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Sep 13, 2018
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MIAMI — The Oklahoma City Thunder can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Monday night over the host Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat (43-37) are already in the playoffs Philip Rivers Jersey , but they are coming off a brutal 122-98 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday and, six days before that, a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.

In other words, the Heat — who are 4-4 in their past eight games — are not riding into the playoffs with great momentum. They have two tough games to close out the regular season, against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Toronto Raptors this week.

Miami’s opening-round Eastern Conference playoff opponent will be Toronto, the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers or the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, the Thunder (46-34) can finish anywhere between fourth or eighth in the wild Western Conference. Failing to make the playoffs is also a possibility.

On Saturday, the Thunder helped themselves by prevailing 108-102 over the host Houston Rockets, who have the best record in the NBA.

Russell Westbrook and Paul George scored 24 points each as Houston’s 20-game home win streak was snapped.

“This game was important,” Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony said. “But if we don’t take care of business on Monday, then this game didn’t really mean anything.”

A desperate Thunder team will likely be a major challenge for the Heat, who have muddled through with a 14-15 record since Feb. 1, playing below-.500 basketball for two-plus months.

The Heat are 2-1 against the Celtics this season Odell Beckham Jr Jersey , 1-2 against the Cavaliers, 2-2 against the 76ers and 1-1 against the Raptors, and Miami players feel like they will have a legitimate chance against any opponent.

But closing the regular season in strong fashion — starting with Oklahoma City on Monday — is the first priority.

“You want to go into the playoffs on a high note,” Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade said. “You don’t want to go into the playoffs losing three games in a row. You want to go in feeling good about yourself.”

The Heat and the Thunder are healthy for Monday’s game. Guards Andre Roberson (Thunder) and Dion Waiters (Heat) have been out long term, but everyone else will be available.

The Heat will hope to slow down Westbrook, whose scoring is down by about six points per game from last season. Still, he has exceptional numbers when compared with almost every other player in the league, averaging 25.6 points and 9.8 rebounds while leading the league with 10.1 assists per game.

George is second on the team with a 21.6 scoring average. Anthony, who turns 34 next month, is averaging a career-low 16.3 points as he is no longer his team’s primary scoring option.

Oklahoma City’s fourth double-figure scorer is center Steven Adams, who is averaging 13.9 points and is second on the team in rebounds (behind Westbrook) with 9.1 boards per game.

Point guard Goran Dragic leads the Heat in scoring (17.5) and assists (4.8). Center Hassan Whiteside leads the team in rebounds (11.5) and blocks (1.7) while averaging 14.0 points per game.

On the wings, the Heat has several capable scorers, led by Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson Howie Long Jersey , Wade and Wayne Ellington. All four score in double figures on average. In fact, Miami has nine double-figure scorers — five more than the Thunder, who rely on a superstar approach.

Adrian Beltre has helped the Texas Rangers win a lot of games over the years. On Saturday, he found a surprising way to spark his team to its seventh straight victory.
 

Beltre and Robinson Chirinos homered to help Yovani Gallardo win for the first time since last July as the Texas Rangers beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Saturday.

The home run wasn’t anything unusual — he’s got 466 of those his 21-year major league career. But he led off the second inning by beating out a ground ball to shortstop, no easy feat for a 39-year-old who has spent almost a month on the disabled list this year with a strained left hamstring.

The infield single led to a six-run rally to help the Rangers overcome an early 2-0 deficit.

”Speed kills – don’t you know that?” a grinning Beltre said. ”Over the last week or so, we’ve been able to find out how to get guys on, and now we’re getting more consistent in bringing those guys in.”

Eddie Rosario homered and drove in four runs for the Twins, while Logan Morrison also homered and Mitch Garver had three hits. Minnesota lost its third straight when it couldn’t overcome a short start from veteran Jake Odorizzi (3-5).

The Twins did rally for three runs in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate with two outs. But Rangers closer Keone Kela struck out Morrison with the bases loaded to end the game, earning his 18th save in 18 chances.

Gallardo (1-0) was making his second start for Texas after opening the year with Cincinnati. He promptly fell behind 2-0 just five pitches into the game before turning it around and pitching into the sixth inning.

Joe Mauer led off the bottom of the first with a sharp single to left. Then Rosario hit the first pitch he saw into the right-field seats for his 17th home run of the season.

But Gallardo settled down, at one point retiring 12 of 13. Morrison’s two-run homer with one out in the sixth inning ended Gallardo’s day, but he earned his first victory since July 29, 2017, when he was pitching for Seattle.

Odorizzi retired the side in order in the first inning, but the Rangers knocked him out in a six-run second. The big blows were two-run singles by Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara.

Beltre’s second hit of the inning finally spelled the end for Odorizzi Andrew Adams Jersey , who lasted just 1 2/3 innings. It was the shortest start of his career, other than a one-inning start in 2017 that he was forced to leave due to an injury.

”It just started to unravel,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ”A couple guys got on, then he slipped on the mound, then he hit a guy, and even later in the inning after he’d given up some, we still had chances. He got ahead of Mazara 0-2, Beltre he got ahead of, but we just couldn’t finish.”

Odorizzi, the Twins’ opening day starter, has seen his ERA climb steadily in his last six outings. He’s allowed 25 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings over that stretch, driving his ERA to a season-high 4.97.

”It’s upsetting and frustrating . It’s not something I take lightly.” Odorizzi said. ”I take a lot of pride in getting guys out. Trust me, I’m more frustrated about this than anybody in this clubhouse. This has been one of the tougher stretches in my short big league career.”

HIT BATTER BEEF

Rangers 3B Jurickson Profar was hit by pitches three times on Saturday, tying a team record that he also matched just two weeks ago. But the Rangers were not happy with the circumstances surrounding the third time it happened.

Profar stole second base in the fourth inning when the Rangers were leading 9-2. The next time Profar came to bat Jerry Rice Jersey , Twins reliever Addison Reed threw three inside fastballs, finally hitting him in the leg with the third one.

”I thought the intent there was excessive, especially they tried to dial him up three different times,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ”The guy’s playing baseball hard. I guess you can just look at it that there’s a difference in what they’re focusing in on and what we’re focusing in on.”

Molitor didn’t try to rationalize Reed’s approach to Profar, but he also didn’t deny that the dugout took notice when Profar stole a base with a seven-run lead.

”The thought process between the unwritten rules of the game is not clearly defined,” Molitor said. ”What I might think and what he might think might be different things. I was surprised that (Profar) ran with the score the way it was, when he did. And getting hit there was something that Banister felt wasn’t appropriate.”

ROMERO TO ROCHESTER

After the game the Twins optioned rookie RHP Fernando Romero to Triple-A Rochester, with a corresponding move to be announced on Sunday. Romero, who made his major league debut on May 2 and won his first two starts, is 3-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 10 starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 1B Joey Gallo left the game in the third inning with left hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Ronald Guzman.

Twins: 3B Eduardo Escobar returned to the starting lineup for the first time since he was hit by a pitch on the right elbow in the first inning of Thursday’s game against Boston.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Bartolo Colon (4-4, 4.91 ERA) returns to Target Field to face his former teammates in the series finale Sunday afternoon. Colon went 5-6 in 15 starts for the Twins last season as he helped them clinch the second AL wild card spot.

Twins: RHP Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.51) will be looking for his first victory since June 7 as Minnesota tries to avoid being swept. In his last two starts he’s allo Adidas Jaromir Jagr Jersey 

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