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Warriors believe they’re headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Warriors have lost a lot in the last six months. 

The most obvious wound is the gutting of its Hall of Fame roster, and the injuries that crippled it. But perhaps the most essential damage to the team’s evolution is its most recent struggle: Failing to close out games talent used to be able to overcome. 

In its latest effort — a 114-106 loss to the Jazz — the Warriors led for much of the first half before Utah took control in the third quarter. The loss came at a strange time for Golden State as their three All-Stars — Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry — were nursing injured back in California and their prized rookie Eric Paschall was in the locker room due to a hip injury. 

Nonetheless, the league’s worst team left Vivint Smart Home Arena seeing enough progress to believe they’re heading in the right direction, even if the scoreboard says otherwise. 

“There is a lot of good stuff,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. “But you want that to lead to a win and that’s coming.”

Remnants of Kerr’s positivity showed through the first 24 minutes Friday evening. In the first quarter, they held the Jazz to 39 percent from the field, outscoring Utah 14-8 in the paint. By the end of the first half, they built a 56-49 lead, marked by promising plays from its young core. 

Six minutes into the first quarter, 6-foot-8 big man Omari Spellman pulled down a rebound, went the length of the court, bullying his way for a layup to give Golden State a 20-18 lead. A quarter later, center Marquese Chriss blocked Jazz guard Royce O’Neal at the rim, ran the length of the floor and received a pass for an easy dunk on the other end, pushing Golden State’s lead to 13. 

Following halftime, the Jazz responded by outscoring the Warriors 37-28 in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10 of his game-high 32 points over the stretch, as Utah made a run that was all-too-familiar to Golden State. 

“They picked up their pace in the third quarter,” Kerr said. “I’m sure they were not happy with their pace in the first half and so they played a great third quarter and put a lot of pressure on us.”

Worse, even after the Warriors briefly took a 104-103 lead with just over two minutes left, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run to close the game, underscoring one of the team’s biggest problems this season. Through 27 games, the Warriors are among the worst teams in the last five minutes of games. During the timeframe, they’re posting a putrid 92.9 offensive rating, with a net rating of -33.6. 

For context, the 2017-18 Warriors — featuring a healthy Curry, Green, Thompson and Kevin Durant — posted a 112.2 offensive rating in clutch situations, finishing third in the league, leaving a mark the current battered Warriors are trying to fulfill.  

“I think we can win a lot more games than we have,” said Chriss. “We’ve been in games that we could win and honestly that we should win. People try to say that our team is down and things like that but we’re competing with teams that have their full roster. This team is full of fighters and teams that want to win.” 

While the team is frustrated, their latest performance comes with a caveat. Clutch performances are built through experience, an attribute the league’s third-youngest team has yet to gain. 

“I remember being in this position earlier in my career where you get the taste of winning, but you don’t really know how to do it, you may just get lucky that night,” said 23-year old guard D’Angelo Russell. “Other teams in the league that are solidified, they find a way to win and those other teams that aren’t supposed to win find a way to lose so I think it comes with growth and experience.”

[RELATED: Burks wants to stay with Warriors]

Late Friday evening, just before he left Salt Lake City for a late-night flight back to the Bay Area, recovering from yet another close loss, Kerr made a declaration for his young team, despite optics of the contrary. 

“I like where we’re heading,” he said. “I really do. I know it might sound crazy because of our record, but I think we’re going to start winning some games. I think we’re getting better.”





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Antetokounmpo has Triple-Double as Bucks Down Bulls 111-98 – NBC Chicago

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Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double and scored his 10,000th career point as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Chicago Bulls 111-98 on Monday to sweep the four-game season series.

Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season. He reached 10,000 points on a jump hook with 4:30 remaining in the fourth.

Khris Middleton added 24 points for Milwaukee, which has won 10 consecutive games over the Bulls dating to the 2017-18 season. That’s the Bucks’ longest winning streak over Chicago since the teams began playing in 1968.

The Bucks have won seven straight and ran their league-best record to 39-6. Milwaukee shot 58 percent, with Middleton connecting on 10 of 13 shots.

Zach LaVine had 24 points for Chicago, which shot just 37 percent. Kris Dunn had 15 points and Thaddeus Young added 14 points off the bench. LaVine has scored at least 20 points in 11 consecutive games.

After a sloppy first half by both teams, the Bucks began to take control, opening the third quarter on a 13-4 run, sparked by Middleton’s eight points. Milwaukee’s lead grew to as many as 16 in the quarter before Chicago clawed back.

Milwaukee used a 14-0 run on it way to a 30-23 lead after the opening period.

The second quarter saw 10 lead changes with the Bucks leading 53-52 at halftime. Antetokounmpo had 12 points but was saddled with three fouls and had five turnovers.





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Nolan Arenado isn’t happy after Rockies GM says he won’t be traded this offseason

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To hear Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tell it, it’s time to stop all the Nolan Arenado trade talk. 

Colorado’s star third baseman has been the subject of numerous trade rumors this offseason, which is a consequence of the big contract extension he signed last winter plus his vocal frustrations with the Rockies’ 91-loss campaign in 2019. The Cardinals, Rangers and Braves, among other teams, have been reported as having varying degrees of interest in Arenado. Now, though, it appears trade talks are off. Here’s what Bridich had to say on the matter Monday, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post: 

“With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that. We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected — with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.

“So we can put this to bed and collectively look forward to the upcoming season and work toward that.”

