Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rangers beat Flames 4-3, Versteeg loses jersey, gets ejected

Although the New York Rangers weren't happy with every aspect of the game, they were glad to get a needed win at home.
Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast scored 3:12 apart in the middle of the third period to help the Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 Sunday for their second victory in their last seven at Madison Square Garden.
"We're aware obviously of the record we've had here the past few weeks and it's something we want to improve," said New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 29 shots. "Obviously there's no better feeling than to win in front of your own fans. ... This is the place where you gain the most confidence when you win."
Michael Grabner had a goal and an assist, Rick Nash also scored and J.T. Miller had two assists to help the Rangers win for the fifth time in seven games overall and improve to 5-0-1 in their last six against Calgary.
"I don't think we had our `A' stuff, but we did a good job defending and not getting hurt by it," Rangers center Derek Stepan said.
Flames veteran Kris Versteeg got ejected after losing his jersey during a fight in the third period, and waved to jeering fans as he skated off.
Versteeg, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago and not known as a brawler, tangled with Pavel Buchnevich and got his jersey pulled over his head during the scrap. The 30-year-old forward was tossed because, by rule, his jersey hadn't been properly tied down.
The Flames, who practiced on an outdoor rink in Central Park on Saturday, had won three in a row.
Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and an assist, and Dougie Hamilton and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Flames. Brian Elliott finished with 28 saves and Mikael Backlund had two assists.
"I thought we deserved to get some points out of this building," Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. "These are the types of games that make you better and we were good tonight, we just didn't get the points."
The Rangers outlasted Calgary in a furious third period that began with the score tied at 1.
Kreider put the Rangers ahead 3-2 as he brought the puck up the left side and sent a shot from outside the left circle that deflected in off the skate of defenseman Dennis Wideman for his career high-tying 21st goal at 8:20.
Fast made it 4-2 with about 8 1/2 minutes left off a pass from Miller.
The Flames took advantage of a Rangers giveaway less than a minute later as Backlund fired a shot that deflected off Tkachuk past Lundqvist.
Grabner gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 1:54 of the third, taking a pass from Brady Skjei in the right circle and putting it into the top right corner for his 23rd.
Brouwer tied it at 4:40 as he got the deflection of Johnny Gaudreau's shot and put it past Lundqvist for his ninth.
Nash appeared to give the Rangers the lead in the final second of the second period, but it was waved off after a review showed the puck went in after the clock had expired.
After the Rangers outshot the Flames 15-13 in the opening period, the chances slowed down in the second.
"It was an awful period from both sides," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "In the third, I thought we executed better ... and we were able to get two points."
Hamilton gave the Flames a 1-0 lead on the power play when his shot from the point deflected off Rangers defenseman Nick Holden and past Lundqvist's glove side for his eighth at 6:59 of the first.
The Rangers tied it on their own power play less than two minutes later. Nash got a pass in front from Stepan in front and his second attempt went in for his 15th at 8:55. Ryan McDonagh also had an assist on the goal for his 200th career point.
New York scored on the man advantage for the second straight game after going 0 for 15 over their previous five.
NOTES: Gaudreau had an assist for the fourth straight game, giving him six points (one goal, five assists) in that stretch. ... The Flames fell to 5-1-0 this season when Hamilton scored a goal. ... Miller now has 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists) over his last 15 games. ... New York improved to 9-1-0 against the Pacific Division this season.
Flames: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday night in the finale of a three-game trip.
Rangers: Host Anaheim on Tuesday night in the second game of a stretch of four straight at home.

