While that would technically be correct, it doesn’t come close to describing the absurdity of what actually happened during the team’s 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.
You see, the box score can sometimes be deceiving. Moore’s fielder’s choice actually resulted in three runs crossing the plate. And the best part: The ball traveled just 25 feet.
How exactly does that happen? With some awful defense.
With the Giants already leading 1-0, Moore came up to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. On the second pitch of the at-bat, he hit what many would describe as a swinging bunt.
Moore chopped the ball straight into the ground in front of home plate. It bounced on the dirt and began rolling up the first base line on the infield grass.
With all the runners in motion, D-Backs pitcher Taijuan Walker had to act quickly. He ran over to the ball, slid to the ground while bare-handing it and fired it home to pick up the force out.
Only, Walker acted way too fast, and his throw sailed away from catcher Jeff Mathis. By that time, one run had already scored and the second was on its way home.
Mathis sprinted to the backstop to retrieve Walker’s errant throw, slid to the ground while bare-handing the ball and fired it back to the plate. It was a mirror image of Walker’s throw.
And it had the same result. Mathis’ toss was off target. Walker, who was covered home to prevent more runs from scoring, couldn’t adjust his glove in time to make the catch. The ball skipped up the first base line toward Paul Goldschmidt.
With two runs already in, Goldschmidt fielded the ball a little more than halfway up the first base line. Though his throw was actually accurate, Jarrett Parker just managed to beat it out with his slide. Oh, and Moore, the guy who started the whole thing, wound up on second base.
And that’s the story of how the Giants scored three runs on a ball that barely left the batter’s box. It might look like a normal line in the box score, but in reality it was so much more than that.
The regular season is over and we finally know all eight first-round matchups. The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin Wednesday night.
We have some new faces this year in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames, all of whom had early starts to their off-seasons last time around.
Here’s the schedule for Round 1:
Time to say goodbye to your loved ones for a few months and get those playoff beards in order.
The Wings forward didn’t have a goal in 79 games this season. That changed in Detroit’s 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, as Sheahan scored two goals including the last one ever scored at Joe Louis Arena.
No. 2 Star: Bryan Bickell, Carolina Hurricanes
Most of the time, Three Stars spots go to monster nights or game-winning goals or unbeatable goalies. But sometimes, you just have to acknowledge the moment. And Bryan Bickell scoring a shootout goal in his last NHL game is one such moment. The Hurricanes beat the Flyers, 4-3.
No. 3 Star: Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning forward had two goals and an assist in their 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. He ends his rookie season with 40 points.
Honorable Mention: The New York Islanders won their sixth straight game, getting a goal and two assists from Brock Nelson in their 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. … Bobby Ryan scored for the first time since Feb. 14. … Welcome back Vladimir Sobotka, who scored for the first time in the NHL since 2014 in the Blues’ 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Sobotka had been in the KHL. … Cam Atkinson scored goal No. 35 in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. James Van Riemsdyk had two goals for the Leafs, who fell to the second wild card. … Magnus Hellberg got his first NHL win for the New York Rangers, 3-2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jimmy Vesey had the game-winner. … James Reimer made 38 saves to shut out the Washington Capitals, 2-0. … The Anaheim Ducks won their fifth straight division title in a 4-3 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings, on a Shea Theodore goal. Ryan Getzlaf had three assists. … Jordan Eberle had a hat trick and Connor McDavid broke the 100-point mark in the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Did You Know? Henrik Zetterberg played NHL game No. 1,000.
Dishonorable Mention: Andreas Englund was a minus-3. … Luca Sbisa and Chris Tanev were a minus-3. … Hey look, a fight after a clean hit.
No. 1 Star: Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs backup netminder was pretty sure he wasn’t going to play in this super important game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto needed two points to secure a playoff spot and the No. 1 is indisputably Frederik Andersen. That is until Freddy was bonked in the noggin by Tom Sestito’s butt and left the game. McElhinney came on in relief. He held on to give the Leafs a 5-3 win and clinch that playoff spot.
No. 2 Star: Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs
With five and a half minutes to go and the Leafs down a goal, Kapanen scored his first ever NHL goal in the most epic way. It tied the game at 3-3 and was the first of three straight scored by Toronto in the win.
No. 3 Star: Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders
By defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-2, the Isles staved off playoff elimination albeit for a very short time. Halak made 37 saves in the victory; however, the Isles would be eliminated after Toronto’s win.
