Those 36-year-old legs of Manu Ginobilis have been feeling pretty spry this season. That spring in his step that had been missing for so much of last season was back, helping the Argentine magician become a game-changer again for the San Antonio Spurs. So when the lane opened up in the third quarter Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets, Ginobili decided to go for it. He rose up, cradled the ball in his left hand and threw down a solid, one-handed dunk. And with that, Ginobili joined the growing list of injured Spurs. The team said Wednesday that Ginobili strained his left hamstring on the dunk and will miss the next three to four weeks. Ginobili joins Danny Green (broken finger), Kawhi Leonard (broken left hand) and Tiago Splitter (sprained right shoulder) on the teams injured list, a run of bad luck that has torn apart the teams depth, particularly on the wing. "You play the guys on the bench," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We cant play the guys on the other team. I know that." The team is hopeful Splitter, who hasnt played since Jan. 4, will return in time for the teams annual rodeo road trip, a 10-game stint that begins Monday in New Orleans. That would help out Tim Duncan and the big men up front, but the problems on the perimeter remain. After struggling for much of last season, Ginobili signed a two-year contract to remain in San Antonio. He has rebounded this season to resume his role as the Spurs playmaker off the bench, averaging 12.1 points, 4.5 assists and shooting 52 per cent on his 2-point shots. During a monthlong stretch from the middle of December to the middle of January, Ginobili scored at least 20 points five times in a 16-game span to help the Spurs once again establish themselves among the NBAs elite teams. Hes been pretty healthy as well, missing two games earlier in January because of a sore left hamstring before injuring it more severely on Tuesday night. Ginobili, who has long been the emotional centre of this close-knit team, was dejected as he limped off the court. His injury puts even more responsibility on the shoulders of veteran Marco Belinelli, who has been a reliable shooter in a supporting role after coming over in free agency from the Chicago Bulls. Belinelli is averaging 10.9 points and shooting 46.7 per cent from 3-point range for the Spurs. With the injuries to Leonard and Green, Belinelli had become a starter on the wing and seen his playing time steadily increase. Belinelli played 38 minutes in the loss to Houston, and the Spurs recently signed NBDL standout Othyus Jeffers to a 10-day contract to give them another warm body on the perimeter. Thanks in large part to Ginobilis return to form, the Spurs entered Wednesdays game against the Bulls at 33-12, good for second place in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. But theyve lost three of their last four games, are 1-11 against the top seven teams in the league and now face the daunting challenge of that long road trip without Ginobili, and with Portland (33-13) and the Clippers (32-15) right on their heels. Chicago is facing its own injuries woes. All-Star point guard Derrick Rose was lost for the season with a knee injury for the second consecutive year and starting centre Joakim Noah (illness) and guard Kirk Hinrich (right hamstring) are game-time decisions for tonights game against San Antonio. So, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he has little empathy for the Spurs, not because Chicago is also battling injuries, but because of how deep San Antonio is. "Its the nature of the league. Its the grind of an 82-game season. Youre going to take injuries on. Its how you respond and the Spurs have always done a good job with that. Its the way the Spurs are built." Bud Dupree Jersey
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.Fiji striker Roy Krishna scored in the 14th minute to give Wellington its fourth win, along with a draw, from its past five matches, putting the Phoenix fourth but only a point behind third-placed Adelaide.NEWARK – The Maple Leafs are teetering on the edge of another late season collapse. Five straight losses (and six in the past seven) now dot the schedule – matching their longest skid of the year – after they fell again in New Jersey on Sunday night, topped 3-2 by Cory Schneider and the Devils. Playoff fortunes that once appeared secure have slipped into a more precarious state with a troubling tumble in the past week. All-too-recently fighting for second spot in the Atlantic