<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Top News - [BAY ONLY CSN]Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcbayarea.com/newsen-usThu, 25 Aug 2016 13:57:47 -0700Thu, 25 Aug 2016 13:57:47 -0700NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Cook Shakes Off Jitters to Play Well in Raiders Debut]]>Mon, 15 Aug 2016 08:43:17 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/166*120/kookkonorrdebut.jpg

For now, it doesn’t appear as if Connor Cook will unseat Matt McGloin as the Raiders’ No. 2 quarterback.

McGloin, Oakland’s backup to Derek Carr the past two seasons, was outstanding in a short stint against the Arizona Cardinals Friday night in the team’s exhibition opener, throwing two touchdown passes.

But Cook, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick from Michigan State, also looked strong in his pro debut, despite admitting to being nervous.

Cook completed 7-of-11 throws for 71 yards – with no TDs or interceptions – after taking over from McGloin in the third quarter of the Raiders’ 31-10 victory.

Recently, Cook reportedly has looked much sharper in training camp practices, and carried that over to his play Friday night in 20 snaps on the field.

“I thought Connor played good, especially for his first live action as an NFL quarterback,” head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters.

Cook told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave kept things simple for him in his debut. Cook rated his own performance as “good.”

He also acknowledged his receivers were making good plays against second- and third-team defenders.

“Coach Musgrave was calling a lot of quick-game stuff, so I could get the ball out of my hands fairly quick,” Cook told Durkin. “Guys were open. It wasn’t like there was super, super tight coverage, and guys were making plays after the catch.”

Cook’s biggest completion was a short pass to rookie running back DeAndre Washington, who raced 32 yards.

In the days leading up to Cook’s debut against the Cardinals, Raiders quarterback coach Todd Downing told the Bay Area News Group that Cook struggled early in training camp but learned from his mistakes, settled down and has improved.

“What’s very impressive about him is that he bounces back from struggles,” Downing said. “He moves forward and presents himself well as a seasoned player coming from a big program like MSU.”

Cook and the Raiders will get their next opportunity Thursday night in Green Bay against the Packers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Young Raiders Receivers Step Into Spotlight]]>Thu, 11 Aug 2016 08:26:51 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/177*120/HHHolton.jpg

When the Raiders open their exhibition season Friday night against the Cardinals at Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium, starters aren’t expected to see much playing time.

At wide receiver, that means a handful of undrafted free agents get their first chance to make an impression and begin a push for roster spots.

Joe Hansley (Colorado State), K.J. Brent (Wake Forest), Max McCaffrey (Duke), Johnny Holton (Cincinnati), Jaydon Mickens and Marvin Hall (both Washington) have all looked good at various times in the team’s offseason program and in training camp. But now head coach Jack Del Rio wants to see what they can do against another team under the lights of an NFL game.

“For us the key is what they do when it’s real, when they’re going against another opponent,” Del Rio told Levi Damien of SB Nation. “When they’re not familiar with the coverages they’re seeing, when they’re having to adjust to what they’re getting during the game. I feel good about the whole process. We’ll continue evaluation and obviously it goes up a notch when you get into the games.”

Quarterback Derek Carr, too, wants to see what players will do in their first pro game, and singled out Mickens and Holton.

Holton is an intriguing prospect and one who has looked outstanding in camp workouts so far. He has good size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and has been a big-play receiver in junior  college and then at Cincinnati. In JC he averaged 23.8 yards per catch; at Cincinnati last season he led the nation with a 27.1-yard average. That was on 17 catches over eight games in a season cut short by a hamstring injury.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted in his scouting report on Holton before this year’s draft that Holton’s outstanding speed makes him a “straight-up vertical guy who can blaze and hit the home run” but lacks a lot of nuance and technique that would make him a more complete receiver. He also was a dangerous kick returner for the Bearcats.

Holton told Damien that one of the reasons he signed with the Raiders was because of the advice of Amari Cooper, the team’s No. 1 wideout who was a boyhood friend. Holton says Cooper told him he was good enough to play in the NFL.

Now, he’s getting his chance.

“I’m looking forward 100 percent,” Holton said. “I’m ready. It will be a big surprise, being in an NFL stadium playing. I envisioned it. I’m just ready.”

Cooper believes in his friend.

“He’s made some great catches here,” Cooper told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He has qualities you look for in a receiver. No one can jam him at the line, and he’s fast. He’s developing nicely.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cooper: Big Impact of Late-Season Injuries]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 09:04:42 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/khoopher.jpg

There's no question that Amari Cooper’s rookie season was terrific.

The Raiders wideout played 16 games, caught 72 passes for 1,070 yards, averaged 14.9 yards per reception and had six touchdown catches.

After one game against the Chargers in October, when Cooper had five catches for 133 yards and a TD, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr lauded Cooper.

“He’s amazing, he’s awesome and he’s one of the best in the league,” Carr told a reporter. “Obviously because he’s a rookie and hasn’t done if for a certain amount of time people won’t say that, but he’s one of the best.”

But a foot injury late in the season limited Cooper’s effectiveness. His production plummeted in the final month. The wide receiver wouldn’t say how much it hurt him until Monday.

