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This offseason featured many pickups for the Rockies. Especially in the bullpen, as they netted both Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis, two big time players. Now, people are saying (and rightly so), that this bullpen could be one of the best in the league. But, the best piece to this bullpen could be a guy that everyone is forgetting about, and that is Chris Rusin.

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Rusin, at age 31, can do just about everything that a bullpen could need from a reliever. He can get a save if necessary, and he has shown that he can enter the ballgame for any situation, and give his team a chance to win. Not to mention his stats were great last season, as he produced a 2.65 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 85 innings. With a bullpen that looks very strong, they will need that glue guy who is going to piece games together in those bridge innings, and Rusin has shown his capability for this in countless occasions.

Not to forget that he can go for long periods, as he used to be a starter not more than two years ago. He has also caused some deception with hitters due to his varied leg-lifts on his pitches.

He may not be the flashy name, or have the flashy reliever jobs, but he will still be one of the keys to this new and improved bullpen.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Rockies may have transformed themselves into a team that is not going to solely rely on scoring runs this year. This bullpen has a chance to do great things this season, and although he might not be the biggest name, Chris Rusin will definitely have a vital role in it.

NEXT: The Rockies youth could push DJ LeMahieu out after this season
If he can continue the success that he had from last season, teams will have no wiggle room when facing this Rockies bullpen.

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DALLAS — Dennis Smith Jr. scored his first points on a 360-degree dunk before the rookie Dallas guard focused more on the bigger task: trying to slow the high-scoring Washington duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The Mavericks did that Monday night, holding the Wizards guards to 28 percent shooting in a 98-75 victory that completed a two-game season sweep of the Eastern Conference playoff contenders while easing Dallas’ slide back toward to the bottom in the West.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle didn’t want to give his players too much credit, though.

“I thought the defense certainly looks good on paper, but there were an awful lot of missed shots,” Carlisle said. “They had a lot of looks where we weren’t in the best position possible.”

Washington coach Scott Brooks agreed.

“We couldn’t make a wide-open shot, couldn’t make a layup, and we couldn’t even make non-contested free throws,” Brooks said. “It was one of those nights.”

Harrison Barnes had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Smith scored 17 and the Mavericks stopped their second three-game losing streak since the beginning of January.

Barnes, who scored a season-best 31 points in a 113-99 win at Washington in November, was 9 of 16 from the field.

Beal scored 18 and Wall had 11 — the only double-digit scorers for the Wizards — as the guards combined to go 8 of 29 from the field. Beal was 7 of 12 on free throws, and the Wizards were just 16 of 27 from the line.

Wall, who was a game-time decision because of a migraine, missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Washington went 7 of 32 from long range (22 percent) and shot 31 percent overall. The Wizards had their second-lowest point total behind a 116-69 loss at Utah in December.

“It was a little difficult trying to play through it, but there is no excuse for the way we played or how we got our tails whooped,” Wall said.

Dirk Nowitzki had just two points when he converted a four-point play to start the fourth quarter to give Dallas its biggest lead to that point at 75-54.

Nowitzki, who finished with eight points and nine rebounds, hit his 3 before the foul by Mike Scott from the same left corner where Yogi Ferrell connected at the third-quarter buzzer. Ferrell scored 14 points along with Wesley Matthews, who was 4 of 8 from 3-point range.

TIP-INS

Wizards: F Markieff Morris and Brooks got technicals in the first half. Morris was complaining about no-calls on fouls after he was called for one when he knocked the ball loose as Smith was going up for a dunk on a 3-on-1 break. Brooks got his in the final seconds of the half, not long after Morris was called for an offensive foul. … Porter left with a right hip strain and didn’t return.

Mavericks: C Salah Mejri was ejected after getting two technicals when he kept arguing with official David Guthrie despite Matthews trying to push him away. … G Devin Harris is in the concussion protocol and missed the game. He was injured in Saturday’s loss at Portland. … The Mavericks held an opponent to season lows in points in the first half (37) and the game.

UNFRIENDLY WORDS

Dallas guard J.J. Barea got a technical in the second half when he and Wall exchanged words after Barea fouled him in the fourth quarter. Asked about it afterward, Wall said, “It was cool. It was funny. Just a little midget trying to get mad out there. I paid him no mind.”

At first, Barea shrugged off the “midget” comment, but he got slightly more agitated the more he talked about it after the game. “When they ask me who I don’t like in the NBA, I got a guy now,” Barea said. “Nothing new to him. I don’t think even his teammates like him.”

MORE WORDS

 

Smith and Beal ended up with their arms locked after a whistle, and stayed that way for several seconds. It led to a brief exchange, and wasn’t the only time they could be seen talking during the game. “He’s just like all rookies, they hate being called rook from the get-go,” Beal said. “He wasn’t having it, but at the end of the day, that’s the title. We all went through the process at one point.”

UP NEXT

Wizards: At Oklahoma City on Thursday in fourth game of five-game trip, tied for their longest of the season. The teams will finish the two-game season series five days later in Washington.

