Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Amway Center Everything changed for the Orlando Magic on draft night in 2016. It was then the franchise shifted its direction, moving away from the methodical draft-based rebuild and into a win-now mode. The team traded away former second overall pick Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. They continued their remodeling with a massive free agent spending spree that included signing in another rim-protecting center in Bismack Biyombo. All this with a new coach in Frank Vogel, hired after Scott Skiles' sudden resignation. The Magic team that takes the Amway Center court Wednesday in the season opener against the visiting Miami Heat is going to be hardly recognizable to the team that finished in April. Orlando has seven new players and heightened expectations after a four-year playoff drought." Everybody is ready," Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. "Offseason is great, but this is what we live for. This is what we live to do. It's so much fun. We know we can do something special and we are looking to seize that opportunity." The Magic remain one of the league's biggest mysteries entering the season, but things have changed drastically in Miami too. The Heat's championship dynasty is completely gone. Dwyane Wade surprisingly left for the Chicago Bulls after 13 years in Miami. LeBron James left two seasons ago for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the Heat have not cleared Chris Bosh to play after continuing heart problems keep him on the sideline. Miami must rely on a multi-faceted versatile offensive attack and balanced scoring to succeed." A big strength of our roster is versatility, depth," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "And that we have multiple guys that can have nights, where it's not one or two guys dominant. And that's a strength." It is certainly a different situation for Miami, which does not have the superstar players or the sure path to the postseason. They are relying more heavily on young players -- including Hassan Whiteside, whom the Heat signed to a fresh four-year, $98.4 million deal. The Heat have always been good about mining role players and will need their support more than ever to defy the odds and reach the playoffs. But they still have the steady hand of veteran point guard Goran Dragic running with Whiteside to help fill that void. As the teams battle changes and adjustments to new rosters and new teammates, the Magic and the Heat will be trying to feel comfortable in their new skins." It's going to be an 82-game process," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "Ideally, you hit the ground running. But you don't want to overreact if you don't. If things aren't working early, you're really just learning about your team. You are able to make adjustments either by improving what you're doing or changing what you're doing."
Miami center Hassan White had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots and point guard Goran Dragic added 16 points as the Heat cruised to a 108-96 season-opening victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. The Heat, taking advantage of the one-game suspension of Orlando center Bismack Biyombo, dominated inside all game with Whiteside and Willie Reed off the bench. Neither Nikola Vucevic nor Serge Ibaka could match the athleticism and strength of the 7-foot Whiteside inside. The new-look Heat, playing without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this season, outscored the Magic in the paint 74-36 and outrebounded them 52-44. Vucevic finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Evan Fournier added 20 points. Ibaka, making his debut with the Magic, managed 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting. With Whiteside blocking shots and altering others, the Heat opened a 66-58 lead midway through the third quarter courtesy of a 7-0 run and never looked back. The game had been tied 13 times and the lead had changed teams 14 times up to that point. The Magic's season-opening loss spoiled the debut of new coach Frank Vogel, whose team consistently came up short on the defensive end. Orlando allowed Miami to shoot 48 percent from the field. TIP-INSHeat: Second-year guard Josh Richardson did not play Wednesday night due to a sprained MCL in his right knee. ... Both Tyler Johnson and James Johnson came off the bench to give the Heat a boost, scoring eight points each in the first half. Magic: Point guard Elfrid Payton had a strong first half with 12 points, which included going 8 for 8 from the free throw line to help Orlando to a 53-50 halftime lead. HEATED RIVALYOrlando guard Evan Fournier says there is no better opponent for the Magic to start the season with than their in-state rival Miami. There is no love lost between the franchises.'' Playing Miami the first game is special,'' Fournier said. ''We don't like them and they don't like us. It's no secret.'' MIDDLE MANWith Biyombo serving an NBA-mandated one-game suspension for exceeding the flagrant foul limit in last season's playoffs, the Magic had to shift some things around. Ibaka had to slide over and play center quite a bit when Orlando went to its smaller lineup and Vucevic went to the bench. But there is no question the Magic miss Biyombo's presence on both ends of the court.'' Bis is a monster and he is our best screener and probably our best offensive rebounder,'' Fournier said. ''He is just a guy with tons of energy and he plays super hard. He's big for us.'' UP NEXTHeat: Miami will open its home schedule on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets without Wade on the roster for the first time since the Heat drafted him in in the first round in 2003. Wade is playing for the Chicago Bulls. Magic: On Friday Orlando begins an early season three-game road swing with the first stop at The Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Detroit Pistons. The Magic will also play NBA champion Cleveland and then Philadelphia on the trip.
Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse INDIANAPOLIS - The NBA season kicks off on Wednesday night for the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks. New faces in both places breed renewed optimism entering the 2016-17 season. The Pacers parted with head coach Frank Vogel after last season, and team president Larry Bird said he wanted to redefine the way his team plays. The overhaul also brought point guard Jeff Teague, power forward Thaddeus Young and center Al Jefferson to the Pacers, who tout superior athleticism and depth than previous seasons. Indiana's franchise player Paul George is looking forward to testing the new-look team in the regular season." I don't want to jump the gun and say this is the best team I've been on, but it's shaping up to be," George said. "I've got a new group with unbelievable talent." The Pacers face another of their former coaches, Rick Carlisle, who is entering his ninth season with the Mavericks. Indiana's new coach, Nate McMillan brings a style of play to the franchise that might not be recognized." I think our roster puts us in a position to play any style," McMillan said. "We want to play with a lot more ball movement. Our guys have to commit to running." There's a lot of talk about George, Myles Turner and the new Pacer players, but former Maverick Monta Ellis will have a lot to say about the team's success this season after his most diligent offseason in several years." I rededicated myself this summer in the gym," Ellis told NBA.com. "Last year was tough. I let the team down. It's a new beginning and I wanted to be part of that." Ellis is hoping to help the Pacers defeat his former team on opening night. Last season, he averaged 18.0 points per game against the Mavericks. For Dallas, the new faces on the team include two NBA champions from Golden State- Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks haven't made it out of the first round of the playoffs since winning a championship in 2011, and they will be relying heavily on these new additions to get over that hump." They're champions," said Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. "They're great players and they're part of a championship team, so they know how to play and they know how to win." A lot of eyes will be on Barnes in particular after signing a $94 million contract. His preseason performance brought heaps of criticism in Dallas." There's going to be bigger expectations and I'll have a larger role on this team," Barnes told ESPN.com. "But the biggest thing I've learned in my four years I've been in the league is that winning is the biggest priority." One of the issues for the Mavericks moving forward will be the aging point guards. Despite the talent, Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J. J. Barea are all on the wrong side of 30. As the NBA continues to play a faster game, the Mavs could struggle keeping up at that position. Last year, the Mavericks and Pacers had identical offensive numbers. Dallas averaged 102.3 points per game, while the Pacers averaged 102.2. In Wednesday's matchup, look for a high scoring contest as each team will try to get out and run on opening night. The Pacers won both games against the Mavericks last season.
Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks. Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years. Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J. J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014. Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left. Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim. TIP-INSMavericks: Dallas was 18 of 48 on 3-pointers. ... Barnes and Andrew Bogut, the two former Golden State Warriors, finished with 19 points and six points, respectively, in their Dallas debut. ... Nowitzki didn't make his first basket until almost two minutes into the second quarter. ... Barea played despite being listed as questionable with a sprained left elbow. ... Team owner Mark Cuban attended the game. Pacers: All five Indiana starters scored in double figures, including Monta Ellis, the former Dallas guard, who had 19 points. ... Indiana had 10 assists in the first quarter and finished with 30. ... The Pacers had a 52-49 rebounding advantage despite going with their new, up-tempo style. ... Turner made the first opening night start of his career and had 12 points and eight rebounds in the first half. He also finished with four blocks. ... The Oak Ridge Boys sang the national anthem. WELCOME BACK, COACHNew players weren't the only ones eager to make debuts Wednesday night. New Pacers coach Nate McMillan said before the game, he was just anxious to get started. McMillan had been the head coach previously in Seattle and Portland, but spent the previous three seasons as Frank Vogel's top assistant in Indiana. ''I was surprised he was away from that position as long as he was,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ''He's a great coach, and I know him well, personally, too. He'll do a great job.'' UP NEXTMavericks: Dallas hosts a longtime rival in Houston on Friday night. It is the second of three meetings between the Texas teams during a 12-day span in October. They already played once in the preseason. Pacers: Forward Thaddeus Young returns to his previous home when the Pacers visit Brooklyn on Friday night. Indiana won three of the four meetings with the Nets last season and is 4-3 all-time at the Barclays Center.
Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Barclays Center NEW YORK -- Carey Price is a former Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the National Hockey League's most valuable player. As a veteran of five different teams dating back to the 2008-09 season, Al Montoya is the textbook definition of a journeyman backup. Price and Montoya have plenty in common this season, though: The Montreal Canadiens simply don't lose in regulation with either one of them in net. The Canadiens (5-0-1)will look to remain perfect in regulation Wednesday night, when they visit the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. Montreal, the lone NHL team still unbeaten in regulation, is coming off a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. New York (3-3-0) last played Sunday, when it beat the Minnesota Wild 6-3. Montoya will draw the start Wednesday in place of Price, who started and won each of the Canadiens' past three games. Montoya opened the season by going 2-0-1 as Price recovered from a lengthy bout with the flu. The game will be a reunion of sorts for Montoya, who played 51 games for the Islanders -- the most he has played for any NHL team -- while the team was still housed at Nassau Coliseum during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons." It'll be a special game," Montoya said Tuesday. "I spent the start of my career in Long Island. It's a fantastic organization, team and staff. It's a special place for me, but now that they're in Brooklyn, I look forward to going there and getting a win." Montoya is 3-0-0 in three career appearances against the Islanders. He last opposed New York on Feb. 3, 2015, when he stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced in the Florida Panthers' 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. Perhaps the presence of Montoya will help the Canadiens remain among the NHL's elite all season. Montreal opened last year 9-0-0 but fell apart after Price sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 25. The Canadiens ended up missing the playoffs entirely with a 38-38-6 record. Nobody has to remind Montreal coach Michel Therrien how early it is in the season, but he said Tuesday he likes what he is seeing of the Canadiens on and off the ice." We got off to a good start last year," Therrien said. "Guys buy into the team concept. It's important. The atmosphere of this hockey team has been solid since training camp." The Islanders will look to maintain the offensive flow they finally found Sunday, when defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey and centers John Tavares (two goals) and Alan Quine all scored goals in the rout of the Wild. New York scored three goals or fewer in each of its first five games, the franchise's longest such streak at the start of a season since 2009-10." We got some big goals from all parts of the lineup," Tavares told Newsday. "It takes a little time to find your game and find that rhythm, and I thought we did some good things tonight." The Islanders ranked 10th in the NHL in goals scored last season." Hopefully that'll give them a boost to get going, to get on the board like that," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak is likely to start for the Islanders after sitting out Sunday's game in favor of Thomas Greiss. Halak, who is 2-2-0 this season, will also be facing a former team. He played 101 games with the Canadiens during his first four NHL seasons. The last time Halak faced the Canadiens on Nov. 20, 2015, he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period of a 5-3 loss. Greiss ended up absorbing the loss in that game after allowing the decisive goal in the second period.
Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining lifted the Montreal Canadiens to their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. Paul Byron and Phillip Danault also scored to help Montreal improve to 6-0-1 and remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. Al Montoya, who played for the Islanders from 2010-12, stopped 26 shots in his first start since Oct. 18 as the Canadiens beat New York for the seventh straight time. John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg scored for New York and Thomas Greiss had 26 saves in his second straight start and third of the season. With the Islanders' Nick Leddy off for slashing, Weber fired a shot from the point for the tiebreaking goal. It was just the second power-play goal in 23 opportunities given up by New York's league-leading penalty-killing unit. Danault gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead with 8:39 remaining. He deflected the rebound of a shot by Torrey Mitchell past Greiss for his second of the season and sixth of his career. Seidenberg tied it with 5:44 to go with a one-timer from above the right faceoff circle. Andrew Shaw had breakaway for Montreal less than a minute later but fired his shot wide of the net. Alex Galchenyuk nearly gave the Canadiens the lead about 6 minutes into the third, but his shot hit the crossbar. Montreal came out more aggressive in the second period and outshot New York 12-5. The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead early in the middle period as Brendan Gallagher's wrister from the right side was stopped by Greiss, but the rebound went past New York defenseman Travis Hamonic in front and Byron fired it in at 3:10. Montreal had another great chance more than a minute later but Greiss made a sprawling save on Artturi Lehkonen. Tavares tied it for the Islanders with 4:47 left in the second on a power play with Lehkonen off for high-sticking. Nick Leddy fired a point shot from inside the blue line through traffic that bounced off a screened Montoya. Andrew Ladd knocked Alexei Emelin's stick off the puck and Tavares came in and fired it past the Montoya from the right side for his fourth of the season. New York's Anthony Beauvillier blocked a slap shot from Greg Pateryn on his right leg with about 1:48 left in the middle period and was down for several minutes before being helped off the ice to the dressing room. He returned for the start of the third. The Islanders controlled the play for most of the scoreless opening period, outshooting the Canadiens 8-6. NOTES: Montreal's Tomas Plekenec played in his 850th game, two behind Mario Tremblay for 17th place on the franchise list. ... Montreal scratched D Mikhail Sergachev, the No. 9 pick in the June draft, for the third straight game. ... New York F Nikolay Kulemin missed the game due to an upper body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Mathew Barzal, one of the Islanders' two 19-year-old rookies who played for the second time. ... New York went 3-1-0 on its five-game homestand. After a trip to Pittsburgh to complete a back-to-back, the Islanders will open another stretch of five straight at home on Sunday against Toronto. ... Tavares' goal on the Islanders' lone power play made them 5 for 26 with the man advantage this season. UP NEXTCanadiens: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday to complete their first of 15 back-to-backs this season. Islanders: At defending champion Pittsburgh in their first road game since the opening weekend of the season.---Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
Time: 07:08 P.M. EST Venue: Progressive Field There is no bleeding to stop for Trevor Bauer. The Indians lead the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in the World Series after Cleveland took a 6-0 victory in Game 1 Tuesday at Progressive Field, and Bauer just aims to hold serve in Game 2 on Wednesday. Rain might be another story, as Bauer takes the lead leg of the Indians' playoffs-long race to hand the ball to a dominant bullpen. Major League Baseball moved up the start time for Game 2 an hour to 7:08 p.m. ET because of heavy precipitation in the forecast later in the evening for Northeast Ohio. Bauer isn't plotting to halt Mother Nature. He also claims -- as he did before his last start -- the health of his right hand is no longer a worry. Bauer said Tuesday, after his previous postseason start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series ended in the first inning, his wounded finger has healed. That claim didn't hold water at Toronto. His hand uncontrollably gushed blood and ended the 25-year-old fireballer's start after 21 pitches and two-thirds of one inning." Going into Toronto, the doctors told me they were confident it would be OK. I was confident it would be fine," said Bauer, who survives with a snug grip on two- and four-seam fastballs perfected in extra sessions with Game 1 hero Corey Kluber. "It hadn't bled the two days before that at all. So I feel confident every time I take the mound. I wouldn't take the mound if I didn't feel confident I'd be able to pitch and help the team. So, yeah, I'm confident like I was back then too." Bauer cut his hand repairing his drone, but was a workhorse in the regular season, averaging 110.4 pitches in 35 starts. Control can be fleeting for Bauer, whose eccentric personality is a plus in the clubhouse according to manager Terry Francona. If his fastball is live -- and with just 99 pitches thrown total in the first two rounds of the playoffs, energy and stamina should not be hindrances -- Bauer can be a force. He had 168 strikeouts in the regular season. The Cubs counter with their No. 1b starter, Jake Arrieta, after Jon Lester allowed three runs and took the loss Tuesday. Chicago looks to beat the odds against teams losing the first game of the World Series, who are 40-70 overall in the Fall Classic. Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 with a record of 22-6 and 1.77 ERA. This season, he had 18 wins (3.10 ERA), but has not been the same dominating presence in the playoffs. In two games, Arrieta is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Opponents are hitting .273 against him compared to .194 in the regular season." It's why you play the whole season," Arrieta said. "To hopefully be in this position to be one of the last two teams standing with an opportunity to win a World Series for your organization, your city, for your team, friends and family. So it means a ton. You know, there's only two of 30 that even get these opportunities. Not many players -- there are some players that go their whole career without being able to get to the postseason. So we're all very fortunate." Stacking a lineup already loaded with fastball-smashing lefties might be reason for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to carry extra confidence into Game 2." They're obviously very talented, but the Red Sox were very talented, and the Blue Jays are obviously very talented too," Bauer said. "At the end of the day, they're just hitters. They get outs nine out of 10 times, like all the rest of them. It comes down to executing pitches, executing a game plan." The surprising return of Kyle Schwarber allows Maddon to back up National League MVP candidate Kris Bryant with a run of power bats -- first baseman Anthony Rizzo, left fielder Ben Zobrist, Schwarber and possibly Jason Heyward. Maddon said it was not a given that Miguel Montero, a left-handed hitter and Arrieta's preferred backstop all season, would start Game 2 over rookie Willson Contreras, who is best equipped to slow the Cleveland running game. Heyward's atrocious postseason landed him on the bench Tuesday for the second consecutive playoff game." Jason's been struggling at the plate -- that's it," Maddon said of starting Chris Coghlan, who entered Game 1 with a .063 career postseason batting average. "That doesn't mean it's going to look like this (Wednesday)." Schwarber smacked a double in the fourth inning of Game 1 for his first hit of the entire season, proof positive the left-handed slugger hasn't lost his immense power rehabbing from torn knee ligaments since April. He walked in the seventh, laying off a pair of two-strike offerings from left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowed two home runs in his lone start against the Red Sox, and gave up 20 home runs in the regular season. Indians manager Terry Francona said they are banking on Bauer's wounded pinkie holding up, and Cleveland holding down Chicago's offense." If it doesn't work," Francona said, "I'm going to make the doctor come up here and talk to you (media). I don't think that finger's going to be the reason he wins or loses." Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start Game 3 at Wrigley Field for the Indians against Kyle Hendricks, but the Indians have not announced a starter for Saturday's Game 4. John Lackey is scheduled to go in Game 4 for the Cubs. Though Francona would not say it directly, the Indians are weighing giving the ball back to Kluber -- he threw 88 pitches in six-plus Tuesday -- on Saturday. That would definitely be the case if the Indians were in position to sweep the series. Francona is 9-0 all-time as a manager in the World Series." We've said who our first three starters are, but just to be fair to them, we need to wait until everybody pitches just because it's not just if one guy can handle and maybe come back early," Francona said. "Because once you do that, then the other guys pretty much have to, too, or you're really not helping yourself. So we've talked to all the starters. They understand how we feel about things. But we also need to wait and see because, as we noticed with drone attacks, that things can happen."