In an interview on 95.7 The Game, Cooper said he “really wasn’t myself” once he hurt his quadriceps in November and then injured his foot in December.

“I think it affected everything,” Cooper said. “Me being a receiver, it affected my whole game. Talk about a foot injury, you can’t release how you want to, you can’t come out of your breaks how you want to. You can only get open in two ways, off of the line or out of your breaks. So it really affected my game, but I was mentally tough and I fought through it.”

After an offseason to recover, Cooper is 100 percent fit and ready for his second season. He’s looked very good in training camp so far and believes he can be a much better player in 2016.

“I feel a lot more comfortable, you know I know the mistakes I’ve made,” he said. “I know what the coaches expect out of me and I know what my teammates expect out of me, so everything seems good right now.”

Cooper and his teammates will play their first exhibition game this Friday night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Have Ellington Slotted For Bigger Role]]>Tue, 09 Aug 2016 08:59:11 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/broooseell.jpg

Bruce Ellington is eager for the 2016 season to get under way.

The 49ers receiver – who’s been just a small part of the team’s offense in his first two NFL seasons – is looking more and more like a vital part of Chip Kelly’s passing game.

The former South Carolina athlete, who played both football and basketball for the Gamecocks, has just 19 catches in his two seasons with San Francisco but is the favorite to be the team’s slot receiver this season. That’s an important role in Kelly’s spread offense, which often runs out of three-receiver sets.

Ellington is off to a good start in training camp and says he’s ready to make a big impact.

“Whatever they throw at me, I’m ready to catch it,” he told reporters after a recent practice.

Kelly, too, has been impressed by what Ellington can do. He says he believes the former basketball point guard has the perfect qualities for the job. Kelly told reporters that a slot receiver has to be able to win one-on-one matchups in the middle of the field and find open seams in the defense.

“He understands how to attack a zone, he understands where the soft parts of a zone are,” Kelly said, according to Taylor Price of 49ers.com. “There’s a correlation between guys who played basketball or have a basketball background and then kind of understanding how to operate in there.

“So I think he’s got a real good feel for working in the slot.”

Ellington will get his first opportunity to prove it when the 49ers open their exhibition season this Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Crabtree Having a Great Second Training Camp With Raiders]]>Mon, 08 Aug 2016 08:45:56 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/177*120/daKrabbb.jpg

A year ago, Michael Crabtree had something to prove.

The former 49ers wide receiver had signed with the Raiders after an offseason in which he no longer was wanted by his first pro team and saw his value in free agency limited.

But after a big first season with the Raiders in 2015, Crabtree earned a nice four-year contract extension worth a potential $32 million.

Now the 28-year-old pass catcher – coming off a season with 85 catches, 922 yards and nine touchdowns – is having a more quiet camp. He’s already proven his worth to Oakland, and is showing it every day in practice as part of a talented receiving corps for third-year quarterback Derek Carrr.

On Sunday, he was reported to have made a series of nice catches, including one on a short route while being covered by No. 1 cornerback Sean Smith. In one early practice, he was unstoppable on a series of slant passes his way.

Head coach Jack Del Rio is a big fan of his veteran wide receiver, who is just 68 catches shy of reaching 500 for his NFL career.

“Michael, he’s been the same guys since Day 1 of arriving last offseason,” Del Rio told reporters after Sunday’s training camp practice in Napa. “He’s been terrific. He’s come in, been a really good teammate, he’s a great leader in the locker room for us. He comes out here and works hard every day.

“He’s got unbelievable hands. He’s got an understanding of how to get open in this league and how to make plays. Quarterbacks consider him very friendly because, you know, Michael knows what to do. He’s very reliable … He’s doing his thing.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Showing Plenty of Fire in Training Camp]]>Fri, 05 Aug 2016 09:31:51 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/deeKahrrh.jpg

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has done a masterful job the past three seasons of adding talent to a once-depleted roster.

Players from Khalil Mack and Derek Carr to Kelechi Osemele and Sean Smith now make Oakland a possible contender for the AFC West in 2016.

But there may be another reason to believe this Raiders team is different than others in the franchise’s recent past: competitiveness.

Based on the way players have been going after one another the past few days in training camp, this Raiders team may have a lot of fire and drive in 2016.

On Thursday, a tussle broke out between left tackle Donald Penn and middle linebacker Ben Heeney, reported Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group. Later, rookie running back Jalen Richard and defensive end Damontre Moore fought. Durkin reported Thursday’s practice had “the most intensity” of any yet at the Napa training camp.

After practice, quarterback Derek Carr – who had to step in at one point to separate players – told the media that he’s loving the fire he’s seeing every day in camp.

“I like the chippy-ness,” he said. “I love the competitiveness. … They’re not doing it just because they don’t like somebody. They’re doing it because maybe someone got the best of somebody or they played a little too hard.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DeAndre Washington is Giving Raiders Some "Juice"]]>Fri, 08 Jul 2016 09:00:14 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/washlooksgud.jpg

When the Raiders drafted DeAndre Washington in the fifth round in May, general manager Reggie McKenzie lauded the former Texas Tech standout as “a complete back.”

So far, that’s exactly what the Raiders are seeing.

