league." ... Nuggets coach Mike Malone said Murray would have been Denver's pick even if Hield had been available. "It wasn't close," Malone said. "I say that with no disrespect to Buddy Hield, because he's a helluva player. Jamal Murray was identified by our front office early as guy they had very early on." ... The Pelicans wore T-shirts with a "BDJ 31" logo in memory of Bryce Dejean-Jones, who was fatally shot last May.
Westbrook, Thunder rally past 76ers
Thursday, October 27 at 12:15 AM (EDT)
PHILADELPHIA -- Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, as renowned for his sense of style as his explosive play, pulled on a yellow hoodie Wednesday after the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The garment bore the saying, "Paranormal. Out of the Ordinary."
Westbrook began his first full season without long-time sidekick Kevin Durant with the sort of performance that might become ordinary.
He scored nine of his 32 points in the last 4:09, including the go-ahead free throws with 35 seconds left, as the Thunder downed the Sixers 103-97.
"I was taking my time, picking my spots I wanted to get the ball at -- just being patient and closing out the game," Westbrook said.
That is a role he shared in the past with Durant, who signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors in the offseason. Now, Westbrook said, he just wants to "manage the game at a high level."
Westbrook, who also had 12 rebounds and nine assists, snapped a 97-97 tie by connecting twice at the line after a foul off the ball by Philadelphia's Gerald Henderson.
The Thunder, who trailed by six with 6:17 left and four with 4:16 to play, spoiled the NBA debut of Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, missed the past two seasons as a result of two foot surgeries.
"He's hard to guard," Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. "He's herky-jerky. He's got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuwon to him."
Embiid, who is on a minutes restriction, played just over 22 minutes.
"They care about me," he said of the Sixers, "but I want to do whatever I can to win."
Enes Kanter had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Steven Adams contributed 16 points for Oklahoma City, which closed the game on a 16-6 run.
Nik Stauskas had 13 points for Philadelphia, and Sergio Rodriguez finished with 12 points and nine assists. Jerami Grant and Robert Covington each scored 10 points.
Another Sixers rookie, forward Dario Saric, finished with five points while missing 10 of 12 shots from the floor.
"I think we looked better than I thought we'd look," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. "We just haven't been with each other (because of injuries)."
The Sixers, who led 75-69 after three quarters, were still up 87-81 after a 3-pointer by Covington with just over six minutes left. The Thunder mounted a challenge, but Covington's two free throws with just over four minutes to go gave Philadelphia a 91-87 edge.
Westbrook then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle, starting Oklahoma City's game-ending rally.
The Sixers opened an 18-7 lead at the start of the game, as Jahlil Okafor scored six of his eight points. Saric notched his first NBA basket in that stretch, on a jumper with 8:51 left in the first quarter, and Embiid did the same 34 seconds later.
Westbrook dropped in a layup and was fouled with 4:52 left in the period, and as the Thunder guard stood at the baseline and celebrated, a male fan in the front row directed two obscene gestures in Westbrook's direction. The fan was then ejected.
"That's crazy, right?" Westbrook said. "I turned a new leaf. I leave that alone, because that cost me $25,000 last time (when he cursed at a fan last season). The fan, he'll be all right. I guess they can say whatever they want to the players and do what they want. My job is to play basketball, and that's what I do."
The teams traded the lead seven times the rest of the half, which ended in a 51-51 tie. By that point, Westbrook had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Adams had 12 points.
Henderson paced the Sixers with nine points before halftime, but he didn't score in the second half.
The game was tied three more times in the third quarter, the last time at 64-all with 3:42 left, but Stauskas put Philadelphia ahead with a three-point play. Embiid and Grant added four points apiece in an 11-5 flurry at the end of the period, which ended with the Sixers on top 75-69.
NOTES: Sixers F Ben Simmons said before the game a screw was inserted in his fractured right foot during his recent surgery, and while there is no timetable for his return, neither has there been any discussion of him sitting out the entire season. "Somebody put that out there," he said, "but I'll come back when I'm ready." Reports have indicated that Simmons will be out until at least January. ... Philadelphia C Joel Embiid said before tip that contrary to an SI.com report, he never seriously considered quitting the NBA while sitting out two years, a span in which his younger brother died in an accident in his native Cameroon. "I love basketball too much to make that decision," he said. ... Thunder coach Billy Donovan said his team must figure out how to ease the burden on G Russell Westbrook. "He can't facilitate every single shot, every single basket, every single assist," Donovan said, "because it's going to wear him out."
Conley, Grizzlies rally to top Timberwolves
Thursday, October 27 at 12:28 AM (EDT)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Less than five minutes into his first game as an NBA head coach on Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies' David Fizdale was using his second timeout.
The Grizzlies trailed the Minnesota Timberwolves by 17 and a blowout loss seemed more than possible in the season opener at FedExForum.
After the Grizzlies had rallied for a 102-98 victory, Fizdale admitted, "I was squirming on the inside."
But he didn't show it. He didn't even pull any of his starters during that timeout.
"That gave me confidence," said Memphis forward JaMychal Green, who scored 12 points.
That showed up later. Still down nine points at halftime, Memphis opened the second half on a 16-2 run to go up 66-61. But the play of the game was a tip-in from Green off Andrew Harrison's missed free throw with 1:35 left. That gave Memphis a 94-93 lead it did not relinquish.
Green followed that a few seconds later with a block of Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns (21 points).
"That play won the game," said Memphis center Marc Gasol, who scored 18 points.
Point guard Mike Conley led Memphis with 24 points and was 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Memphis shot 45.8 percent from behind the arc, hitting 11 of 24 shots.
"I like the way we started the game," said Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who was making his debut with Minnesota after five seasons coaching the Chicago Bulls. "I thought we lost our discipline in covering the (3-point) line. No lead is safe."
Minnesota guard Zach LaVine scored 19 points and hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to close the gap to 98-96. But the Timberwolves could not get closer as Conley and Green sealed the win for Memphis at the foul line.
Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 25 points and added seven rebounds.
Towns said the Timberwolves let the game get away.
"This is a hard loss," he said. "We got to learn from these games. Early on, we felt like we had our swagger, and this humbles us."
Zach Randolph posted 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Memphis. Forward James Ennis contributed 15 points and six rebounds, and rookie point guard Wade Baldwin finished with seven points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals, three blocks and just one turnover off the bench.
The Grizzlies were just 1-14 in home openers before Wednesday night.
"That was real fun," Randolph said. "The young guys came in and made good plays. With us (Gasol and Conley), and the things we've been through and the confidence we've got playing together, I don't expect anything less (than coming back and winning)."
Randolph got the Grizzlies going in the fourth quarter, scoring the Grizzlies' first nine points. Not until Harrison made a free throw at 5:52 for an 86-85 lead did another Memphis player score.
Harrison, a rookie, played a game-high 38 minutes. He scored just four points on 1-of-7 shooting, but he still got rave reviews from his coach.
"Andrew Harrison's line doesn't show it, but, man, he made it tough on LaVine," Fizdale said. "And that kid's a player. It was hard to take Andrew off of him for that reason."
Memphis shot 45 percent and the Timberwolves shot 41.9 percent, just 33.3 percent from deep (6 of 18).
The Timberwolves also were just 20 of 29 (69 percent) from the foul line. Each team had 45 rebounds.
"The game was in the balance and we gave a couple of offensive rebounds, or free-throw rebounds, so we'll have to correct that," Thibodeau said. "Missing free throws, that's part of it, but we have to understand what it's going to be like at the end of the game. When on the road on a free-throw rebound, you can't look for the referee to bail you out. It's going to be physical and it is what it is."
NOTES: The Grizzlies set an NBA record last year when injuries hobbled them to the point that 28 players got time on their roster. On Wednesday night they started the season with free-agent signee Chandler Parsons out as he continues recovering from a second knee surgery, and swingman Tony Allen was out with a sore right knee. ... Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau made his debut with the Timberwolves after going 255-139 in five seasons with the Chicago Bulls. ... Minnesota C Karl-Anthony Towns was a unanimous choice as NBA Rookie of the Year in 2015-16, when he averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.68 blocks.
Balanced Kings cruise past Suns
Thursday, October 27 at 1:58 AM (EDT)
PHOENIX -- For Sacramento Kings forwards DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, combining for 46 points in a game is nothing new. However, needing only 25 combined shots to get there, and getting lots of help from many different sources, are new and welcome developments.
Cousins scored 24 points and Gay had 22 as the Kings opened the season with a strong 113-94 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
The Kings' top two scorers had plenty of reinforcements. All 11 Kings who played in a 57-point first half scored, and the Sacramento bench outscored Phoenix 30-3, including a 16-1 run to close the first quarter, helping the Kings build a 19-point lead at the break.
"The biggest difference (this year) is everybody is part of the offense," Gay said of the Kings, who are coming off a 33-win season. "Obviously, we have our players that can go get buckets, and we will get ours when we need them. But everyone has the freedom to be aggressive."
Playing without suspended guard Darren Collison, the Kings committed only 13 turnovers while forcing 18. Forward Matt Barnes had 14 points and guard Garrett Temple contributed 12 for the Kings, giving coach Dave Joerger a win in his Sacramento debut with a grueling first three weeks ahead.
"Playing 11 games in the first 17 nights, this wasn't a must-win, but it would be nice to have because the schedule gets really tough," said Joerger, whose team faces the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday in its home opener. "Right now they are exhausted mentally and physically. You have to get to that level (where) that's who you are every single night."
Guard Devin Booker led Phoenix with 18 points but struggled with foul trouble.
Guard Eric Bledsoe had 16 points and forward T.J. Warren added 14 points for the Suns, who showed little life in their home opener until a trio of players making their NBA debuts -- guards Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ulis and forward Dragan Bender -- helped cut a 26-point deficit to 10 in the second half.
"We've got some adjustments to do," Bledsoe said. "They went on a run and we could never bounce back from it. I think we played hard. It's just that they played well."
The Suns missed 11 of 19 shots in the first period as an early 18-14 lead disappeared quickly. The Kings ended the first quarter on a 16-1 run, six of the points by guard Ben McLemore. The Sacramento bench outscored the Suns 20-1 over the final 2:54, with Temple's floating jumper with two seconds left giving the Kings a 30-19 lead after one quarter.