Jake Arrieta made a teasing try at history, Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs and the Chicago Cubs brushed off a shutout to even the World Series with their first Fall Classic win in 71 years, 5-1 over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, briefly invoking Don Larsen's name, before the Indians touched him for two hits and a run. However, the right-hander helped give Chicago just what it needed - a split at Progressive Field - before the Cubbies return to their Wrigley Field den for the next three games starting Friday night. The Cubs hadn't won in the Series since beating Detroit 8-7 in 1945 to force Game 7. The free-swinging Schwarber, who made it back for Chicago's long-awaited Series return after missing most of the season with an injured left knee, hit an RBI single in the third off Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and had another in the Cubs' three-run fifth - highlighted by Ben Zobrist's run-scoring triple. Even the presence of star LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers, sporting their new rings, couldn't stop the Indians from losing for the first time in six home games this postseason. And Cleveland manager Terry Francona's magical touch in October finally fizzled as he dropped to 9-1 in Series games. With rain in the forecast, Major League Baseball moved the first pitch up an hour in hopes of avoiding delays or a postponement. It turned out to be a good call as the game went on without a hitch and ended after more than four hours as light rain was beginning to fall. Arrieta and the Cubs provided the only storm. The bearded 30-year-old coasted through five innings without allowing a hit, the first pitcher to get that deep in a Series game with a no-hitter since David Cone of the New York Yankees in 1998. For a brief period, Arrieta looked as if he might challenge Larsen's gem - a perfect game - in 1956 before Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, a die-hard Cubs fan as a kid, doubled with one out in the sixth . Before that, Cleveland hitters had a couple good swings, and drew three walks, but couldn't mount a real threat. Arrieta has two career no-hitters, in fact, including the only one in the majors this year. Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery replaced Arrieta and worked two scoreless innings before Aroldis Chapman came in and unleashed his 103 mph heat while getting the last four outs. The teams will have an off day before the series resumes with Game 3 at Wrigley, which will host its first Series game since Oct. 6, 1945, when tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave with his pet goat, Murphy, and a curse was born. Josh Tomlin will start for the Indians, who will lose the designated hitter in the NL ballpark, against Kyle Hendricks. Schwarber might also wind up on the bench after two days as the DH. With a gametime temperature of 43, the weather was more fitting for the Browns and Bears to bang heads than the boys of summer. The Cubs were the ones who came up thumping after being blanked 6-0 in Game 1 by Corey Kluber and Cleveland's shut-down bullpen. Zobrist's one-out triple triggered the fifth as the Cubs opened a 5-0 lead, not that Arrieta needed it. After Anthony Rizzo walked following a 10-pitch at-bat, Zobrist laced a ball off Zach McAllister that was going to be a double until right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall slipped and fell. Rizzo was waved around and Zobrist hustled into third. Schwarber followed with his second RBI and reliever Bryan Shawn later walked No. 9 hitter Addison Russell with the bases loaded. Unlike his start in Toronto on Oct. 17, when his stitched cut opened up and Bauer was forced to make a bloody departure in the first inning, his finger held up fine. The Cubs, though, put a few nicks in him in 3 2/3 innings. The drone accident has brought attention to the quirky Bauer, and one Chicago fan tried to rattle the right-hander by sending a smaller version of the remote-controlled, flying object that cut him. Bauer posted a photo of it on Twitter, saying ''I see the (at)Cubs fans love me! How nice of them to send me a gift!''The Cubs, who were off balance from the start against Kluber, scored their first run in a Series game since `45 in the first on Rizzo's RBI double . Bauer needed 51 pitches to get through two innings, and he was one strike from getting out of the third unscathed when Chicago turned a walk and to singles into a 2-0 lead. UP NEXTCubs: Hendricks is coming off his brilliant performance in Game 5 of the NLCS when he pitched two-hit ball for seven innings as the Cubs clinched their first pennant in 71 years. The right-hander went 16-8 during the regular season with a league-leading 2.13 ERA. Indians: It will be an emotional night for Tomlin, who will pitch on 12 day's rest with his ailing father, Jerry, in attendance. The elder Tomlin became stricken with a spinal condition in August, when Tomlin was struggling on the mound. The right-hander more than recovered and rescued Cleveland's rotation in the postseason, winning both starts.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: Air Canada Centre TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors tip-off the 2016-17 season Wednesday night when they host the Detroit Pistons. The Raptors enter the season following their most successful campaign in franchise history. Last year, Toronto set a club record for wins (56), won their third straight Atlantic Division title and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in team history." Last year is last year. Every year is a new year," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We've got to come out, scratch, execute, have the same mentality that we've got to be the hardest working team on the court that night to win. If we come out and just try to show our press clippings on the floor, it's not going to work." We've got to have that hard-work mentality and that hard hat mentality to be successful in the Eastern Conference." Toronto returns 11 players from last year's team, including All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Detroit starts the season without starting point guard Reggie Jackson, who will miss at least the first month because of tendonitis in his left knee. The Pistons ended a six-year playoff drought last season, finishing with a 44-38 record good for eighth in the Eastern Conference. They were swept by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round. Detroit, in its second season under Stan Van Gundy, finished 15th out of 30 in points scored per possession and 13th in points allowed per possession. In order to continue improving, general manager Jeff Bower went out and added to his club's depth in the offseason giving 27-year-old power forward Jon Leuer a four-year deal in free agency, signed Boban Marjanovic away from the San Antonio Spurs via an offer sheet and added veteran point guard Ish Smith." To me what you don't want to do is have a ceiling on this group," Van Gundy told the Oakland Press. "I look at it and say I have great respect out there for the other teams, I think the East has gotten better again. ... I get it, all but at the same time I look at it and say, 'Why not us? Why not?'"If we're willing to do what it takes, and people take a step forward and we commit more defensively, why not us. Why does there have to be a ceiling on us. Why can't we be that team, contenders. I think the guys have high expectations." On Monday, the Pistons made a move to bolster its lineup claiming guard Beno Udrih off waivers from the Miami Heat and released guard Ray McCallum. Udrih is a 12-year veteran who averages 8.5 points and 3.4 assists in his career. The 6-foot-4 Slovenian played for the Heat and Memphis Grizzlies last season, averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists.
DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points and Jonas Valanciunas added a career-high 32 as the Toronto Raptors opened their season with a 109-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. DeRozan made a career-high 17 field goals on 27 shots and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the free throw line, while Valanciunas was 10 for 15 from the field to go along with 11 rebounds. Valanciunas' previous career high was 31, also against the Pistons, on Jan. 12, 2015. Tobias Harris had 22 points and Marcus Morris had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Pistons, who lost for the eighth time in their last 11 games against Toronto. DeRozan broke Vince Carter's opening-night record of 39 points, set against the-then New Jersey Nets in 2003. Alvin Robertson is the only other Toronto player to record a 30-point opening-night game, in the franchise's first-ever game, also against New Jersey, in 1995. Pascal Siakam, drafted 27th overall in June, became the first Toronto rookie to start a season opener since Valanciunas in 2012, and rose to the occasion, hauling in nine rebounds to go along with four points in 21 minutes. Despite falling into a seven-point deficit 2:09 into the game, the Raptors went in front on a jumper by DeRozan with 6:47 to go in the first quarter and led the rest of the way. DeRozan and Valanciunas steadied the ship in the opening quarter, driving to the basket and drawing fouls. They were a combined 13 for 13 from the free throw line and scored 15 and 10 points, respectively, as the Raptors took a 33-23 lead after one quarter. While Detroit responded against Toronto's reserves in the second, drawing within four points early on through Morris, Valanciunas returned to the game and added another 11 points as the Raptors pulled into a 58-46 halftime lead. DeRozan provided much of the fireworks in the third quarter, scoring 21 points as Toronto pulled away to lead 86-71 going into the final 12 minutes. TIP-INSPistons: C Andre Drummond took a hard elbow to the face from Valanciunas at the start of the game and remained down on the court. Detroit was forced to burn a full timeout, but Drummond returned to the court. . Henry Ellenson, Detroit's first-round draft pick last June (18th overall) went scoreless in two minutes of play, while second-round selection Michael Gbinije (49th overall), had two points in two minutes. Raptors: C Lucas Nogueira (ankle) sat out. . DeRozan started his franchise-record eighth straight season opener, breaking a tie with Carter. . Kyle Lowry's basket with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter broke the monopoly of Valanciunas and DeRozan, who had scored all the points up to that point. . First-round draft pick Jakob Poeltl became the first Austrian to play in the NBA. He finished with two points in 13 minutes. . Oct. 26 is the earliest date that Toronto has ever had a home opener. . The Raptors are 13-9 on opening night and have won four straight. OPENING DAY JITTERSDespite presiding over his franchise-record sixth opening night for the Raptors, coach Dwane Casey admitted that nerves still get the better of him ''Didn't sleep much last night,'' he said. ''Yes, I still get excited.'' ANOTHER DIMENSIONEvery fan at the Air Canada Centre was given a pair of 3D glasses. As the Raptors opened their season some of the players were jumping out of the Jumbotron to highlight some of the more spectacular plays from last season. UP NEXTPistons: Host Orlando on Friday in their home opener. Coach Stan Van Gundy is 6-1 against his former team since taking charge in Detroit. Raptors: Host Cleveland on Friday in an early season rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals, won by the Cavaliers in six games.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: TD Garden BOSTON -- With expectations raised after the signing of free agent Al Horford, the Boston Celtics open the season with a home game against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. That's the Nets -- the gift that just keeps on giving for the Celtics after the monster trade between the teams in 2013." Part of the reason I came here was because -- and I had a good situation in Atlanta like we've established before -- but when I looked at the guys who were here, I was like: 'It would be great to play with those guys,'" Horford said as he and his new team prepped for the opener. "We can build out from there." Signing a four-year, $113 million contract that surprised the basketball world and made him the biggest free agent signing ever for the tradition-rich Celtics, Horford left his Atlanta home and also left a Hawks team that eliminated the Celtics in the first round of last year's playoffs. But when he looked at Boston, he saw a team that went from 25 to 40 to 48 wins in the three years under coach Brad Stevens. He saw a team with depth. And he saw a team that even had a bright drafting future -- and that is where the Nets come in. Back in 2013, the Celtics sent aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in a mega-deal that brought Boston all kinds of draft picks from what turned out to be a bad Nets team. The haul got them the No. 3 pick in the most recent draft, and the Celtics used that selection to take athlete Jaylen Brown. After this season, which doesn't figure to see the Nets suddenly spring into the playoff picture, the Celtics have the right to swap picks with Brooklyn. That would put Boston back in the lottery regardless of where the Celtics finish -- and the Celtics also have the Nets' top pick in 2018. Asked about the future selections, Celtics offensive leader Isaiah Thomas shrugged it off, saying, "I worry about scoring the ball, getting my teammates involved and winning games. I don't know nothing about those first-round picks. And I wasn't a first-round pick, so I don't care about first-rounders." Even without what awaits down the line as the building continues, the Celtics, still looking for their first playoff-series win under Stevens, are in the discussion regarding the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They should at least improve on last year's 48 wins. Kenny Atkinson is the new Nets coach, and he has his team firing 3-pointers, something that won't help low-post center Brook Lopez a whole lot. But that is the current plan." I think we can (make the playoffs)," swingman Bojan Bogdanovic told the New York Post. "They can write what they want. ... But we're going to work hard to give it our best. When we get in a game, we have a chance to beat anybody. It's going to be tough, but if we play like we practice, we have a chance." Atkinson was instrumental in bringing Lin-sanity back to New York, where Jeremy Lin became a phenomenon for the Knicks and now runs the show in Brooklyn. The Celtics come into the opener without Kelly Olynyk (recovering from shoulder surgery) and Marcus Smart (sprained ankle). They cut R. J. Hunter and draft pick Ben Bentil, keeping James Young, and they also signed 6-foot-11 Ryan Kelly, who starts the season with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League. Veteran shooting guard Randy Foye will miss the opener for the Nets due to a mild hamstring pull, but Brooklyn comes in with a positive attitude." If you've got a lot of guys working hard every day, it's contagious," veteran forward Luis Scola said.
Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on. Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut. Celtics coach Brad Stevens sat his starters for much of the fourth quarter after opening a 23-point lead. But after Brooklyn cut it to 118-108 with about 2 1/2 minutes left, he motioned for them to get off the bench. Thomas, Crowder, Horford, Avery Bradley and Amir Johnson re-entered the game with an eight-point lead and 2:07 left and did just enough to protect it. Horford added five rebounds and six assists for the Celtics, who signed him during the NBA's offseason spending spree to a four-year, $113 million deal. Bradley had nine rebounds, one after Hamilton's missed 3-point shot with 15 seconds left on another attempt to tie it. The Celtics are hoping Horford will help lead them to an Atlantic Division title this season, one year after they finished eight games behind Toronto with the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But he was relegated to a supporting role in the opener. Boston took a two-point lead after one quarter and then scored 13 of the first 16 points of the second to make it 46-34. It was 73-65 when the Celtics scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Thomas that gave them a 78-65 lead. Thomas scored the last seven Boston points during a 7-3 run to end the third and then the Celtics opened the fourth with an 8-2 run to open a 105-83 lead. TIP-INSNets: Earlier in the day, Lin donated $1 million to Harvard, where he graduated in 2010. The money will be used for undergraduate financial aid and to help renovate the school's basketball arena. Celtics: New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and actor Donnie Wahlberg were in the crowd. ... Injured guard Marcus Smart gave the traditional season-opening thanks to the crowd for the Celtics. UP NEXTNets: Thursday host Indiana. The Nets open their fifth season in Brooklyn. Celtics: Thursday visit Chicago. The Bulls will try to hold onto the city's attention on an off-night for the World Series, where the Cubs are trying to win their first championship since 1908.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: FedExForum The Memphis Grizzlies hope to build off last year's playoff appearance. The Minnesota Timberwolves are just hoping to get to the playoffs for the first time in years. Those two teams will open their 2016-17 seasons on Wednesday in Memphis. And they'll each do so with new coaches. Memphis' David Fizdale is in his first year as an NBA head coach. Fizdale, 42, spent the last six seasons as an assistant with the Miami Heat. He inherits a club that finished 42-40 last season, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Fizdale has said he hopes to instill a balanced system in Memphis, with Mike Conley Jr. as the focal point. The Grizzlies also have weapons in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and new addition Chandler Parsons." When you know that the offense isn't just predicated on one guy and that every movement you make gives you a chance to be a part of the action, to make you a weapon, it's empowering," Fizdale told Sports Illustrated. Conley begins this season on the heels of the largest contract in NBA history. This past offseason, the Grizzlies signed Conley to a five-year, $153 million deal to keep the point guard in Memphis. That will put an added weight on the shoulders of the nine-year NBA veteran." As far as the pressure, it's hard to really gauge that because I put pressure on myself to perform regardless," Conley told ESPN.com this offseason. "The amount of money I make is not going to change how I approach the game." Like Memphis, Minnesota enters the season with a new coach and high expectations. Tom Thibodeau, former Chicago Bulls coach, takes over after the Timberwolves let interim coach Sam Mitchell go following last year's 29-win season. Thibodeau begins his first year in Minnesota with a pair of Rookies of the Year at his disposal. Karl-Anthony Towns emerged for a stellar rookie campaign last season, averaging a double-double (18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds). His honor as the top rookie came one year after Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins earned the award. Wiggins led the team with 20.7 points per game last season. Minnesota has been starved for a winning team for years. The Timberwolves haven't finished above .500 since the 2004-05 season and had the fifth-worst record in the league last year. Thibodeau never had a losing season in five years as the Bulls' coach and was ousted after going 50-32 two years ago. A record like that in Minnesota this year would be a huge step forward for the young Timberwolves. But even Thibodeau knows Minnesota has a ways to go in order to be competitive in the West." We don't want to fool ourselves," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We're a 29-win team. We want to close the gap." These same two teams faced off in the preseason, with the Timberwolves topping the Grizzlies 101-94 in Minneapolis a week ago.