Mavericks: Host Houston on Wednesday.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Check out the team sites for the Washington Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks for more game coverage.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars won the AFC South and dominated our postseason awards, but our voters were split: Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette for rookie of the year? Here’s how NFL Nation AFC South reporters Sarah Barshop (Texans), Michael DiRocco (Jaguars), Mike Wells (Colts) and Cameron Wolfe (Titans) voted for their division awards:

Coach of the year: Doug Marrone, Jaguars

NFL Nation Division Awards
Division awards NFL Nation reporters vote for the top offensive and defensive player, rookie and coach of the year.

• AFC East: Bills’ breakthrough season »
• AFC North: Black-and-gold theme »
• AFC South: Rookies a great debate »
• AFC West: A coach debate »
• NFC East: Pederson, Wentz win out »
• NFC North: Vikings, Bears represented »
• NFC South: Kamara, Saints dominate »
• NFC West: All about the Rams »
Marrone took a franchise that had won just 17 games from 2012-16 and guided the Jaguars to 10 victories and the first division title since 1999. He did it with most of the players from last year’s 3-13 team, too (16 of the 22 starters). All season long, players have talked about how Marrone changed the culture inside the building by making winning the top priority. That sounds strange, but former coach Gus Bradley’s philosophy was to emphasize the process over the result; if players worked to be their best, victories would follow. Marrone also believed the team lacked some toughness, so he subjected his players to a mentally and physically exhausting training camp that they initially grumbled about — until the season began with a 29-7 rout of Houston. The Jaguars beat seven teams by more than 20 points (no other team did that more than four times), led the NFL in rushing and pass defense, and finished second in scoring defense, takeaways and sacks. — DiRocco

Offensive player of the year: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

The Texans’ season crashed after Watson suffered a torn ACL in early November, but Hopkins still put up eye-popping numbers. He led the NFL with 13 touchdowns catches and finished fourth with 1,378 receiving yards. His 91.8 receiving yards per game were second only to the Steelers’ Antonio Brown. Hopkins did all this with Watson playing only seven games (six starts). Hopkins may have challenged for the NFL’s receiving title if the rookie quarterback had not been injured. Hopkins’ eight-catch, 224-yard performance in Watson’s last game of the 2017 season showed their potential as a tandem. The good news for Hopkins is Watson should be back in 2018. Hopkins edged out Fournette, who was the consistent focal point of the AFC South champion Jaguars offense but didn’t make the splash that Hopkins had this season. — Wolfe
Despite missing three games, Leonard Fournette ranked eighth in rushing yards (1,040). Logan Bowles/Getty Images
Rookie of the year: Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette

Watson was having a historic season before his knee injury during an early November practice. In seven games, six of which he started, Watson threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. At the time of his injury, he was tied with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for most touchdown passes in the NFL, and he was on pace to shatter the rookie record for TD passes. Although the Texans were just 3-3 in games that Watson started, Houston scored 71 combined points in two games, both losses, against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. After Watson’s injury, the Texans went 1-8.

 

The Jaguars entered the season expecting to lean heavily on Fournette after deciding to go with quarterback Blake Bortles for at least another year. For most of the season, the Jaguars’ offense went through Fournette, although he dealt with injuries down the stretch and his production dipped. Even though Fournette missed three games with injuries and a suspension, he still finished the season ranked eighth in rushing yards, second only to Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt among rookies. Fournette finished the season with 268 carries for 1,040 yards and nine rushing touchdowns, and he had five games with at least 100 yards on the ground. — Barshop

Defensive player of the year: Calais Campbell, DE, Jaguars

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Campbell showed he was worth the four-year, $60 million contract the Jaguars gave him to leave the Arizona Cardinals by spearheading the NFL’s second-best defense. Campbell finished second in the league in sacks with a career-high 14.5. This season was the first that Campbell reached double digits in sacks in his 10-year career. “You have to stay balanced and be aggressive with him if you expect to have a chance,” an opposing offensive lineman said about Campbell in a recent ESPN story. “If you’re leaning, he’s already got you beat.” The Colts and Texans felt Campbell’s wrath more than any other teams in the league. He had six sacks in two games against the Texans and three against the Colts. Campbell’s presence allowed for cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, arguably the best cornerback duo in the league, to be aggressive in the secondary because they knew the quarterback wouldn’t be able to hold the ball in the pocket for an extended period of time. Also making Campbell’s season impressive is that he had his career year at the age of 31, when players are supposed to be on the decline. — W

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PITTSBURGH – The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.

“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”

The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.

“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.

“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”
The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).

“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.

“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.

“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”

Opposing View

Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.

Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.

Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).

“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.

“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”

Question Mark Up Front

Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.

“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.

Pasta Snaps Skid

David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.

