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No debate: Judge, Yankees pound Bieber, Indians in opener

CLEVELAND (AP) — On a night for debates, Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees made quite an opening statement.

Shane Bieber had no rebuttal.

Judge smashed a tone-setting, two-run homer on Bieber’s fourth pitch, Cole struck out 13 in his New York playoff debut and the Yankees opened their AL wild-card series with a resounding 12-3 win over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.

Just a few miles from where President Donald Trump and campaign opponent Joe Biden made their cases to the nation in their presidential debate, the Yankees teed off against Bieber, who was baseball’s best pitcher during the condensed regular season but ineffective in his playoff debut.

Judge and the rest of New York’s hitters hadn’t faced Bieber in 2020, but they were well prepared and took some meaty cuts against the 25-year-old ace, who gave up season highs in runs (seven) and hits (nine) over 4 2/3 innings — his shortest stint since June 9 last season against the Yankees.

“The first inning didn’t go as planned,” Bieber said. “I wish I would have been with my off-speed stuff in the zone, and challenged those guys a little more. I forced myself into some bad situations and some bad counts on top of not having my best stuff and making mistakes.

“No excuses. It was not good.”

The best-of-three series continues Wednesday night with Carlos Carrasco trying to save Cleveland’s season against Masahiro Tanaka.

When Bieber’s final pitch clanged loudly off the empty left-field bleachers on a two-run homer by Gleyber Torres in the fifth, the Yankees were up 7-2 and had delivered a boisterous postseason message to the rest of baseball: Don’t forget us.

“We scored quite a few runs,” said Brett Gardner, who hit a two-run homer in the seventh and drove in three. “I don’t think you ever expect that against a pitcher the caliber of Shane Bieber. Hopefully that’s a sign of more good things to come.”

After giving up Torres’ homer, Bieber handed the ball to acting Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. and walked slowly toward Cleveland’s dugout, seemingly carrying all of the city’s hopes for a long run with him. The Indians have lost seven straight playoff games.

Staked to an early lead on Judge’s homer, Cole showed why the Yankees shelled out $324 million for him in the offseason. The right-hander gave up two runs — including Josh Naylor’s homer — and six hits without a walk in seven innings.

Naylor, who came over in the deadline trade from San Diego, went 4 for 4 and became the first player with three extra-base hits in his postseason debut.

Cole’s strikeouts were the second-most by a New York pitcher in postseason history. Roger Clemens fanned 15 in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS. Cole also became the first pitcher to strike out at least 12 in three postseason games.

“We needed to set the tone for the series,” Cole said. “I’m obviously very thankful and humbled to be able to take the ball and be in this position. To be able to deliver feels really good.”

Giancarlo Stanton added a solo shot in the ninth for the Yankees, who didn’t even have to warm up their top relievers — keeping Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino fresh for Game 2.

Judge’s first homer since coming off the injured list on Sept. 16 — and the first allowed by Bieber at home this season — gave the Yankees a stunning 2-0 lead.

“We had a big, long hitter’s meeting about all sticking to the same plan and just trying to work counts, get pitches to drive and I think, as a whole, we did that,” Judge said. “That’s when this team is dangerous, when we go out there and we can just grind out at-bats.

“Any mistakes that are thrown up there, we hammer them.”

DJ LeMahieu, the AL batting champion, led off with a single before Judge, who missed 29 games with a strained calf, blasted Bieber’s first pitch, a middle-of-the-plate fastball, beyond the wall in right-center.

It was just the shot in the arm the Yankees were looking for after going 11-18 on the road this season and dropping six of eight down the stretch.

Unlike the previous four postseason matchups between the Indians and Yankees since 1997, this one, played amid a pandemic that threatened to wipe out the entire season, was different in so many ways.

There was barely any buzz downtown, parts of which were cordoned off because of the debate taking place on Case Western Reserve’s nearby campus. Progressive Field was mostly empty and a cold front dropped the game-time temperature to 61 degrees so it felt like fall.

There were a few midges, those pesky flying insects that swarmed New York reliever Joba Chamberlain in the 2007 playoffs.

This time, though, the Yankees were the ones causing all the mayhem.

“Our season,” Gardner said, “started today.”

ODDS AND ENDS

According to MLB, Cole became the first AL pitcher with 13 strikeouts and no walks in a postseason start. … Naylor is the fifth player to go 4 for 4 or better in his playoff debut, joining A.J. Pierzynski (2002), Johnny Damon (2001), Mel Ott (1933) and Frankie Frisch (1921).

FAMILY AFFAIR

MLB eased COVID-19 restrictions and allowed family members of players to attend the game.

Boone said nearly half of New York’s players had loved ones on the trip, and believes their presence can have a positive effect.

Cole spent time with his 3-month-old son “in between naps. This was the first time we got to go to the ballpark together as a family.”

HELPING HAND

The Indians are going through the postseason without their leader.

Manager Terry Francona, who missed 46 games in the regular season due to poor health, watched the game from a suite. Indians president Chris Antonetti said Francona continues to recover, but the 61-year-old is “still far short of 100%.”

UP NEXT

Carrasco’s inspirational comeback after being diagnosed with leukemia last year reaches the postseason. He’ll face Tanaka, who pitched seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland.

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SPORT SPORT_NBA

LeBron and the Heat, together again at the NBA Finals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James wants to beat the Miami Heat. The Miami Heat want to beat LeBron James.

These shouldn’t be surprising notions to anyone, not with a title at stake.

Those looking for more acrimony than that, well, they may be disappointed.