"We came out a little rusty, and the second group came in with incredible energy and really opened the game up," Cousins said. "There was basically no looking back from there."
Phoenix never got closer in the second quarter, committing six turnovers.
Booker scored eight points in the first half and committed his third foul with 1:08 left, while the Kings stretched their lead to 57-38 at the half.
The Kings extended their lead to as many as 26 points in the third quarter. Cousins had 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and his two free throws made it 80-54 with 3:21 left.
Then the youngsters rallied Phoenix. Bender and Ulis had seven points during a 9-2 Suns run to end the third quarter and started the fourth with another run. Chriss scored following a 3-pointer by Bender to cut the Sacramento lead to 86-76 with nine minutes left.
"We just played young guys, let them play aggressive, let them have fun and be creative," Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. "It was fun to watch. We need that energy, those steals, deflections and that purpose. So those guys kind of earned some minutes now."
Bender had 10 points in 12 minutes.
"I worked hard this summer getting ready for this," Bender said. "We had a little problem in the first half. In the second half, the young guys put their energy on the floor and showed what we can do as a team."
After the fourth-quarter Phoenix surge, Gay answered with a dunk and followed a 3-pointer by Barnes with one of his own to make it 94-77 Kings, and Sacramento rolled from there.
NOTES: Kings G Darren Collison began his eight-game NBA suspension for a domestic-violence incident, leaving starting G Ty Lawson as the only true point guard on the opening-night roster. ... Suns coach Earl Watson said F P.J. Tucker, recovering from back surgery last month, would be limited to cameo appearances of 10-12 minutes for the first few games. Tucker was scoreless in six minutes Wednesday. ... The Suns' opening-night roster included four teenagers: G Devin Booker turns 20 on Sunday, F Marquese Chriss and F Derrick Jones Jr. are 19, and F Dragan Bender is 18. ... The Suns and Kings are in the same division but faced each other to open the season for just the second time. The other was a 107-89 Sacramento win on Nov. 4, 1994 behind 20 points from Mitch Richmond. ... New Kings coach Dave Joerger on how he would view his team from the outside: "We're an interesting group. You never know. That's the scary part. If you are on the other side, you just don't know."
Lakers top Rockets in Walton's debut
Thursday, October 27 at 2:46 AM (EDT)
LOS ANGELES -- After the Los Angeles Lakers finished with a franchise-worst 17-65 record last season, guard Jordan Clarkson seemed to relish a victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday as much as anyone.
"It just felt good to win," said Clarkson, who came off the bench to score 23 of his 25 points in the second half as the Lakers tipped off the Luke Walton era on a high note, beating the Houston Rockets 120-114 in the season opener for both teams at Staples Center.
Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell added 20 points, while Julius Randle chipped in 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who made a winner of Walton in his debut as coach.
"It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done," said Clarkson, who converted 8 of 12 attempts, 2 of 3 on 3-pointers and all seven of his foul shots. "It was the first one. I feel like as the season progresses we'll do a better job of coming together and making the most of each possession."
Rockets guard James Harden finished with a game-high 34 points and a career-best 17 assists. Harden also had eight rebounds. Eric Gordon contributed 19 points, Clint Capela scored 16 and grabbed nine rebounds, and Ryan Anderson scored 14 points for the Rockets.
"In order for us to get wins, we have to lock in defensively," said Harden, who made 9 of 19 shots and only 1 of 7 3-point attempts. Harden hit 15 of 16 free throws.
"First quarter, first half, shake the rust off," he said. "But that second half we didn't get stops when we needed to, and they made big shots."
Two Clarkson free throws lifted Los Angeles to a 108-104 lead with 6:41 remaining. However, Harden converted a pair of foul shots with 3:53 left to knot the score at 110.
After Russell's two foul shots boosted the Lakers to a 113-112 advantage with 2:47 left, the home team never trailed again.
"The guys really fought tonight," Walton said. "A big part of what we are trying to do here is develop this identity, this culture."
Clarkson said the Lakers' ability to execute in the final two minutes of the game was the difference.
"Our small lineup worked," Clarkson said. "We did a good job of talking and switching. Nick (Young) really was our leader on defense. He did a great job on James (Harden) all night."
The Rockets, who led by as many as 10 points, grabbed a 71-63 edge at halftime. They connected on 64.4 percent of their shots, compared to 53.2 percent for the Lakers, before the break. Houston hit 46.2 percent of its 3-pointers to 35 percent for Los Angeles.
Overall, the Rockets outshot the Lakers 51.2 percent to 50.6 percent. From behind the 3-point arc, the Lakers made 12 of 35 (34.3 percent) to only 7 of 29 (24.1 percent) for the Rockets.
"We just missed, and that's basketball," said Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers' former coach. "The only thing I told them was, 'The only thing that has been determined tonight is we're not going to win 82 games. You throw it away and go to the next one."
Harden had 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 14 assists by intermission.
Russell, Randle and Timofey Mozgov scored 12 apiece for the Lakers in the opening 24 minutes. Mozgov was held scoreless in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Lakers tied the score at 88 on a 3-pointer by Clarkson with 1:25 left. However, Harden delivered Houston's final eight points of the quarter for a 96-90 advantage heading into the final period.
Brandon Ingram, selected by the Lakers with the second overall pick in this year's draft, finished with nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes during his professional debut.
NOTES: Lakers coach Luke Walton admitted to being anxious before his first game. "There's definitely nerves and excitement right now, but there's no time to think about how incredible this is," said Walton, whose father, former NBA star Bill Walton, sat in on the pregame media session wearing a Lakers T-shirt. ... Rockets G Patrick Beverley, who had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday, will be re-evaluated within three weeks, according to club officials. ... Lakers G Jose Calderon missed the game due to a slight left calf strain. His status is day-to-day. ... Both clubs resume play Friday. The Rockets visit the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers begin a four-game trip with a game at Utah.
Heat begin new era with 108-96 win over Magic
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:20 PM (EDT)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Miami Heat have lost all their stars, but they didn't forget how to win.
With a rebuilt roster that has little name recognition, the Heat used a well balanced attack, unusual energy and a newfound defensive toughness to open the season with a convincing, 108-96 victory over the Orlando Magic Wednesday night.
Hassan Whiteside had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots, leading the Heat to their sixth consecutive, first-game victory, but their first without Dwayne Wade, who left for Chicago, and Chris Bosh, who remains sidelined by blood clots.
"We need Hassan to be great, and he was when we needed him," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He really anchored us defensively and ignited everyone out there."
The Heat unveiled a rebuilt team that showed exactly what they want to become.
They had six players score in double figures and six players grab at least six rebounds, playing with the enthusiasm of a college team in a much-shorter season. They were up on the bench, cheering and back-slapping each other throughout the second half.
"It's just Game 1, so it's early, but you're starting to see the foundation we want to build," Spoelstra said. "Guys really have to buy into the concept for this to work. You enjoy when it's being played the correct way out there."
Justise Winslow had 15 points and eight rebounds. Goran Dragic scored 16 points and added five assists. Reserve Tyler Johnson had 13 points and six rebounds, while reserve forward James Johnson had 11 points and six assists, and reserve center Willie Reed had 10 points and six rebounds.
Magic guard Evan Fournier led all scorers with 20 points, but he made only 7 of 19 shots from the field. Center Nikola Vucevic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, followed by newly acquired Serge Ibaka with 14 points and seven rebounds, point guard Elfrid Payton with 14 points, and forward Aaron Gordon with 12 points and eight rebounds.
"We weren't out there trying to make a statement, but just playing as a team shoulder to shoulder," Whiteside said. "We got guys with an edge to them, guys with amazing energy who want this team to succeed. And we can build on this."
The Heat were never challenged seriously in the fourth quarter. The Magic never got closer than 10 points late in the game.
The Magic, who also rebuilt their roster this summer, looked listless in the second half. A poor exhibition season carried into the regular season opener.
"They picked up the intensity, and we didn't execute in the second half," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "It's a long season, but clearly, we have to do better. This is not how we wanted to start."
The Heat opened an 87-69 lead when they scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, sparked by a 3-point play by Tyler Johnson. They led by as many as 19 points midway in the quarter.
The Heat dominated the third quarter, turning a three-point halftime deficit into an 80-69 lead going into the fourth. Whiteside had eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in the third quarter.
Heat guard Dion Waiters was called for a technical foul early in the third quarter after he scored on a layup but complained about a foul call not being called. Whiteside received a technical a few possessions later after he was called for goaltending and complained about it.
That is when the Heat rose to the occasion and the Magic wilted. The Heat were much more physical throughout, outscoring the Magic, 74-36, in the lane. They outscored them 15-8 in fast-break points. They were more aggressive defensively, denying the Magic the plays they wanted to run.
"We don't have a LeBron James or Steph Curry," Vucevic said. "We have good players who have to make each other better. Our offensive is pretty simple. We have to move the ball, cut hard, set screens, make extra passes. We didn't do that."
NOTES: The Magic were without newly-acquired C Bismack Biyombo, who signed a four-year, $68 million contract this summer as a free agent. He was serving a one-game suspension for too many flagrant fouls in the playoffs last spring when he played with Toronto. ... The Magic, who rebuilt their roster in the offseason, opened with six international players, second most in the NBA behind the Utah Jazz, who have seven. ... The Heat crushed the Magic by 30 points earlier this month in a preseason game and have won 16 of their last 18 regular-season games against the Magic. The Heat came into the game having won their last five season openers. ... The Heat were without G Wayne Ellington (bruised quadriceps), F Josh McRoberts (foot) and G Josh Richardson (knee). The Magic also were without G Jodie Meeks (foot). ... Before the game, the Magic raised a No. 49 banner in honor of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12 in Orlando. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The banner had the name of each of the 49 victims who died.
Turner helps Pacers win opener in OT
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:31 PM (EDT)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner had 30 points and 16 rebounds, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining in overtime, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 130-121 season-opening victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Paul George, who finished with 25 points, added a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left in overtime, pushing the Indiana lead to 125-118.