division, Toronto has fallen to the edge of the playoffs, now in the second wild card position – mere inches ahead of Washington and Columbus – with only nine games to play. “The bottom line,” said head coach Randy Carlyle after the latest loss, “is its a results-orientated sport and we have to find a way to stop the bleeding here and do everything in our power to regroup with this hockey club and get them playing to a higher level.” If not playing entirely badly these days, the Leafs are doing just enough to lose, be it through sluggish starts, highly visible defensive breakdowns, and ordinary goaltending. On this night they fell behind for the seventh straight game, allowed a pair of goals via odd-man rush and breakaway, and had their backup goaltender struggle again to come up with a timely save. “I dont think were playing that bad,” said Phil Kessel, who scored his 36th of the year in defeat, crashing into the goal-post in doing so. “[But] its a tough stretch Ill tell you that much.” Tough stretch, indeed. It was only 11 days earlier, after James Reimer stole victory in Los Angeles, that the Leafs appeared in prime position for their second straight playoff spring. They sat three points up on the Lightning and Canadiens, 10 on the Capitals, nine on the Red Wings, seven on the Flyers, and six on the Rangers and Blue Jackets. Five of the seven has since passed them over, only Columbus and Washington trailing – just barely, mind you, with games in hand. Its been a remarkable spiral in a very short window, different in that way from the infamous 18-wheeler collapse of 2012 which cost Ron Wilson his job. The Leafs couldnt emerge unscathed from that storm, but can they find a way out of this one? Pressure is building, time is ticking, and the race is kicking into high gear with the Blues, Flyers and Wings all on deck in the coming week. Concern was evident as they exited the visitors dressing room, one by one at Prudential Center, keen to the reality of whats at stake. “We lost five in a row here right so its building here,” said Kessel of the pressure. “Obviously we need some wins.” Five Points 1. The Struggle Continues His confidence all but shattered at this point, Reimer was yanked for the sixth time this season. He yielded three goals on 10 shots, his save percentage in relief of the injured Jonathan Bernier dipping to .889 in six appearances. The 26-year-old has not won a start in more than two months (Jan. 21). Of that sunken confidence, Reimer concurred. “Its never high after a loss obviously and getting pulled,” he said. “[But] as crazy as it sounds I know Im becoming a better goalie and obviously a better person.” Ever the optimist, Reimer explained why. “Its been a ton of adversity in many different forms,” he said. “And so when you can weather it and keep your chin up you just get better.” Appearing in just his fifth NHL game, Drew MacIntyre stopped all 14 shots he faced in place of Reimer. Where that leaves the Leafs crease with St. Louis on deck is unclear. Carlyle didnt know if Bernier (groin) would be available for the Tuesday affair. If hes not for the sixth straight game, its not hard to envision MacIntyre getting his first NHL start. 2. Finger Pointing The Leafs have been a poor defensive team all year, requiring fantastic goaltending most nights from Bernier to have success. Theyve not gotten such heroics in relief with Reimer. His days in Toronto soon to be numbered, Reimer could not fend off an odd-man rush late in the opening frame – Morgan Rielly caught up ice, Nazem Kadri stuck on a bad line change – beaten glove-side by Damien Brunner. Faked out by Patrik Elias when he snuck behind the defence on the second Devils goal, Reimer then yielded a late squeaker that ultimately drove the hook from Carlyle. “We havent helped him out one bit,” said Tyler Bozak, charged in his defence of Reimer. “Obviously its easy to pick on the goalie when things are going bad for a team. But its a team game. We win and lose as a team. We havent been playing near well enough to win games. It hasnt been him at all.” “Usually in this type of playoff atmosphere youve got to find a way to knuckle down and play a tighter brand of defensive hockey,” Carlyle ssaid.dddddddddddd“We seem to be able to give up those opportunities early and then we seem to tighten up as the game goes on.” 3. Season Gone Wrong Just a night before his first game back in New Jersey as a member of the Leafs, David Clarkson barely saw the ice. He played just eight minutes and 54 seconds in the 