Mike Conley scored 24 points, Marc Gasol added 18 and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame a slow start for a 102-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams. Conley and Gasol led a push down the stretch as the Grizzlies erased a 90-86 deficit the final 2:44. Zach Randolph had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis. Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 25 points, while Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21. Zach LaVine added 19 points. The game was the debut of two coaches with new teams, Tom Thibodeau for Minnesota and former Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale with Memphis. Both teams had big runs in the game, Minnesota at the start and Memphis to open the second half. Then the game settled into a tight affair in the fourth quarter. With Minnesota leading 90-86, Conley connected on a 3-pointer with 2:44 left before Gasol converted a 5-footer. Minnesota would retake the lead on a 3-pointer from Towns, but Memphis closed the game on an 11-5 run. The Timberwolves rushed to an early lead behind accurate shooting and defensive intensity. Memphis recovered behind 3-point shooting, a newfound offensive weapon for the Grizzlies. But Memphis' struggles with its new-look offense and a Timberwolves defense that recorded five steals and four blocks, contributed to a 59-50 Minnesota lead at the break. Towns had 16 points and Wiggins added 14 for the Timberwolves. Conley had 12 for Memphis, Gasol added 11 before intermission. Memphis answered with 16 straight points early in the third to take its first lead. The Grizzlies held a 76-75 advantage heading into the fourth. TIP-INS:Timberwolves: Minnesota opened the game with a 16-1 lead, eventually connecting on eight of its first 10 shots. . While Minnesota helped Memphis christen the new season on the Grizzlies' home floor, Memphis returns the favor next Tuesday when the Timberwolves have their home opener against Memphis. . Rookie Kris Dunn, the fifth overall pick, made his NBA debut near the 4-minute mark of the first quarter. He finished with eight points after hitting all three of his shots in the first half. Grizzlies: Memphis played without F Brandan Wright (left ankle) and Chandler Parsons (right knee rehab), who were inactive. G Tony Allen (right knee) dressed, but was ruled out before the game. . Grizzlies G Vince Carter is the oldest player currently in the NBA at 39 years old and 274 days. He entered the game in the first quarter, moving him into 26th place on the career games played list with 1,275. He passed Terry Porter. . Memphis is 4-18 in season openers, but only 2-14 in home openers. The only win before Wednesday was in 2014 over Minnesota. SUCCESSFUL OPENINGFizdale became the first Memphis coach to win his debut since Tony Barone Jr., who won his first game in the middle of the 2006-07 season, after succeeding Mike Fratello, who was fired. UP NEXTTimberwolves: Continue on the road to open their season, facing the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. Grizzlies: Will follow their home opener with their first road game of the season, facing the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center MILWAUKEE -- There were a lot of questions facing the Milwaukee Bucks as they prepared to open training camp. Now, on the eve of the 2016-17 season opener, there are even more. Last season was a forgettable one for the Bucks, who were fresh off the heels of a surprise surge into the playoffs but plummeted back into the realm of lottery participants with a 33-39 record. Milwaukee struggled in all aspects of the game, but it was the Bucks' defensive effort that was most concerning. Among the best in the NBA in 2015-16, the Bucks finished 17th in both points per game (103.2) and defensive shooting percentage (45.4 percent). A lot of that drop-off had to do with Milwaukee's reliance on younger players; veterans Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia were shipped elsewhere last season, leaving the Bucks' collection of young -- but long -- talent to learn on the fly." It's being able to use our length, deflections, rebounding the ball," coach Jason Kidd said. "I thought in preseason we had some halves or quarters where we didn't (play strong defense); but, as a whole, the different combinations we had were positive ones." The team also struggled to score -- especially from beyond the 3-point arc, where the Bucks were among the league's worst in attempts, makes and percentage. So when shooting guard Khris Middleton went down on the eve of training camp with an ACL injury, there was reason for concern. But the Bucks are confident that the offseason additions of Matthew Dellavadova, Mirza Teletovich, Jason Terry and Tony Snell will complement Milwaukee forwards Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will handle the bulk of the Bucks' ballhandling duties." It's the balance, being able to finish in the paint, and we create a lot of threes," Kidd said. "We have to be able to make them. Tony (Snell), Mirza, Delly. Now, Giannis and Jabari are shooting more. You have Jason Terry and Malcolm." They'll have their work cut out for them right off the bat, as the Charlotte Hornets come to town looking to build off a breakout 48-victory campaign that culminated in a hard-fought, seven-game playoff series with the Miami Heat. Charlotte returns much of the same group from last season but will have to deal with some depth issues early on. A bone bruise in his right knee kept Cody Zeller out of action for a majority of Charlotte's preseason; as a result, he will see limited minutes to start the season. Power forward Marvin Williams is expected to start Wednesday despite suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left middle finger. But his primary backup, 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, has battled a sprained foot and is listed as questionable." Marvin is fine, so he'll start," coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. "In these first two games, they downsize a lot anyway, so (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) could play some there. Also, Spencer (Hawes) can play some (at power forward)." Charlotte won the 2015-16 season series, 3-1. Kemba Walker averaged 19.3 points and 4.8 assists in those four games to lead the Hornets while Parker paced the Bucks with 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. After facing the Bucks, the Hornets travel to Miami on Friday for a rematch with the Heat before opening the home portion of their schedule Saturday night against the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee will return to action Saturday, at home against Brooklyn, before heading to Detroit on Sunday for the first road contest of the season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 23 points and 14 rebounds in his return from a shoulder injury, Roy Hibbert added 15 points, and the Charlotte Hornets opened their season with a 107-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. The Hornets led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter before fending off a late charge from Milwaukee. The Bucks, who looked lackluster for much of the game, drew energy from Greg Monroe's hustle in the paint and Jason Terry's floater that cut the lead to 93-85 with 5:08 left. But the Hornets held on down the stretch, getting a straightaway 3 from Marvin Williams for a 12-point lead with 3:21 left. The 7-foot-2 Hibbert had a couple of rim-rocking dunks in the third quarter that helped build the 20-point lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 31 points. The 6-foot-11 forward now serving as Milwaukee's primary ball-handler showed he was worth the four-year $100 million contract extension he signed before training camp. But the Bucks couldn't keep up with Charlotte's crisp ball movement in the first half, when the Hornets had 17 assists on 22 field goals to build a 15-point lead at halftime. Williams finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Charlotte, a playoff team a year ago following a 48-win season. Charlotte lost Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee and Al Jefferson to free agency in the offseason, bringing in Marco Belinelli, Ramon Sessions and Hibbert. The new Hornets are fitting in quite nicely. Kidd-Gilchrist is back after playing just seven games last season. The Bucks were haunted by familiar problems that carried over from last year's 33-win squad. Milwaukee was just 1 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half. Interior defense was also an issue and the Hornets took advantage of the scrambling Bucks by moving the ball quickly around the court. TIP INSHornets: C Cody Zeller, who did not play the entire preseason because of a right knee injury, was 5 of 6 from the field for 15 points in 14 minutes. ... C-F Frank Kaminsky missed the game with a strained right foot. Kaminsky was a star in college at Wisconsin, where he helped lead the Badgers to two Final Four appearances. Bucks: Rookie Malcolm Brogdon played well in his NBA debut, serving as the point guard when Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova were off the court. Brogdon, a second-round draft pick, finished with eight points and five assists in 21 minutes. UP NEXTHornets: At Miami on Friday. Bucks: Host Nets on Saturday.---Follow Genaro Armas at: https://twitter.com/GArmasAP
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Wells Fargo Center The Oklahoma City Thunder are starting over without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka and the Philadelphia 76ers are starting over with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Philadelphia, however, will have to wait a while longer for top overall draft pick Ben Simmons. The two teams square off in an NBA season opener Wednesday night in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Thunder went 55-27 last season, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals after building a 3-1 lead. Oklahoma City traded Ibaka, a veteran forward, to the Orlando Magic and saw Durant, a perennial All-Star, sign a free agent contract with Golden State. That would appear to put the bulk of the offensive burden on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who averaged 23.4 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season." It's not totally up to me how we play," Westbrook told USA Today. "We have to adjust to how guys play. My job is to be able to adjust to Steven (Adams) and (Andre) Roberson; those guys have gotten better. We have to be able to adjust to the team you have, adjust on a night-in, night-out basis how you want to play." Adams, a rugged 7-foot center from New Zealand, is expected to improve upon last season's averages of 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds after playing well in the playoffs. Roberson, known for his defense, scored at a 4.8 point-per-game clip last season. Westbrook's supporting cast also includes guard Victor Oladipo, who came over from Orlando in the Ibaka trade after averaging 16 points a game last year from the Magic. Rookie forward Domantas Sabonis, who was also part of that deal, is expected to contribute off the bench. The Sixers, whose 10-72 record last season fell one loss short of equaling the all-time record for futility, will finally unveil Embiid and Saric. The third pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid has missed the last two seasons as a result of two foot surgeries. Saric, who was acquired in a draft-day deal from Orlando in 2014, played overseas. Both showed promise in the preseason. Embiid, a native of Cameroon, averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 14.7 minutes a game while Saric, a Croatian, averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds over 21.1 minutes." I can't wait (for Wednesday's game)," Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That's going to be my first official NBA game. I just went through the preseason. I thought I got better game-by-game. I'm looking to finally get that first game." Simmons, a forward from LSU, fractured his right foot in training camp and underwent surgery in early October. He will be out until at least January. The Sixers will also be without guard Jerryd Bayless (right wrist ligament damage) for at least two weeks, and center/forward Nerlens Noel (left knee surgery) for three to five weeks. Center Jahlil Okafor was also limited to a single preseason game because of a sore right knee.