The Pacers, who were 1-7 in overtime games last season, defeated Dallas for a fifth consecutive time. The Mavericks were 8-4 in overtime during 2015-2016.
Jeff Teague added 20 points and Monta Ellis 19 for the Pacers.
Deron Williams led Dallas with 25 points and Dirk Nowitzki and J.J, Barea each scored 22.
A Teague free throw with 13 seconds left in regulation gave Indiana a 115-112 lead, but Harrison Barnes' 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds on the clock tied it at 115 and forced overtime. Turner had a shot from the top of the key just ahead of the final buzzer, but it was long.
Barnes' game-tying basket was Dallas' 17th 3-pointer to that point. The Mavericks finished with 18 treys.
Barea's 3-pointer with 8:06 remaining gave the Mavericks a 97-96 lead, capping a 16-4 run.
Nowitzki's 3-pointer with 10:32 to go in regulation sliced Indiana's advantage to 94-90 and prompted a Pacers timeout. At that point, Dallas had 14 made 3-pointers.
A Seth Curry layup pulled the Mavericks within 94-92 and another Curry layup tied it at 94.
A Wes Matthews 3-pointer with 6:53 remaining in the third quarter cut the Pacers' lead to 72-70, but with Turner active at each end, Indiana extended its lead to 94-85 with 12 minutes to play.
Thanks to 12 points from Turner and 10 each from George and Teague in the first half, the Pacers shot 50 percent from the field (24 of 48) and outrebounded the Mavericks 28-24 on their way to a 59-52 lead though 24 minutes.
Williams (13), Barea (13) and Nowitzki (10) combined for 36 first-half points to keep the Mavericks within striking despite shooting only 42 percent from the field (21 of 50).
Dallas made 8 of 21 shots from 3-point range before halftime (38.1 percent), five more made 3s than Indiana.
The Pacers made their first four shots to open the game for a quick 8-0, but Dallas did not allow Indiana to pull away.
NOTES: Mavericks G Devin Harris (big right toe injury) did not make the trip to Indiana ... Dallas rookie C A.J. Hammons, who played college basketball 65 miles away at Purdue, also was inactive on a night the Pacers offered special ticket pricing for Purdue fans .. Dallas was 2-5 in the preseason and Indiana was 3-3 ... The game marked the first regular-season appearance as Pacers for F Thaddeus Young, who was acquired in July in a trade with Brooklyn, and for G Jeff Teague, who was acquired in July in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks ... Indiana swept the two-game series season against Dallas in each of the past two seasons and has five consecutive victories against the Mavericks ... Dallas has not won in Indianapolis since Feb. 12, 2014 ... Last season, the Pacers defeated the Mavericks by 26 points in Bankers Life, Indiana's largest margin of victory in the 36 years of the series.
Nets' rally falls short at Boston
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:20 PM (EDT)
BOSTON -- Both benches were being cleared. The Celtics, with an opening win in the bag, had a Thursday night date in Chicago on their minds. It was over.
But someone forgot to tell the Brooklyn Nets.
"We didn't end it like we wanted to, but we definitely got the win and that's all that matters," Isaiah Thomas said after the Celtics, ahead by 23 points in the fourth quarter and 21 with 5 1/2 minutes left, hung on for a 122-117 victory over Brooklyn that spoiled the head coaching debut of the Nets' Kenny Atkinson.
"If we want to be a top team like they say we're going to be, we have to do a better job of closing games out."
"That's the NBA for you," said Al Horford, who got a win in his first game with the Celtics. "I think it will humble you sometimes. We had a comfortable lead and we thought it was fine, but this is a good learning experience for our group.
"We have to keep playing the right way throughout 48 minutes."
And Atkinson, who has a roster with only five players who finished last season with the team, had to like what he saw.
"Very pleased that we didn't give up and we kept on fighting," he said. "I liked our grit in the fourth quarter."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was forced to send his starters back in with 2:07 left and, even after that, the Nets had two chances to tie on the same possession -- Bojan Bogdanovich missing a pair of 3-pointers.
"It was 110-87 and we started shooting bad shots and not guarding and throwing it to the other team," said Stevens. "It's how quickly things can change; we all know that."
Thomas, who iced the game with a pair of free throws, led all scorers with 25 points, adding nine assists and six rebounds -- in a game that saw the Celtics chalk up 36 assists on 48 baskets. That's the most assists by a team in an NBA opener since 2001. They also had 19 turnovers.
"We could have even had more assists if we knocked down our open shots that we have," said Thomas.
Jae Crowder scored 21 points and Avery Bradley had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Horford, signed to a big free agent contract over the summer, had 11 points, five rebounds and six assists in his Boston debut.
"I love playing with him," Bradley said of Horford.
Bogdanovich led the Nets with 21 points. Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points and match his career best with 10 rebounds. Jeremy Lin scored 18 points and Joe Harris 16.
Gerald Green, traded away from the Celtics in the 2007 Kevin Garnett-to-Boston deal, made his re-debut with Boston -- with his hair braided in an artistic shamrock on top of his head. He entered the game to a big hand in the first quarter and had nine points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.
Rookie Jaylen Brown, the third pick of the 2016 NBA draft -- a selection that came to Boston from Brooklyn in the Garnett/Paul Pierce deal -- played 19 minutes in his debut and scored nine points. He was welcomed by the crowd.
"It was wonderful, it was great, probably the best crowd in the world," he said.
Atkinson has been working with his new team on featuring 3-point shooting, and Brooklyn was 15-for-44 from behind the arc. Boston finished 11-for-32 from long distance, both teams at 34 percent.
"Yeah, 44 is a lot, but we'll look at them," said Atkinson. "We said we want to take them but they have to be open 3s."
Talking about Hamilton, who played 25:20 off the bench, Atrkinson said, "He's doing what he's done all preseason. I'm pleased with how he's fit with us."
NOTES: The Nets were without starting G Randy Foye (hamstring) and G/F Caris LeVert (foot, rehab) while the Celtics were missing G Marcus Smart (ankle) and F/C Kelly Olynyk (shoulder). Boston coach Brad Stevens said Olynyk, still recovering from surgery, is still a couple of weeks away from returning. ... C Al Horford received a rousing ovation from the crowd before his first regular-season game with the Celtics. He then excited the crowd by nailing a 3-point 1:23 into his debut. ... ESPN reported the Bulls had reached a deal with G R.J. Hunter, recently waived by the Celtics.... The Celtics visit the Bulls on Thursday night. The Nets play their home opener Friday night against the Indiana Pacers. ... Jordan Smith, the season nine winner of "The Voice," sang the national anthem. ... Patriots owner Robert Kraft and LeGarrette Blount were among those in the crowd.
DeRozan's 40 pace Raptors in win vs. Pistons
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:43 PM (EDT)
TORONTO -- Coach Dwane Casey called Wednesday night's performance by DeMar DeRozan one of the most efficient he has seen in his time with the Toronto Raptors.
The Compton, Calif., native led the Raptors with a game-high 40 points as Toronto defeated the Detroit Pistons 109-91.
"It was probably one of the most efficient games of him taking what the game gave him," Casey said. "We get criticized for not passing the ball, but when you have an excellent one-on-one player like that, you've got to take what the game gives."
DeRozan finished 17 of 27 from the field and went 6 of 6 from the line.
"Even when I'm not in the zone, I try to keep that mindset that I can make any shot as long as I can get it off," DeRozan said. "Tonight, I got good looks, my teammates put me in great positions to be able to knock down shots."
Raptors (1-0) center Jonas Valanciunas added 32 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Kyle Lowry had 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Tobias Harris led the Pistons (0-1) with 22 points and five rebounds. Marcus Morris chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds. Center Andre Drummond got into foul trouble early and finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
"We played poorly, clearly," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The areas though that concern me -- DeRozan had a great night -- I thought we did a really poor job on Valanciunas. He played very well, but I thought we did a really poor job on him, and we got outrebounded by 11.
"The rebounding was a major concern."
DeRozan set a franchise record for points on opening night. Valanciunas and DeRozan became the first Raptors to score 30-plus points in a season opener since Vince Carter dropped 39 on the New Jersey Nets on Oct. 29, 2003.
According to Elias Sports, DeRozan and Valanciunas became the first teammates in NBA history with a 40-point game and a 30-point game in a season opener.
DeRozan took over the game in the third quarter, scoring 21 on 10-of-14 shooting from the field.
Despite the impressive offensive showing, Casey was more impressed with DeRozan's defensive efforts, which stood out to him watching the 27-year-old play for Team USA a the 2016 Olympics.
"You just find a passion with that," DeRozan said. "In the Olympics, I really found a newfound passion of doing that. They didn't need me for scoring or nothing like that, so I just tried to do other things to make me a better player, try to carry that over to my team and that's something that I did."
Toronto closed the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 58-46 lead into recess.
Valanciunas paced the Raptors with 21 points and six rebounds.
With 6:57 remaining in the half, the Lithuanian center drove the basket and threw down a monster one-handed dunk on Boban Marjanovic, much to the delight of the 19,800 in attendance.
Harris and Morris each had 15 points for the Pistons and Aron Baynes added six points off the bench.
Valanciunas and DeRozan combined for 25 first-quarter points as the Raptors led 33-23.
Harris had a team-high eight points and four rebounds in the first quarter.
Less than two minutes in, Drummond took an elbow to the head from Valanciunas and went down, forcing the Pistons to take a timeout.
Drummond's troubles continued as he gets in to foul trouble early, picking up his second personal foul and sitting.
"I was really shaken up and it took me a minute to really compose myself," Drummond said of the collision with Valanciunas. "I had to come back here for a little bit and do the procedures to see if I was fine and obviously I passed.
"When I came back, there was like five minutes left in the second quarter and it is kind of tough to get back into the swing of the game (after) being out for so long."
The Raptors continue their three-game homestand on Friday when they entertain the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons return home for a three-game homestand beginning with the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
NOTES: Raptors F Pascal Siakam, Toronto's 27th overall selection at the 2016 draft, started Wednesday in place of injured Jared Sullinger (foot). ... Toronto C Lucas Nogueira did not dress because of a sprained left ankle. .... Pistons F Reggie Bullock missed the game because of back spasms. G Michael Gbinije took Bullock's spot in the Detroit lineup. ... Pistons G Reggie Jackson missed the season opener as he continues to rehab from left knee tendinitis.
|Major League Baseball|
Schwarber helps Cubs level World Series at 1-1
Thursday, October 27 at 12:36 AM (EDT)
CLEVELAND -- Kyle Schwarber didn't need much time to make an impact on the Chicago Cubs' lineup.