Honorable Mention: Auston Matthews iced the game for Toronto hitting an open net for his 40th goal of the year. Jake Guentzel’s two points against the Leafs give him a total of 33 points in 40 games this year. Sidney Crosby picked up his 44th goal … The St. Louis Blues clinched third place in the Central by beating the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout … Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone earned two points each in the Ottawa Senators 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers. The win cemented second place in the Atlantic for the Sens … The Dallas Stars’ season from hell came to an end by beating the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout … Justin Williams had a goal and an assist in the Washington Capitals 3-1 defeat of the Boston Bruins. Williams would have had a three points if he wasn’t caught spinning around Anton Khudobin in his crease:
… The Edmonton Oilers clinched at least second in the Pacific Division and can possibly win it after beating the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 … Dustin Brown scored with 55 seconds to go to tie the game with the Chicago Blackhawks. A mere 27 seconds into overtime, Drew Doughty netted the OT winner to give the Kings their last home victory of the season. Jonathan Toews snapped an eight game goal-less drought … Anders Lee scored two of the four goals for New York while Nick Leddy assisted on both of his goals. Beau Bennett scored both goals for New Jersey … Charlie Lindgren (who??) was in net for the Montreal Canadiens against the Detroit Red Wings. Lindgren earned his second win the NHL with 25 saves. Alex Galchenyuk scored the OT winner …
… With the San Jose Sharks beating the Calgary Flames 3-1, the Sharks are guarnateed the third spot in the Pacific Division. Curtis Lazar netted his first goal as a member of the Calgary Flames. Picking up an assist in the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators, Mark Scheifele finished the season with 82 points (32-50=82) in 79 games … James Reimer shutout the Buffalo Sabres with 30 saves. Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals in the Florida Panthers 3-0 victory … The Minnesota Wild set a franchise record in wins and points in a season as they beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-1. Martin Hanzal reached the 20th goal mark for the first time in his career and it came against his former team.
Did You Know?
Riley Sheahan could become the 1st NHL forward to play over 75 games, record over a 100 shots and not score a goal in a single season.
Dishonorable Mention: Andersen skated off slowly after taking the hit from Sestito. Mike Babcock offered no definitive update on Andersen in the post-game and said hopefully the goaltender will start on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets … After losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2, the Blue Jackets are on a six game losing streak … Anton Khudobin played two periods before leaving with an illness and was replaced by Tuukka Rask. Brandon Carlo exited the game after playing only four minutes due to a massive hit by Alex Ovechkin that smashed Carlo’s face into the boards:
Three and a half weeks ago, the Clippers were playing sub-.500 ball since the All-Star break and utterly unable to get stops with any consistency; they were, in the words of shooting guard J.J. Redick, “in a bad place.” Now, though, the Clips are much closer to where they want to be, thanks to another strong effort to take down the West’s No. 2 seed on the road.
Chris Paul led six Clippers in double-figures with 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block in 30 1/2 minutes of floor time, pacing L.A. to a convincing victory in which the Clips never trailed again after the 4:07 mark of the second quarter. DeAndre Jordan muscled the Spurs’ big men inside, putting up 17 points and 17 rebounds in the win, which continued an impressive season-closing kick for Doc Rivers’ club.
Since that three-game skid that had us wondering if they’d lost their bearings heading into the postseason, the Clips have now won five straight and nine of 11. Only the rampaging Golden State Warriors have outscored opponents by a higher margin since St. Patrick’s Day.
L.A.’s defense has tightened considerably since its slide, including a sharp performance on Saturday in holding the Spurs to just 42.5 percent shooting as a team. Kawhi Leonard (28 points, five rebounds, five assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points on 9-for-17 shooting) got theirs, but the Clippers were able to quiet the rest of San Antonio’s contributors, limiting points in the paint and second-chance opportunities to bank another win and lock in a top-five seed. That means we’re now assured of seeing a first-round matchup between the No. 3 seed Houston Rockets and No. 6 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. (Get your popcorn ready.)
Now, about the other team battling with L.A. in the middle of the Western pack …
Lillard nuked the Jazz for a Portland franchise-record 26 points in the first quarter. And after Utah walked the Blazers down in a second stanza that saw Lillard get a rest and C.J. McCollum go 1-for-10 from the floor, Dame came back with a vengeance after intermission, pouring in 19 more in the third quarter to put the Jazz down for the count. The Oakland-born star point guard finished with a career-high and franchise-record 59 points to lead Portland to its 11th win in 14 games.
The Blazers are now 40-40, and hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Denver Nuggets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. One more Blazers win, against either the Spurs on Monday or the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, punches Portland’s postseason ticket. So does one more Nuggets loss, since the Blazers clinched the head-to-head season series with Denver late last month.