The NBA Finals start Wednesday night and the James vs. Miami story line is shaping up as little more than a meeting of the mutual admiration society, albeit with a championship at stake. James is looking to bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to basketball’s mountaintop for the first time since 2010 and the Heat are looking to cap a surprising season with their fourth crown.

“I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to compete for a championship,” James said on the eve of Game 1 of his 10th finals, where he’ll be seeking ring No. 4.

James was asked any number of different ways Tuesday about his time in Miami, his thoughts on coach Erik Spoelstra, his opinion of Heat President Pat Riley. He never took the bait, speaking only with fondness for the four years he spent in Miami and the two titles the Heat won during that stay.

“Being a part of that culture allowed me to grow, allowed me to see what it takes to not only compete for a championship but also to win a championship,” James said. “So, it definitely put me in a position where I knew what it took. I saw what it took. But also, I fit that culture as well because of how hard I worked. It was a perfect match for those four years.”

James left Miami and the finals have been an almost-annual stop since; this is his fifth appearance in the title round in the six seasons that followed his Heat tenure. It’s the first time Miami has been back since he left. During that time, the Heat did some rebuilding a couple of times and used 60 different players in those six seasons. Miami also endured the departure, return and then retirement of Dwyane Wade and the premature end of Chris Bosh’s career for health reasons.

Spoelstra is designing a game plan with hopes of keeping James in some sort of check, of course. That doesn’t mean he didn’t speak with reverence when asked about the Lakers’ best player.

“I just think it is a true testament to his greatness to be able to sustain this type of success year in, year out,” Spoelstra said. “Different uniforms, new players and new teams going after him. It’s a real testament to that commitment. He’s seen everything. At this point in his career, it’s just about winning. And his ability to do what he does at his age is incredibly uncommon. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to be able to maintain that.”

The feeling is mutual.

James, on Spoelstra: “I’m not going to sit up here and act like I don’t know what Spo is all about, because he’s damned good, if not great.”

James, on Riley: “This league is not the same without Riles. He’s a great guy, great motivator, someone that just knows what it takes to win.”

No shade thrown there.

Both teams haven’t endured much trouble in the bubble: The Heat and Lakers have each gone 12-3 in the playoffs. The Heat are the first No. 5 seed to make the finals and weren’t exactly surprised to see that James is the one standing between them and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“It’s been like this for a very long time. If you want to win, you’re going to have to go through a LeBron James-led team,” said Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who’ll be going to his first finals in his first Miami season. “At the end of the day, that’s what it normally comes down to. … You’re going to get the same test over and over again until you pass, and that test is LeBron James.”

Lakers star Anthony Davis is in the finals for the first time, so he’ll likely be dealing with a bit of nerves on Wednesday night. Butler acknowledged he’d be doing the same as well.

The Lakers are comfortably favored. Davis isn’t expecting it to be easy.

“Miami is a special team,” Davis said. “They’re a team who a lot of people thought they shouldn’t be here, but they’re a team who fights. They’re a team who’s tough. They make big-time plays, got big-time players on their team, guys who are in their first year, second years who are playing huge for them right now with a lot of confidence.”

Get past the James vs. Heat notions, and the series has more to offer.

Davis will butt heads with Miami’s rising star Bam Adebayo. There will be times when veteran point guards — Rajon Rondo for the Lakers, Goran Dragic for the Heat — match up as well. Miami has the young shooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson; the Lakers have veterans like JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard ready to work down low.

Add it all up, and Heat captain Udonis Haslem said “it’s going to be a hell of a matchup.”

“I know the narrative that people will try to preach,” Haslem, the only player on all six of Miami’s finals teams, told The Associated Press. “But I want my guys to understand that it’s not about LeBron … it’s about the Heat vs. the Lakers. LeBron played here. This has nothing to do with that. None of these guys were here when that happened. It’s the Miami Heat vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s it.”

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Titans have NFL’s 1st COVID-19 outbreak; next game still on

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans won’t be back inside their building until Saturday at the earliest because of eight positive tests for the coronavirus, the first outbreak to hit the NFL as it tries to play a full schedule amid the pandemic.

Tennessee is scheduled to host Pittsburgh in a matchup of two of the league’s seven remaining undefeated teams on Sunday, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said his team has been “given a mandate” to prepare as if the game will be played on time — even if the Titans are unable to practice.

“We’re going to trust the medical experts,” Tomlin said. “If they deem it safe for us to proceed, we’re going to go down there with the intention of playing and playing to win.”

Tennessee suspended in-person activities through Friday after the NFL said three Titans players and five personnel tested positive for the coronavirus. The NFL had played three weeks without a COVID-19 outbreak. Now, the Titans will become the first significant in-season test of the league’s virus protocols.

The Minnesota Vikings also suspended in-person activities Tuesday following the Titans’ test results. The Titans beat the Vikings 31-30 in Minneapolis last weekend.

“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the (players union), including our infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the league said in a statement.

The Titans placed a pair of key players, defensive captain and lineman DaQuan Jones and long snapper Beau Brinkley, on the reserve/COVID-19 list later Tuesday.

The Vikings released a statement saying they had not received any positive results from their testing after Sunday’s game and they followed NFL protocol by closing their facility immediately. The Minnesota complex will remain closed at least through Wednesday.

Minnesota is scheduled to visit Houston (0-3) on Sunday.

“All decisions will be made with health and safety as our primary consideration,” the NFL said. “We will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.”

If they kick off Sunday, the Titans will have spent three days in virtual, video meetings with possibly only a walk-through Saturday. The prospect of a team facing a competitive disadvantage because of the virus was not a surprise to Tomlin.