Draisaitl, Oilers beat Canadiens 1-0 in shootout

 Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid played his 100th NHL game on Sunday, and it was an eventful one.
McDavid was kept off the scoresheet, but he led all forwards with 20:43 of ice time and drew three penalties in the Oilers' 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Leon Draisaitl's shootout goal.
The 20-year-old McDavid also got booed at Bell Centre, starting in the first period when the sellout crowd of 21,288 got on him for what it felt was a dive when Shea Weber was called for what looked like a phantom trip in the neutral zone 8:40 into the game.
"I don't mind it at all," McDavid said of the booing. The talented forward was more upset with being thought of as a diver.
After the incident, Montreal's Andrew Shaw threw him to the ice, but there was no call on the encounter.
"It wasn't anything serious," McDavid said. "They might have already had a penalty coming up there. It's tough to call two on a play like that.
"I drew some penalties, which was good. A guy was getting on me a bit but it was definitely not diving. All three of those chances, I'm trying to make a play at the net and stuff ended up happening, but it was definitely not diving or anything like that."
McDavid, the first overall pick of the 2015 draft, has 108 career points and seems to be getting better with each game. He leads the NHL with 42 assists and 60 points.
"He's electrifying," teammate Milan Lucic said. "For a lot of reasons - his speed, skill, his ability to finish and pass. I kind of compare him to Cristiano Ronaldo, of hockey. It's been fun to play with him so far."
Cam Talbot had 22 saves as Edmonton (29-18-8) salvaged the finale of a three-game trip that included only one regulation goal for the Oilers.
The Canadiens (30-16-8) dropped to 1-3-1 in their last five games. The Atlantic Division leaders were coming off a 3-2 loss to Washington on Saturday.
McDavid had a breakaway in overtime, but he was denied by Al Montoya. Talbot also turned away a big drive for Shea Weber at the other end.
Montoya finished with 32 saves.
"He was unreal," Weber said. "He played one of his best games of the year for us and that's why we had a chance to win it."
After coming close early on when Alexei Emelin hit a cross bar, the Canadiens generated little on attack until picking up the pace in the third period.
The Oilers had a 30-20 shot advantage in regulation time and outshot Montreal 32-22 overall.
NOTES: Both teams were playing a third game in four days.
Oilers: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
Canadiens: Visit the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Grubauer shuts out Kings, Capitals chase Budaj in 5-0 win

Philipp Grubauer starts rarely enough that he doesn't want to show his face when he loses. He can show it plenty until his next chance.
Grubauer stopped a season-high 38 shots to shut out the Los Angeles Kings as the Washington Capitals ended Peter Budaj's shutout streak in a 5-0 rout Sunday. Washington snapped Los Angeles' winning streak at five and Budaj's shutout streak at 147:21 in winning its third game in a row.
Despite being outshot 38-20, the Capitals were opportunistic in shelling Budaj, limiting quality chances and relying on Grubauer to make the routine saves.
"He doesn't get in there all the time, but when he does he's just been really good," said Brett Connolly, who scored his 10th goal of the season. "There was a couple times we turned the puck over and they had a good chance in front and he was there to bail us out."
Grubauer denied Marian Gaborik from close range in the second period but didn't have to make too many 10-bell saves for his third shutout of the season. Coach Barry Trotz liked the team defense in front of Grubauer, who compared the new NHL-mandated slimmer goalie pants to "European skinny jeans."
"The guys did an amazing job keeping (shots) to the outside today," Grubauer said. "I don't think we gave up too many Grade-A chances."
The Kings did.
They left Lars EllerMarcus Johansson and Justin Williams wide open on their goals, and Connolly was in all alone on a semi-breakaway to score his. T.J. Oshie's goal popped the cap off Budaj's water bottle, sending water flying and adding insult to injury.
Budaj, who leads the NHL with seven shutouts, was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots in two periods. He had stopped all 39 shots in his past two starts, but this loss was more on the Kings' defensive miscues than their goaltender.
"When you don't manage the puck well and give them opportunities to score, they're going to score," defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "You give them a little space and they capitalize on that. That's the danger, and we gave them too much space."
Coach Darryl Sutter said no one wants to get into an All-Star Game against the Capitals because the Kings are "not in that class." When the Capitals are getting this kind of goaltending and depth of scoring, few teams in the league are.
Washington leads the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference by seven points and is five up on the Minnesota Wild in the Presidents' Trophy race that also comes with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Trotz said the team isn't thinking about the standings but is focused on each game.
Good thing for the Capitals that with Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby and Grubauer, they have a goalie they can turn to each game who can steal points if needed.
"Both goalies are tremendous," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "I think we have best duo in the league. When Holts have a break, Grubi stepping up and show he can be tremendous as well."
NOTES: Jeff Zatkoff stopped four of five shots in relief of Budaj, allowing Williams' 18th goal of the season. ... Connolly has 10 goals in 39 games after scoring nine in 71 games for the Boston Bruins last season. ... Oshie's goal was the pending unrestricted free agent's 20th of the season. ... The Kings put C Jordan Nolan on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Wednesday. ... Ovechkin was honored before the game for recording his 1,000th point last month. NHL senior vice president Jim Gregory presented him with a Tiffany crystal, while Capitals owner Ted Leonsis gave Ovechkin a gold stick. During the ceremony, Leonsis held up a cutout of Ovechkin's head that was given to all fans.
Kings: Travel to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday in their third stop on a four-game road trip.
Capitals: Look to make it four in a row when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the teams' second meeting in just over two weeks.

