10

Jimmy Butler returns as 76ers cruise to win in Cleveland

Butler was 6-of-10 from the field and hit three 3-pointers. He gave Simmons most of the credit.

“Ben is doing what he always does for us, passing the ball,” Butler said. “When he’s playing like that, the game is really easy for everybody.”

Simmons had his 15th career triple-double.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Having Jimmy back helped because we had multiple guys that could put it away,” he said. “I just do what I can offensively and help find guys who are scoring. Numbers are numbers. Obviously, stat-wise, it looks good.”

Landry Shamet added 16 points for Philadelphia, J.J. Redick had 14 points and Wilson Chandler 11.10

Cedi Osman and Jordan Clarkson each scored 18 points for Cleveland. Rodney Hood and Matthew Dellavedova each had 13 points, and rookie point guard Collin Sexton added 12.

Philadelphia broke it open after Cleveland cut a 13-point lead to 86-85 late in the third quarter.

The Sixers led 86-73 midway through the quarter, but Cleveland scored 12 straight points and trailed by one after Larry Nance Jr.’s dunk. Chandler hit a 3-pointer from the corner as time ran out in the period, starting the deciding run.

“The margin for error in this game is very small for us,” Cavaliers coach Larry Drew said. “Margin for errors is not just a turnover — it’s a bad shot, it’s not getting back defensively.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Cavaliers led 44-34 early in the second quarter, but Philadelphia ended the first half on a 31-14 run.

Butler was injured in the first quarter Monday against Detroit and went scoreless in 10 minutes. Philadelphia won that game but lost to Brooklyn and Indiana with Butler out.

“I felt good,” he said. “When you play with such good guys that draw so much attention, I have the easy job. I hang my hat on defense. I don’t care how many shots I get or anything.”

9

Kyrie Irving comes up big for Celtics to deliver OT win versus 76ers

As the Celtics trailed by two in the final 30 seconds of regulation time in Tuesday’s Christmas Day thriller against the Philadelphia 76ers, they had the ball right where they wanted it: in Kyrie Irving’s hands. There is, perhaps, no better shot-maker in the NBA than Irving, who has never found an angle he couldn’t utilize or an arc he couldn’t put on a basketball to get it to drop through the hoop.

The Sixers, meanwhile, had Jimmy Butler — one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, who himself was delivering a spectacular defensive performance — guarding Irving for the game’s most important possession. It was, in short, exactly the matchup both teams were hoping for.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

Irving, never celebrated for his defense or his energy plays, provided plenty of both of them against Philadelphia. In one stretch alone in the first quarter, he rotated over to prevent a JJ Redick layup at the rim, outworked Sixers center Joel Embiid for a rebound and a putback layup, and drew a charge on Butler — all while putting up 16 points in the quarter.9

Those are the kinds of plays that, once a rarity, have become more commonplace for Irving this season. And as a result, it has elevated his play to a place it hasn’t been before.

“I always talk about being on those big stages,” Irving said. “It’s just so much fun. It’s competition at its highest. I love going against the best.”

Still, Irving has the reputation he has as a shot-maker for a reason. And it was that shot-making that not only helped stake Boston to that early lead, but brought the Celtics home in the fourth quarter when it looked like Philadelphia had taken control of the proceedings.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Time and again, Irving managed to pull the Celtics out of the fire and back to safety:

There was the circus layup he converted after reentering the game with 8:13 remaining and the Celtics trailing by seven that jump-started a quick 10-3 run to tie the contest. There was the ridiculous shot to tie the game at the end of regulation that somehow eluded Butler’s outstretched arms — continuing a trend that, according to Second Spectrum tracking data, saw Irving go 6-for-10 and score 14 points against one of the league’s best defenders. There were the back-to-back 3s midway through overtime to cap a 10-1 run that turned a five-point Boston deficit into a lead it would never relinquish. And of Boston’s 20 points in crunch time, Irving scored half of them — and hit more field goals and 3-pointers than Philadelphia’s entire team while doing so.