In workouts with the team since draft day, including the recent full-squad minicamp, Washington has exceeded expectations. When the Raiders open training camp later this month, Washington appears poised to be one of the most exciting additions to the offense. With a good training camp and exhibition season, he could emerge as the No. 2 running back behind Latavius Murray.

“He’s good,” Murray told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group, when asked about Washington recently. “Quick guy, great speed, great vision. I think he looks real good. Excited to get to work with him, learn from him and hopefully he’ll learn from me.”

Washington will compete with veteran Roy Helu Jr. and Taiwan Jones for Murray’s backup job. Helu was injured early last season, but had some good performances late in the year. He had hip surgery after the season, but is expected to be healthy by the start of training camp.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave says he loves Washington’s versatility. In practices and drills, the Raiders have used him as a ball carrier, receiver and on special teams.

“We’re putting him in different situations to get a fell for his strengths and how we can tailor plays, tailor situations, so he can really flash for us,” Musgrave told Durkin. “He’s going to be good in first, second or third down.”

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio says Washington has been exciting to watch so far in silver and black.

“He’s a guy that we think he’s got the ability to really do some things if we can get him in space,” Del Rio said in an interview on 95.7 The Game FM recently. “He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s not overly big. He’s about 210, 212 pounds, so he’s not a bowling ball or anything, but we think he’s got some juice.

“We think he’s got a chance to really help us move the chains and he’s really excited about running the ball any way we can get it to him. … We think he’s got a chance to really help us.”

The 5-foot-8 Washington ran for 1,103 yards as a junior at Texas Tech and 1,492 yards as a senior. He also caught 124 passes in college for 1,091 yards.

<![CDATA[Seventh-Round Pick Alexander Has Big Potential]]>Thu, 07 Jul 2016 10:44:42 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/204*120/VVVadalll.jpg

When the Raiders selected LSU guard Vadal Alexander in the seventh round of this year’s draft, Alexander had no clue the team was interested in him.

“I actually didn’t have much contact with (them) going into this,” he said following the draft. “It was a little bit of a surprise to get that call from them.”

But as Alexander heads toward the opening of his first NFL training camp later this month, the 6-foot-6, 329-pounder could be in the mix to earn playing time as a backup guard (behind both Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele) or swing tackle.

The second-team All-America pick and all-SEC offensive lineman was selected as a guard, but also has played tackle and has been getting work at both positions with the Raiders since the draft.

Alexander’s strength is in his size and power. In 46 starts at LSU, he had 315 knockdown blocks. And, according to a story by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the draft, Alexander was one of the highest-rated lineman by NFL scouts. Scouts had him pegged as the ninth-best interior (center or guard) blocker available, and Pro Football Weekly ranked him as its No. 1 guard and a possible second-round pick. Yet he fell all the way to the seventh round for a number of reasons, according to Levi Damien of SB Nation.

Damien wrote that one scout thought he might have slipped because of his work as a tackle, which didn’t play to his strength because “he’s not a real good athlete.” Another said his footwork in one-on-one drills isn’t as good as it should be. A third scout cited the extra weight he carries as a negative and said he “needs hard coaching.”

Still the consensus among them was the Alexander could be a steal as a guard if he develops.

“He’ll end up mauling you,” said one scout, according to Damien. “He’ll do all right. There’s been a lot of guards like that.”

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie believes Alexander’s size and versatility could pay off for his team. He was surprised Alexander lasted so long in the draft.

“Yeah, because big guys, they usually get taken,” McKenzie told the media. “We felt really good about that and we like big people.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Believe Pinion Will Continue to Improve]]>Thu, 07 Jul 2016 10:40:26 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/193*120/PPPinyonn.jpg

A little more than a year ago, the 49ers surprised the media and fans by selecting punter Bradley Pinion in the fifth round of the draft when they already had longtime pro Andy Lee – a three-time Pro Bowler.

Then the Niners traded the reliable Lee to the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft.

The move saved the 49ers some money, of course, but it could prove to be a solid football decision, too.

While Lee continued to perform at a high level for the Browns, ranking eighth in the NFL in average yards (46.7) and 15th in net yards (40.1), Pinion came on strong in his first season. The 6-foot-5 former Clemson standout was 27th in average yards (43.6) and 23rd in net yards (40.1), but he was tied for sixth in the NFL with 31 punts inside opponents’ 20-yard line. Also, Pinion took over kickoff duties from Phil Dawson and gave the 49ers a huge boost, putting more than 60 percent of his kicks into or out of the end zone for touchbacks. The year before, Dawson had just a 43.8 touchback percentage.

As the 49ers head toward training camp – veterans are due to report July 30 in Santa Clara – Pinion gives the team a solid, young punter/kickoff specialist with a strong leg. Plus, he and Dawson give the 49ers a strong 1-2 punch on special teams. Pinion has developed a strong relationship with the longtime pro, and is his holder for field goals and PATs. He says Dawson, 41, has helped him improve.

“I prepare 100 times better now than I did in college,” Pinion told a reporter at the end of 2015. “It’s things I took for granted in college, but Phil has taught me how important that part is in the game.”