Lowry's triple-double leads Raptors past Nets, 103-95

 Kyle Lowry was already ill, then he was injured.
Neither was going to keep him off the floor with the Toronto Raptors badly needing a victory.
Lowry finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his ninth career triple-double, and the Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets 103-95 on Sunday.
Already feeling sick, Lowry needed four stitches after cutting his right forearm on a camera mounted to the basket stanchion. But he played more than 39 minutes and recorded his first triple-double of the season.
"It's a part of the game. You're going to get injured, you're going to get hurt," Lowry said. "It's just how you find ways to get through it, and I'm always going to find a way to get through it."
Playing again without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, the slumping Raptors ended a two-game skid and won for just the third time in 11 games. Jonas Valanciunas led them with 22 points.
Terrence Ross had 17 points for the Raptors, who extended their longest winning streak ever against the Nets to eight.
Brook Lopez scored 20 for the Nets, who had 16 turnovers in the first half and finished with 22. They have lost nine in a row overall and 12 straight at home, where they haven't won in 2017.
"I thought in the second half we improved," coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's why we gave ourselves a chance, because our defense was not great but decent enough to have a chance to win the game."
Brooklyn cut a 17-point deficit to four midway through the fourth quarter but Lowry soon took over, throwing a lob to Valanciunas for a basket, making a pair of free throws and then finding DeMarre Carroll for a basket that pushed the lead back into double digits at 92-82.
DeRozan has missed seven of the last eight games because of right ankle injuries during a frustrating time for the Raptors, who snapped a five-game road losing streak.
"Good teams, bad teams, whatever it is, frustration's a part that you've got to fight through as a team," coach Dwane Casey said.
Raptors: Lowry finished 0 for 5 from 3-point range and remained with 799 3-pointers with the Raptors, two behind Morris Peterson's franchise record. ... Patrick Patterson also sat out after leaving Toronto's loss in Orlando on Friday with a bruised left knee. He has missed 11 of the last 20 games with knee injuries.
Nets: Lopez entered averaging 21.7 points against the Raptors, second-highest among Nets players with at least 10 appearances. Former Toronto star Vince Carter averaged 23.3 in 18 appearances after being traded to the Nets. ... Rookie Caris LeVert sat out to rest his sore knee.
The Raptors' struggles cost Casey a chance to coach the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game. The coach whose team had the second-highest winning percentage through Sunday's games - Cleveland's Tyronn Lue is ineligible after coaching last year - earned the spot, and Boston's Brad Stevens clinched it Friday. Casey said he was disappointed, but only because that meant the Raptors weren't playing well.
"I'd much rather for us to be playing well right now more so than coaching in the All-Star Game," Casey said. "If we were in third playing well I'd be happy, but I'm more upset about not playing well and everybody not being healthy than coaching in the All-Star Game."
Raptors players and coaches looked around in confusion during the singing of Canada's national anthem, as Broadway performer Amber Iman included some lyrics that aren't in "O Canada."
"I'm going to leave that alone, but yeah, that anthem was a lot different than I've heard over the last five years. A lot different," Lowry said. "Her voice was beautiful but the anthem, the song, the words ... have her come to Toronto, we'll come and get somebody to give her some lessons."
Raptors: Host the Clippers on Monday. Los Angeles won the first meeting this season after the Raptors won the previous four.
Nets: Travel on Tuesday to Charlotte, where they have lost three in a row.