The loss dropped Utah to 49-31 — the same record as the Clippers — but because L.A. owns the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams after beating the Jazz last month, the Clips moved up to No. 4 on Saturday, while the Jazz slid to No. 5. As it stands, L.A. would hold home-court advantage over the Jazz in a 4-vs.-5 opening-round matchup.
With the tiebreaker in hand, the Clips could clinch the No. 4 spot on Monday if they can beat the Houston Rockets and the Jazz fall to Golden State. The Jazz are reeling a little bit, are dealing with injuries to point guards George Hill (groin strain) and Raul Neto (sprained ankle), and saw Gordon Hayward suffer a quad contusion on Saturday. The Warriors, on the other hand, have won 14 straight games and just got Kevin Durant back. So, y’know, we could know exactly where this long-expected middle-of-the-bracket matchup will begin late Monday night.
They had to weather a strong first half from Rookie of the Year candidate Dario Saric and their own poor long-range shooting, but the Bucks eventually took control on Saturday, using their length and athleticism to suffocate the Philly defense to the tune of just 12 points on 4-for-18 shooting in the third quarter. A couple of Giannis Antetokounmpo drives and a pair of Matthew Dellavedova 3-pointers helped fuel a 15-2 mid-third-quarter run that turned the game around, and the Bucks would keep the Sixers at arm’s length long enough to clinch a playoff berth, returning to the postseason after dropping out of the East’s top eight in 2015-16.
The Bucks now sit at 41-39, a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 spot in the East, and a game up on the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers. The fluidity in the seeding, even at this late date, means we don’t yet know who Milwaukee will be facing in Round 1.
“When the playoffs start, we’re going to be ready,” said Antetokounmpo, who battled a stomach flu to lead the way with 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in 40 minutes. “It’s not going to be fun to play against us in the playoffs, because we’re going to play hard defensively and run, move the ball. We don’t have anything to lose. We achieved our goal and now we have to go even farther.”
OK, so the Bucks have one of the final four playoff spots in the East. What about the rest of the bottom of the conference bracket?
The Bulls won big on Sunday to put themselves in great position to lock down one of the final spots in the Eastern playoff chase this week. Then they sputtered Tuesday against the Knicks, raising some doubts about whether they’d be able to stick what looked like a soft landing against a comfortable closing schedule.
Chicago righted the ship somewhat in an appropriately commanding Thursday win over the Sixers, setting the stage for a Saturday evening visit to Brooklyn that could have gone a long way toward clinching a playoff berth. If you’ve been following the pattern, though — or paying attention to Chicago throughout this generally disappointing season — you know what the Bullsiest possible outcome in this one would be … and this, friends, was Bullsy as hell.
With 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bulls held a nine-point lead. From that point on, the Nets — who own the NBA’s worst record, but who have been downright decent and awfully frisky since the All-Star break — ripped off a 19-9 run to close out the game, riding the energy, shooting and defensive activity of their young wings.
Rookie Caris LeVert knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to start the late surge. Sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson controlled the defensive glass and barreled to the front of the rim for a pair of transition layups. And Spencer Dinwiddie — whom the Bulls cut in October, and who later spent part of the season with Chicago’s D-League affiliate before eventually catching on with Brooklyn — scored seven of his 19 points in the final 1:23 of the fourth.
The 6-foot-6 guard out of Colorado drilled a big 3-pointer to tie the score at 101 after the just-returned-from-injury Dwyane Wade doubled down on Brook Lopez in the post and no help rotation came behind him. Then, with 13.6 seconds left, he went one-on-one against Wade, attacked and drew a foul, getting himself to the line for two free throws that put Brooklyn in front for good. He’d later knock down another pair to give the Nets just enough breathing room to survive a final-second 3-pointer by Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler and still come out on top.
Butler once again led the way for Chicago, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-for-22 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists. Wade added 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists against five turnovers in 24 1/2 minutes off the bench in his first game action since March 15 for the Bulls, who fell to 39-41. They’re still the East’s No. 8 seed, though, and could punch their postseason ticket on Monday:
The Bulls now need BOTH a win and a Heat loss in order to clinch Monday. Otherwise it will come down to Wednesday.
… not that Fred Hoiberg’s team has given us a whole lot of cause to believe they’ll do anything other than take this thing down to the absolute last possible second on the season’s final day before either squeaking into the playoffs or petering out just before the finish line.