In his second game back after early-April knee surgery cost him almost the entire regular season, Schwarber helped the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 Wednesday to even the World Series at one game apiece.
Schwarber went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, making him 3-for-7 in the series after he went 0-for-4 in the regular season. He also sat out the Cubs' earlier playoff-series victories.
"He jacks everybody up," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the 23-year-old slugger who served as the designated hitter in the first two games of the Fall Classic. "It makes your lineup longer. It makes it thicker. It makes it better."
The best-of-seven series shifts to Chicago for the next three games, starting with Game 3 on Friday night at Wrigley Field.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. In 5 2/3 innings, Arrieta gave up one run on two hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
The right-hander thrived on a chilly night at Progressive Field. The game-time temperature was 43 degrees.
"It was so cold I tried to go to the bathroom in the fourth inning and I couldn't," Cleveland manager Terry Francona joked.
Arrieta retired the first batter in the sixth inning, but Jason Kipnis doubled to center field, Cleveland's first hit of the game. Kipnis went to third when Francisco Lindor grounded out, then scored on a wild pitch, cutting Chicago's lead to 5-1.
"I knew I hadn't given up a hit into the sixth inning, but that wasn't the focus of the game for me," Arrieta said. "I just wanted to pile up as many outs as I could."
Trevor Bauer started for Cleveland and had a rough and brief outing. In 3 2/3 innings, Bauer threw 87 pitches and gave up two runs on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
"They never let him settle into the game," Francona said. "You've got to give them a lot of credit. As a staff in general, we worked behind in the count too much."
The Cubs, who were shut out on seven hits by Corey Kluber and two relievers in Game 1 on Tuesday, scored a run in the first inning of Game 2, snapping a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason by Cleveland pitchers.
"That's our goal," Maddon said about scoring first. "If you look at this playoff run for everybody, the team that scores first normally has a pretty good advantage"
Ben Zobrist also had two hits for the Cubs, leaving him 5-for-8 in the series.
Bauer was making his first appearance since his aborted start in Toronto in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. In that outing, Bauer threw just 21 pitches and retired only two batters before being removed from the game when his right pinkie finger, lacerated while cleaning a drone, started bleeding profusely.
Bauer's finger appeared fine Wednesday night, but everything else was off.
The Cubs took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning. Kris Bryant singled and scored on a double off the right field wall by Anthony Rizzo.
Bauer gave up another run in a third-inning rally that began with two outs and nobody on base. Bauer got ahead in the count 0-2 to Rizzo but walked him. Zobrist singled, moving Rizzo to second. Schwarber lined a 3-0 pitch into center field, scoring Rizzo and giving Chicago a 2-0 lead.
"I had the green light there," Schwarber said. "I knew he was going to have to throw a strike, and I got a good pitch to hit."
Considering his long layoff, Schwarber was a surprise addition to the Cubs' World Series roster.
"I kept encouraging him for next year," Maddon said. "We were not expecting him to be ready for the playoffs right now."
Arrieta said, "I saw him in the training room and weight room four hours a day. To come back and contribute the way he has is remarkable."
The Cubs blew it open with a three-run fifth inning. With one out, Rizzo drew a walk off reliever Zach McAllister. Zobrist tripled, scoring Rizzo to make it 3-0. Bryan Shaw relieved McAllister and gave up an RBI single to Schwarber to extend the lead to 4-0.
Javier Baez struck out, but second baseman Kipnis booted a grounder by Willson Contreras, putting runners at first and third. Jorge Soler walked to load the bases, and Addison Russell also walked, forcing in Schwarber with the Cubs' fifth run.
NOTES: Indians manager Terry Francona said Game 1 starter Corey Kluber will also start Game 4 and Game 7, if the series goes that far. Francona said one of the reasons he took the right-hander out of Game 1 after 88 pitches was the knowledge that Kluber was going to start Game 4 on short rest. ... Francona is the only manager in major league history to win each of his first nine World Series games. ... Slumping Cubs RF Jason Heyward came off the bench and went 0-for-2. Manager Joe Maddon started Jorge Soler in right field in Game 2 after starting Chris Coghlan there in Game 1. Heyward is hitting .067 (2-for-30) through 10 postseason games. ... Cubs DH Kyle Schwarber's double in Game 1 made him the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after going hitless in the regular season.
|Thursday, October 27, 2016|
|National Football League|
|Jaguars||vs.||Titans||8:25 (EDT) Preview|
Heat on Jaguars' coach in Thursday game against Titans
Tuesday, October 25 at 5:01 PM (EDT)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Quarterback Blake Bortles said Tuesday that he's not a fan of the mustard-colored uniforms that the Jacksonville Jaguars will don for their Thursday night road game against the Tennessee Titans.
"I think they could have done a better job, and I think they should choose a different color," he said.
Truth is, whatever color uniform Jacksonville has modeled the last few years, the players haven't looked good in them. And if it can't muster up a better response for this game than it did in a lackluster 33-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday, it could lead to the kind of midseason changes no team wants to make.
Some felt the Jaguars could be a surprise team this year, citing the offseason additions they made to a leaky defense. Instead, they have permitted nearly 27 points per game, putting pressure on an offense that hasn't been able to keep pace.
Bortles has had trouble throwing the ball to his teammates, tossing nine interceptions in the first six games and only making marginal improvements in his accuracy. The running game remains a non-entity most weeks, forcing Bortles to throw nearly 40 times a game and making the offense too one-dimensional.
With a 2-4 record, coach Gus Bradley is squarely on a scalding seat. This is his fourth year in charge, and the one-time Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator is just 14-40. Another poor performance in this one could lead to a firing that owner Shad Khan, who truly likes Bradley, wouldn't want to preside over but might have no choice.
Yet Jacksonville still isn't out of the picture in the AFC South, a claim that can also be made by their opponent. Tennessee (3-4) missed on a great chance to tie Houston for first when it coughed up a lead in the last two minutes Sunday against Indianapolis, losing 34-26.
So this game, despite the lack of pizzazz that comes with putting the Jaguars and Titans in prime time, will have meaning. And from Tennessee's perspective, it could have even more meaning if it was able to make a play or two at the end of last week's game, or in earlier defeats against Oakland and Houston.
"These have all been close games," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We've just got to find a way -- especially like this week, that last drive, we felt like if we could hold them to a field goal, we could win that game."
Instead, Tennessee couldn't keep tight end Jack Doyle from beating linebacker Avery Williamson in coverage for the 7-yard touchdown pass that gave the Colts a 27-23 lead. Then quarterback Marcus Mariota was strip-sacked on the first play following the ensuing kickoff, and Robert Mathis returned the fumble 14 yards for the game-clinching score.
The loss dropped Mariota to 2-8 at home. Two of this year's three defeats were marked by late miscues from the second-year pro, who followed up two efficient performances with one that was a little sloppier.
"He doesn't want to let anybody down, so he doesn't want to make mistakes for his teammates, for this team, for this organization," Mularkey said. "If it's gray to him, he doesn't want to take the risk. I want him to be aggressive but smart. We definitely have the confidence in him."
Tennessee will have to play without guard Quinton Spain (knee), who figures to be out for at least the next two games after being injured in the second quarter Sunday. That could make it a bit easier for Jacksonville to neutralize DeMarco Murray, the NFL's third-leading rusher with 633 yards.
But the Jaguars have injury concerns of their own. Nose tackle Roy Miller is out for the year after tearing his right Achilles tendon against Oakland and will be replaced by backup Abry Jones.
And if Jacksonville can't up its standard of play Thursday night, it may have far greater worries than the loss of its nose guard.
--There's talk that if Bortles can't turn things around, the coaching staff could bench him for backup Chad Henne. That would be an admission that Bortles isn't the long-term answer. He hasn't helped his cause by tossing nine interceptions in the first six games, and needs to improve his completion percentage as well.
|Virginia Tech||vs.||Pittsburgh||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
ACC Coastal contention on line for VT, Pitt
Monday, October 24 at 10:34 PM (EDT)
Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh will play for position in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division race when they clash Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
It is pretty much an elimination game for the Panthers and close to that for the Hokies.
A win would keep the 25th-ranked Hokies (5-2, 3-1 ACC) on the road to the conference title game Dec. 3 in Orlando. They hold the tiebreaker over present division leader North Carolina (6-2, 4-1), which is off this weekend.
The unranked Panthers (5-2, 2-1) need a win to keep the pressure on the division-leading Tar Heels, who hold the tiebreaker over Pitt.
A loss wouldn't eliminate the Hokies from the title race but would leave them needing the Tar Heels to lose at least one of their remaining conference games against Georgia Tech, Duke, and North Carolina State to regain the advantage in the tiebreaker.
A Panthers defeat would leave Pitt them on the outside and hoping for some sort of multiple-team deadlock at the end of the regular season that doesn't include both North Carolina and Virginia Tech, which both would hold tiebreakers over the Panthers.
Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi acknowledges the Thursday contest is pretty much a "must-win" game.
"Yeah, I would say so," Narduzzi said. "I would say so. Based on how things look and I think every ACC game is a must win as we go on, as far as what you want to do. You're a 5-2 football team, and each one of these games is important."
The Hokies are 1-2 away from Blacksburg's Lane Stadium, and the trip to Pittsburgh represents their biggest road test of the season. Virginia Tech is headed for a place where it hasn't experienced much success.
The Hokies' last road win over the Panthers was in 1999 in the old Pitt Stadium, when both teams labored in the Big East Conference. The Panthers have won all four meetings played at Heinz Field and have won six of the past seven meetings overall.
"It's not something we've addressed," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuentes said of the Hokies' recent struggles vs. the Panthers. "I know that Pitt has been very good and we haven't, for whatever reason, whether it was there or here, haven't had much success in recent history. But it's not something we dwell on."