Each of those on its own is impressive enough. But collectively, they create a performance few others in the NBA could even contemplate pulling off on any stage — let alone on Christmas Day.

“He’s done that his entire career — take and make tough shots,” said Butler, who finished with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists of his own in over 43 minutes. “That’s why he is the type of player that he is in this league. That’s why I respect his game so much.

12

Aaron Rodgers scenario highlights sportsbooks’ strategy in light of uncertainty

The uncertainty surrounding Aaron Rodgers’ playing status caused some confusion at sportsbooks, and the way each book has reacted to the Green Bay Packers’ next game reveals the differing philosophies they have about how to handle such situations.

As of Monday night, most U.S. and offshore books are not offering a point spread for Sunday’s game between the Packers and New York Jets. On Sunday night, Green Bay opened as a consensus 3-point road favorite, but bets began to trickle in on the home underdog. By Monday morning, the Jets were favored by 2.5 points.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“The thing about Rodgers is that he’s probably the single most impactful player to the number, even though he’s not 100 percent [healthy],” Gaughan Gaming sportsbook director Vinny Magliulo told ESPN. Yet Gaughan Gaming-affiliated South Point is still offering a line on the game, which currently sits at pick’em — and they’re one of the only books in the world offering a line.

Caesars (which also has the line at a pick’em) also kept the game on the board. William Hill, which had a line at Jets -1 as of Monday morning, took the game down from the board around noon.12
“It’s a player we respect, so when he bets something, we look at his bet and then just try to see where he’s coming from,” Salmons said. “Then a light bulb goes on, and then we say, ‘Maybe he won’t play.'”

Salmons shared that this particular bettor beat nearly every line movement in the NFL preseason, which relies heavily on information and motivation. The race for an edge is a common practice throughout the sports calendar, but it’s particularly notable when a bettor is able to beat the lines in an age when information spreads so quickly and freely.

“Years ago, we didn’t have all these tools, and you had no idea. Now you have all these tools, so it’s great,” Salmons said.

“Social media’s become a way to keep track of things,” Magliulo said. “You have really credible sources out there. We have people monitoring it all the time. It’s a battle for information. We get it.”cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

11

It’s time for Panthers to shut down Cam Newton for the season

It’s not just time to sit Cam Newton for the rest of the season. It’s time for the Carolina Panthers to consider a potential long-term replacement for their franchise quarterback in free agency or the NFL draft.

The uncertainty surrounding lingering problems with Newton’s right shoulder raises many questions that extend beyond Carolina’s six-game losing streak and 1 percent chance of making the playoffs. If the 2015 NFL MVP needs to have a second shoulder surgery in less than two years, what are the long-term implications? Would he miss an entire season, as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck did in 2017 after having a similar surgery?cheap nfl jerseys china nike

And if surgery isn’t the answer, would resting Newton for the next two games and the entire offseason assure this issue won’t reappear in 2019?11

Newton played well the next two weeks to help Carolina improve to 6-2. Even after the team fell to 6-5, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner boasted he was playing the best football of his career. Then he threw four interceptions the next game in Tampa Bay.

Newton has now thrown at least one interception in six straight games after throwing one in only three of the first eight.

Newton’s arm strength has been such an issue that backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke has come in for a Hail Mary pass three times.

“You can’t rub magic dust on it, go to this or that person, have the placebo things done where you think certain things are what they are — and you come out and you’re still the same,” Newton said. “Over the past couple of weeks, nothing has really changed.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

One thing has. The Panthers (6-8) are for all practical purposes out of the playoff picture, and they’re focused on next season with two games remaining against Atlanta and New Orleans.

That puts the onus on coach Ron Rivera and the medical staff. As of Tuesday, Rivera wasn’t willing to commit to sitting Newton the final two games because the Panthers have a “slim glimmer” of hope of making the playoffs.

12

Australia’s Alen Stajcic ready for familiar foes Brazil, won’t underestimate Italy and Jamaica

Australia are set to face Brazil for the fourth consecutive time at the Women’s World Cup after Saturday night’s draw in Paris placed the Matildas in Group C, along with Italy and Jamaica.