“Once we left the station and we got all teams into a training camp-like setting, we as a collective, meaning the National Football League, acknowledged that this COVID environment could be challenging to that,” Tomlin said. “So we all proceeded with that understanding.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel is scheduled to talk to reporters Wednesday morning.

“I just wanna play,” Titans starting left guard Rodger Saffold tweeted.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams Tuesday noting the protocols set up by the league and the players union are being followed. Those who tested positive will be isolated, monitored and offered medical care, and family members also are offered testing. Officials and others who worked the game will be tested.

“This is not unexpected; as Dr. Sills and others have emphasized, there will be players and staff who will test positive during the season,” Goodell wrote in the memo obtained by The Associated Press, referencing the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills. “We are exploring in more detail the nature of the close contacts to determine where they occurred (locker room, flights, etc.), and identify any additional learnings that can be shared with all clubs.”

Goodell asked teams to look at what they’ve done to limit contact, especially when traveling and within position groups, and to review how they bring in players for tryouts. He noted the test results affirm the need to follow health and safety protocols “to the fullest extent.”

The NFL has been fining coaches and teams when coaches have violated league rules requiring face coverings during games.

Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward posted on Twitter that if the game were postponed, players would be compromised in their preparation for the following week.

“This is wild but this is the world we live in now,” Heyward wrote.

Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen did not travel with the team to Minneapolis following a virus test result Saturday. Vrabel said Monday that Bowen was not with the team.

Rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson, the Titans’ top draft pick out of Georgia, also has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Sept. 6.

The Titans, like other NFL teams, use devices that detect whenever someone is within 6 feet of another device and records how long they are that close together. That means the league has data on everyone’s interactions from inside the team headquarters to the practice field, an airplane, inside a hotel and at a stadium.

That information should help the Titans and the infectious disease experts know which players and coaches were at risk. The closure of Tennessee’s facility should also help limit further spread of the virus.

The Titans are due to have about 7,000 fans in Nissan Stadium on Sunday as local restrictions on large gatherings have been eased. That number is set to expand to about 8,500 on Oct. 11 for a game against Buffalo and up to 10,000 on Oct. 18, when Houston is scheduled to visit.

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Lots of unfamiliar territory in 2020 baseball playoffs

CHICAGO (AP) — Mookie Betts, meet Devin Williams and his devastating changeup. Aaron Judge, take a closer look at a much improved Shane Bieber. Fernando Tatis Jr., say hello to Jack Flaherty.

Welcome to the first round of the 2020 playoffs, a class with an unusual amount of homework — and precious little room for error.

After the pandemic-shortened regular season was limited to regional play, seven of the eight wild-card series involve teams that haven’t played any meaningful games against each other since last year. The one exception is Blake Snell and Tampa Bay taking on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Toronto in an all-AL East matchup.

“It’s like the old days, man, when you played a team you’ve never played before. It’s exactly what it is,” said Sandy Alomar Jr., the acting manager for the Indians. “It’s very strange.”

That means a lot of video and scouting work before the AL playoffs begin Tuesday and the NL postseason starts Wednesday. And the advance reports might be a tick or two off after scouts were shut out of ballparks this year because of COVID-19 protocols.

White Sox ace Lucas Giolito got some tips from teammate Dallas Keuchel on the feel of the mound in Oakland. He has only two career starts against the A’s — both in Chicago.

“Both sides, our offense and their offense, they’re going to be facing pitchers that they haven’t seen this year,” Giolito said Monday. “I think that’ll make it a little bit interesting.”

Factor in the format — it’s a best-of-three series in the first round, compared to best of five in the division series and best of seven in the final two rounds — and the wild-card round might be a more apt description than Major League Baseball had intended.

“Any mistake can be a total mess for either team,” Twins slugger Nelson Cruz said. “Every pitch will be critical.”

Betts and the Dodgers rolled to baseball’s best record this year at 43-17, three games better than the Rays. But they get to walk the same thin line as everybody else in opening series of their eighth consecutive playoff appearance.

While Los Angeles brings a deep lineup and pitching staff into its matchup with Milwaukee, which squeaked into the field on the final day of the season, the Brewers can call on Williams at a big moment in a tight game.

The 26-year-old Williams, one of the favorites for NL Rookie of the Year, allowed one earned run and struck out 53 in 27 innings this year. Milwaukee also has Josh Hader in its bullpen, perhaps the only area where it might have an advantage over the NL West champions.

“We just got to go out there and play good quality baseball,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Yes, the pitching has carried us in my opinion, with the defense, and now we got to go out there and execute.”

The Yankees and Indians haven’t played against each other since last August, and their powerful lineups face quite the challenge in Game 1 of their wild-card series.

Bieber, the ace of the Indians and the favorite for the AL Cy Young Award, versus Gerrit Cole, the $324 million right-hander for the Yankees. Bieber is making his third career start against New York, and Cole is facing for Cleveland for the sixth time, including a win for Houston in Game 2 of the 2018 ALDS.

“The object, if you’re taking the ball early, is to set the tone both for the pitching staff and the team,” Cole said. “I’ve been practicing that this year, and I’ll just keep trying to get better at it.”

San Diego is making its first playoff appearance since 2006. Up next for the Padres is St. Louis, which lost to Washington in the NLCS last year.

The series opener could put Tatis in the same game with Flaherty for only the second time. The 21-year-old Tatis singled and struck out in two at-bats against Flaherty during the Padres’ 5-3 victory at St. Louis on April 5, 2019.