The Bulls’ loss clinched a postseason berth for the idle Hawks, who remain the East’s No. 5 seed at 41-38. Atlanta has now made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons, the longest active streak in the Eastern Conference.
A tense, tight game that featured 15 ties and 17 lead changes came down to which team could execute better in the closing seconds. Despite being at the end of a three-game road trip on the second night of a back-to-back after a hardfought two-point loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, it was Erik Spoelstra’s Heat that held fast when it counted to keep their playoff hopes alive.
After Wizards All-Star John Wall split a pair of free throws to give Washington a 103-102 lead with 20 seconds left, the Heat needed a bucket to avoid a second straight dispiriting loss that could have shattered their postseason dreams. So, naturally, Spoelstra gave the ball not to star point guard Goran Dragic, or to beastly center Hassan Whiteside, but to James Johnson — for seven years a journeyman combo forward who could never quite seem to find the right fit, and now a linchpin do-everything frontcourt playmaker for this delightfully weird-ass Heat team — and said, “Go get a bucket.”
And he did.
The other four Heat players on the floor fanned out across the baseline, taking their defenders with them and allowing Johnson to go one-on-one with Wizards power forward Markieff Morris. Johnson drove right at Morris and used his strength to bump the defender off the spot, then spun to his left, elevated and finished with a smooth lefty layup at the rim to give Miami a 104-103 edge with 11 seconds left.
After Miami stepped up to the plate, the Wiz had a chance to answer … and they blinked.
Washington swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. botched the inbounds play, throwing the ball over the head of Wall and into the open court. Miami guard Josh Richardson tracked it down, and Wall was forced to foul, sending him to the line for a pair of free throws. Richardson would calmly make them both, putting the Heat up by three with 9.7 seconds left.
Washington had one last chance to extend the game. Again, the Heat were equal to the task, leaning on the defense that has carried them all year to pull out another W:
Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal dribbled to his right, taking a ball screen from center Marcin Gortat that pinned Heat defender Tyler Johnson and forced the 7-foot Whiteside to switch onto the smaller, quicker ball-handler. But Whiteside hung with Beal, using his superior length to make up for Beal shaking him with a left-to-right crossover on the right wing and staying with the shooter all the way into his motion, deflecting a would-be game-tying 3-point try and sending the ball harmlessly away as the clock wound down, sealing a win that leaves Miami as the only team currently outside the top eight still capable of making the playoffs in the East.
Whiteside was dominant in the middle, leading six Miami players in double figures with a game-high 30 points on 12-for-19 shooting. The big man also added with 12 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals in 37 1/2 minutes of work for the Heat, who improved to 39-41. They have the same record as the Bulls, but Chicago remains in the East’s No. 8 spot by virtue of owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami.
Taking their race for the conference’s final postseason spot into the season’s final three days means a chance for an extremely interesting Monday matchup in South Florida with an old friend …
Heat have a playoff game on Monday night against the Cavs to see if they can have more playoff games against the Cavs.
Morris scored 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting to lead the Wizards, who fell to 48-32, one full game behind the idle Raptors in the race for the No. 3 seed in the East. Washington will need to win both of its final games of the season — at Detroit on Monday, and another meeting with Miami in Biscayne Bay on the campaign’s final day — to finish with 50 wins for the first time since 1979.
Boston appeared to have snapped out of its recentfunk with a monster first half. The C’s hung 71 points on the shell-shocked Hornets through the first two quarters behind blistering long-range shooting and huge halves from stars Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, taking a 19-point edge into intermission.
They gave it all back, though, allowing the Hornets to chip away at the lead in a listless third quarter before surrendering a 10-0 run early in the fourth that but Charlotte back on top by seven with just over 6 1/2 minutes left to play.
Stevens message in last huddle: You're wrong if you don't think there'll be a game like this in the playoffs. Find a way to win it. #Celtics
The Celtics did just that, riding their small-ball lineup — Horford at the five and Jae Crowder at power forward, flanked by guards Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart — to a late-game blitz that saw Boston outscore Charlotte 24-10 down the stretch.
Celtics go small (Horford, Crowder, Smart, Bradley, IT) for final 4.5 mins, go +7 last 2.5 mins. Won 'em the game. https://t.co/NZubrioLsC
Thomas, Bradley and Smart combined for 17 points on seven shots in the final 4 1/2 minutes. Boston took the lead for good on a driving layup by Thomas with 2:13 to go, and put the nail in Charlotte’s coffin on back-to-back 3-pointers by Thomas and Bradley that put the C’s up 119-111 with 54 seconds left.
