From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Bronson Arroyo had never won in San Francisco before pitching a playoff masterpiece.There were all kinds of memorable firsts this weekend for the gutsy Cincinnati Reds, who beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0 on Sunday night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their NL division series -- and head home to Ohio on quite a roll.Ryan Ludwick hit his first postseason home run and Ryan Hanigan drove in his first playoff run. More than anything on this night, it was Arroyo's turn to celebrate on what he figured to be a fun flight back to Cincinnati."We couldn't put ourselves in a better situation," he said. "It doesn't mean you're going to close it out, but for us personally, I know the fans are going to be as jacked as they have ever been in that ballpark since it has been built, which is going to be nice."Arroyo, who was winless in his first six starts in San Francisco, retired his first 14 batters and delivered a gem a day after 19-game winner Johnny Cueto went down with a back injury.A pair of Ryans provided the big hits. Ludwick connected leading off the second inning for his first career playoff homer and Hanigan hit a two-run single in the fourth and a later RBI single. Jay Bruce added a two-run double and Joey Votto had three hits in his first multihit postseason game."Coming on the road, you think about getting one as a success and victory," Bruce said. "To be able come here and get two is very important."Former San Francisco skipper Dusty Baker came into his old stomping grounds by the bay and left with two commanding victories 10 years after managing the Giants within six outs of a World Series title before falling short.He walked through the hallway afterward greeting cheering fans with smiles, high-fives, hugs, waves and even a few hang-loose signs."We still love you, Dusty!" one woman yelled.Many fans didn't stick around until the end to see the Giants get handed their worst playoff shutout in franchise history.Game 3 in the best-of-five series is Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Homer Bailey (13-10), who pitched a no-hitter Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh, takes the mound as the Reds try to close out the series against Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (14-9).The Reds won their first playoff game in 17 years by taking Game 1 without their ace Saturday night, and now they're going back home looking for their own sweep after the Phillies eliminated them in a frustrating three-game first round two years ago."You're not comfortable at all until it's over," Baker said. "We've been there before. It's hard to take the last breath out of anything."The Reds will try for their first postseason sweep since beating the Dodgers in the first round in 1995. Cincinnati got swept in the NL championship series that year by Atlanta to start what became a seven-game postseason losing streak before Saturday's win.The shaggy-haired Arroyo, the right-hander with that high leg kick slightly resembling the familiar motion of Giants Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, went untouched before Brandon Belt's two-out single to the gap in right-center with two out in the fifth. San Francisco didn't get another hit until Pablo Sandoval lined a double off the right-field arcade with two outs in the ninth."You hate to get beat like that, especially at home," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It happened. We know where we're at right now. We know our backs are to the wall. ... They've done a great job all year bouncing back."The 35-year-old Arroyo worked ahead and had four straight strikeouts during one stretch to baffle the Giants.Arroyo's seven innings marked his longest postseason outing in five starts and 13 appearances -- and he couldn't have picked a better moment to do it.Cueto threw all of eight pitches in Saturday's 5-2 win before leaving with back spasms, and Mat Latos and a patchwork pitching staff handled the rest.Baker said he picked Arroyo for Game 2 here in part because the righty is susceptible to giving up home runs after he allowed 26 this year. And AT&T Park is "one of the most forgiving ballparks in baseball."Arroyo thoroughly outpitched Madison Bumgarner to beat the Giants for the first time since 2008. He had gone 0-2 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts since, getting two no-decisions facing San Francisco this season.And he took the hard-luck loss in Game 2 against the Phillies in 2010 as the victim of a blown save.Boy did he give the bullpen a break with this one. Baker might have left him in longer had it not been a long inning before."A no-hitter in this type of environment is nearly impossible," Arroyo said. "A win for the ballclub is the pinnacle, nirvana."Cincinnati beat San Francisco's two best pitchers on their home field. Matt Cain lost Game 1.Bumgarner had pitched a one-hitter June 28 against the Reds at home, but was nothing close to that dominant this time.The last time Baker managed in a playoff setup like this season -- with the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games -- he was on the other end. In 1997, while managing the favored Giants, San Francisco lost the first two games in Florida and the Marlins completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park en route to the World Series title.Baker has felt good about these Reds all along, even more so after recently missing 11 games while recovering from a mini-stroke, including when they clinched the NL Central."He's kind of the heartbeat of this team," Bruce said. "To have him back for the last series and starting the playoffs, especially in San Francisco, where he obviously has a ton of history and is a storied manager here, it's good. It gives us a vibe that's pretty easy to play for."He is getting contributions from throughout his lineup and a ready-for-anything pitching staff.On Saturday, it was Brandon Phillips with three hits and a two-run homer and Bruce with a solo shot. The Reds added on late in Game 2 against the Giants' typically reliable bullpen with Bruce's eighth-inning double, a run-scoring triple from Drew Stubbs and an RBI single by Phillips.Ludwick, who came in just 1 for 16 against Bumgarner, silenced the orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,505 AT&T Park in a hurry when he sent the first pitch of the second inning over the center-field wall.The Reds sure made the Giants' pitcher friendly ballpark feel longball friendly the way they hit in these two games.Many of the fans quickly made for the exits after the Reds went ahead 6-0 on Bruce's two-run double in the eighth."We need to go to their place and play aggressive and try to change the momentum," Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro said. "Keep fighting, you never know what's going to happen. Their momentum is really good right now."Tim Lincecum entered in relief for the Giants in the top of the sixth trailing 4-0. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, whose rocky season kept him out of the playoff rotation, pumped his fist after striking out Hanigan to end the sixth before a scoreless seventh.NOTES:Arroyo had never gone six innings in the postseason before Sunday. ... San Francisco was shut out six times during the regular season, tied for second-fewest in the NL with Philadelphia. ... Cueto returned to Cincinnati along with Bailey. ... 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria threw out the ceremonial first pitch and stopped by the clubhouse. "I'm very touched," he said. "The fans, they remember and appreciate everything. I'm never going to forget this time. They still remember what we did in 2010. It's unbelievable."
BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.
When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.
But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.
IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston
“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”
Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.
“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.
Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.
But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.
As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”
Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”
While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.
“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”
For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.
And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.
That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.
“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”
Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.
In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.
“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”
For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.
One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.
So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season.
In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare.
Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI..
Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career.
The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game.
Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins:
Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning
Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33
Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17
Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack.
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway
Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio
Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24
Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors.
Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe
Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27
Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21
Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career.
Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien
Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28
Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24
Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost
Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.