St. Louis and Miami got into the playoffs despite dealing with a coronavirus outbreak during the season. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt sounded almost giddy while looking ahead to the postseason after navigating a compressed schedule down the stretch.

“We can face anything,” Shildt said with a chuckle, “and now, like, days off, one game a day guaranteed, I mean let’s do this. We’re on board with what this schedule looks like big time. We’re ready.”

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Mahomes outplays Jackson to lead Chiefs past Ravens 34-20

BALTIMORE (AP) — It wasn’t just that Patrick Mahomes threw for a ton of yards and four touchdowns. Most impressive was how he did it.

Mahomes juked, danced, and jumped in and out of the pocket. Sometimes he just dropped back and fired pinpoint throws downfield. He tossed shovel passes and flung it sidearmed.

The common thread was that just about everything he did worked for the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who rolled past the Baltimore Ravens 34-20 on Monday night.

Mahomes put on a scintillating show while outperforming Lamar Jackson, who’s 0-3 against the Chiefs and 21-1 against the rest of the NFL as a regular-season starting quarterback.

With Mahomes leading the way, the Chiefs (3-0) emphatically ended the Ravens’ 14-game regular-season winning streak while extending their own run to 12 games (including playoffs). Mahomes went 31 for 42 for 385 yards and averaged 6.5 yards on his four rushing attempts.

“They don’t give that guy a half-billion dollars for no reason,” Ravens defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “He just made play after play. You’ve got to give him respect.”

Mahomes, who signed a 10-year, $503 million extension in July, gave the Chiefs their money’s worth on Monday night, surgically shredding a Baltimore defense that had allowed only two touchdowns in its first two games.

“You got to give credit to Pat for leading the charge. He stepped up big,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said.

Mahomes was not intercepted, and avoided being sacked. The Chiefs led 27-10 at halftime and held on to defeat Baltimore (2-1) for the third year in a row.

“The plays we ran, we got in the right situations,” Mahomes said. “I thought guys executed at a very high level on those plays.”

In a duel between Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, and the player who won that honor last year, Jackson was no match for the man whose resume also includes a Super Bowl MVP trophy.

Jackson completed 15 of 28 passes for 97 yards and ran for 83 yards, 30 of them on one carry during the Ravens’ opening possession. It wasn’t nearly enough against Mahomes, whose performance Jackson described in one word: “Outstanding.”

The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions — one on a run by Mahomes, the other on a shovel pass to Anthony Sherman — for a 13-3 lead. Following that second score, Ravens rookie Devin Duvernay fielded the kickoff and sprinted down the right sideline for a 93-yard touchdown.

Kansas City followed with a three-and-out, but Baltimore simply could not contain Mahomes for long. After he got the ball back, Mahomes completed passes of 29 and 18 yards before hitting Tyreek Hill for a 20-yard score to cap a 73-yard drive.

A 49-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman put the Chiefs up by 17 at halftime. The only other time Jackson trailed by that much at the break in an NFL game was last year, when the Chiefs held a 23-6 lead.

In this one, Kansas City pumped the brakes in the second half before Baltimore closed to 27-20. That’s when Mahomes showed why he’s the league’s highest-paid player and arguably the NFL’s best quarterback.

During a 13-play, 75-yard drive that produced the game-clinching score, Mahomes converted a third-and-5 with an 18-yard pass and ran for 12 yards on a third-and-10. He flipped a sidearm 12-yard pass to Sammy Watkins to set up a first-and-goal at the 2, from where Mahomes tossed a touchdown pass to appreciative tackle Eric Fisher with 8:14 remaining.

SMALL CROWD

There were an estimated 250 people in the seats consisting of immediate family members of Ravens players, coaches and front office personnel. They were scattered in several sections behind the Baltimore sideline.

They were far more animated than the cardboard cutouts of people behind each end zone.

TAKE A KNEE

The Chiefs appeared to all stand on the sideline during the national anthem. The Ravens, on the other hand, offered a mixed bag of protests to call attention to social injustice: Some kneeled, including Jackson, some stood and a few others just sat on the bench.

INJURIES

Chiefs: CB L’Jarius Sneed was ruled out in the third quarter with a collarbone injury. … DE Alex Okafor (hamstring) was inactive. … G Andrew Wylie was inactive and went to the hospital with a stomach issue, but was OK, Reid said.

UP NEXT

Chiefs: Host New England on Sunday. The Patriots are 2-1 with Cam Newton running the offense.

Ravens: A short in-state road trip Sunday to face the Washington Football Team (1-2).

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Doc Rivers out as Clippers’ coach, after seven seasons

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Doc Rivers would easily be considered the best coach in Los Angeles Clippers history. Most wins. Most playoff appearances. Top winning percentage.

And now he’s out.

Rivers announced in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday that he is not returning as coach. The move comes about two weeks after the Clippers wasted a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

The Clippers said Rivers and Ballmer came to the decision jointly.

Rivers spent seven seasons with the Clippers, making the playoffs in six of them — major success for a once-woebegone franchise. This season’s team, with the summer 2019 additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, was expected to compete for a championship.

But losing three closeout opportunities to the Nuggets cost the Clippers a chance to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals, and likely played a role in Rivers not remaining as coach.

“When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination, and bring a championship to this organization,” Rivers wrote in the statement. “While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won’t be able to see them all through.”

Rivers went 356-208 over seven seasons with the Clippers, taking them to the West second round three times. But the franchise has never made the conference finals, and going 0-3 in chance to get there this year was a devastating blow.

Expectations were high, and on the night the season ended, Rivers took responsibility.