4-3 loss to Montreal, his lowest total (save for injury) since Nov. 5, 2010. A season gone wrong has seen no signs of let-up for the 29-year-old, who left the Devils last summer for a seven-year deal with the Leafs worth more than $36 million. From suspension to injuries to suspension to struggles to find a role, Clarkson has had few, if any, positives this season. “The way this years gone I could never imagine it,” said Clarkson, before facing his former team. His four goals and 10 points are matched by Dave Bolland, who missed nearly five months with an ankle injury, and Troy Bodie, who has garnered half the ice-time in 13 fewer games. Barring an unforeseeable late season surge, Clarkson would set career-lows in goals, points and shooting percentage (he missed 21 games) – his previous low for points coming in the 2010-11 season when he posted just 18 in 82 games, including only two on the power-play. And if there is one similarity to that year in Jersey to his first in Toronto its the power-play and his opportunity on it. When Clarkson exploded for 45 goals and 70 points in the two seasons which preceded his signing in Toronto he did so in large part because of the power-play. About a third of his production came that way in fact, the Mimico native totaling 14 power-play goals (31 per cent of the total) and 24 power-play points (34 per cent). His ice-time had not surprisingly sky-rocketed from where it had been previously (up to nearly four minutes per game a year ago). This season, that opportunity has tumbled back downward. Buried behind the more skilled likes of Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Kadri, Lupul and Raymond, Clarkson has rarely seen the power-play – about 54 minutes total – and thusly has just two points from it. Combine that with a considerable drop in shot attempts and shooting percentage, far less crash and bang and an unending search for a clear-cut role and the season has simply evolved into a nightmare for the former Devil. He played 10 minutes on this night, stuck without a point for the 22nd time in the past 24 games. 4. Falling Behind When Brunner beat Reimer he gave the Devils a 1-0 lead and handed the Leafs their seventh straight deficit to start a game. They fell behind 2-0 for the fifth time in those seven games when Elias snuck by Rielly at the Toronto blue-line before faking out Reimer on the breakaway goal. Sluggish starts continue to be a problem for the Leafs. “Weve been playing from behind a lot lately and just been running out of time I guess you could say,” said Bozak. “Gotta have better starts and try and get a lead early.” The Leafs are now 8-19-4 when they trail after a period and 11-23-4 when their opponent scores first. Bozak and Kessel scored to slice the 3-0 deficit to one, but like their failed comebacks in each of the previous four losses, it was not enough. “Theres no easy way when youre down three on the road to think that youre going to consistently come back in the hockey game,” said Carlyle. 5. JVR Accountability Speaking after the game, James van Riemsdyk made sure to shoulder some of the blame personally for the Leafs failings. Though he had five shots and multiple opportunities on Schneider in a career-high 26 minutes, van Riemsdyk failed to score for the 10th time in the past 11 games. “Its my job to score goals and obviously right now its not good enough,” he said unprovoked on the subject. “Were not winning games, Im not scoring goals, and Ill have to be better.” Stats-Pack 1-6-0 – Leafs record in their past seven games. 7 – Consecutive games in which the Leafs allowed the first goal. 8-19-4 – Leafs record this season when trailing after the first period. 1 – Goal for James van Riemsdyk in the past 11 games. 10:00 – Ice-time for David Clarkson in his first game back to New Jersey. 26:14 – Ice-time for van Riemsdyk, a career-high. 36 – Goals for Phil Kessel, one off matching a career-high. .889 – Save percentage for James Reimer in place of Jonathan Bernier (six appearances). Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-4 Season: 20.8% (T-3rd) PK: 2-2 Season: 78.7% (28th) Quote of the Night “I think everyones just got to relax a little bit and give him some breathing space because we know James is a great goaltender.” - Nazem Kadri, on recent criticism of James Reimer. Up Next The Leafs return home to face one of the leagues top teams with the Blues visiting the ACC on Tuesday. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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