Hokies running back Travon McMillian said, "This is a totally different team than we've had in the past."
Narduzzi sees the Panthers' recent success as a non-factor.
"If we need the past to help with our confidence, then we probably got issues, 'Hey, we got a chance to win because this is what happened in the past,'" he said. "It doesn't matter.
"This is a new football team. They're coming in here, they have never come in here in October 2016 to play us. So they get a chance to come here, and it's a new show, in my opinion."
What concerns Narduzzi more is a Hokies' offense led by versatile quarterback Jerod Evans (229 yards a game passing and 60 rushing) and McMillian, who is coming off a 131-yard rushing performance in Tech's 37-16 thumping of Miami last week.
The Tech defense that held Miami to just 42 yards rushing and recorded eight sacks. It is, Narduzzi acknowledges, the best defense his team has faced so far.
"Based on the stats, without a question," he said.
The Hokies have yielded only nine touchdown passes this year while also recording nine interceptions.
Pitt itself is no slouch defensively, holding opponents to less than 97 yards a game rushing and sacking opposing quarterbacks 25 times, which is tied for fourth-best total in the country. Defensive end Ejuan Price has a national-best nine sacks.
The Panthers also are one of the top rushing teams. Behind junior James Conner (76 yards a game) and a stable of backups, the Panthers rank 20th in the country with their average of 239 rushing yards per game.
"You can tell the makeup of their team starts with running the football and stopping the run," Fuentes said. "And they've been successful at that, and that is why they're winning ballgames."
Pitt is coming of a bye week, but Narduzzi isn't convinced that will be an advantage.
"You can go either way," he said. "You would like to keep the momentum. You would like to keep playing and stay in that same rhythm. However, it did give us a chance to get fresh and get healthy. I don't think it will play a big part either way. That won't be an excuse or a benefit."
|Appalachian State||vs.||Georgia Southern||7:30 (EDT)|
|National Hockey League|
|Red Wings||vs.||Blues||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Blues look to rebound against red-hot Red Wings
Wednesday, October 26 at 5:58 PM (EDT)
ST. LOUIS - Coach Ken Hitchcock criticized the St. Louis Blues' effort and focus in a 4-1 loss to Calgary on Tuesday night.
If they don't improve both of those areas in a hurry, the results in Thursday night's home game against the Detroit Red Wings might not be much better.
The Red Wings are coming into the game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, having won five consecutive contests after losing their first two to start the season.
Detroit's most recent win came on Tuesday night at home, a 4-2 victory over Carolina that included the first two goals of the season from center Dylan Larkin.
"We have to keep going and we can't take the foot of the gas," Larkin told the Detroit News. "We have a big test on the road in St. Louis, a good team, especially at home. We have to do the right things that have made us successful in the last five games."
Hitchcock also will be looking for his team to do the right things, the parts of the game they didn't do well in the loss to the Flames.
"We didn't manage it (the puck) very well," Hitchcock said. "We played sideways when we should have played with speed and gone north, and we played light on the boards when we could have really won some puck battles and played with a higher level of determination."
St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo, said it will be up to the players to correct those mistakes if they want to a different outcome against the Red Wings.
"The games when you don't seem to have it mentally, you have to find a way to win," he said.
The Blues could get Jori Lehtera back in the lineup for Thursday's game, but instead of playing center, Hitchcock said there was a chance he could move to left wing and play on a line with Jaden Schwartz at center and Vladimir Tarasenko on right wing.
Lehtera has missed the last four games while being treated for an apparent concussion.
Left winger Justin Abdelkader could return for the Red Wings after missing the last two games because of a lower-body injury. Returning to St. Louis as a new member of the Red Wings will be center Steve Ott, who spent the last three years with the Blues before signing as a free agent in Detroit.
One of the keys to the Red Wings' recent success has been the ability to close out games, something they had trouble doing last season.
"That's the biggest difference," coach Jeff Blashill told NHL.com. "We've done that so far this season. We've done a good job of being able to score that extra goal if we've needed it. As I've talked about, we were actually good defensively in the third period last year but we still gave up lots of leads because you're constantly playing with just a one-goal lead so it's a big difference."
|Stars||vs.||Jets||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Thursday, October 27 at 2:18 AM (EDT)
WINNIPEG -- Expect a little bit of bad blood when the Dallas Stars meet the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on Thursday night.
It's not that there's any particular score to be settled but when teams play back-to-back games, the hits tend to a little harder, the whacks a little louder and the back checking a little more rigorous.
The Stars drew first the first cut Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center with a 3-2 victory, despite playing without a half-dozen regulars.
"I like the back-to-back," Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It builds a little bit of emotion inside games. There's usually something that will carry over from game to game. I think in this league sometimes you only play one team in January for the first time."
Jets coach Paul Maurice agreed.
"I like (back-to-back games) an awful lot. I think you get a little more room to work on adjustments that you'd make instead of bouncing around a lot. You can work on themes with the team and I think the rivalries get built a little stronger as well," he said to the Free Press.
The Jets are spending a fair amount of time working on their power play, which sits at an anemic 10 percent -- two goals in 20 chances -- which is 25th in the league. As incredulous as it may sound, that's actually a relative improvement as the Jets were last in the league last year with the man advantage. The penalty-killing is even worse, sitting at 29th with a success ratio of 68.8 per cent.
If they can find something -- anything -- that works, the Jets just might be able to avoid pulling the goalie, something they have done in all six of their games this year. (They have managed to score three goals with the net empty, ultimately pulling off a pair of wins.) The Jets sit at 2-4-0 for four points and are last in the Central Division. Dallas sits in third in the same division with a record of 3-2-1 and seven points.
The Jets will play a whopping 15 games over the next 27 days, including nine on the road. The Stars, meanwhile, are starting a three-game road trip.
The Stars come to Winnipeg with a number of their highest-profile players in sick bay, including forwards Jason Spezza (lower body), Jiri Hudler (illness) and Patrick Sharp (concussion). Captain Jamie Benn didn't skate Wednesday as he's dealing with soreness related to abdominal surgery in the summer. The Jets haven't been immune from the injury bug either as forwards Bryan Little (lower body) and Drew Stafford (upper body) are out indefinitely.
There are precious few connections between the two teams but one player, defenseman Johnny Oduya, enjoys coming back to Winnipeg. He played most of the team's first season after relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011-12 before being dealt to Chicago at the trade deadline.
|Blue Jackets||vs.||Sharks||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Sharks host Jackets, who are taking lessons in effort to turn corner
Thursday, October 27 at 2:38 AM (EDT)
After being one of the NHL's also-rans for much of their existence, the Columbus Blue Jackets feel that it may be time to emulate the things successful teams do.
The Blue Jackets seek their third consecutive win in San Jose on Thursday night when they meet the Sharks for the second and final time in the regular season.
Since entering the league in 2000, Columbus has made the playoffs just twice. But there is optimism this season behind budding stars up front in Alexander Wennberg and on the blueline in Zach Werenski along with a veteran core that includes forwards Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson, defenseman Seth Jones and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Following a loss to the Sharks on Oct. 15, Columbus defeated perennial powerhouses Chicago and Dallas before dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Brandon Saad tallied his first goal of the season and Atkinson added a power-play marker. Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots.
Foligno, who is tied with Wennberg and Werenski for the team lead with five points, is in his 10th NHL season and fifth with the Blue Jackets. He likes the direction the club is taking after finishing last in the Eastern Conference in 2015-16.
"We can take a lot of lessons from that game (against Los Angeles) of what type of team we need to be, and how we can be successful doing it. ... Now we got to get ready and, the things we talked about, don't get too high, don't get too low, and we've got a big game against San Jose," Foligno said.
One facet in which Columbus has excelled this season is on special teams -- the Blue Jackets have killed off 16 of 17 short-handed situations. San Jose provided the only blemish by scoring in the final minute of a 3-2 win on Oct. 15 in Columbus.
Though they've failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Blue Jackets won in both of their visits to San Jose, totaling 10 goals.
After losing three games during an early five-game road trip, the Sharks (4-3-0) opened a three-game homestand with a 2-1 overtime win against Anaheim on Tuesday. Joe Pavelski scored a power-play goal less than 8 minutes into the game, and assisted on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's game-winner.
"It was one of those game where we needed everybody, and everyone showed up and played hard," Pavelski told the Mercury News.
Pavelski leads the Sharks with nine points on three goals and six assists, but failed to register a point in San Jose's win in Columbus a couple of weeks ago. Given his recent history, that could change. Pavelski has recorded two-goal games in each of his last two home meetings against Columbus.
The Sharks' Brent Burns is tied with Pavelski for the team lead with nine points -- also on three goals and six assists -- but the defenseman had failed to make the scoresheet in each of his last two contests. He had a season-high eight shots and drew a pair of assists in Columbus a couple of weeks back.
While with San Jose, Burns has one assist in six career home games against the Blue Jackets.
Joe Thornton, who has five assists but is still looking for his first goal in 2016-17, has failed to light the lamp when facing Columbus in San Jose in four straight games since Jan. 31, 2012.
|Predators||vs.||Kings||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Kings, winners of 3 straight in OT, host struggling Predators
Thursday, October 27 at 2:29 AM (EDT)
The Los Angeles Kings have made a habit of collecting wins after regulation recently. The Nashville Predators know all too well what it's like to be on the losing end of such a contest when facing the Kings.
Seeking their fourth straight win, the Kings welcome the struggling Predators to Staples Center on Thursday night.
After opening the season with three consecutive losses, the Kings (3-3-0) have bounced back to win three in a row -- all after the score was knotted at the end of regulation. They began their run by winning 4-3 at Dallas in overtime on Thursday, then returned home to top Vancouver by the same score in a shootout on Saturday.
Los Angeles continued its winning ways after regulation Tuesday. Alec Martinez scored 74 seconds in overtime to lift the Kings to a 3-2 victory over Columbus.
The Kings went 2-1-0 vs. the Predators in 2015-16 with both wins secured in overtime.
Jeff Carter scored with 18 seconds to play in the extra session in a 4-3 victory at Staples Center on Oct. 31. Tanner Pearson lit the lamp 1:18 into OT to give the Kings a 2-1 on Feb. 20 in Nashville.