“We didn’t meet them. That’s the bottom line,” Rivers said on Sept. 15 after the Game 7 loss. “I’m the coach and I’ll take any blame for it. But we didn’t meet our expectations, clearly.”

This was the third time Rivers saw one of his teams waste a 3-1 series lead. It also happened with eighth-seeded Orlando against top-seeded Detroit in 2003, and with the Clippers against Houston in 2015.

The Clippers went 49-23 in the regular season, the fourth-best record in franchise history. Rivers has been the coach in five of the Clippers’ six best regular seasons.

Rivers thanked fans for their support.

“Though it was a disappointing end to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support,” Rivers said. “Thank you to all the players, coaches, and staff for helping us get here. Most importantly, thank you to the fans. We went through a lot, and I am grateful for my time here.”

The Clippers’ job becomes the sixth current vacancy in the NBA, along with Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. New York, Brooklyn and Chicago have already filled vacancies in their offseasons.

Rivers’ departure means the league also is down to four Black coaches currently with jobs: Lloyd Pierce in Atlanta, J.B. Bickerstaff in Cleveland, Monty Williams in Phoenix and Dwane Casey in Detroit. Rivers is the third Black coach to either step down or be fired this offseason, joining Nate McMillan in Indiana and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans.

Sam Cassell and Tyronn Lue were both assistants on this Clippers team under Rivers. Lue already has won an NBA title in Cleveland, and Rivers has long said that Cassell is ready to become a head coach. It’s possible they could be among the candidates to take over.

“I am immeasurably grateful to Doc for his commitment and contributions to the Clippers and the city of Los Angeles,” Ballmer said. “I am also extremely confident in our front office and our players. We will find the right coach to lead us forward and help us reach our ultimate goals. We will begin the search and interview process immediately.”

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How Marvel characters should really look

While their DC rivals struggle, Marvel’s live-action offerings have gone from strength to strength. But in the course of adapting their comic book properties to film, Marvel have made some pretty big changes to their classic characters. Some were undoubtedly for the best, while others have risked losing the magic that made those characters so beloved in the first place. Either way, it’s interesting to see what was altered in the transition to the silver screen.

Deadpool

After Ryan Reynolds’ first outing as Deadpool, fans had a right to be worried. While Deadpool technically appears in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the fast-talking antihero is practically unrecognizable. Not only is he covered in tattoos, he’s got the powers of other mutants—well-known ones, too, including the X-Men’s leader, Cyclops—and, most egregiously, his mouth is sewn shut, robbing fans of the character’s trademark wisecracks.

Fans didn’t like the changes. Neither did Ryan Reynolds. That’s why, when Deadpool returned to the big screen in 2016 for his own feature film, Reynolds and director Tim Miller played everything by the (comic) book. The result is, quite possibly, the all-time most faithful reproduction of a comics costume in a movie. The team even went so far as to film two versions of each scene—one with Reynolds wearing the mask, and one without—to create Deadpool’s blank white eyes, which, even as part of a mask, change according to his mood.

Doctor Strange

Aside from a few outliers (we’re looking at you, Hawkeye), Marvel Studios has been pretty good about bringing its biggest characters’ outfits to the screen. Iron Man, which kicked off the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, gave fans both a faithful version of Iron Man’s power armor and a pitch-perfect Tony Stark in the form of Robert Downey Jr. Captain America may not have wings sticking out of his helmet, but otherwise, his World War II battle get-up is remarkably close to Jack Kirby’s original design. And the Hulk, well, he’s big and green and wears purple pants. What else do you want?

Add Doctor Strange to that list. The costume Benedict Cumberbatch wears feels almost identical to Steve Ditko’s original drawing—and it took a lot of work to make it that way. In a conversation with Slashfilm, Doctor Strange costume designer Alexandra Byrn emphasized the hardships involved in “getting the spirit” of Strange’s costume right, even if some of the small details—the size of Strange’s collar, or the gold accents on his cloak—aren’t quite the same. “You’re picking things and balancing them,” Byrn says. “You’re mixing ideas so that it’s true to the story of the comic as well as the story of the film.”

Daredevil

A departure from the glitzy, planet-saving exploits of the Avengers, Netflix’s Daredevil series kept to gritty, street-level heroics. Naturally, producers were nervous about undermining this realistic approach with red spandex, and Daredevil spent most of the first season fighting crime in cargo pants. A glimpse of his costume at the end of the season revealed some major changes from the comics. Daredevil’s famous double Ds were gone, and the vivid red color scheme had been toned down to maroon. Most notably, the traditional skintight superhero costume was ditched in favor of reinforced leather, giving the character a more armored look than his comics counterpart.

That last change actually ended up causing some problems. While it may look tough, there’s a reason you rarely see Olympic athletes compete in leather pants. Spandex gives the wearer a much wider range of motion, making it easier to backflip off a gargoyle and kick a ninja in the face. As a result, a slightly redesigned costume was introduced in season two, which kept most of the new look while making it easier to move around. As Daredevil actor Charlie Cox told IGN, “there were some things that didn’t work quite as well, just in terms of maneuverability and comfort…So the lower portion of the suit is slightly baggier, and we go back to the old combat boots as well, which make it easier for me and my stunt double to jump and kick and do all the things you need to do as Daredevil.”

Luke Cage

Luke Cage never adopted the skintight getup popular with other superheroes, but his traditional outfit was still pretty goofy, featuring a silver headband and a yellow blouse open to the waist. While that look undoubtedly killed at Studio 54, it didn’t outlast the ’70s. By 1992 it was considered so cringeworthy that Luke was depicted tearing it in pieces on the cover of his own comic. However, it does get a fun shout-out in the TV series, which sees Luke grab a yellow shirt to wear while still sporting the metallic headpiece and cuffs from the experiment that gave him superpowers.