Russell Westbrook had 32 points, 12 rebounds and took over late to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 103-97 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. Westbrook scored the decisive points on opening night for the Thunder in their first game since franchise star Kevin Durant left in free agency and signed with the Golden State Warriors. Joel Embiid scored 20 points in 22 minutes in his first game for the Sixers since they made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Embiid had sat out the last two seasons with foot injuries. He received a roaring ovation when he was introduced and fans went wild on every shot. The 76ers had a tripleheader of image faux pas on opening night: The scheduled anthem singer says she was booted because she wanted to wear a ''We Matter'' jersey; a fan was kicked out for extending two middle fingers at Westbrook; and halftime singer Desiigner was booed off the court for a shirtless performance where he dropped his pants to his ankles. Westbrook and Embiid swapped jumpers that tied the game 97-all. Westbrook sank two free throws with 35 seconds left for a 99-97 lead in front of a raucous crowd. Enes Kanter silenced them for good and sent them toward the exits with a putback layup after the Sixers missed a shot on the other end. Yes, it was another loss for the Sixers, but one that came with a 7-foot-2 asterisk. Embiid's performance largely stole the show from the opening-night shenanigans that otherwise tarnished the night. Sixers fans who had been waiting to cheer for Embiid for more than two years went wild every time he touched the ball. A group of fans held a sign that read, ''In Embiid We Trust.'' The Sixers just might prove they made the right decision to trust in Embiid. The crowd of nearly 20,000 fans erupted when the ''7-foot-2 center from Kansas, Joooooel, Embiiiiid'' was introduced during game introductions. They stood and gasped when Embiid attempted his first shot of the game - a missed 3-pointer. He grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up the floor and it helped lead to an alley-oop to fellow newcomer Gerald Henderson. He had a nifty spin in the post and a bucket for a quick 10-2 lead. The Sixers, yes, the 10-72 Sixers, at last had a dose of good news. Coach Brett Brown said he would limit Embiid to four, 5-minute spurts and the center spent at least one game break in the locker room on an exercise bike to stay loose. Embiid starred on a nationally televised performance and gave a teasing glimpse that he just may be the franchise cornerstone player that can help shift the franchise toward respectability. Westbrook, now The Man in OKC, refused to cede the spotlight entirely to Embiid. He scored 12 points in the first quarter and 22 through three to keep the Thunder within striking distance entering the fourth. He closed the game with the jumper and free throws and showed life without Durant might not be so bad for the Thunder. TIP-INSThunder: Coach Billy Donovan said the Thunder will win without Durant, just ''do it in a different way.'' ''It will be a constant process throughout the season to get everyone to understand.'' ... Donovan said Westbrook can't try and play as a one-man show or else ''it's just going to wear him out.'' 76ers: Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard rang the ceremonial opening bell. ... UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez was at the game. ... Fans chanted ''Trust The Process'' when Embiid was at the free-throw line. The catchphrase became a rallying cry under former team president Sam Hinkie. ANTHEM CONTROVERSYPhiladelphia 76ers national anthem singer Sevyn Streeter says she was told by the team she could not perform because of her ''We Matter'' jersey. Streeter wrote on Twitter, ''Was suppose to sing the anthem at (at)sixers & (at)okcthunder game but mins b4 (at)sixers said I couldn't because I was wearing a ''We Matter'' jersey. FAN TOSSEDThe Sixers ejected a portly fan in an Allen Iverson jersey who directed both middle fingers toward Westbrook from his courtside seat. The fan raised his arms in triumph and high-fived fans as he was escorted out of the arena. DESIIGNER FLAW:Rapper Desiigner was booed off the court for a halftime performance where he ripped off his shirt and left with his jeans down to his ankles and his boxers exposed. SIMMONS UPDATENo. 1 overall draft pick Ben Simmons says there is no timetable for his return to the Sixers from a broken bone in his right foot. He said he has not discussed the possibility of sitting out the season.'' I'll come back when I'm ready,'' Simmons said. UP NEXTThunder: Host Phoenix on Friday in their home opener.76ers: Host Atlanta on Saturday. They open with three straight and five of their first six at home.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Smoothie King Center NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans were a MASH unit last season, so riddled with injuries that their players missed a combined total of 351 games, forcing coach Alvin Gentry to use 42 starting lineup combinations. Now that the calendar has flipped to the 2016-17 season -- with the home opener Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets at Smoothie King Center -- Gentry wouldn't be blamed if he enlisted the aid of a French Quarter voodoo priestess as a way of ensuring the good health of his players, especially All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, never missed a game in his 40-game, NCAA championship, freshman season at Kentucky. But, in four NBA seasons, the Pelicans' franchise player has missed 68 games with injuries. A medical flow chart indicates he has injured 13 body parts. Davis' porcelain reputation can be explained in part by his pedal-to-the-metal style and his penchant for throwing his body into the expensive seats chasing down loose balls. But after Davis' season-ending knee injury last March, which required arthroscopic surgery, forced him to withdraw from the U. S. Olympic team, he spent the summer fully rehabbing and continuing to add muscle to his athletic frame. Then, with the Pelicans playing in China on Oct. 12, Davis stepped on the foot of Houston Nene's foot and suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. But Davis returned for the preseason finale on Friday and is scheduled to start Wednesday." It doesn't concern me," Davis, who averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last year, said about his recent injury history. "It's basketball. Injuries are part of basketball." It just seems that the Pelicans have more than most other teams. General manger Dell Demps said Tuesday he does not expect guard Tyreke Evans (knee) to hit the floor until December. Forward Quincy Pondexter (knee), who has not played since April 2015, has had a few setbacks in his recovery and "is probably going to take a little bit longer." In addition, starting point guard Jrue Holiday is healthy but is caring for wife Lauren, who last month gave birth and then underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. The Pelicans have placed no timetable on when Holiday will return to the team. Evans' injury and Holiday's unavailability contribute to the Pelicans' decision to keep guard-forward Lance Stephenson, releasing Alonzo Gee even though Gee had a $1.2 million guaranteed contract." With the injuries to Tyreke and Jrue not being with the team, we felt we needed a little more playmaking," Demps said. ("Lance) can go out and create and make plays for others." "Anybody would be disappointed, but it's just a part of it," Gentry said. "You hope that everybody gets better." While much of the NBA seems to be enamored with small ball, the Nuggets appear to be getting bigger. Coach Mike Malone paired big men Jusuf Nurkic (7-0) and Nikola Jokic (6-11) during the preseason and appears ready to give it a try for real. Nurkic has shown the ability to draw fouls as the Nuggets work their offense through him, and he is strong on the offensive glass and finishing near the basket. Jokic has been a cog in the Nuggets' high-post offense and has shown the ability to pick and pop. Both are considered capable passers." There's definitely some Balkan buddy ball going on with those two guys," Malone said. "They do look for each other, which is great. They're so skilled, and the great thing about Nikola is that he can space the floor, so it's not like we have two guys that are stuck on the block, which takes away driving lanes from our perimeter players. The floor is open."
Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night. Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help. The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left. Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points. Denver built its largest lead when Barton hit a 3 and a layup to spark a 9-2 run that made 60-46 in the final minute of the second quarter. The Nuggets still led by 10, at 87-77, when Kenneth Faried's hook shot from 5 feet opened scoring in the fourth quarter, but New Orleans managed to keep its deficit within single digits for most of the final period, pulling as close as 98-84 on Frazier's driving layup. A few possessions later, Davis cut into the lane for a layup that pulled the Pelicans to 100-98 with 2:32 to go and brought the crowd to its feet. Denver, which had shot 46.9 percent (30 of 64) through three quarters, made just seven of 19 field goals in the fourth quarter as New Orleans turned up its defensive intensity. But the Nuggets played solid defense of their own, forcing a pair of missed shots and a Davis turnover in the final half-minute. Denver also made seven of eight free throws in the final 1:39. TIP-INSNuggets: Rookie guard Jamal Murray, who was taken seventh overall in last summer's draft - one spot behind Hield - played 13 minutes and was 0 of 2 shooting, finishing with a point on a free throw. ''For me, tonight's focus isn't Jamal Murray's debut. That's the least of my worries,'' Denver coach Mike Malone said. ''My worry is trying to get a damn win.'' ... Between Gallinari, Nikola Jokic and the 7-foot- Nurkic, Denver opened the game with three players 6-10 or taller on the floor at a time when a number of teams are favoring smaller lineups to in order to feature the quicker, more versatile players on their rosters. ''Obviously the trend is going away from what we do, but we're not worried about what the trends are,'' Malone said. ''We're going to do what we think is best for us, but within our game you'll see a lot of different lineups. ... We feel like we have guys like Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler off the bench who can play meaningful minutes as well if we decide to go small.'' Pelicans: Before the game, the Pelicans wore black T-shirts during warm-ups honoring Bryce Dejean-Jones, who was fatally shot last May when he forced his way into an apartment that he had mistaken for that of his girlfriend. The shirts had the letters ''BDJ'' on the chest with Dejean-Jones' No. 31 underneath. ''It's unfortunate what happened the fact that he's not with us any longer, but he was part of our family and we just wanted to do something to pay tribute to him,'' Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. The team also held a moment of silence in Dejean-Jones' memory before tip-off. ... Davis had 28 of his points on 11 of 22 shooting in the first half, when the rest of the Pelicans were 9 of 31 collectively (29 percent). ... Hield missed the first three shots of his NBA career before scoring his first points on a driving layup. He finished with four points on 2 of 8 shooting. UP NEXTNuggets: Host Portland on Saturday night. Pelicans: Host Golden State on Friday night.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Madison Square Garden The Boston Bruins are visiting Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers on Wednesday night with their goaltending in disarray. Perennial Vezina Trophy candidate Tuukka Rask is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and primary backup Anton Khudobin is out three weeks with an upper-body injury. Faced with an unenviable decision, Bruins coach Claude Julien turned to 22-year-old Malcom Subban against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night and watched his young netminder allow three goals on 16 shots in a 5-0 loss. Julien yanked Subban midway through the second period, but 24-year-old Zane McIntyre yielded two goals on 17 shots." It sucks," Subban said to the media after the game. "You want to at least try to finish the game, let alone win one. You look at what you could have done. Quick turnaround tomorrow. We play the Rangers. I just have to try to correct my mistakes next game." Rask's day-to-day tag means he could be back Wednesday, but if he's not, either Subban or McIntyre will be thrown to the wolves to face one of the NHL's fastest and top offensive teams. The Rangers are averaging 3.67 goals per game, the third-best mark in the early stages of the season. Their speed could give them an edge against a slower Bruins team playing the second half of a back-to-back set on the road. The real surprise for the Rangers this season has been the strong play of their defense, which was expected to be a weakness after losing Keith Yandle to free agency. The unit was already suspect before Yandle's departure but the Rangers have been dominating possession and limiting chances through six games. That combination of speed and quickness has translated into a well-rounded game at both ends of the ice." It seems a lot of times in our own end we're finding spots where we can outnumber the opposition, make it real hard for them to make plays," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said to the New York Daily News on Tuesday. "It hasn't been perfect, but I do believe we're on the right track as far as playing when we don't have the puck the way we have to play." I think that part is permitting us to do the other step, which is create opportunities on the rush and to get the proper movement in the offensive end. For me, it all revolves around there. When you play well when you don't have the puck and you're quick to your assignments and you're quick to check and you're quick to stick-on-puck, you make it very hard on the opposition." The Rangers played three of their first five games without regular defenseman Dan Girardi, which resulted in new faces like Adam Clendening, Nick Holden and Brady Skjei playing key minutes. Clendening went to the press box with Girardi returned Sunday and there wasn't a noticeable drop in the defense group's play." We're pretty confident," Rangers captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh said to the New York Daily News. "Obviously it's going to be a test every night. We're not really thinking about last year. We've kind of got new faces and a new group up front and a few in the back, but I just like the fact that we're communicating and we're making really good reads, understanding when we're in trouble and when it's time to be aggressive or be patient."
Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night. Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0. David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0. Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin. Down 2-0 after the first, the Rangers scored three times in the final 10:44 of the second. Nash began the comeback with a power-play goal at 9:16. He curled to the net before corralling a rebound of Derek Stepan's point shot and flipping it over goalie Zane McIntyre for his third of the season. Hayes tied it with 3:25 left in the second, banking a shot from behind the net off of McIntyre's pants. Pirri's power-play goal with 36 seconds left made it 3-2. The free-agent signee ripped a shot from the right circle that was in the net before McIntrye could get his glove up. New York finished the game 2 for 6 on the man advantage, while the Bruins were 0 for 1. It was not all positive for the Rangers in the second, with Dan Girardi missing two shifts following a hit from Pastrnak, who was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi leaped in the air to play a loose puck in the neutral zone and, as he came down, Pastrnak drove his shoulder into the upper body of the New York defenseman. Pirri made it 4-2 2:23 into the third with his fourth of the season. Vesey scored on a tap-in 43 seconds late. The Bruins opened the scoring Pastrnak's fifth of the season 10 seconds into the game. The lead grew to 2-0 14:34 later when Czarnik scored his first goal in the NHL. Czarnik fired a shot from inside the blue line that New York defenseman Brady Skjei blocked, but Henrik Lundqvist appeared to lose track of the puck and it bounced across the goal line. Lundqvist had 27 saves. NOTES: Prior to the game, the Bruins announced Czarnik had been called up from Providence of the AHL. Czarnik had a goal and two assists in two games with Providence this season. Czarnik, 23, did play in two NHL games earlier this season with the Bruins. ... Boston also announced RW David Backes had his olecranon bursa removed from his elbow on Monday. The Bruins also scratched D Joe Morrow and C Danton Heinen. ... New York LW Chris Kreider missed his second straight game with neck spasms. ... The Rangers scratched D Adam Clendening and D Dylan McIlrath. ... New York lost fourth-line RW Josh Jooris for the game with what the team called an ''upper-body injury.'' UP NEXT:BRUINS: Play at Detroit Saturday night. RANGERS: Play at Carolina Friday night.
Time: 09:30 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Place EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Washington Capitals have been giving up an average of two goals a game. The Edmonton Oilers have been scoring an average of nearly four a game. So, something has to give when these two teams play Wednesday night at Rogers Place. The date in Edmonton marks the beginning of a four-game Western Canadian road swing for the Caps (3-1-1). The Oilers go into the game on a three-game winning streak, including Sunday's 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets outdoors at the Heritage Classic. The Caps spoke Tuesday about limiting the Oilers chances, controlling what the Oilers can do. The Oilers are a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade, yet one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference is talking about damage control. It shows just how things feel very different in Edmonton right now. Caps coach Barry Trotz said it all begins with limiting Connor McDavid, who leads the Oilers with nine points in six games." Just like any elite player, with Connor, (there's) elite speed and skill. If you give time and space, even if you don't give him the time and space, he's still going to make some plays," said Trotz We're just going to have to try and control him, keep him in front as much as we can." But Trotz said it's the depth of the Oilers that gets you. Of any of the skaters who have played this season, only two have yet to get a point." We made the comment as a staff that they've got skill on the three lines, actually, the four lines," said Trotz. "But they have one player who's a heavy sort of physical type player on each line." They're playing really good, they're the top team in the league right now." Wait, we're talking about the Oilers, right?Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said his team needs to focus on shutting down the Oilers top line of McDavid, Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle. They have 19 points in the first six games of the season." Their team is off to a good start and I am sure they have a lot to do with it," said Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. "They have two really skilled guys and then Lucic is that up-and-down winger, straight lines. I think he probably creates some space for them by driving the net and being around the net." On Monday, Oilers goalie Cam Talbot was named the NHL's first star of the week. He's already the second Oiler this season to get the honor -- McDavid got the nod after the first week of the season. He'll be staring down a Washington team that has just 13 goals scored this season, but an offence led by sniper Alex Ovechkin can explode at any time. Talbot said he expects Ovechkin to "shoot, shoot, shoot. Every time the puck gets on his stick he seems to be putting it to the net. I've got to be ready every time he's on the ice, but he's not the only weapon they have." Oilers coach Todd McLellan said it's important not to get carried away by the Oilers' early successes." It's still so early in the year, and we're still a development-type team, a team that is growing. A growth team, that's what I called us before. Our club has a lot of work to do and we're not, by any means, getting ahead of ourselves. It's nice to feel a bit of positive energy at the beginning of the year, where we haven't had that in the past. We've worked hard to earn that. But, there's way too much hockey in front of us." Look for the Caps to try some new line combinations Wednesday, including T. J. Oshie with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson.
Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Talking Stick Resort Arena PHOENIX -- After a season of injuries and indecision, the Phoenix Suns hope they have tweaked their young roster correctly as they open the 2016-17 season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Two years ago, the Suns' best three guards (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas) all played the same position. But the logjam at point guard quickly went from unworkable to untenable, beginning a spiral that forced a reboot to the Suns' rebuilding plans. Now the Suns kick off the 2016-17 season with three guards with defined positions and roles. Bledsoe is the survivor of the purge and the undisputed point guard, hoping to rebound from injuries that forced him to watch most of last season's 23-59 disaster from the sideline. Devin Booker, who rose from the ashes of a terrible season, is now the starting shooting guard and face of the franchise a few days shy of his 20th birthday. He became the fourth-youngest player in league history (behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant) to score 1,000 points in a season. Brandon Knight, plagued by injuries and inconsistency but an undeniable offensive force, will come off the bench as a sixth man who will see major playing time in coach Earl Watson's rotation that now includes former Suns Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley and a host of promising but unproven talent. With Bledsoe, Booker, Knight and Barbosa heading up the guard rotation, the Suns waived Archie Goodwin on Monday and opted to keep John Jenkins and Tyler Ulis at the end of the bench. Goodwin had several highlight-reel moments during his three seasons with the Suns but never enough to warrant serious playing time. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Goodwin had requested a change of scenery." We felt like we got down to 16 really good, quality NBA players. Archie and his agents for the last few months asked us to accommodate a trade request," McDonough said. "With that in mind, we told Archie and his agent we'd try to help him move to a team where he'd have an opportunity and play. Unfortunately, we weren't able to work out a deal. This time of a year, it's hard." Forward P. J. Tucker, who underwent back surgery in September, was cleared to play on Tuesday and will come off the bench. T. J. Warren, coming off season-ending foot surgery himself, will start at forward with Dudley and Tyson Chandler at center. While the Suns have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Kings are trying to break a 10-year postseason drought. Despite an explosive season from center DeMarcus Cousins, who ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.9 points per game, the Kings won only 33 games -- the most in Cousins' six season in Sacramento. The Kings won three out of four meetings with the Suns last season, and Cousins was a big reason. Sacramento will start the season without starting point guard Darren Collison, who will begin an eight-game suspension due to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. Ty Lawson will start at the point for the Kings, looking to rebound after two poor seasons and two DUI arrests in 2015. The Kings will open the season with 11 games in the first 17 days. Most of those games will be with Lawson as the only true point guard on the roster." It's going to be a rough stretch," Lawson told the Sacramento Bee. "If things go bad, we've just got to stick together. We can't pull apart. Things are going to happen, but I feel like if we stay positive and stick together, we'll be able to get through it." Former Sun and new King Matt Barnes will miss his first game with the Kings due to rib and knee problems.
Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: STAPLES Center LOS ANGELES -- Another chapter of storylines unfolds when the Los Angeles Lakers tip off their 2016-17 campaign Wednesday night. Last season, it was Kobe Bryant's final year that grabbed the headlines, punctuated by a 60-point performance in his last game and a rare Lakers win. This time it's Luke Walton stepping into the spotlight as he begins his first season as coach when the Lakers face the Houston Rockets at Staples Center in the season opener for both clubs. Walton replaces Byron Scott, who was dismissed after a franchise-worst 17-65 run last season. While Scott was known as a taskmaster and clashed with players, Walton brings a laid-back approach that the Lakers believe suits his young club well." I like leading by love," Walton said, according to the L. A. Times. "But I had hippie parents so that's to be expected. It's the way I was raised." Walton, formerly the top assistant at Golden State under Steve Kerr, rose as a hot coaching property last season by guiding the Warriors to a 39-4 mark and winning an NBA-record 24 in a row to open the season as interim coach during Kerr's absence for health reasons. Walton already was on the radar of up-and-coming assistants destined for NBA coaching jobs, but that successful stretch expedited his elevation. Obviously, the Lakers' job has major challenges. Walton will attempt to mix a crop of young talent (D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and rookie No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram) and blend it with a core of veterans (Lou Williams, Luol Deng, Jose Calderon, Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young)." There's no better guy to lead a franchise and teach a franchise from a youthful perspective that he brings to the game with maturity and knowledge," Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson told the Orange County Register recently. "He sees the game on a different level. There's so many levels at this game. There's so many games within a game. Few can see it with substance the way that he does." Mike D'Antoni will return for the first time as a head coach since he quit the Lakers' job after the 2013-14 season because the club refused to extend him a long-term deal. James Harden, the NBA's second-leading scorer at 29 points per game last season, leads a Rockets team that will play for the first time in three campaigns without center Dwight Howard, who bolted to Atlanta as a free agent." I think everybody is excited, everybody's ready to get going. We've had a good preseason," said D'Antoni, whose club finished 5-2 in exhibitions. "We've got still a lot of growth that's got to going on and we've got to get a lot better, but I think we're at a reasonably good point." The Rockets will play without guard Patrick Beverly, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. Beverly is expected to miss at least three weeks." We have to have a couple of guys (who) are going to step up without Pat," D'Antoni said. In addition to Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene are among those players expected to carry to the load.
Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: Honda Center ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Four nights after defeating two different opponents in the same game, the Nashville Predators will begin their first extended road trip of the season when they face the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at the Honda Center. The game will be the first between the teams since the Predators eliminated the Pacific Division's defending champions in the first round of last season's Stanley Cup playoffs. By winning the series' final two contests, Nashville became the fourth successive team to eliminate the Ducks from the playoffs in Anaheim during a seventh game after the Ducks held a 3-2 advantage. The Predators' 2-1 victory in Game 7 also cost Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau his job. Nashville enters the Wednesday game following a 5-1 win Saturday night against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Predators broke their three-game losing streak without center Mike Fisher, goalie Pekka Rinne and forwards Craig Smith and Colton Sissons, who were felled by a case of food poisoning that afflicted the team. The lack of depth forced the Predators to recall five players from their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. One of the replacements from the minor leagues, goalie Juuse Saros, stopped 34 of 35 shots in just his second NHL game." We could've gone out there and hoped our way through the game or waited for lucky bounces," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "Every guy in this locker room went out there and attacked the game in full force. We kept our composure, and Juuse was phenomenal." The four ill Predators returned to practice Monday, with Saros and two of the extra players returning to Milwaukee. But Nashville retained forwards Austin Watson and Harry Zolnierczyk from Milwaukee for the road trip. Forward Cody Bass, right winger Miikka Salomaki and defenseman Anthony Bitetto remain out with upper-body injuries." We're just making sure we have the numbers that we need," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told NHL.com. "We have Bass on injured reserve for a little bit, we have Salomaki and Bitetto out, so our numbers are down, and we're going on a trip." Meanwhile, the Ducks return home after a 2-1 overtime loss Tuesday night to the San Jose Sharks, Stanley Cup finalists for the first time last season. Anaheim started this season 0-3-1, just like last year, but won the next two games before the Tuesday loss." I thought both goaltenders and our penalty kill got us a point," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said of the game in San Jose. "We didn't create enough offense. We slapped the puck around and uncharacteristically didn't move the puck well." Ducks goalie John Gibson added, "You get a point, you get a point, but if you're going to be satisfied with one point, you're not going to get very far. It was a division game, a big game." Corey Perry needs just one point to take over third place on the Ducks' all-time list. Perry and Paul Kariya share third place with 669 points." Obviously, you know what he did for this organization," Perry told the Orange County Register. "To have my name beside his is a tremendous honor and a tremendous feat for what's gone on in this organization as a whole."
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."