Of their three opponents, Brazil poses the toughest, yet most familiar, challenge for Australia in the group stage. With 18 previous meetings against As Canarinhas, the honours are fairly even with the Matildas winning nine, losing eight, with one match ending in a draw.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Speaking exclusively to ESPN after the draw, Australia’s head coach Alen Stajcic says the fact that the two nations were once more pitted against each other was just fate.

“It’s developed into such a fantastic rivalry, we’ve played against each other so often and have a history of great matches, so as well as the rivalry there is a healthy respect between our sides.”12

While Australia defeated Brazil in Canada in 2015 to notch up their first win in the knockout stage of a World Cup, and then more recently in two friendly matches on home soil in September 2017, plus consecutive victories in the Tournament of Nations over the last two years, the Matildas will not have forgotten the pain of their last defeat at the hands of the world No. 10 side.

At the 2016 Olympics, a penalty shootout in Belo Horizonte saw the Matildas heartbreakingly dumped out in the quarterfinals by the hosts after the match ended scoreless in regulation time.

Before facing Brazil in Montpellier on June 13, the Matildas will open their campaign against Italy, whose women have qualified for their first World Cup in 20 years.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

The trajectory of the progress of La Squadra Azzurra, who qualified with a match to spare, is not lost on the Matildas boss.

“If you look at the professional teams that have evolved in Italy — Juventus being the most notable — you can see the level of effort they’ve put into women’s football and their national team reflects that,” Stajcic said.

“Italy qualified in a really difficult group and did it quite easily which shows how far they’ve come. I thought they were the best in Pot 3 so that will be a tough assignment for an opening match which is so important.”

Australia will round out their group stage against the lowest ranked side in the tournament, Jamaica, who are set to make their World Cup debut in France. But despite their lowly ranking — 53 in the world — Stajcic was typically circumspect.

11

Matt Doherty is a fantasy soccer set-and-forget star

When Matt Doherty got off to a hot start, it raised eyebrows in the fantasy soccer community, but it seemed very few thought the Wolves’ wing-back could keep it up. Fast forward to the present and the Ireland international is an established goal threat for his club, and a top-25 player in the ESPN game.

How is Doherty performing so well, and why did no one see it coming?cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Doherty wasn’t exactly an unknown coming into the season, having played all but one match for Wolves in the Championship last season, but he simply wasn’t putting up the numbers to seem fantasy relevant. In fact, he has already recorded as many shots on target as he managed all of last season (12) and is just a goal and an assist short of his total 2017-18 goal contribution. If you were to look at the Irishman’s production and profile this season compared to last, it would be quite easy to assume they were entirely different players.11

To explain that, we first must take a circuitous path through Barry Douglas. In the preseason, many Wolves players were highly touted fantasy assets and, in defense, Douglas looked the best of the bunch. The left-back was a creative force last season, finishing the Championship campaign with the most assists in the league while creating more chances than any of the high-profile midfielders at his club.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Looking like a lock for fantasy success in the Premier League, what do Wolves do? They sell Douglas, of course, just two weeks before the season starts. While they found a positional replacement in Jonny Castro Otto, it quickly became evident that the Spaniard was less comfortable bombing forward than his predecessor. So, with Douglas gone, it was only inevitable that someone would have to pick up the creative slack and it’s now become quite evident that Doherty is that someone.

While Doherty had not previously been asked to carry out much in the way of attacking duties, he seems to be well suited to it. He has already been a direct contributor on six goals this season, which is joint-best among all defenders in the Premier League. It also means that Doherty has been involved in nearly 40 percent of Wolves’ goals. While he is providing far more going forward than he has in previous seasons, the change in role and the underlying statistics, point toward this being sustainable for the 26-year-old.

He is now top-three in every attacking category at his club, with Raul Jimenez the only player ahead of him in goals, shots on target, and assists, and Joao Moutinho the only player with more chances created. So, in Doherty, you have a player who is scoring like a forward and creating like a midfielder, while being listed as a defender.