Curry, Warriors miss shots down stretch, lose to Kings

 Stephen Curry just plain missed when it mattered most and said so afterward. Steve Kerr insists he got what he deserved being ejected for going absolutely crazy at the refs and losing his cool. The Golden State Warriors showed some flaws and played one of their worst games yet.
Draymond Green failed to knock down a 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the final buzzer and DeMarcus Cousins scored six of his 32 points in overtime and overcame several key mistakes as the Sacramento Kings snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Warriors with a wild 109-106 win Saturday night.
"We got what we deserved - before I was tossed and after," Kerr said. "It was one of the worst games we played all season. We had no purpose. The ball didn't move. I didn't even recognize our team out there tonight. Maybe we were due for one."
Curry's layup attempt with 4.9 seconds left clanked off the rim and the two-time reigning NBA MVP also missed a short jumper with 6.9 seconds left, but finished with 35.
Cousins was unable to corral the rebound on the first miss and the ball went out of bounds at the baseline to the Warriors for one more try with 6.2 ticks remaining.
"I just missed it," Curry said. "Tough way to end the game with a shot at point-blank range to erase all the mishaps earlier."
Darren Collison scored 18 points and the bench added 45 for Sacramento, which lost 117-106 to Golden State at the Golden 1 Center last month as the Warriors rallied in the second half.
Kerr was tossed with 3:34 left in the third and had to be held back near midcourt by assistant coach Mike Brown as the reigning NBA Coach of the Year moved toward official Bill Spooner. Kerr, irate and swearing after a pair of loose ball fouls on Kevon Looney 18 seconds apart, pointed and gestured while repeating profanities.
"I got what I deserved. I deserved to be ejected - so I was. I have no complaints," Kerr said. "I was angry."
After four straight Kings free throws - one for a technical on Green - Kerr erupted. Curry and Klay Thompson hit consecutive 3s, but that momentum was short-lived.
Golden State dropped to 0-3 in OT this season.
A night after recording his sixth career triple-double, Cousins had 12 rebounds and nine assists to just miss another. This win could provide some much-needed momentum for Sacramento, in a stretch with 11 of 13 home games.
With Sacramento ahead 96-95 in regulation, Cousins also became furious with Spooner and received a technical with 2:08 to play for yelling and gesturing in frustration. Curry hit the tying free throw to tie it at 96.
"There are no excuses. It's something we've been preaching for a long time," Cousins said. "I'm so proud of my team. We came out and got a big win. We competed from start to finish."
Green walked off on his own after missing a driving layin at Cousins 1:17 before halftime and going down hard by a cameraman. He grabbed his right knee, an X-ray was negative and he was back on the court by the 10:09 mark of the third.
Sacramento guard Arron Afflalo was back after missing Friday night's 105-103 home loss with a stomach virus.
Green returned from a one-game absence with a bruised left shoulder and Shaun Livingston also was back after being sidelined the past two games with a strained mid-back.
Typically the epitome of efficiency, Kevin Durant wasn't his usual steady self.
KD was held without a field goal until his dunk 3:19 before halftime and wound up with 10 points in a rare off shooting night. He was 2 for 10 from the field and missed all six of his 3-point tries, but had nine rebounds and five blocks.
Warriors: F David West, out since sustaining a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb Jan. 18 against Oklahoma City, continues to make progress and could return as soon as Wednesday given the team has a couple of days to practice and work him back into the mix.
Kings: F Omri Casspi, out the last 10 games with a strained right calf, will not return until after the All-Star break. "We're going to be a little conservative with it," coach Dave Joerger said.
Warriors: Golden State has a rare and helpful three-break between games before hosting Chicago on Wednesday.
Kings: Host the Bulls on Monday looking to snap a four-game skid in the series and get their first home win against Chicago since Nov. 20, 2014.