Pinion had some big games as a rookie, including one against the Bears in December when he punted nine times, averaged 48.1 yards (one was a 62-yarder) and put three inside the Chicago 20.

“That’s what we know Bradley can do,” said former head coach Jim Tomsula. “He can change the field for you.”

Special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II says he’s already seen a big step forward by Pinion in his skill set this offseason. Today, he’s a much more capable directional punter.

“He’s gone from a guy that you saw last year, he was primarily going right to now he can put the ball anywhere on punts,” said Swinton. “Now more than just going and punting, he’s understanding situational football.”

As James Brady of SB Nation noted recently, Lee at this point in his career remains a better punter than Pinion. But Pinion’s rookie numbers are comparable to Lee’s, meaning he could follow the same upward path.

“The 22-year-old out of Clemson has plenty of room to grow, even if there were aspects of his game that didn’t impress as a rookie,” wrote Brady.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Roll Past Giants to Set Up Possible Sweep]]>Wed, 29 Jun 2016 22:30:45 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/GettyImages-543719494_594_screen.jpg

OAKLAND — The A’s continued throwing a monkey wrench in the anticipated storyline of the Bay Bridge Series.

They’ve stopped the major leagues’ hottest team in their tracks, roughing up the Giants 7-1 on Wednesday for their third win in as many days against their neighboring rival.

San Francisco came in having gone 31-9 over their previous 40 games and looking like one of the majors’ super powers. It’s the A’s who have been the model of inconsistency, languishing in the bottom half of the AL West standings.

All has been turned upside down in Bay Area baseball since Monday. It’s the A’s that have displayed an aggressive swagger, while the Giants played defense Wednesday like they were trying to fill a bloopers’ reel.

Sean Manaea marked his return from the disabled list with 5 2/3 scoreless innings and Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso each homered to lead the A’s (35-43) to their seventh win in their past nine games.

They got lots of help, as the Giants committed two errors but committed other defensive blunders that didn’t show up in the scorebook.

The upshot: The A’s have already clinched the four-game series heading into Thursday’s finale against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. This marks the seventh season series the A’s have claimed from the Giants in 20 years of interleague play. They’ve lost four and split the remaining nine.

Starting pitching report: Sidelined since June 13 due to a forearm strain, Manaea (3-4) was dialed in, scattering six hits, walking one and striking out four. His shining moment came in the fourth. The Giants loaded the bases on three softly hit singles with one out, but Manaea coaxed a 6-4-3 double play from Mac Williamson to escape the jam. He pumped his arms and yelled demonstratively walking off the mound. That preserved a 3-0 A’s lead at the time, and the visitors would not challenge again.

Bullpen report: Liam Hendriks, John Axford and Ryan Dull held the Giants down over the final 3 1/3 innings, though Axford gave up a run and has now allowed 10 in his past eight games.

At the plate: The A’s got a hearty assist from the Giants’ bumbling defense, but credit them for keeping their offensive momentum rolling. They’ve scored at least six runs in each of the six games and are showing the ability to capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes.

The A’s took the lead with three in the third. Marcus Semien reached on a three-base error as Giants right fielder Mac Williamson collided with second baseman Raul Pena and let his pop up drop. Billy Burns would lay down a perfect squeeze bunt to get the A’s on the board. Coco Crisp’s triple would get by Angel Pagan in left field, and Jed Lowrie hit a two-run homer that just cleared the right field wall, hitting Williamson’s glove but deflecting off.

The A’s added four more in the fourth with help from the Giants again. Alonso blasted a two-run homer. Then Semien reached on a triple that Pagan should have caught and scored on Billy Burns double that again scooted past Pagan. Crisp scored Burns with a single. In the field

The A’s played solid defense to back Manaea, committing no errors in comparison to the Giants’ slapstick display in the field.

Attendance: The announced turnout of 32,810 was the A’s first non-sellout in a regular season game against the Giants since May 21, 2010.

Up next: Dillon Overton (1-0, 4.76) draws a tough assignment in his second career start, going against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 1.99) in Thursday’s 7:05 p.m. Bay Bridge Series finale.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Rally Back From Two Deficits in Wild 13-11 Win Over Giants ]]>Wed, 29 Jun 2016 00:07:37 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/as-giants-628.jpg

SAN FRANCISCO — The A’s won a game that their offense simply refused to lose Tuesday night.

With both teams’ bullpens basically unable to hold any kind of lead, the A’s outlasted the Giants 13-11 in a game that tied the highest-scoring game in Bay Bridge Series history.

The A’s overcame two separate three-run deficits and their own bullpen implosion in the sixth inning. In the end, Ryan Madson gutted his way through 43 pitches to cover the final two innings and ensure Oakland captured the first two games of this four-game set against their cross-bay rivals.

The teams combined for 30 hits and burned through 12 relievers in the 3-hour, 53-minute marathon.

Jake Smolinski, summoned off the bench in the eighth, delivered a pinch-hit three-run homer to put the A’s ahead for good, 9-8. But the A’s hitters didn't stop there, and that was probably the wise course of action on this night. They scored eight runs total over the final two innings.

That continued a stretch that has seen the A’s score 46 runs over their past six games (7.67 per game).