11

James Harden doesn’t deny he got away with travel late vs. Jazz

When legally executed, James Harden’s step-back jumper is one of the league’s most lethal weapons and heavily debated topics, as many opponents take umbrage with the allowance of a “gather step” and insist the reigning NBA MVP’s go-to move should be ruled a travel on a regular basis.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

The move Harden made in the final minute of the Houston Rockets’ 102-97 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday didn’t fall into that category. It was simply a missed travel at a critical time, leading to Harden’s getting three free throws in a one-possession game with 54.6 seconds remaining.11

The missed traveling call added a controversial element, but Harden’s 47-point outing against the Jazz was the continuation of an offensive groove for the Rockets superstar. He is averaging 39.5 points per game during Houston’s four-game winning streak, highlighted by a pair of triple-doubles, including a 50-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden attributed his recent dominance to “just being aggressive,” noting that the Rockets need to get on a roll due to their disappointing start. Houston improved to 15-14 by beating the Jazz, putting the Rockets in 10th place in the Western Conference standings.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“We’re in a hole,” Harden said. “I keep saying the same thing, but you look at the standings and it sucks. Just look and see that you’re not where you’re supposed to be. We’ll just continue to work and build our way up there.”

Harden hurt the Jazz in the three areas in which he scores in bunches when he’s at his best: around the rim, at the free throw line and behind the 3-point line. Nine of Harden’s 14 field goals came in the restricted area, including a spectacular, right-handed slam over reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert after driving down the lane. He was 15-of-16 on free throws. And while Harden had an off night from long range (4-of-12), he swished his last two 3s, breaking a tie with a 29-footer with 1:44 remaining and drilling a step-back dagger with 13.3 seconds left.

“I say it all the time: He’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” said Rockets guard Chris Paul, who had 11 points and nine assists in the win. “Like, seriously. He can drive, he can shoot, he’s got ballhandling. It’s going to be a tough night for you, whoever it is. I don’t care what you’re doing.”

11

Panthers should keep Ron Rivera, and Sean Payton is a prime example of why

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was on the proverbial hot seat in 2016. His team went 7-9 for the third straight season. The gleam of the man who brought a city still feeling the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a Super Bowl title during the 2009 season was fading fast.

Then-owner Tom Benson stood pat, just as he did in 2012, when Payton was under fire for the “Bountygate” scandal.

Although Benson didn’t live to see the benefits of his patience, the Saints have returned to NFL prominence. They are 11-2 heading into Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. And New Orleans, along with the Los Angeles Rams, is a favorite to win the NFC.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Now it’s Carolina coach Ron Rivera, with five straight losses since a 6-2 start, who is on the hot seat. The man who got the Panthers (6-7) to the Super Bowl in 2015 is in danger of his second losing season in three years.

Fans are restless. There are rumblings that owner David Tepper is, as well — although a league source tells ESPN that Rivera’s job appears safe. Tepper, through a team spokesperson, declined to comment for this story.11

If Tepper were to make a change, he would have to pay off the final two years of a $15.5 million extension that Rivera signed in January before Richardson sold the team for $2.275 billion.

Former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Rex Ryan have been in this situation before. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Dungy following the 2001 season after three straight trips to the playoffs. The New York Jets dumped Ryan in 2014 despite reaching the AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010.

The Bucs were rewarded with a Super Bowl victory in 2002 under new head coach Jon Gruden. The Jets had a 10-6 record in their first season with new head coach Todd Bowles.

Dungy and Ryan agree that Rivera, who has 70 wins and is four victories shy of becoming Carolina’s all-time winningest coach, deserves more time to turn things around. They also agree Tepper is the wild card, because new owners often want to hire their own coaches.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“There’s a lot of ways to do it and a lot of systems that work,” said Dungy, now an analyst for NBC’s “Football Night in America.” “But the good organizations pick their own people, they believe in them and work things out.