Smith saves penalty shot, Coyotes beat Sharks in shootout

There's something about the San Jose Sharks that brings out the best in Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.
Smith stopped Joe Pavelski in the third round of the shootout to preserve the Coyotes' 3-2 victory over the Sharks on Saturday night.
The Coyotes became the first team to beat the Sharks three times this season, improving to 3-0-1 against them.
"Mike Smith plays well against them. He's really played well," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "I think that's the biggest key, but it's a rivalry game and they're fun games to be involved in."
Smith made 38 saves, including six during a power play in overtime.
Brendan Perlini and Radim Vrbata scored in the tiebreaker for Arizona, and Logan Couture broke through for San Jose.
Shane Doan and Ryan White scored in regulation for the Coyotes, who snapped a two-game skid.
"The whole thing started with Smitty getting bumped and being down 5-on-3 for 2:06," Doan said. "Getting through that definitely creates a little emotion and got Smitty going."
Brendan Dillon and Couture scored and Martin Jones finished with 26 saves for the Sharks, who had won eight of nine.
"You have to make them pay on the power play and we didn't do that," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "You have to give Smith credit. He always plays well against us."
Following a scoreless first period, in which Arizona killed off the 5-on-3 penalty, Doan put the Coyotes ahead with a power-play goal midway through the second period.
Dillon scored his first goal of the season with 2:45 left in the second to tie it.
Couture punched in a puck on a rebound in front of the net to give the Sharks a 2-1 advantage early in the third period that lasted all of 26 seconds.
The go-ahead goal was set up when Mikkel Boedker blocked a clearing pass.
White scored an unassisted goal shortly after to tie the score again.
"That's a tough one to give up on the next shift," Couture said. "You never want to do that. Kind of kills the momentum for the team and drains the energy out of the building. It's something we don't want to continue."
The game remained tied through regulation thanks in part to some nice goaltending on both sides. One Sharks scoring opportunity late was swiped away in front of the net by Doan.
Doan did give the Sharks a power-play opportunity in overtime after tripping Tomas Hertl with 2:51 remaining.
"Shane took two bad penalties, but fortunately our PK came through," Tippett said. "The 5-on-3 kill in the first, and the one in overtime was huge."
Jones laid himself out to stop a Coyotes' scoring chance with 35 seconds remaining.
"That was a fantastic save. It got us a point," DeBoer said. "But a breakdown like that you can't happen so late."
NOTES: With the Coyotes scoring first, it snapped a nine-game streak in which the Sharks scored first. ... Doan scored his first goal in 17 games. ... White scored his third goal in seven games since returning from injury. ... The Sharks' Patrick Marleau has a six-game points streak. ... Couture has points in seven of his last eight games.
Coyotes: Host Montreal on Wednesday night.
Sharks: At Buffalo on Tuesday night in the opener of an East Coast trip.

Mikael Granlund gets first hat trick, Wild beat Canucks 6-3

 Mikael Granlund had family in attendance for his first career hat trick. In fact, his brother Markus had a stellar view of the whole thing.
Mikael Granlund got three goals against his younger brother's team, helping the Minnesota Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3 on Saturday night.
Granlund has the longest point streak of the season at 12 games, and on Saturday, he eclipsed his previous career highs in goals and points. He has 15 goals and 33 assists, and he's a big reason why the Wild sit atop the Western Conference standings with a 34-12-5 record.
"Well, a hat trick really doesn't happen too often," Mikael Granlund said. "I don't even remember if I've ever done that, so obviously it's fun, but I'm even more glad we got the win and we are on right path again."
As for playing against his kid brother, it obviously wasn't much of a distraction.
"I really try not to think about that," he said. "I think about it as a normal game, but obviously you know he is out there."
Mikko KoivuZach Parise and Mike Reilly also scored for the Western Conference-leading Wild, who bounced back after a 5-1 loss in Calgary on Wednesday. Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves.
Brandon Sutter had two goals and Bo Horvat also scored for the Canucks, who have lost three straight heading into a six-game road swing. Vancouver is five points back of the Flames for the final wild-card spot in the West.
Canucks goalie Ryan Miller made 33 saves.
In a tight-checking first period, the Wild broke through at 13:01 when Reilly blasted a shot from the faceoff circle that eluded Miller. It was Reilly's first of the season.
Jannik Hansen helped the Canucks respond by driving into the slot with three defenders on him before Sutter grabbed the loose puck and swatted it in. It was the first game back for Hansen, who had missed 17 games with a knee injury.
"It's a long time to sit out and be out of game action," Hansen said. "It's going to take a little bit."
With 24 seconds to go in the period, Mikael Granlund was left alone at the side of the Canucks' net and banged in an easy rebound to make it 2-1.
The Canucks had a power-play chance in the second, but just 11 seconds into the man advantage, Mikael Granlund stole the puck and wheeled down the ice to beat Miller short-handed.
Horvat cut the lead when he ripped a shot over Dubnyk's shoulder off a 2-on-1 to make it 3-2 at 8:36.
Parise tipped Jared Spurgeon's shot from the point 54 seconds later to restore the two-goal lead.
Before the second intermission, Mikael Granlund dished to Koivu for his 16th of the season, then Sutter smacked a rebound out of the air while on the power play for his second of the night to make it 5-3.
Mikael Granlund completed his hat trick midway through the third when Canucks defenseman Philip Larsen made an ill-fated clearing attempt in front of the net and it found its way back into Vancouver's goal.
"He's a pretty special player," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I've only seen him for 51 games. I don't know where he was in the past. I know he was a good player in the past, but his numbers weren't quit what they are now. Boy he can make plays. He skates, he defends. I can't say enough about him."
NOTES: The Canucks held a pre-game ceremony to honor captain Henrik Sedin and his recent 1,000th NHL point. ... Wild forward Alex Tuch made his NHL debut playing on Minnesota's top line. He was called up Thursday from the AHL.
Wild: Play at Winnipeg on Tuesday night.
Canucks: Play at Nashville on Tuesday night.

