The NBA's most surprising team is the...

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The NBA's most surprising team is the...

From Comcast SportsNetOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mark Jackson received a congratulatory text message from Hall of Famer Reggie Miller that might have seemed a bit strange after his Golden State Warriors grinded out a win against the Western Conference's worst team.Big or small, no Warriors win goes unnoticed or is insignificant these days.David Lee had 26 points and nine rebounds, Klay Thompson scored 19 points and Golden State brought its surprising road run home with a 103-96 victory over the struggling New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night."He congratulated us on the win, but he also said how impressive it was because of the first game being back at home after success for a young team," Jackson said of Miller, a longtime NBA friend and former broadcasting colleague. "For us, it could've been a setup game. But I've got a different group in there. They deserve a whole lot of credit."After going 6-1 on the season's longest road stretch, the Warriors built a 14-point lead in the second quarter and held off the Hornets late. Golden State (17-8) is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, when the team began 21-8.A franchise that has missed the playoffs 17 of the last 18 seasons is suddenly starting returning to its winning ways."One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," Lee said. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."Ryan Anderson scored 28 points off the bench and Anthony Davis had 15 points and 16 rebounds in his first start in a month for the Hornets, who lost their eighth straight to fall to 5-19 this season.Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack each scored 16 points to help Golden State hold off their former team, with each making a pair of free throws in the final minutes. New Orleans sent Jack to Golden State as part of a three-team deal with Philadelphia, and Laundry signed a free-agent deal with the Warriors.While Jack called facing the Hornets "just another game," Landry laughed off that notion."Not for me. And I don't think it was for him. Not at all, man," said Landry, who added nine rebounds. "Jarrett was extra amped-up and I was too, man. We didn't need a 5-hour (energy drink), we didn't need a speech, we didn't need nothing like that. We were ready to play yesterday."The Warriors hadn't played at Oracle Arena since Dec. 3 and treated fans to a video montage of the road trip during pregame introductions. They controlled the pace for most of the game, but the Hornets almost erased all the good vibes with a frantic fourth quarter rally.Davis caught a half-court pass from Greivis Vasquez and converted a layup over Landry for a three-point play that capped a 14-4 Hornets run to tie the game at 92. Landry answered with two free throws, Stephen Curry made a pull-up jumper and Jack added another pair from the line to put the Warriors ahead 98-92 with 1:24 remaining."It's just a tough loss for us, especially when you tie it up, you have a chance to win. All you need is a couple stops and a couple of buckets," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "We just haven't found that closing mentality, a couple guys who can knock down a shot or even get to the free throw line."The Warriors extended the momentum from their East Coast trip -- which included a win at defending champion Miami -- and added some style points, too.Curry's left-handed pass off the dribble split two defenders en route to rookie Festus Ezeli, who tapped the ball to Lee for a dunk. And on the last play of the first quarter, Charles Jenkins brought an announced sellout crowd of 19,596 roaring to its feet with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper.Landry kept the surge going in the second quarter when he started a three-point play with a reverse layup over Roger Mason. He flexed his biceps in celebration and made the free to give Golden State a 38-24 lead.Williams had restructured the Hornets' starting lineup in hopes of shaking the losing streak. Anderson came off the bench and Robin Lopez moved from center to power forward to make room for Davis.Davis, the top pick out of Kentucky in June's draft, started for the first time since Nov. 17 at Milwaukee. He had come off the bench the previous four games after sitting out 11 games with a left ankle injury.The result remained the same."They just had some great plays at the stretch," Anderson said. "We were getting stops but we made some mistakes down the stretch, and we weren't running the plays right at the end. Just little things, a little slippage."NOTES:Lee's streak of consecutive double-doubles ended at seven games. ... Williams said he's still not sure when PG Eric Gordon will return from a right knee injury that has sidelined him all season. For now, he's trying to stay patient. "My pastor taught me something a long time ago called present discomfort for future gains," Williams said. "And that's what we're kind of going through as a team." ... A moment of silence was held before the game for the victims of the Connecticut elementary school shooting last week.

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

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Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

 

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

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Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.