While most comics artists simply update Luke’s original costume into a yellow T-shirt, the Netflix series prefers darker clothes. Luke also wears a lot of hoodies, which wasn’t simply an aesthetic choice. Star Mike Colter told MTV News that the dark hoodie was “symbolic because of Trayvon Martin. We talked about that specifically, what that would mean to people and the feelings it would evoke in viewers. Irregardless of the entertainment value, what this show says politically resonates profoundly.”

Star-Lord

Although the “Guardians of the Galaxy” name has been around since the ’60s, they were never a major part of the Marvel Universe, and the version of the team that inspired the movie actually only debuted in 2008. Since fans weren’t particularly attached to such an obscure property, director James Gunn was able to make some pretty big changes to the characters. In the comics, Star-Lord (real name Peter Quill) is an established hero who assembles the Guardians as a kind of galactic police force. They even have spiffy uniforms and a base on the giant severed head Knowhere (home to the Collector in the movie).

Of course, the movie version of Star-Lord is more of a criminal than a cop, which required a drastic costume redesign. The uniform and logo were ditched for a roguish leather jacket and T-shirt combo. The classic helmet was scaled back to a faceplate, giving the character a less militaristic look. And the bullet-spraying Kree machine guns were switched for some PG-13 blasters. After the movie became a hit, the new outfit was largely imported to the comics, even though it makes less sense for an experienced soldier like the comic book version of Star-Lord.

Thanos

Thanos has made a big impact in the MCU, despite standing up for less than 30 seconds so far. This love of sitting ominously is very true to the comics, where the character’s inventively named Space Throne can teleport and travel between dimensions (but doesn’t have cool hovering space armrests). Comics Thanos does seem more active than his movie counterpart, who can be heard whining about having to collect the Infinity Stones himself during his post-credits appearance in Age of Ultron. Compare that to the comic book Thanos, who was once spotted whizzing around New York in a personalized helicopter, pushing over children.

Thanos’s costume has been updated to give him a more armored look, replacing the skintight space spandex beloved by comics artists everywhere. The blue-and-gold color scheme remains, but is somewhat muted, and the helmet is now a separate piece instead of being connected to the neck plate. The character’s traditional purple complexion actually did make an appearance in The Avengers, but was replaced with a milder blue by Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps he just needs to work on his tan.

Groot

Perhaps no Marvel character has changed quite so drastically as Groot over the years. While he remains a tree creature from space, the current Groot bears little resemblance to his original characterization as a gigantic monster with a tendency to scream out his evil plans for all to hear. This won him no respect at all—in his first appearance, he was defeated when some random guy doused him with termites. He was eventually retconned as a hero who could only speak the words “I am Groot,” which was a substantial improvement over his original dialogue.

However, the comic version of Groot retained a fairly sinister appearance and an obviously keen intelligence. For the movie, the character was redesigned to emphasize his kindness and innocence. His snarling mouth was abandoned and he was given human-like eyes instead of the glowing orbs he boasted in the comics. As a result, it’s hard to imagine anyone being scared of movie Groot, while his comics counterpart is still sometimes a terrifying space monster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SPORT SPORT_MLB

Pandemic playoffs: Brewers, Astros in despite losing records

Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers got off to a ragged start this year. They never got above .500. And they dropped their last game to finish with a losing record.

Guess what? They’re going to the playoffs.

“Weird. I guess that’s the only way to describe it. It’s fitting for 2020,” Yelich said Sunday.

A pandemic-altered, 60-game regular season that many believed would never get completed and saw games postponed because of virus outbreaks, racial injustice protests and a hurricane went into the final day without a single playoff matchup set.

Then, in a flurry and fury, the entire, expanded 16-team postseason field was full.

Not a bad way to start, either: Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber in a mega-watt duel as the New York Yankees face the Cleveland Indians in the best-of-three wild-card round Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the NL gets going. That’s when the Brewers, at 29-31, open their series against Los Angeles ace Walker Buehler at Dodger Stadium.

In a win-and-you’re-in game, St. Louis clinched by beating Milwaukee 5-2. But the Brewers also made it when San Francisco lost 5-4 to San Diego for the last wild-card spot.

Yelich, the former MVP who hit .205 this year after winning the last two NL batting titles, and the Brewers happily posed for a team picture in their playoff-clinch T-shirts on the Busch Stadium field.

The Astros and first-year manager Dusty Baker also are in at 29-31. Houston got its spot by finishing second in the AL West, drawing an automatic berth.

The only other team in major league history to reach the playoffs with a losing record was the 1981 Kansas City Royals — at 50-53 overall, they made it by winning the second half in a strike-split season.

“It’s a celebration. We’re in. We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

“The record’s kind of irrelevant in my opinion,” he said.

The other AL pairings: Top-seeded Tampa Bay-No. 8 Toronto, No. 2 Oakland-No. 7 Chicago White Sox and No. 3 Minnesota-No. 6 Houston, with all openers Tuesday.

In the NL, it’s No. 1 Dodgers-No. 8 Brewers, No. 2 Atlanta-No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 3 Chicago Cubs-No. 6 Miami and No. 4 San Diego-No. 5 St. Louis on Wednesday.

Yadier Molina and the Cardinals claimed their spot despite missing 2 1/2 weeks into August after the club was hit by a virus outbreak. St. Louis played a total of 58 games — it was prepared for a doubleheader in Detroit on Monday if needed to settle the playoff picture.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

All matchups are best-of-three, with every game hosted by the top seed in ballparks without fans. With no days off, pitching strategies will be paramount, particularly how managers use their bullpens. Following the wild-card rounds, the remaining clubs will move to neutral site bubbles in Texas and Southern California to crown a champion.