Pearson, a left wing, leads the Kings this season with four goals and six points, with all of his points recorded during a career-best four-game points streak. His lone goal and assist vs. the Predators have come in the last two matchups.
A completely unexpected key to Los Angeles' resurgence has been veteran goaltender Peter Budaj, who was again expected to see the bulk of his playing time this season in the American Hockey League.
But Jonathan Quick, the team's all-time wins leader, suffered a lower-body injury in the season opener and is expected to miss up to three months. Backup Jeff Zatkoff strained a groin hours before the win over the Canucks, opening the door for the Budaj, who's surrendered eight goals on 75 shots over the last three contests.
"Winning is fun," the 34-year-old Budaj told the Kings' official website after practice on Wednesday. "When you win the games, you're very excited, very happy. Everything comes easier. You work hard easier because your mind is a little looser because you're winning, but you cannot focus on what happened yesterday ... Yesterday was yesterday."
Budaj is 7-5-0 with 2.31 goals-against average and one shutout in 12 career games against Nashville. However, he's not faced the Predators since Montreal posted a 2-1 win -- in overtime -- on Nov. 12, 2011.
The Kings signed former Predators goaltender Anders Lindback on Wednesday and assigned him to Ontario of the AHL. Lindback has also played for Tampa Bay, Dallas, Buffalo and Arizona, posting a 45-58-8 record with a 2.87 GAA.
Nashville dropped to 0-3-0 on the road after being drubbed 6-1 by Anaheim on Wednesday night in the opener of a five-game road trip. Colin Wilson's goal with just over 12 minutes left was the Predators' NHL-high 10th of the season.
Lack of any offensive punch from their top two threats last season has a hand in why Nashville is tied with Winnipeg for last in the Central Division. Filip Forsberg, a team-best 33-goal scorer last season, has yet to tally one in 2016-17. James Neal, who was second on the club with 31 goals, also has yet to score.
The Predators' top two defensemen, P.K. Subban (two goals, team high-tying five points) and Roman Josi (three assists and four points) have been trying to fill the offensive gap, but Nashville's goaltenders were shaky while surrendering five special-teams goals -- two of them short-handed -- against the Ducks.
Pekka Rinne, playing in his first game after missing one due to food poisoning, was lifted late in the second period after stopping only 13 of 17 shots. Marek Mazanec, appearing in just his third NHL game going back to January 2015, turned aside seven of nine shots.
"We've got to do a better job of just being harder to play against, defending our goaltender better and defending our end better," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
However, Rinne is 2-0-1 in his last three appearances in Los Angeles despite posting a 3.57 GAA in that span. Mazanec defeated the Kings in his only start against them in December 2013 in Nashville.
The Predators are 3-0-1 in their last four games at Staples Center, all one-goal decisions.
|Coyotes||vs.||Flyers||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Flyers host Coyotes, aiming for back-to-back wins
Wednesday, October 26 at 8:20 PM (EDT)
PHILADELPHIA -- After pulling out an improbable shootout win over the injury-depleted Buffalo Sabres with a third-period goal-scoring spree Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers (3-3-1) will look to string together their first back-to-back wins of the season Thursday night against the struggling Arizona Coyotes (1-5-0).
The Coyotes' only win this season came in their season opener against the Flyers on Oct. 15. Since then they've dropped consecutive road games against the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.
No team in the NHL has fewer points (2) than the Coyotes, who return home to face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
Goaltending has been a major issue for Arizona head coach Dave Tippett, who will be without starter Mike Smith for at least another week with a lower body injury. Louis Domingue (0-4-0, 5.03 goals-against average, .851 save percentage) has struggled in Smith's absence and third-stringer Justin Peters fared no better Tuesday night in his first NHL start since he was a member of the Capitals in 2014-15.
Peters allowed four goals on 34 shots against the Devils.
"We need more saves," Tippett said. "We need more saves to stabilize our group, and we need sustained ability to stay with the game for longer periods of time. If we do that, we'll be fine."
The Coyotes stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score on back-to-back, third-period goals by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, only to see Travis Zajac win it for the Devils with a power-play goal with 2:01 remaining in regulation.
"That's a save I have to come up with," Peters said. "Crucial time of the game, obviously. There's such a fine line between winning and losing."
The Flyers learned just as much Tuesday night. Playing on consecutive nights, they trailed 3-0 after two periods. Third-period goals from rookie forward Travis Konecny, center Brayden Schenn and defenseman Mark Streit forced overtime before Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek won it with a pair of shootout goals.
"It's important, of course," Voracek said of returning with some energy Thursday night. "Five games in seven nights, if I'm not mistaken. It's going to be tough, but everybody's got to go through that stretch. I like it better when you play the games instead of sitting out for a week. It's tough. But, I think we're skating pretty well."
The Flyers were given Wednesday off and expect Steve Mason to return to the net. Mason replaced Michael Neuvirth in the second period and stopped all 10 shots he faced, including two in the shootout.
Before Thursday night's game, the Flyers will honor some of the most beloved players in their history, including Hockey Hall of Famers Bill Barber, Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe and Eric Lindros.
The game could feature former Flyer and current Coyote Ryan White facing his old team. White played parts of two seasons in Philadelphia before signing with the Coyotes.
|Islanders||vs.||Penguins||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Suddenly healthy Penguins host Isles
Thursday, October 27 at 1:06 AM (EDT)
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins regained their Stanley Cup-winning captain, and he made an immediate impact. Next up: The return of their Stanley Cup-winning goalie.
Perhaps as early as Thursday night, when the Penguins -- already 4-0-1 at PPG Paints Arena this season, and 4-2-1 overall -- take on the New York Islanders.
Matt Murray, who missed the first seven Penguins games as he healed from a broken right hand sustained during the World Cup, is practicing again and served as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup for the first time this season Tuesday night.
Sidney Crosby, who missed the first six games with a concussion, returned Tuesday to score the Penguins' first goal of a comeback in which they flipped a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Coach Mike Sullivan isn't saying whether Murray will be ready to go against the Islanders, but Fleury started the first seven games, and no doubt the Penguins want to give him a night off soon.
If only to see how Murray has recovered from his injury -- and whether he can sustain his level of play during the playoffs, when he became the most inexperienced goalie to win the Stanley Cup since Ken Dryden of Montreal in 1971.
"I think he's getting close," Sullivan said following practice Wednesday. "Having the ability to back up and seeing the game up close (Tuesday) with the speed (of the game), even though he's on the bench, will help with his timing and inch (him) that much closer to being ready to play."
The Islanders will play the second half of a back-to-back after losing 3-2 to the unbeaten-in-regulation Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. They lost three of four to the Penguins last season.
Dennis Seidenberg scored the tying goal for the Islanders in the third period -- one of their 15 shots in the period -- but Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining won it for Montreal.
"The first half of the game we didn't manage the puck properly," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "I think if you watch that third period, we had plenty of opportunities. Came down to their power play."
The Islanders (3-4) will go from playing a Canadiens team that's off to a 6-0-1 start to one that won the Stanley Cup last season.
Asked if the Islanders learned anything from playing the Canadiens, center John Tavares said, "I think just to realize what's going to bring us success, especially against good hockey teams and teams (that) play a similar style of game to us. They play quick and they transition off the ice."
The Islanders have faced Murray only once -- a 5-0 loss on April 2 that was Murray's first shutout in the NHL.
Whenever he returns, Murray likely will wear a cast on his broken thumb for the time being.
"The bone doesn't fully heal for a long time, but it's healed enough where I can do everything normally and not worry about it. I'll wear the cast while I play," Murray said.
He couldn't have played much better last spring when, after appearing in only 12 regular-season games (going 9-2-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average), he carried the Penguins to the Cup with the steady glove hand of a much more experienced goalie. He went 15-6 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.08 GAA in the postseason.
Fleury is his usual reliable self so far this season, with a 4-2-1 record and a .904 save percentage. But the Penguins likely signaled their course for the future last week when they signed Murray to a three-year, $11.25 million contract that begins next season -- even though Fleury is only in the second year of a four-year deal.
The Penguins can only hope Murray is as impactful from the start -- even if he doesn't return Thursday -- as Crosby was. After a get-up-to-speed first period, Crosby looked himself after that, and Sullivan thinks he's good to go despite his prior concussion history.
"There's no reason (not to think that)," Sullivan said. "I think Sid's going to be fine."
Sullivan made one adjustment during the game, breaking up the HBK line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel by shifting Kessel to Evgeni Malkin's line and installing Rust as the right wing on the Bonino line. It's likely that will carry over to Thursday.
"He (Rust) brings speed, he brings energy, he creates a lot of turnovers with his speed," Sullivan said of Rust, who scored both goals in the Game 7 Eastern Conference-clinching 2-1 win over Tampa Bay.
|Wild||vs.||Sabres||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Wild, Sabres on different ends of spectrum heading into clash
Thursday, October 27 at 1:44 AM (EDT)
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Minnesota Wild are basking in the glow of their most dominant and complete victory of the young NHL season, while the Buffalo Sabres are left wondering about the one that got away.
The teams meet at 7 p.m. in Buffalo on Thursday night. On Tuesday, Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves in a 5-0 victory over the Boston Bruins. The Wild (4-2-1) took full advantage of a depleted Bruins roster that was missing its top two goalies.
"It was really good," Boudreau said of Dubnyk, according to the Wild's team website. "He was sharp, he had great movement, followed the puck well, and that's what good goaltending's all about."
Dubnyk is off to a solid start to the year, posting a 3-1-1 record along with a save percentage of .929.
Five different players scored for the Wild in the blowout victory, which is looking for more balanced efforts on the score sheet moving forward.
"It's great balance, which you need ... if you can have balanced scoring in this league, then every line becomes a dangerous line," Boudreau said. "And that's what we're striving for."
Defenseman Ryan Suter leads the Wild in points with seven (two goals, five assists) through seven games.
The Sabres jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday only to see that lead slip away due to penalties and poor play. Buffalo eventually lost 4-3 in a shootout.
"If we want to be a good team, if we want to be a winning team, this is a game where we have to learn a lesson from with how we played, have to learn a lesson with how we're going to play going forward and one we should never let happen again," Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said.