11

Benefits of mentor Sean Payton? Dan Campbell is ready to be a head coach

Dan Campbell was thrown into the fire when he got his first head-coaching gig three years ago.

He did a fine job — going 5-7 as the Miami Dolphins’ interim coach before they decided to hire Adam Gase in the offseason. But Campbell, who was the youngest coach in the NFL at the time, at 39, also knew he needed more seasoning.

So what better than three years of graduate school under Sean Payton as the New Orleans Saints’ assistant head coach and tight ends coach?nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Not only is Payton one of the game’s best head coaches, but he was also a mentor of Campbell’s throughout much of his 10-year playing career as a tight end with the Giants, Cowboys, Lions and Saints.

“It’s been extremely helpful,” said Campbell, who figures to be a popular head-coaching candidate this cycle at age 42 now that the Saints have re-emerged as one the NFL’s hottest teams over the past two seasons.

Campbell already got an interview with the Indianapolis Colts last year.11

“You don’t know exactly what you’re looking for [as a head coach] until you get thrust into that role like I did at Miami. Well, once that doesn’t work out, I have a chance to come and learn under Sean, and now you know what you’re looking for, and now you know the questions to ask,” Campbell said. “So to be able to watch and learn under Sean and see how he deals with situations, see how he deals with management of a game, how he deals with personnel, how he deals with scheme. Just dealing with people, scheduling — everything.

In coming to New Orleans, Campbell basically ripped a page out of Payton’s playbook.

Probably the best thing Payton did as a young, up-and-coming coach was to land a job on Bill Parcells’ staff with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 2000s.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

For three years in Dallas, Payton not only ran the Cowboys’ offense, but he took notes on everything he could absorb about how to be a head coach. From scheduling to personnel decisions to quotes that still hang in the Saints’ locker room to this day.

Parcells is still one of Payton’s closest friends and most cherished mentors.

And, oh by the way, it won’t hurt Campbell that he comes from that same coaching tree. Campbell played on those Cowboys teams under Parcells and Payton from 2003-05. He later got his start as a coaching assistant under another Parcells protégé, Tony Sparano, with the Dolphins in 2010.

11

Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara asks club to consider trading him

According to Vermes, Opara told him that the player’s preference is to finish his career in Kansas City, but that he’d like to make more money, and if any trade offers came in for him from other teams, to consider them.

“These are the kind of conversations that go on all the time at the end of the year,” Vermes said via telephone. “Everybody wants more money. That’s not abnormal.“cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Opara, 29, signed a contract extension with Kansas City just prior to the 2018 season, and it is set to run through 2019 with a club option for 2020. Vermes noted that Opara could have let his contract run out after the current season and chose not to.

According to salary information provided by the MLS Players Association, the deal paid Opara $342,916.63 in guaranteed compensation in 2018. But SKC signed defender Andreu Fontas just before the close of the summer transfer window in a deal that according to the MLSPA pays him just under $1 million a year.11

Despite that disparity in salary, Opara maintained his partnership with Matt Besler in the center of the SKC defense for the rest of 2018. Fontas made just two appearances and one start after joining Kansas City in August.

Vermes pointed out that SKC isn’t averse to making bold moves, including the trading of Dom Dwyer in July of 2017 for what was then a then-record haul of $1.6 million in allocation money. But after a season that saw SKC finish atop the Western Conference during the regular season, Vermes indicated that he feels his roster is strong.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“I can’t tell you that people aren’t coming to me,” said Vermes. “If a deal makes sense, I’ll consider it. If it doesn’t, I’m good with where we’re at. The [salary] cap is great. We have money and we have players. I’m not really concerned.”

Opara was drafted third overall in the 2010 SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes, but injuries stunted his growth as a player and he was traded to Sporting Kansas City prior to the 2013 campaign. Opara finally shook off the injury bug in 2016, and has made at least 25 appearances in each of the past three seasons. His MLS career has seen him make 157 league and playoff appearances, scoring 15 goals and adding five assists.