The A’s trailed 4-1, then went ahead 5-4, before relievers John Axford and Marc Rzepczynski gave up four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Crawford’s three-run triple gave the Giants an 8-5 lead.

Starting pitching report: Riding some momentum from back-to-back strong starts entering the night, Kendall Graveman didn’t fool Giants hitters in this one. They knocked him around for nine hits and four runs over five innings. Crawford’s two-run double put San Francisco ahead in the third. But Graveman was hurt by a failure to get a shutdown inning in the fourth, a problem that has bit him often this season. After Khris Davis’ homer pulled the A’s to within a run at 2-1 in the top of the fourth, Graveman gave two runs back in the bottom half. In fairness, Angel Pagan’s two-run single was a routine ground ball that found a hole. But it was preceded by two singles and a walk.

Bullpen report: Madson hadn’t completed a two-inning outing since Sept. 29, 2009, and the fact that manager Bob Melvin asked so much of the 35-year-old points to a physical issue of some sort hindering Sean Doolittle, who hasn’t pitched since Saturday.

When all was said and done, Madson had thrown 43 pitches. He also recorded his first at-bat since 2010, striking out in the top of the ninth.

Axford is going through his roughest patch of the season by far. Over the last seven games, he’s allowed nine earned runs and 12 hits in just 3 1/3 innings for an ERA of 24.32 in that span.

At the plate: The A’s erased two separate three-run deficits in this one, and two of their biggest hits came in the pinch. Billy Butler singled home two runs to put Oakland ahead 5-4 in the sixth. In the eighth, Smolinski worked the count to 2-2 off lefty Javier Lopez and then smoked a three-run homer into the left-field seats, his first career pinch homer. Entering the night, the A’s had been hitless in their previous nine pinch-hit at-bats.

Another huge moment was delivered by Stephen Vogt, who was dropped from third to sixth in the order with Josh Reddick’s return from the disabled list Tuesday. It was Vogt’s two-run double off George Kontos in the sixth that pulled the A’s to within 4-3 and snapped Oakland’s offense to life.

Davis’ homer was his 19th of the season. The A’s finished with 12 hits, continuing their team-wide hot streak that’s seen them score at least six runs in each of the last five games.

In the field: In a game where offense dominated, Giants center fielder Denard Span delivered the defensive highlight of the night, making a lunging catch in right-center to rob Yonder Alonso in the eighth.

Attendance: The announced turnout was 41,740.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Survive Elimination, Defeat Thunder in Game 5]]>Thu, 26 May 2016 21:40:20 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-534584044_594_screen.jpg

OAKLAND - Stephen Curry suddenly doesn’t look so injured.

Facing elimination in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors in Game 5 Thursday rode Curry and a wave of emotion to a 120-111 victory over Oklahoma City that keeps alive their chances to repeat as NBA champions.

The win, before a relentless raucous sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, narrows the deficit to 3-2 OKC in the best-of-seven series.

Five Warriors scored in double figures, Curry putting in 31 points to lead the way. Klay Thompson totaled 27 points, Andrew Bogut had 15, Marreese Speights (off the bench) had 14 and Draymond Green finished with 11.

The Warriors matched the Thunder in rebounds, 45-45, outscored them 28-15 on fast-break points and clobbered them 48-30 on points in the paint. The Warriors also forced 17 OKC turnovers, off which they scored 20 points.

Curry, who is sore but continues to downplay discussion of injuries, scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Thunder forward Kevin Durant led all scorers with 40 points, while point guard Russell Westbrook finished with 31.


Contributions came from across the board, but Curry, Bogut, Iguodala and Speights led the way.

Curry’s line: 31 points (9-of-20 shooting, 3-of-8 from beyond the arc), seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. He played 37 minutes and finished plus-6 for the game.

Bogut’s line: 15 points (7-of-9), a game-high 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots. He played 30 minutes and finished plus-2.

Iguodala’s line: 8 points (3-of-5, 1-of-2), a team-high eight assists, one steal and steady defense. He played 34 minutes and posted a plus-7.

Speights’ line: 14 points (4-of-7, 1-of-1). He was plus-7 over nine minutes.


The 13-point lead was the biggest of the night for the Warriors.

The Thunder got within five (103-98, 4:34 remaining) before the Warriors closed it out in the final minutes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Stories]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:46:23 -0700]]><![CDATA[Warriors]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:47:11 -0700]]><![CDATA[Sharks]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:47:56 -0700]]><![CDATA[Giants]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:46:54 -0700]]><![CDATA[Athletics]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:47:33 -0700]]><![CDATA[49ers]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:48:41 -0700]]><![CDATA[Raiders]]>Tue, 24 May 2016 15:03:15 -0700]]><![CDATA[College Sports]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:49:01 -0700]]><![CDATA[Niners Experimenting to Get Depth Behind Kilgore]]>Wed, 25 May 2016 08:47:00 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/BalducciC.jpg

In 2015, the 49ers suffered a big setback with the loss of center Daniel Kilgore for much of the season. His replacement, Marcus Martin, played poorly, and the weakness in the center of the offensive line had ripple effects for the entire offense.