The biggest losers Sunday were Philadelphia and the Giants. As it turned out, either team would’ve gotten in with a win.

“It’s tough sitting here and not thinking (about the playoffs),” Phillies slugger Bryce Harper said after a 5-0 loss at Tampa Bay. “We had opportunities to win games and we just didn’t get it done.”

October on deck means the end of seven-inning games and no more automatic runners at second base to begin the 10th, but other new rules implemented this season apply: designated hitters in the National League and relievers must face three batters or end the inning.

Nothing else kooky in this 16-team tournament, though. Like, no penalty at-bats to decide extra long games.

“It’s going to be wild, everything about it,” Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said as the playoffs approached.

“Anything can happen, we all know that, and that’s why I think it’s going to be must-see TV throughout both leagues. It is. I think there’s going to be a lot of surprises, American League, National League, just with the three-game format for the first round,” he said.

Nothing scheduled for Monday, but the day after the season is typically busy, too, especially for managers on shaky ground. The Red Sox said Sunday that Ron Roenicke won’t be back next year, and the Angels fired general manager Billy Eppler.

Every team, meanwhile, hopes to be healthy.

Star outfielders Mookie Betts of the Dodgers and Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves are ailing, Marlins outfielder Starling Marte and pitcher José Ureña left Sunday’s game with injuries.

“Kind of your biggest fear on a day like today,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after a 5-0 win at Yankee Stadium. “You hate to be playing your guys almost.”

Dodgers newcomer David Price, Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks and White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech are among the players who opted out before the season began and will be absent in the playoffs. Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis chose not to play, then returned in early August.

NL batting champion Juan Soto and the World Series champion Washington Nationals missed the playoffs, as did three-time AL MVP Mike Trout. The most dynamic player of his generation, Trout has reached the postseason just once in a 10-year career, getting swept in his lone appearance.

“It could have been a different story if we’d have a full season,” the 29-year-old Angels star offered.

Said with 20-20 hindsight, of course.

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SPORT SPORT_NFL

Wilson throws 5 more TD passes, Seahawks beat Cowboys 38-31

SEATTLE (AP) — DK Metcalf made an unforgivable blunder by starting his celebration too soon, a textbook example of what not to do.

His coach told him so. So did his quarterback.

“He had that fluke play today and I told him, never do it again,” Russell Wilson said.

Given the chance to redeem himself, Metcalf came through in the final minutes and this time there was no question about the celebration. Metcalf caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wilson with 1:47 remaining, and the Seattle Seahawks held off the Dallas Cowboys 38-31 on Sunday.

“The fact that he came back, of course he did. He’s such a great competitor,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

Wilson threw five touchdown passes, setting a record for most scoring passes in the first three games of a season with 14. Patrick Mahomes threw for 13 TDs in three games to launch his MVP season in 2018. Wilson became the first QB to have at least four TD passes in each of the first three games.

Metcalf appeared to have a walk-in touchdown after hauling in a deep pass from Wilson late in the first quarter. But he was careless with the ball in the final few steps before the goal line, and cornerback Trevon Diggs came up from behind and knocked the ball free. It went out of the end zone for a touchback.

Instead of a touchdown and 16-3 lead, it was a 62-yard reception and a forgettable moment.

“The lesson learned will help everybody and fortunately we overcame it and didn’t wreck the game for us,” Carroll said. “But it’s a terrible play. It really is because he’s got a touchdown, just finish it off, and he started celebrating too early.”

Metcalf was mostly quiet after his mistake as Tyler Lockett became the favorite target for Wilson. But when Seattle needed a big play late, Wilson floated a pass into the end zone for Metcalf.

Wilson was 27 of 40 for 315 yards. His latest bit of fourth-quarter magic ruined Dak Prescott’s attempt at a second straight major comeback.

“They made more key plays than we did,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said. “We had a lot of production, but the key plays in the game, I think you’ve got to give those guys credit.”

Dallas trailed 30-15 after Prescott fumbled on the first play of the second half and Wilson subsequently threw his fourth TD pass. But Prescott threw TD passes of 42 yards to Cedrick Wilson and 43 yards to Michael Gallup, and Greg Zuerlein’s 42-yard field goal with 4:03 left gave Dallas a 31-30 lead.

Prescott had one last chance after Metcalf’s TD reception. He led the Cowboys to the Seattle 22 but was sacked by rookie Alton Robinson on second down, and Dallas had use its final timeout with 16 seconds left. On third down, Prescott’s desperation throw to the end zone was intercepted by Ryan Neal.

Prescott finished 37 of 57 for 472 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He set career highs for yards and attempts.

“I want to make those throws and I want to have that opportunity,” Prescott said. “We’ve just got to be better starting with myself of converting those and making more of these one-score games wins for us.”

While Prescott became the latest QB to have a big day against Seattle’s leaky secondary, the Seahawks held Ezekiel Elliott in check. Elliott finished with 34 yards rushing on 14 carries and scored on a 1-yard run in the first half.

Lockett set a career high with three TD receptions and finished with nine catches for 100 yards. Lockett scored once from 43 yards out and twice from the 1-yard line. Jacob Hollister also had a 1-yard TD catch and made the reception on Seattle’s 2-point conversion after Metcalf’s TD.

“It’s just staying alive and staying open,” Lockett said. “We have a quarterback that can figure out a way to run around and just keep the play alive and you never know when he’s going to be able to give it to you.”