"I remember blowing a lot of two, three-goal leads on the island three, four years ago," said Sabres newcomer Kyle Okposo, according to the Sabres' team website. Okposo joined the Sabres this season from the New York Islanders. "It's not fun to do that. At the same time, once you kind of figure out everything you need to do to keep those leads it just becomes of habit and you kind of do it automatically. I think we're gonna learn from this and hopefully come out better on the other side."
It remains to be seen if the Sabres will get starting goaltender Robin Lehner back in time to face the Wild. Lehner did not make the trip to Philadelphia due to an illness.
"This is our fourth guy that's gotten ill and it's all kind of been about the same amount of time, about a two-day window," Bylsma said, according to the Sabres' team website. "Robin's just a shade over those two days now. Hopefully he'll start feeling better here today. We'll see going forward in terms of him coming back to the ice."
If Lehner can't go, Anders Nilsson will likely receive his second consecutive start.
|Lightning||vs.||Canadiens||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Habs face early measuring stick in Lightning
Thursday, October 27 at 1:55 AM (EDT)
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens are riding high but their early season success will be put to the test against one of their toughest opponents to date.
Winners of five straight after dispatching the New York Islanders 3-2 on Wednesday night, Montreal (6-0-1) returns home to host a rested Tampa Bay Lightning squad on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Defenseman Shea Weber scored the game-winner on a late third period power play to go with an assist, and now leads the Canadiens with nine points. Three of those have been goals and two of those tallies have stood as the decisive markers.
"It's a good team effort," he said of their early season success. "Everybody's doing the right things consistently throughout the lineup, up and down."
The Canadiens have now won six of their first seven games for the third straight season, a feat realized only three previous times in franchise history. But while the team is enjoying another remarkable start, the players know how quickly it can evaporate after last season's epic collapse.
"We've always known we had a good group in here," Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said after the game. "It's just about learning from last year and understanding that whatever it is--last year it was nine games, I think we're seven games in now--it doesn't mean anything unless you can finish it off.
"So for us, just continue to build, not get too far ahead of ourselves. Day after day, just go about our business, try and take care of what we can control."
The Atlantic Division rivals occupy the top two spots in the division, with Montreal holding a three-point edge over Tampa (5-1-0). The two clubs also sit in the upper echelons in NHL scoring, with the Lightning averaging 3.83 goals-per-game through six games to the Canadiens' 3.71 through seven.
But while both teams can put the puck in the net, it's taken some time for them to do so. The Habs and Lightning have each scored just three times in the first period, and for Tampa, all three of their first period goals came in Tuesday's rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It was something we talked about before was getting out to a good start, especially on the road, it's always important," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said following the game. "It definitely set the tone for the game and put us up."
After ceding the crease to Al Montoya for Wednesday's tilt, goaltender Carey Price will get the nod at home against Tampa. He'll face them for the first time since May 12, 2015, when the two teams squared off in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ben Bishop is expected to get the start for the Lightning after turning in one of his best efforts against Toronto. While he allowed three goals for a fourth start, he came up big when his team needed him as the Lightning were outshot 43-24.
"It was the best I've felt for sure," Bishop told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's been kind of a work in progress. The previous games we watched, I was doing everything right, staying with the process. And I kind of got some unfortunate bounces. The stats aren't where you'd like them. But the wins are there, and that's the important thing."
Bishop is 10-3-3 lifetime against Montreal, with a 1.80 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 17 games.
|Panthers||vs.||Maple Leafs||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Matthews, Maple Leafs looking for better results against Panthers
Thursday, October 27 at 1:47 AM (EDT)
TORONTO - James Reimer said he will have good memories of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs would like to play a game worth remembering Thursday night when they host the Florida Panthers.
Reimer will not start for the Panthers but this will be his first appearance in Toronto as a visiting player. He was traded to the San Jose Sharks after appearing in 207 games with the Maple Leafs in parts of six seasons.
"Just some memories flooding back about coming back after games and what not," Reimer said of returning to Toronto. "Just a whole wash of different emotions, I guess, just remembering the good times. It was good. It's fun. It's cool."
Not cool for the Leafs have been some of their recent performances, including Tuesday's 7-3 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto has lost four straight (0-2-2) and allowed 20 goals in those games.
"When you play right and you do good things in life, good things happen," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "There's no sense going home and feeling sorry for yourself, that's a waste of time. (The fans) paid good money to watch our team play and we didn't do a good enough job."
An area where Toronto has not done a good enough job has been in the nets.
Frederik Andersen, signed in the offseason to a five-year, $25 million contract, has struggled early. The 27-year-old is amongst the league's worst in major statistical areas with a .851 save percentage and a 4.29 goals-against average in five starts
"Everyone's had tough times, you just got to keep working at it," Andersen told reporters on Wednesday following practice. "All that matters is what you do next and gotta work hard towards stopping the next puck and playing well the next game."
One of the lone bright spots for Toronto (1-2-3) six games into the season has been the play of its young star. Auston Matthews, the 2016 first overall pick has six goals and 10 points.
"It's frustrating for sure, but it's a long season," Matthews said. "You've got to take it day-by-day, stay positive in this room. Guys in this room have gone through this before. There's no doubt in our minds we're going to get out of it."
He will look to increase those totals against Roberto Luongo, who is 3-1 with a .922 save percentage, and a 1.99 GAA.
Florida (3-2-1) limps into Toronto with one win in its last four games. The Panthers followed up a 5-2 win against Colorado with Tuesday's 3-2 loss in Pittburgh during Sidney Crosby's season debut.
"They had odd-man rushes, and when you have good players and you give them opportunities, and they're bound to score," Florida defenseman Keith Yandle said.
Jonathan Marchessault, signed as a free agent in the offseason, leads the Panthers in scoring with three goals and eight points in six games.
The Panthers have won four straight in Toronto and nine of their last 12 meetings with the Maple Leafs.
"This is a different Toronto Maple Leafs team," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told the Miami Herald. "They're a much different team and we know this is going to be a big challenge."
|Wednesday, October 26, 2016|
|National Hockey League|
Pirri scores twice as Rangers thump Bruins
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:58 PM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- Through 20 minutes, the New York Rangers were down two goals to the Boston Bruins, who had the fresher legs despite playing the night before. It didn't seem to make sense, as the Bruins were blanking the Rangers with rookie goaltender Zane McIntyre making his first NHL start.
Forty minutes and five unanswered goals later, the scoreboard made more sense.
The Rangers scored five goals over 14 minutes across the second and third periods and pulled away late in a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Left winger Brandon Pirri scored twice, the Rangers converted twice on the power play and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist righted himself over the final two periods and stopped 27 shots.
"I think we just felt like we could turn it around," Lundqvist said. "We showed it to ourselves so many times this season so we didn't panic. I'm just happy with the way we responded -- with the way I responded after that start."
Bruins right winger David Pastrnak put his team ahead 1-0 just 10 seconds into the contest when he slipped behind the defense and stashed a shot between Lundqvist's legs. Center Austin Czarnik scored his first career goal with 5:16 remaining in the period to put the depleted Bruins ahead 2-0.
Playing without their top two goaltenders -- Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin -- the Bruins were relying on Zane McIntyre one night after Malcolm Subban was yanked during the second period from his start against the Minnesota Wild. McIntyre was sharp in the first period, stopping a pair of breakaways, but crumbled in the second period as he allowed three goals on 14 shots, including a game-tying goal by center Kevin Hayes that was banked off his backside with 3:25 remaining.
Pirri's power-play goal with 35.4 seconds to go in the period put the Rangers ahead 3-2, then Pirri and left winger Jimmy Vesey scored 33 seconds apart early in the third period to put the game away.
The Bruins took four consecutive minor penalties in the second period and weren't able to recover.
"Last two nights, we played well in the first and haven't been able to continue that," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "I think we started off well in the second period but the penalties got away and our discipline wasn't there. If you give a skilled team like that too many power plays, they're going to score."
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn't hang the blame entirely on his inexperienced goaltender.
"I thought he made some real good saves early in the game," Julien said. "In the first half, he was really good. But there were some tough goals that went in on him. I'm not saying it's his fault."
The Bruins (3-4-0) lost three straight -- all without Rask -- after starting 3-1-0. The Rangers (5-2-0) won three straight and continue to get balanced scoring throughout their new and improved forward group.
"Tonight, our power play comes up big for us. They were playing back-to-back so maybe they were a little tired there. We scored those two quick goals (to start the third period). And if you're going to have success in such a tough league where all the teams are so close, you need contributions from throughout your lineup and that's what we got tonight."
There was a scary moment in the second period when Pastrnak crushed Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in the neutral zone, which resulted in Pastrnak receiving a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi left the ice but returned soon after, which was a sigh of relief for a Rangers team that has already dealt with Girardi's absence this season.
"All I can say is that I was really happy when I saw him back on the ice," Lundqvist said. "I wasn't sure he was coming back into this game, but that was a great sign. He's playing so well right now. He's blocking shots. He's so solid in front of me, helping me in so many different situations especially defensively, so it was great to see him back out there."
NOTES: Bruins G Tuukka Rask (undisclosed injury) missed his second consecutive game, as did G Anton Khudobin (lower body). Rask is listed as day-to-day while Khudobin is out about three weeks. ... Bruins C David Backes missed his second straight game after having a bursa sac removed from his elbow. The team won't know his timetable to return until after the weekend. ... Rangers C Josh Jooris left the game with a separated shoulder and team is saying he will be out indefinitely. Jooris is scheduled to get an MRI on Thursday. ... Rangers LW Chris Kreider (neck spasms) missed his second game in a row. ... Rangers LW Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms) could return Friday.
Oilers top Caps to continue strong start
Thursday, October 27 at 1:18 AM (EDT)
EDMONTON, Alberta -- After a decade removed from the playoffs, nobody wants to get too excited yet, but the Edmonton Oilers have certainly launched the season in the way that they wanted.
Benoit Pouliot led the way with a pair of goals as the Oilers continued their surprisingly strong start to the season, emerging with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon also scored for the Oilers (6-1-0), who won their fourth game in a row.