Kilgore returned to play in the final five games and the 49ers are counting on him to be a rock in 2016 on a unit that will likely have two new starting guards in Zane Beadles and rookie first-rounder Josh Garnett and possibly second-year man Trent Brown at right tackle.

But the 49ers also are trying an experiment with former Oregon defensive lineman Alex Balducci to provide insurance and competition behind Kilgore.

Balducci, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent, is being cast in the current organized team activities (OTAs) as a center, reports Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee The 6-foot-3, 309-pounder was a nose tackle for the Ducks, but pro scouting reports on Balducci focused on his lack of athleticism as a defensive lineman.

In OTAs, Balducci is working at center behind both Kilgore and Martin.

“The conversion suggests that the 49ers like Balducci’s tenacity and character but don’t think he’s athletic enough to play defense,” wrote Barrows, who noted that Balducci played on both the offensive and defensive lines in high school. In fact, Balducci was considered one of the top offensive linemen on the West Coast as a prep, but was used exclusively on defense at Oregon.

Barrows said initial observations of Balducci in OTAs indicate he doesn’t “look out of place” in his new position while working with new offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.

In his career at Oregon, Balducci had 77 tackles, 10½ tackles for loss and 4½ sacks and received honorable mention on the Pac-12’s all-conference team his final season.

If Balducci makes a smooth transition back to offense, the 49ers will gain some depth and versatility behind Kilgore for 2016.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Raider Smith Showing Leadership Skills]]>Wed, 25 May 2016 08:48:11 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/188*120/SSSSmithRaid.jpg

Cornerback was a weak spot on the Raiders in 2015. Improving pass coverage for 2016 was a priority for general manager Reggie McKenzie, so the Raiders invested heavily, signing free-agent Sean Smith to a reported four-year, $40 million deal.

Smith is expected to start on one side, with David Amerson – who resurrected his career after signing with Oakland last season following his release in Washington – on the other.

The 6-foot-3 Smith, 29, is one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks and is expected to be a player capable of shutting down top receivers in 2016.

The analytics website Pro Football Focus graded Smith as the 12th-best corner in the NFL in 2015 and noted that Smith limited opposing receivers to a 53.2 percent catch rate.

“He’s one of the few corners capable of covering the physical specimens at receiver in press-man (coverage),” wrote Pro Football Focus’ John Breitenbach. “Smith provides defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. flexibility to run any coverage he chooses.”

Now, after the Raiders’ just-completed first session of organized team activities (OTAs), Smith is appearing to be as much a leader as he is pass defender. With several young defensive backs on the roster -- including No. 1 pick Karl Joseph, a safety – Smith sees his role as a mentor and leader as well as player.

“We have a very, very young team back there, especially in the secondary,” Smith told reporters. “I guess my job is to come in here and make them better mentally because they have all the talent and all the tools to make plays. Just have to get them up to par with me from a football IQ standpoint.”

Smith also sees a good chemistry developing with Amerson, whom he believes can continue to build on his turnaround first season in Oakland. Smith is certain he can aid in Amerson’s growth.

“He’s one of the most athletic people I’ve ever met,” Smith said, in addressing the media after OTAs. “D.A. can make all the cuts, all the breaks. I’m definitely looking forward to working with him. Again, another young guy who’s been in the league a few years. Like I said, it’s all mental, just trying to get guys to see the game like I see it, that way I can slow it down for them.”

<![CDATA[Early Mistakes Doom Raiders in Loss to Packers]]>Sun, 20 Dec 2015 19:17:47 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/packanddelriooo.jpg

The Raiders went into Sunday’s game against the Green Packers knowing they needed to sweep their final three games to finish with a winning record and a possible trip to the playoffs.

Coming off a big victory over the division-leading Broncos, the Raiders had some momentum and big hopes.

Unfortunately for the Raiders and their fans, it was hardly enough to beat playoff-bound Green Bay – or ovecome some crucial mistakes -- at O.co Coliseum.

The Packers scored two quick touchdowns off a pair of Derek Carr interceptions in the first quarter en route to a 30-20 victory over the Raiders, who drop to 6-8.

The Raiders cut the gap to 14-13 at halftime thanks to two Sebastian Janikowski field goals and Carr’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.

But the Packers answered with 10 points in the third quarter and six more in the final period – sandwiched around another Carr-to-Cooper TD pass -- to hold off the Raiders and extend Oakland’s playoff drought that stretches back to 2002.

Carr finished 23-of-47 for 276 yards and two TDs, but his two early interceptions were the difference in the game. He also was sacked three times.

Cooper, in the running for Offensive Rookie of the year, had six catches for 120 yards and two scores.

The Raiders now have a quick turnaround, with a Christmas Eve date against the San Diego Chargers  this Thursday night at O.co Coliseum (5:25 p.m. kickoff). Oakland will need to win that game, and the season finale in Kansas City on Jan. 3, to get to 8-8 and avoid yet another losing season. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Lose to Packers]]>Sun, 20 Dec 2015 18:21:13 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/raiders+packers.jpg

The Raiders haven’t given home fans much to cheer for this season. They were 2-4 at O.co Coliseum heading into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, one of two contests left on the home slate.

Heartbreak was on the menu yet again.