Hayward scores 33, Jazz rally for 105-98 win over Hornets

Quin Snyder was not thrilled with the urgency of his team.
The Utah Jazz gave up 38 points in the third quarter before deciding to pick up the defense and execute a ferocious comeback.
Gordon Hayward scored 33 points and the Jazz rallied to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 105-98 on Saturday night.
"There's an urgency we had when we got behind," Snyder said. "We get to a point where we're not playing well for a while and then it kicks in and the level raises. We have to do a better job of maintaining that, or reaching that or at least approaching that during the guts of the game. Not just at the end of the game.
"You can look at it one way and say we gave up 38 in the third quarter or say we gave up 16 in the fourth. The fact that there's such a disparity, to me, points to just focus and mental concentration."
The Jazz erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit with big contributions from Hayward, George Hill and Joe Johnson. A 21-4 run was capped by Johnson's 3-pointer from the corner that gave the Jazz a 103-96 lead with 59 seconds remaining. Hayward put on a show with a variety of step-backs and pull-ups and Johnson was a playmaker down the stretch. Hill finished with 25, including five 3-pointers.
"(Hill and Johnson) just makes it easier on me," Hayward said. "Defense can't just focus in and they were both terrific tonight. Joe, specifically, the past two games has been a playmaker for us.
"George was almost as efficient as can be. It seemed like every one was a dagger for us."
The Hornets put on a shooting clinic from behind the arc in the third quarter, but went cold in the fourth and scored just 16 points.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 18 points, and Marvin Williams added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Frank Kaminsky finished with 15 points.
The Jazz went into halftime with a 52-44 lead after trailing by double-digits in the first quarter. Dante Exum scored nine points during a 15-0 run that gave the Jazz their first lead of the game at 31-28. They closed the half with a 9-2 run highlighted by Hayward's alley-oop from Exum.
"I think we're sixth in fourth-quarter offense in the league, but we're 19th or 20th in fourth-quarter defense," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "Our first few years we were top five.
"Our fourth-quarter defense has been our biggest problem."
Hornets: Walker is dealing with an illness and did not practice Wednesday, but played. ... Charlotte was outrebounded 51-38.
Jazz: Joe Ingles and Boris Diaw started. It was the first time they started with alongside Hayward, George Hill and Rudy Gobert this season. ... Rodney Hood missed his third straight game with a right knee bone contusion and LCL sprain. He will be re-evaluated next week.
Jazz forward Derrick Favors was back on the court after missing the last two games to rest. He's been dealing with a left knee injury since December.
"I think he's found a rhythm at various times," Snyder said. "Sometimes the wear and tear of the season is just something you have to manage.
"Sometimes it's just a question of getting re-focused and taking a couple days and you're good to go."
Miles Plumlee played his first game with the Hornets after being traded from the Bucks for Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert on Thursday despite not having practiced with the team yet. Clifford hopes he can fill a similar role that the injured Cody Zeller (quad contusion) held.
"I'm hoping that he can play similar to how he did in Phoenix that year, he was really good," Clifford said. "Basket protection. He's very good laterally. He brings versatility to what you can do in your pick-and-roll defense. He's got a good idea of how to use the verticality rules, but he's also quick enough to get out and be more aggressive on the ball."
"I don't know, but we have to figure it out," Hornets forward Nicolas Batum said about the fourth quarter. "We have to stop that because we do a great job for three quarters and then we have to figure it out."
Hornets: hosts a Brooklyn Nets team that has lost eight straight on Tuesday.
Jazz: travels to face the Atlanta Hawks and the red-hot Tim Hardaway Jr. on Monday.