The loss eliminated the 36-44 Hornets from playoff contention, marking both a disappointing departure from a successful 2015-16 season and an unfortunate bit of consistency in Charlotte:
Hornets eliminated. Since birth of the Bobcats, they've made 3 trips to the playoffs & missed the playoffs the following year each time.
The Hornets’ loss also officially eliminated the Detroit Pistons from playoff contention. After clonking their way to a 36-43 record, Stan Van Gundy’s club needed an awful lot of help to stay alive in the closing days of the season, and Charlotte’s exit extinguished the Pistons’ slim hopes of making a second straight playoff trip.
Thomas scored a game-high 32 points on 10-for-18 shooting for the Celtics, who improved to 51-29 and moved within a half-game of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the No. 1 seed in the East. Boston needs to finish one game ahead of Cleveland to snag the top spot, thanks to the Cavs putting a hurt on the C’s at TD Garden last week. The Celtics wrap up with home games against Brooklyn and Milwaukee, while Cleveland finishes out with road games at Atlanta and Miami before heading home to take on the Raptors.
Man, Paul George is really intent on making things tough on voters who have to figure out which six forwards will appear on their All-NBA ballots, isn’t he?
Indiana’s All-Star struck again on Saturday, blasting former coach Frank Vogel for 37 points on 14-for-22 shooting with seven rebounds and six assists in 39 1/2 minutes to lead the Pacers to their third straight victory. The win brings the Pacers back to .500 at 40-40 and, combined with Chicago’s loss, bumps Indy up to the No. 7 spot in the East, a half-game up on the eighth-seeded Bulls.
The Pacers shot a blistering 59.3 percent as a team, dishing 35 assists on 51 made field goals and pounding Orlando on the interior for 64 points in the paint. Myles Turner had 23 points and 10 rebounds, reserves Kevin Seraphin and C.J. Miles each produced offensively, and Lance Stephenson continued to look incredibly comfortable back in his old uniform, much to the delight of everybody else in a Pacer uniform:
Eight points, six rebounds, three assists and a block in 22 minutes off the bench for Lance, plus two more triples, which was decidedly not a part of his game outside the boundaries of the Hoosier State:
Lance Stephenson was 1 of 12 on 3-pointers this season before coming to Indiana.
“I haven’t been hitting 3s since I left here,” a smiling Stephenson said after the game, according to Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. “Hitting 3s for me is like winning a championship game. I feel good.”
He’ll feel better if the Pacers can clinch a playoff spot on Monday. They’ll need a win over the Sixers and either a Heat loss to the Cavs or a Bulls loss to the Magic to get it.
MVP OF THE DAY
A subjective choice for the player most valuable to his team, on just one day and determined by the NBA playoff picture.
I adhere by a very strict code in matters such as these: if you score 59 points to put your team on the brink of securing a playoff berth, then you get MVP of the Day. Listen, I don’t know if it’s “cool” or “uncool,” but it’s just the way I was raised.
So, with apologies to Paul George, Isaiah Thomas and Hassan Whiteside, big up yourself, Dame Dolla:
Lillard’s numbers since the All-Star break: 24 games, 29.7 points, 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals in 35.9 minutes per game, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor, 41.3 percent from 3-point range (on 8.6 attempts a night) and 88.4 percent from the foul line (on 7.5 attempts a night). I think it’s safe to say he’s gotten himself kicked into gear heading into the playoffs.
Of course, Lillard’s scorching run of form might not wind up mattering all that much should he push the Blazers into the playoffs, because …
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
A subjective choice for the most important play of the day as determined by all the same stuff listed in the last section.
… KD’s back. And while it’s premature to put too much on one performance after 19 games on the shelf with something as tricky as a knee sprain, he did look an awful lot like Kevin Durant.
More to the point: he looked like Kevin Durant from the game’s very first possession, when he reminded us all that no, as a matter of fact, Alexis Ajinca can’t guard him one-on-one and that yes, now that you mention it, it has been over a month since he dunked in a game, a streak that he’d very much like to end, thanks.
The avalanche of efficiency wasn’t there, as KD scored 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting without a 3-pointer in four tries. But he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished six assists, played 31 minutes and looked none the worse for wear as the Warriors destroyed the New Orleans Pelicans while Stephen Curry, who’s been dismantling the opposition in Durant’s absence, got the night off. Golden State hasn’t lost since March 11, and with one swooping, lethal KD reverse, they became whole again. In the grand scheme of the title chase, that seems pretty significant.