The Raiders let another close one slip away, losing 30-20 to the Packers on a soggy afternoon in the East Bay.

Yet another home loss drops the Raiders overall record to 6-8 and cements their 13th straight season without a winning record. It also formally eliminates them from AFC Wild Card contention with two games remaining.

The result was decided with 13 unanswered Packers points to close out this game. Green Bay’s offense controlled tempo with a string of third-down conversions and steady points.

The Raiders didn’t respond in kind, and let another one slip away.

Despite early Raiders' mistakes that led to a 14-0 deficit, this was a close contest throughout. The defense did a solid job preventing big plays, but struggled on third downs of any length. The offense rebounded with some touchdown drives, though not enough to take firm control of the game.

The result was in limbo early in the second half. That’s when the Raiders struck.

Cooper broke the 1,000-yard receiving barrier, one impenetrable for a full decade, in the third quarter and gave the Raiders their first lead with a 26-yard touchdown catch.

The Packers regained it quick, using a big kickoff return and three quick passes to score a touchdown. It went 30 yards to former Raiders receiver and San Jose native James Jones, and gave the Packers a 24-20 lead.

The Packers extended the lead to seven points with a field goal despite a 19-play drive that never crossed the goal line.

The Raiders held Green Bay to 97 yards in the first half, yet found themselves down 14-13 at the break. That happened because Carr threw interceptions on consecutive passes.

His first was underthrown – though safety Micah Hyde may have initiated contact late – and Hyde returned it 34 yards and set up a Packers touchdown.

Carr found Packers cornerback Damarious Randall on his next throw, and the rookie returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.

The Raiders mounted a slow comeback after that, with two field goals and Carr’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. That touchdown came late in the second quarter after safety Charles Woodson levied a big hit on James Starks, which allowed Benson Mayowa to strip and recover his own forced fumble.

Cooper cracks 1,000: Amari Cooper became the first Raider with 1,000 receiving yards since Randy Moss did it in 2005. Cooper broke through on a 41-yard catch deep down the right sideline midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s game.

Cooper wasn’t done on that drive. He created space a few plays later and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a 20-17 lead with under seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Carr had yet another uneven home game, completing 23-of-47 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and an 63.8 passer rating.

Rodgers was just good enough to overcome solid Raiders run defense. He was 22-of-39 passing for one touchdown and a late interception.

Mack gets more sacks: Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack added to his sack total after getting five last week at Denver. He got another one early in Sunday’s game, tripping Rodgers up by the shoelaces on third down.

That gave him 15 for the season, one under the franchise record set by Derrick Burgess in 2005.

Injury update: Important Raiders suffered key injuries in this game. Defensive lineman Mario Edwards went down early. The rookie suffered a neck injury in the first quarter and did not return.

Receiver Seth Roberts suffered an abdominal injury shortly after dropping a touchdown pass in the second quarter that kept him out the rest of the game.

The Raiders announced that veteran pass catcher Michael Crabtree was being evaluated for a concussion, but returned and finished the game

Hayden back in mix: Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden has been largely glued to the sideline in recent weeks, but got back into the mix with Neiko Thorpe inactive with a neck injury.

Other Raiders inactives: S Nate Allen, WR Rod Streater, TE Gabe Holmes, RB Roy Helu, OL Matt McCants and DL Leon Orr.

What's next: The Raiders are in the midst of playing two games in a five-day stretch. The face the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night – every NFL team has one – for a Christmas Eve showdown that could be the last Raiders game in Oakland. The league is expected to choose teams to relocate to the Los Angeles market in January. The Raiders and Chargers are both in the running, with a stadium proposal competing with the St. Louis Rams’ option. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Claw Back, Avoid Second Loss to Bucks]]>Fri, 18 Dec 2015 23:15:50 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WarriorsGetty.jpg

The Warriors have, on the basis of events Friday night at Oracle Arena, found a new nemesis in the Milwaukee Bucks.

There was even a brief post-game jawing session to punctuate the sour feelings between the teams.

The defending champions eventually survived the frisky Bucks, taking a 121-112 win to even the score with the team that last Saturday handed them their first — and only — defeat of the season.

Klay Thompson scored 27 points and Stephen Curry poured in 26 to lead five Warriors scoring in double figures. Draymond Green tossed in 21, Festus Ezeli finished with 12 and Brandon Rush added 10.

Rush added 10 as the Warriors won their 30th consecutive home game.

Inasmuch as the Bucks led for most of this game’s 48 pulsating minutes, this victory was the result of more resilience and determination as the Warriors have shown in any game this season.

The Warriors survived despite allowing 70 points in the first half, the most any team has scored in any half against them this season -– and the most Milwaukee has score in any half this season.

The Warriors (26-1), who shot only 9-of-26 beyond the arc, outrebounded the Bucks 29-18 in the second half, including 16-11 in the final quarter.


Thompson, Green and Curry share the honors.

Thompson’s line: 27 points, three rebounds, two assists, plus-22 for the game.

Green’s line: 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, plus-15.

Curry’s line: 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, plus-13.


Down 100-89 with 8:54 left, the Warriors reentered their starters, who went on a 15-2 run to take a 104-102 lead with 4:45 left.

