Nationals fall to Marlins, stay atop NL East; Spurs, Heat look strong in Conference Final openers
After sweeping the Braves at Turner Field, the Nats’ four-game winning streak was snapped by the Marlins on Memorial Day. One day after southpaw Gio Gonzalez had an outstanding outing on the mound — striking out 10 batters and allowing one RBI groundout in the Nats’ 7-2 win — teammate Jordan Zimmerman looked to do the same. It seemed as though he might, allowing just one run through the first five innings, but his control was gone by the bottom of the sixth. He gave up back-to-back hits that changed the game: a single by Hanley Ramirez followed by a two-run homer by Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game.
The Marlins added another run before the end of the inning and lead 4-3 by the top of the seventh. While the Nats’ bats fell silent for the rest of the game, the Marlins went on to add to their lead, scoring on a sac fly by Chris Coghlan in the bottom of the seventh. They held onto their 5-3 lead through the ninth inning, serving the Nationals their first loss in five games.
Despite the loss in Miami, Washington’s three-game sweep in Atlanta pushed them 2.5 games ahead of both the Marlins and the Mets, with the Braves and Phillies now both four games back. They’ll play two more games in Florida before heading back home to host the Braves.
The Miami Heat looks red hot as they continue to dominate the playoffs. After impressive back- to-back wins against the Pacers in the semi-finals, the Heat did the same against the Celtics in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals, winning 98-79.
LeBron James led the Heat with 32 points and 13 rebounds, followed closely by Dwayne Wade, who had 22 points and seven assists on the night. The teams were tied with 46 points each at halftime, but the Heat pulled away in the second half, outscoring them 47-33.
The two teams met earlier in the playoffs last year, with the Heat beating them 4-1 in the conference semi-finals. In 2010, the Celtics ousted the Heat (sans LeBron) in the first round before losing to the Lakers in the NBA Finals. After missing the NBA Finals last year, both teams have a lot to prove in these next six (or less) games.
Meanwhile, the Spurs remain perfect in the post-season, after a three point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of the Western Conference Finals.
The Thunder is intent on changing that, eager not to fall into a two-game deficit. James Harden, Oklahoma City’s standout shooting guard and the NBA’s 2012 Sixth Man of the Year, remarked, “It’s important not to go down 2-0, period, no matter if it’s against San Antonio or anybody.” The key will be playing like everything is on the line, and it’s not just another playoff game. “We’re very good at coming off losses. So we’re going to have to come with the mindset that we need to win this game, no matter what. This is like a Game 7 for us. We’ll be ready.”
While the Spurs were able to come away with a win, it wasn’t handed to them. In fact, the Thunder was leading for most of the game, outscoring them in both the second and third quarters. That prompted San Antonio’s Coach Gregg Popovich to tell his team to show “some nasty” during a timeout. That seemed to do the trick.
They scored 39 points in the fourth quarter which was enough to propel them to a three point lead and the win. The Spurs have now won 19 consecutive games, which is the longest since the Lakers did so in 2001 when they won 19 games, including the championship.