Popovich gets NBA-record 1,128th win as Spurs beat Nuggets

 Manu Ginobili knew how important Gregg Popovich is to the San Antonio Spurs even before the coach set the NBA record for most wins with a single franchise.
Popovich earned his 1,128th victory Saturday night, leading the Spurs to a 121-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets. He passed former Utah coach Jerry Sloan for the mark.
"The record is just a number," Ginobili said. "He didn't need that record to define what he means for this franchise, the NBA, in the last 20 years. The fact that he's been the coach of the team for so many years is already an impressive accomplishment.
"If you add five rings and this type of record, having 70 percent or more winning percentage, it's incredible what he's done. He's going to keep doing it. I'm pretty sure he's going to get some more."
Denver coach Mike Malone also had high praise for Popovich.
"It speaks to the fact that he's arguably the greatest coach the NBA has ever seen," Malone said. "It speaks to the commitment that they have made to him here in San Antonio, the longevity. Pop is a tremendous coach and the greatest accomplishment is not just the success, but also the sustained success they've had over and over again."
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 19 points in San Antonio's final home game before playing eight games on the road during its annual rodeo road trip. Ginobili and Tony Parker each added 18 points for the Spurs.
"It's important to win that one," Parker said. "We were serious tonight. The energy was good and now we have to maintain it on the road."
Jamal Murray scored 20 points off the bench and Nikola Jokic had 11 in 15 minutes for Denver, which was playing the second game of a back-to-back and fourth in five nights. The arduous schedule seemed to catch up with the Nuggets in the second half. San Antonio opened the third quarter on a 21-7 run.
Ginobili and Parker have been part of 639 of Popovich's wins, and the veterans turned back the clock in the record-setting win. The 39-year-old Ginobili set a season high for points despite sitting out the entire second half, going 4 for 5 on 3-pointers. The only player older than Ginobili to score 18-plus points for the Spurs was Tim Duncan, the final member of the team's vaunted Big Three, who had 21 points against Denver on April 8, 2016.
"Manu was on fire.," Parker said. "Look like the old days, shooting the ball like that. He played with a lot of confidence, it was great to see."
Parker finished 8 for 8 from the field after scoring just one point in the team's previous game. The 16-year veteran had four straight points midway through the first quarter, including a layup ahead of Jokic after a steal against Jameer Nelson.
Ginobili topped that with 10 points in four minutes and 16 of the team's 18 points in his initial seven minutes.
Nuggets: F Danilo Gallinari missed his second straight game with a strained left groin. Gallinari is averaging 17.2 points and 34.2 minutes, both team-highs. ... Kenneth Faried had four points and four rebounds, ending his streak of four straight double-doubles. ... Jokic, Faried, Nelson, Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris started for the second time as a unit. They won their initial outing together. ... F Darrell Arthur sat the game out for rest. Arthur missed four straight games with soreness in his lower left leg from Jan. 12-20. ... Denver entered the game third in the league in scoring at 110.4 points per game. ... The Nuggets have lost nine straight in San Antonio. Their last win here was March 4, 2012, in a 99-94 decision.
Spurs: Leonard has scored in double figures in 80 straight games. His previous longest streak was 46 in 2015. . San Antonio has scored 100-plus points in 27 consecutive games, its longest streak since 29 straight in 1988. ... The Spurs finished 3-1 on their four-game homestand. ... San Antonio has 37 alley-oop dunks in 50 games this season after recording 18 all of last season. ... Ginobili's initial 3-pointer against the Nuggets was the 1,400th of his career. His previous season high was 17 points on Dec. 18 against New Orleans.
Nuggets: Host Dallas on Monday night.
Spurs: At Memphis on Monday night.