“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”

Wait, There’s More

Tuukka Rask will make the start between the pipes. He is 11-0-1 over his last 12 games.
The Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Sunday morning. Bergeron and Spooner were among a small contingent that took the ice.
Boston’s five-goal first period against Carolina was their first such period since a five-goal third against Philadelphia in 2011.
Kevan Miller posted a plus-4 rating on Saturday night, while notching an assist on Riley Nash’s fifth of the year early in the first period. The blue liner was on the ice for three of Bergeron’s four goals.
Sean Kuraly won 10 of 11 faceoffs against the Hurricanes.

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry stood among the coaches during a third-quarter timeout pleading his case to keep playing, and Steve Kerr relented — after a brief chat with the training staff, of course.

And who could blame Curry? He was feeling it after waiting weeks to get back on the floor, even missing the marquee Christmas Day matchup against LeBron James and the Cavs.

“Third quarter, it was a quick look to him and I literally said `no way, no way,” the two-time MVP said. “… It felt like the first day of school again, for real.”

Curry made a sensational return from injury by scoring 38 points with a season-high 10 3-pointers, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-128 on Saturday night with an energy and spirit that had been missing much of this month without him.

Curry shot 13 for 17 and 10 of 13 from deep in just shy of 26 minutes for his ninth 30-point game this season after missing 11 games with a sprained right ankle. His mere presence brought an energy to the Warriors and all of Oracle Arena, and he spent much of the fourth quarter pacing, gesturing in delight while cheering his teammates with a towel draped over his head.

Kevin Durant added 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds, and Klay Thompson scored 21 points as the Warriors wrapped up nearly three weeks at home in California. Zaza Pachulia scored a season-best 17 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists.

“It wasn’t just him,” Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Curry. “You look up and they’ve got guys that can make shots all over the floor. They were making shots that were contested.”

Marc Gasol led six Memphis players in double figures with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting.

With his parents, wife and two daughters in attendance, Curry got his first points on a layup at 10:27 that put the Warriors out front 7-0 and led to a Memphis timeout. He hit a 3-pointer at 9:52 before Memphis scored its first points.

Curry received roars from the sellout crowd during pregame introductions, and Durant threw his right arm into the air to cheer his pal’s comeback.

In the game’s closing minutes, Curry hit a 3-pointer, held his follow-through and jubilantly hopped up and down on his left foot. At other moments, he pounded his chest. This marked Curry’s ninth career game with 10 or more 3s, most by any player in NBA history.

“I was feeling pretty good. I think me and him had an understanding where the minutes would kind of fall as the game would go on and I would give him feedback how my body was feeling, and I felt amazing and it was me just saying that, I really did,” Curry said of convincing Kerr he could stay in. “He gave me that extra minute and a half and I made a shot, so it paid off.”

Curry was all smiles during pregame warmups. He hoisted his signature tunnel shot, signed a few quick autographs when daughter Riley arrived to greet him and briefly held his arm around her before turning around to do his customary hallway sprint. His little girl cleared the way, and off her dad went to the locker room.

He’s healthy at last — and it showed immediately.

Kerr had hoped to play his star 20-25 minutes, and Curry hit another 3 just 30 seconds after conferring with the coaching staff during that timeout with 4:36 left in the third.

“Everything just looks better,” Kerr said. “The food in there is going to taste better tonight. My wife’s going to be even better looking than she already is. My kids are going to be happy. Steph, he has that impact.”

Memphis lost here 97-84 on Dec. 20, then watched the Warriors match their season high for points in a half this season by leading 78-67 at the break to the delight of the fired-up crowd.

“The energy was amazing tonight honestly, probably it was because of Steph,” Pachulia said. “Tonight was a total difference, so I guess they were waiting for Steph to come back.”

GREEN GETS TOSSED

Draymond Green was ejected with 9:45 left in the second quarter after a second technical foul in a 43-second span. Both were for arguing.

The emotional forward has been ejected twice this season.

Green had five assists and three points in 10 minutes.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: The Grizzlies’ 67 first-half points were their most in any half this season, while Golden State’s 78 matched the most points ever allowed in any half by Memphis — with Golden State also scoring 78 on March 24, 2010, on its home floor. … The Grizzlies are one of two teams along with San Antonio to own a winning regular-season record vs. the Warriors since the start of the 2011-12 season at 13-12. … Memphis completed a strange stretch in which it played at Golden State on Dec. 20, at Phoenix the following night, home on Dec. 23, back to Phoenix on Tuesday, in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Wednesday then returned to Oracle Arena on Saturday.

 

Warriors: The Warriors’ 141 points are the most scored against the Grizzlies ever by any opponent. … Golden State’s 14 first-quarter assists — for 40 points — were one shy of the franchise record of 15, done three times. … The Warriors improved to 8-0 after a loss this season. Golden State is 40-7 since 2014-15 following a defeat. … The Warriors went 13-2 in December and finished 5-2 on this season-long homestand. The 13 December victories match the franchise’s most wins in the month during their West Coast Era, also done last season.

UP NEXT

Grizzlies: At Sacramento on Sunday.

Warriors: At Dallas on Wednesday after playing seven games at home over the past 11 days.