RECORD NUMBERS

Along with all the other marks set, Wilson became the fifth quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in consecutive games, joining Ben Roethlisberger (2014), Tom Brady (2007), Daunte Culpepper (2004) and Tom Flores (1963).

SACK ATTACK

Dallas DE Aldon Smith had three sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a pass defensed in his most impactful game of the season. Dallas finished with four sacks of Wilson.

INJURIES

Seattle suffered some significant injury losses, including safety Jamal Adams and running back Chris Carson.

Adams suffered a groin strain early in the fourth quarter when he took an awkward step on a rush of Prescott. He immediately pulled himself from the game and was limping on the sideline.

Carson suffered a sprained knee on Seattle’s final drive. Dallas defensive tackle Trysten Hill twisted Carson awkwardly as he was pulled down on a 2-yard run.

Seattle lost both starting guards — Mike Iupati (sprained knee) and Damien Lewis (sprained ankle) — in the first half. Rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks, making his first start, also left in the second half with a sprained knee.

UP NEXT

Cowboys: Host Cleveland next Sunday.

Seahawks: Make another East Coast trip to play at Miami next Sunday.

Categories
SPORT SPORT_NBA

Back to the Finals: Heat oust Celtics, move to title series

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — It was exactly one year ago Sunday when Jimmy Butler walked into the Miami Heat practice gym, took a seat on a makeshift stage and said he wanted to be part of the team’s next title run.

He’ll have that chance.

The Heat are going to the NBA Finals — surprising many, perhaps, but not themselves. Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Butler scored 22 points and the Heat won the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth time by topping the Boston Celtics 125-113 on Sunday night.

“A great series. It was so competitive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I mean, in many ways, this was a seven-game series, just how competitive it was. Extremely well-coached and well-put together and we are just honored to be a part of that type of series in the conference finals, and then we get an opportunity for the next stage. Our guys will look forward to it. We’re going to try to enjoy it for a night.”

The Heat won the series 4-2 — and now, waiting on that next stage to decide the NBA title, are LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is Wednesday night.

Tyler Herro scored 19 points, Duncan Robinson and Andre Iguodala each had 15 and Goran Dragic added 13 for the Heat.

“We deserve to be here,” Dragic said.

Jaylen Brown scored 26 points, Jayson Tatum had 24 and a career-high 11 assists, and Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker each scored 20 points for Boston — which fell in the East finals for the third time in the last four seasons.

“Miami deserves a lot of credit,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They’re super physical, super tough, very, very savvy. I think they’re the best team in the East and deserve to be representing the East in the way that they have played.”

Miami was down by six early in the fourth before regaining control. A 6-0 burst — Herro had the last five of those points, needing only 31 seconds to do so — tied it at 96. Boston took the lead twice more, with Adebayo answering both times, first with a dunk, then a go-ahead three-point play with 6:16 left.

He smacked the floor in celebration.

It’s like they knew what was coming. They never trailed again. Herro had a pair of baskets in a 9-0 burst that put the Heat up by 10, Adebayo found Butler for a layup and a 116-102 lead everyone on the Heat bench was on their feet.

“This means everything,” Herro said.

And before long, all the Celtics could do was offer their congratulations.

“Regrets, I don’t have any,” Walker said. “I don’t have any, man. I thought we fought hard. A lot of credit to Miami. Those guys are really good.”

The Heat are the only NBA franchise with six Finals appearances in the last 15 years. They’re seeking their fourth title, and this chance didn’t come easily.

The Heat had a 5-for-5 stretch from 3-point range in the first quarter, but otherwise struggled again from beyond the arc in the first half. They were 6 for 14 from deep in the first 24 minutes, Boston was 11 for 23 before the break and the Heat took a 62-60 lead into halftime.

And the margin remained two going into the fourth.

Iguodala’s fourth 3-pointer — in as many attempts — with 4:20 left in the third put the Heat up eight, before Brown had five points in a 10-2 Boston spurt to tie it. Dragic had a go-ahead layup on Miami’s final shot of the quarter and it was 88-86 Heat with 12 minutes remaining.

The Celtics scored 10 of the first 12 points of the fourth, going up 96-90. From there, all Miami.

The Heat scored 35 of the game’s final 52 points. The game was theirs. So was the silver trophy that conference champions get.

“Four more,” Adebayo said. “That’s what matters.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Tatum took 15 shots in the first half, the first time in his 270-game career that he’s done that. He had taken 14 on four other occasions. … Tatum’s top four assist-total games of his career have come in the bubble.

Heat: The Heat are now guaranteed no less than $4,399,686 for their playoff share, and that number would rise to $5,791,041 if they win the title. … Udonis Haslem is the only player to be on all six Heat teams that have made the finals.

WALKER VS. HEAT

Walker has been to the playoffs three times, and his team has been eliminated by Miami in all three of those appearances — with three different nicknames. Charlotte was still the Bobcats when the Heat swept them in the 2014 first round, the Heat rallied to beat Charlotte’s then-rebranded Hornets in seven games in the 2016 first round, and now this win over the Celtics.

CROSS-SPORT SUPPORT

The Celtics and Heat were getting some support from afar before Game 6. Celtics coach Brad Stevens was pleased to hear video of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick signing off from his postgame news conference Sunday by saying “good luck to Brad and the Celtics tonight. We’ll be pulling for them.” And at the Miami Marlins’ regular season finale, outfielder Lewis Brinson had a Butler jersey (in the popular Heat ‘Vice’ theme) underneath his game jersey.