Bridich acknowledges that trade discussions took place, but the Rockies apparently found those discussions wanting. As well, there’s the matter of Arenado’s full no-trade clause, which the team that agrees to a trade would need to persuade him to waive. While there’s nothing ruling out Arenado talks at some point in the reasonably distant future, the Rockies, according to Bridich, will open the 2020 season with Arenado at the hot corner and anchoring the middle of the lineup. 

For his part, Arenado sounds most displeased. Thomas Harding of MLB.com got Arenado’s reaction to Bridich’s comments: 

“There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of,” Arenado said in a text. “You can quote that.”

In reaction to Bridich’s announcement, Arenado elaborated.

“You ask what I thought of Jeff’s quotes and I say I don’t care what people say around there,” Arenado said. “There is a lot of disrespect.”

Asked what was said that he found particularly disrespectful, Arenado said, “No. I won’t get into the details.”

At this point, it’s quite clear that Arenado wants out of Colorado, and after Bridich’s comments, he may be looking to force the issue. All of this means the Rockies may be pressured into accepting a less than ideal return just to get the disgruntled superstar out of town and get out from under his remaining salary commitments. 

Arenado’s relationship with the team seemed to degrade during the 2019 season, as the Rockies slipped to fourth place after making the postseason in 2017 and 2018. Arenado expressed his frustrations in September, and shortly thereafter Bridich made a puzzling public comment about Arenado’s discontent and his contract: 

The implication is that Bridich isn’t particularly worried about surrounding Arenado with a contention-worthy roster, which raises the question of why you invest so much in a performer like Arenado if you’re not going to try your best to win while he’s still in his prime. It’s also unusual for a GM to reveal details about negotiations in such a manner. In that context, Arenado’s frustration is understandable.

In any event, Arenado is going into his age-29 campaign in 2020. The Rockies lifer has a 122 OPS+ for his career and a mark of 130 over the past four seasons, all while being an elite defender at third and showing uncommon durability. Arenado has to his credit seven Gold Gloves in seven seasons and five straight top-10 finishes in the NL MVP balloting.

As for his aforementioned contract extension, he signed an eight-year, $260 million pact in February 2019, and he’s still owed $234 million over seven years. Arenado also has an opt-out after the 2021 season, which might explain why some teams were hesitant to trade for him. Arenado’s latest remarks, though, may make those interested teams see an opportunity to increase their leverage in trade talks, assuming Bridich — in spite of his Monday comments — is still open to having discussions. If nothing else, this situation is far from resolved despite the GM’s efforts to communicate closure and finality. 





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3 Horses Die in 3 Days at Santa Anita, Prompting Fresh Criticism of Racetrack

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It was a grim trifecta and a familiar result for Santa Anita Park: Three horses died in three days this past weekend at California’s best known and most scrutinized racetrack.

All three horses were euthanized, two after breaking their ankles in turf races and the third after colliding with another horse while training on dirt, racing officials said.

The latest spate of fatalities at the track began on Friday, when a 6-year-old gelding named Harliss broke an ankle in a turf race and was euthanized, according to racing officials.

Then on Saturday, a 5-year-old gelding named Uncontainable also broke an ankle in a claiming race on turf and was euthanized. The third death came on Sunday when Tikkun Olam, a 4-year-old gelding who had won $40,743 in nine races, collided with another horse while training on dirt. The nature of the horse’s injuries was not immediately clear.

There have now been five deaths at Santa Anita since the start of this year, prompting the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to call on state racing officials to suspend racing at the Arcadia, Calif., track.

“Three dead horses in three days requires immediate action,” PETA said in a statement. “The California Horse Racing Board was recently given the authority, in legislation backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, to suspend racing — and now it must do exactly that.”

The outcry followed the deaths of 56 horses at Santa Anita from July 1, 2018, to Nov. 30, 2019, according to a special investigation by a task force that was created last year by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The inquiry found no evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct by the track’s owners, the Canada-based Stronach Group, which closed Santa Anita in March for several weeks while the track’s safety and other racing practices were evaluated. But that has not placated animal welfare activists.

“There is no sense in the board allowing racing — and deaths — to continue until it enacts all its own pending regulations and acts on the recommendations of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office,” PETA said. “If it takes the closure of a track to stop the deaths, then close the track.”

A spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board declined to comment about the latest track fatalities. Instead, he provided a list of proposed changes to safety regulations on the types of drugs given to horses, racing in inclement weather and the transparency of veterinary records.

Some of the recommendations have been adopted, but others still require either board or budgetary approval, according to a checklist from the governing body, which now posts a weekly list of racing fatalities in California on its website.

A spokesman for Mr. Newsom, Jesse Melgar, said in an email on Monday that the governor was troubled by the fatalities at the track over the weekend.

“While the California Horse Racing Board and Santa Anita have made progress in reducing equine fatalities over the past year and C.H.R.B. has made recommendations to further improve horse safety, Governor Newsom remains concerned and believes more must be done,” Mr. Melgar said. “Despite implementing new safety review standards — which are now proving to be a new national model — too many horses are getting injured or dying as we saw over the weekend.”

When reached for comment on Monday, a spokesman for Santa Anita Park said the management was crafting a statement.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Set against the San Gabriel Mountains, the racetrack, 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles, was the site of Seabiscuit’s 1940 victory in the Santa Anita Handicap. The 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” was filmed there.

In 2010, Santa Anita abandoned use of a synthetic track made of sand, rubber and silica after a short-lived experiment. In February, the management brought in a track safety expert from the University of Kentucky to search for clues regarding the rash of fatalities.

State racing officials say that Santa Anita installed new digital imaging equipment — a PET scan — to diagnose injuries to horses. The track also delayed the start of its current winter/spring meet to Dec. 28 from Dec. 26 because of concerns about inclement weather.



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