"We knew coming into the season that we had a chance to establish ourselves at home in October," said Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had two assist in the game, of Edmonton's 4-1-0 home record this year. "We've had that opportunity before and haven't taken advantage of it.
"Starts are key, they can set you up for the season and so far it's going well."
Doing it against a well-respected Washington squad also speaks volumes about how well it has gone in the early running.
"I think that we played a heck of a game," said Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, who made 34 saves. "This team can beat you in a run and gun game or in a tight close game. We did a great job eliminating their top guys tonight and played a heck of a game on our end."
Alex Ovechkin scored in response for the Capitals (3-2-1), who have dropped two straight.
"I think in the second period, we had pretty good chances, but I made a turnover and a bad play," Ovechkin said. "They were almost waiting for a mistake, they have skilled guys up front and we didn't use our strength in front of our net.
"They scored the first goal and then the second and in the third, we scored right away. Then they scored another one. We didn't execute our plays, we made bad decisions and it cost us the game.
There was no scoring in the first period with the best chances coming on Washington's two power plays, but Talbot continued to display the kind of play that earned him the NHL first star of the week honors on Monday.
Washington had a glorious chance six minutes into the second period as Ovechkin had a partial breakaway, but had his stick lifted by Oilers rookie Jesse Puljujarvi.
Despite being outshot 9-0 to that point of the period, the Oilers scored first as Nugent-Hopkins picked off a pass and sped up ice before taking a long shot that ticked off of Pouliot in front and past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby 7:48 into the second period. It was Pouliot's second goal of the season.
He got his third goal at the 17:08 mark of the middle frame, taking a hopeful shot from behind the net that banked off of Holtby and into the net to give Edmonton the 2-0 lead.
The Capitals came right back to start the third period as Ovechkin poked in his fourth goal of the season, and for the fourth straight game.
The Oilers came right back, however, as Maroon was able to deposit home the rebound from a Holtby save on Puljujarvi to make it 3-1 just over a minute later.
Edmonton then added its lead midway through the third, as an Andrej Sekera shot was tipped into the net by Lucic in front on the power play. Connor McDavid picked up his second assist of the game on the goal to give him 11 points in seven games.
"It was a lot closer game than the score said," Holtby said. "Today, you look at the goals and the Hockey Gods didn't want us to win this one. You move on and look forward to Vancouver."
NOTES: Both teams head to Vancouver for their next games, with the Oilers visiting on Friday and the Capitals playing there on Saturday. ... It was the start of a four-game Western Canadian road trip for the Capitals, their second-longest trip of the season. ... Washington went through the entire 2015-16 regular season without suffering back-to-back regulation losses, the first NHL team to do so since the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. ... Out with injuries for the Oilers were F Drake Caggiula (hip), F Matt Hendricks (lower body), F Iiro Pakarinen (knee), D Brandon Davidson (upper body) and D Mark Fayne (lower body). Scratched for the contest with the Caps were F Anton Slepyshev and D Matthew Benning. ... The Capitals, who have no listed injuries at the moment, scratched D Taylor Chorney and F Brett Connolly.
Ducks' special teams dominant vs. Predators
Thursday, October 27 at 2:09 AM (EDT)
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks accomplished something Wednesday night they hadn't done in 23 years of existence
Anaheim scored three power-play goals and two short-handed in the same game for the first time in club history, more than enough to dispose of the visiting Nashville Predators 6-1 at Honda Center.
"I don't know if you can take that blueprint and expect that many more times throughout the year," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of the special teams play.
Nashville had not played since Saturday and the Ducks were in action Tuesday night in a 2-1 overtime loss in San Jose, but it was Anaheim that started strong before putting the game away with five goals in the second period.
"We got three out of the possible four points," Carlyle said of the back-to-backs. "If you would have said that going into San Jose, which is a tough building to play in, and then coming back and meeting a rested Nashville team, we'd have our work cut out for us. So, that's a big positive from our standpoint."
The Ducks scored their first goal of the game on the power play following a holding call on Roman Josi. Antoine Vermette, who centered the top line in place of injured Ryan Getzlaf, passed the puck from the wall in the Nashville zone to Michael Sgarbossa near the far circle. Sgarbossa made a quick feed to Nick Ritchie in the slot and Ritchie slid the puck past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne at the 2:57 mark of the opening period for his second goal of the season.
The Ducks, who combined for 15 goals in the first seven games, delivered power play and short-handed goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period to take a 3-0 advantage.
The Predators, who came into the game 9-for-19 on the power play this season, second-most efficient in the NHL, began their second man-advantage situation at the 4:06 mark of the second period after Korbinian Holzer went to the box for high sticking during a scramble in front of the Anaheim net. Shea Theodore and Jakob Silfverberg sprung loose on a 2-on-1, however, and Theodore slid the puck to his right, past the sliding defenseman and onto the tape of Silfverberg, who pocketed the fifth short-handed goal of his career for a 2-0 lead.
It was then Anaheim's turn for the man-advantage and the Ducks didn't waste any time capitalizing, as Silfverberg sent a blast from atop the left circle and past Rinne for a 3-0 lead at the 9:30 mark of the second.
After a Corey Perry goal, Andrew Cogliano would add another short-handed goal in the period to chase Rinne, and Ryan Kesler potted a power-play goal in the closing minutes. The Ducks, who came in 3-for-23 on the power this season, were 3-for-3 through the first two periods.
"We've got to be tougher to play against," said Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. "Specialty teams just swung the pendulum tonight in the wrong direction. Short-handed goals, power-play goals, they were just too much for any team."
The Predators finally cashed in on the power play at the 7:43 mark of the third period, with Colin Wilson preventing the shutout for Nashville.
"We've got to do a better job of just being harder to play against, defending our goaltender better and defending our end better," Laviolette said. "We gave up too many chances."
The Ducks, who has seven short-handed goals all of last season, have three through eight games this season.
Anaheim goalie John Gibson made 28 saves in his sixth start this season.
NOTES: Ducks top-line C Ryan Getzlaf was scratched after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss at San Jose. Getzlaf, the team's leading scorer, was a game-time decision. ... The Ducks also recalled G Dustin Tokarski from the San Diego Gulls of the AHL after G Jonathan Bernier left the San Jose game with an upper-body injury. ... Ducks C Rickard Rakell skated with the team Wednesday morning, the first time since signing a six-year contract extension Oct. 14, but said he still needs a full practice before he's ready. ... The Predators are beginning a five-game road trip, which matches their longest of the season, and G Pekka Rinne, C Mike Fisher, RW Craig Smith and C Colton Sissons are back in the lineup after a bout of food poisoning sidelined them Saturday in the 5-1 victory against the Penguins. ... D Matt Irwin and LW Harry Zolnierczyk were the healthy scratches for the Predators. D Clayton Stoner was also scratched for Anaheim.
Weber's winner pushes unbeaten Habs over Isles
Wednesday, October 26 at 11:11 PM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- Shea Weber was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens on June 29 in the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer. Al Montoya's arrival via free agency two days later was noted by only the most ardent of transactions watchers.
But the two players who joined the Canadiens in far different fashion are helping Montreal get off to the best start in the NHL.
Weber snapped a tie by scoring a power play goal with 2:57 remaining in the third period Wednesday night, when Montoya made 26 saves as the Canadiens remained the lone team unbeaten in regulation with a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders at Barclays Center.
Weber, the defenseman who was obtained from the Nashville Predators in exchange for flamboyant defenseman P.J. Subban, also assisted on Phillip Danault's third-period goal and leads the Canadiens with nine points.
"Easy group to fit in with," said Weber, who spent his first 11 seasons with the Predators. "It's a great group in here. Still early, but we've done some good things so far."
The Canadiens have not been surprised by anything done thus far by Weber, who made 10 All-Star teams with the Predators and finished in the top five in the Norris Trophy balloting five times.
"I think there's (been) a lot said about that trade -- in this locker room, we were ecstatic to get the player that we did," Canadiens right winger Brendan Gallagher said. "He's a top defenseman in the NHL. (It's good) when you can add that to your nucleus."
Weber, who increased his NHL-leading plus/minus to +12 on Wednesday, scored the go-ahead goal by firing a shot just past Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, who was crouching to make a block, and under the arm of goalie Thomas Greiss.
"Obviously, he brings numbers, but what I'm most impressed about is his defensive game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He's a tough guy to play against. Got a good stick and he's playing against top players almost every shift. So we like what we see from him since the beginning of the year."
The Canadiens like what they're getting as well from Montoya, who is 3-0-1 while actually playing more regularly than former Hart Trophy winner Carey Price, who missed the first three games of the season with the flu.
"He's giving us a chance to win hockey games -- pretty simple," Therrien said. "You need contributions from everyone."
Paul Byron scored 3:10 into the second period for the Canadiens. A turnover in front of the Montreal net by defenseman Alexei Emelin led to an unassisted power play goal by Islanders center John Tavares with 4:43 left.
The teams combined for three goals in the final eight-plus minutes of the third period. Danault scored with 8:39 remaining before Dennis Seidenberg tied the score again a mere 2:55 later for the Islanders, who had just 13 shots in the first two periods before collecting 15 shots in the third.
A slashing call on Nick Leddy -- the only penalty assessed to the Islanders - set up Weber's winning goal.
"You look at that third period, we had plenty of opportunities," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It came down to their power play."
The Islanders went on the power play after Gallagher was whistled for high sticking with 20 seconds remaining but got off just one shot.
"Last little bit of the game, it's always like that," Gallagher said. "You knew they were going to come. Guys did a good job and got the job done."
Greiss had 26 saves, including 21 in the final two periods.
"He was the reason why we had a chance to win," Tavares said. "Bottom line."
NOTES: The Islanders scratched LW Nikolay Kulemin (upper body) and G Jaroslav Halak. It was the second straight presumably healthy scratch for Halak, who might have been held out so he can start Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kulemin was scratched because of injury for the first time since joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season. ... Islanders LW Shane Prince (lower body) skated Tuesday but remained on injured reserve. He has missed the last five games. ... The Canadiens scratched LW Daniel Carr and D Mikhail Sergachev. ... Canadiens G Carey Price is expected to draw the start Thursday when Montreal returns home to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.