Though the Bucks managed to tie the score twice, the Warriors never again trailed, using a 13-4 run over the final 2:16 to pull away.


Warriors: F Harrison Barnes (L ankle sprain) and F Kevon Looney (hip surgery rehab) were listed as out and placed on the inactive list.

Bucks: C Greg Monroe (L MCL sprain) was listed as doubtful, cleared 90 minutes before tipoff and placed in the starting lineup. G Jerryd Bayless (L ankle sprain) and G Greivis Vasquez (R ankle surgery) were listed as out and placed on the inactive list.


The Warriors return to action next Wednesday, when the face the Utah Jazz at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Even Without Dalton, Bengals May be Too Much for 49ers]]>Fri, 18 Dec 2015 10:34:25 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/185*120/GabbievsCincie.jpg

The 49ers catch a slight break this Sunday when they face the Cincinnati Bengals without their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton.

Dalton broke his right thumb last week and was replaced by A.J. McCarron in a 33-20 loss to the Steelers.

But will it make a difference? Probably not.

Even without Dalton, the 10-3 Bengals – on their way to the postseason -- have a talented, balanced team full of playmakers that figures to be too much for the 4-9 49ers, who are coming off a woeful 24-10 loss to a Browns team that had been 2-10.

The Bengals have the No. 6 offense in the NFL and the No. 10 defense and outscore opponents by an average of 9.6 points per game.

They have a pair of solid running backs in Jeremy Hill (604 yards, eight touchdowns) and Giovani Bernard (647 yards rushing and 413 yards receiving), a dynamic wide receiver in A.J. Green (76 catches for 1,169 yards and eight TDs) and a terrific tight end in Tyler Eifert (48 catches, 12 TDs).

Carlos Dunlap (10½ sacks) and Geno Atkins (eight sacks) lead a pass rush that may feast on a 49ers offensive line that gave up nine sacks last week and will be without starting guard Alex Boone.

The 49ers, meanwhile, rank dead last in the NFL in offense and 30th in defense. Oddsmakers have made the Bengals 4-point favorites.

One big question for the 49ers Sunday will be whether they can protect quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Against Chicago two weeks ago, Gabbert starred in an overtime victory. But against the Browns he had a tough time – as did the offense overall – while he was constantly under pressure. Gabbert placed much of the blame for the Cleveland peformance on himself.

“I have to find a way to get rid of the ball,” Gabbert told reporters this week. “When you take that many negative plays throughout a football game, it’s tough. You’re digging yourself a deep, deep hole. I just have to find answers quick and make sure we’re all on the right page with communications.”

Sunday’s game at Levi's Stadium originally was scheduled to be on "Sunday Night Football," but was rescheduled for 1:25 p.m. when the 49ers turned into one of the worst teams in the NFL.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Ready to Tangle With Explosive, Talented Packers]]>Fri, 18 Dec 2015 09:55:14 -0700http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/oakprevsgeebhay.jpg

So, it’s come to this:

All the Oakland Raiders need to do to earn their first winning record since 2002 and a possible trip to the playoffs is win Sunday’s home game against the explosive Green Bay Packers, come back on Thursday night to beat the visiting Chargers on Christmas Eve and then close out the year with a victory at hostile Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

No problem, right?

One oddsmaking website gives the Raiders a 0.7 percent chance of pulling it off.

Yet the 6-7 Raiders, coming off an upset victory over the AFC West-leading Broncos last week, know that a three-game sweep won’t happen unless they take care of the Packers first. And that will be a difficult assignment.

Green Bay, 9-4, is coming off a 28-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys and is a dangerous, explosive team on offense with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and rejuvenated running back Eddie Lacy. Lacy has rushed for 100 or more yards in three of the past four games, and the Packers rank No. 4 in the NFL in rushing.

Rodgers, off course, is the key. His quick release and mobility in the pocket are a counter to the Raiders’ ferocious pass rush in recent games, led by Khalil Mack (who had five sacks in Denver). This season, Rodgers has thrown 28 touchdown passes vs. just five interceptions.

On defense, Green Bay has playmakers in linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and a solid secondary. Peppers has seven sacks in just three career games vs. the Raiders.

Though oddsmakers have made Green Bay a 3-point favorite, the Raiders appear capable – and hungry enough – to pull the upset. Oakland’s defense against the run has been tough and its pass rush tougher. The Raiders now rank No. 12 in the NFL against the run.

And the Raiders’ passing attack with quarterback Derek Carr has proven it can put up points against any team in the league. Carr is 10th in the NFL with a 96.5 quarterback rating, with 28 TD throws vs. nine interceptions, and his receiving corps – featuring playmakers such as Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera – is talented and deep.

This week, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio talked about how proud he is of his team and the strong defense being built. He says the Raiders want to have “a dominant defense here.”

But to beat the Packers, he said that defense will have to control Rodgers, something most teams can’t do.

“A big challenge,” said Del Rio. “Obviously he’s got a great arm, real quick delivery, he can kind of flip it from any position and make plays down the field, but he takes off and runs, makes plays happen with his feet. I think it’s 38 scrambles on the year for big yardage. He doesn’t just go and get a first down and get down, he’s going and taking off and trying to score with it.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>