Lochte, Phelps stunned in freestyle relay

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Lochte, Phelps stunned in freestyle relay

From Comcast SportsNet

LONDON (AP) -- The United States broke out the big guns in hopes of taking down the favored Australians in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay Sunday night.

Michael Phelps was swimming for the Americans.

So was Ryan Lochte.

The U.S. coaches decided to send out a completely different lineup in the evening final, going with Nathan Adrian in the leadoff spot, followed by Phelps and Cullen Jones, with Lochte taking the anchor leg.

While that quartet sounds imposing, the Americans remained underdogs against the defending world champions from Down Under. Australia had three of the four members from its 2011 team in Shanghai, leading off with James "The Missile" Magnussen, followed by Matt Targent and Eamon Sullivan. The only newcomer to the squad was no surprise: James "The Rocket" Roberts going against Lochte in the final spot.

Magnussen has the fastest 100 free time ever in a textile suit, posting 47.10 seconds at the Australian trials in March. Roberts has the second-fastest time in the world this year, 47.63.

The Americans hoped to ride Lochte's wave to an upset victory. He was coming off a dominating win in the 400 individual medley on the opening night of the games, beating Phelps by more than 4 seconds. But Lochte could be a bit tired, having to swim both the prelims and semifinals of the 200 free before he competed in the relay.

But there are also questions about Phelps after his disappointing fourth-place finish in the 400 IM. This was the first time since 2000 that he didn't win a medal in an Olympic race, having captured 14 golds and two bronzes in Athens and Beijing.

Phelps had a chance to swim another eight-event program in London, but he dropped the 200 free because he said he wanted to be at his best in the 400 free relay. The Americans were looking to defend their Olympic title after winning in dramatic fashion at Beijing when Jason Lezak pulled off an improbable rally to edge France's Alain Bernard at the end, keeping Phelps on pace to win a record eight gold medals.

"We were open-minded coming in," Gregg Troy, head coach of the U.S. men's team, said after the prelims. "We did talk to eight guys and told them they could be on the relay. Quite frankly, we feel like any of the eight could do a real good job. It's just a matter of which ones. We can only swim four. So we put our heads together and decided which four it was."

Jimmy Feigen, Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens and Lezak competed in the morning, posting the second-fastest time behind an Australian team that included Magnussen and Roberts.

While Grevers posted the fastest split time, he seemed resigned to being left off the evening relay even before he got the news. He had no problem giving up a spot to Lochte, even though he has never swam in the 400 free relay in the Olympics and doesn't have a lot of experience at that distance.

"You've got to play with what's hot, and that's a good hand right now," Grevers said. "Ryan Lochte is a good hand."

Adrian and Jones earned their spots on the relay by going 1-2 in the 100 free at the U.S. trials.

"All four of those guys have proven themselves time and again," Grevers said. "I don't have any doubt Michael will throw out an incredibly fast split. Nathan and Cullen showed themselves at trials. They're always very trustworthy. And Ryan, you saw him blow the 400 IM out of the water. That guy's hot, and you've got to go with what's hot.

"It's a strong group no matter what happens."

Troy insisted it was more than a two-country race. France has another strong team with Amaury Leveaux, Fabien Gilot, Clement Lefert and rising star Yannick Agnel. Russia could also be a contender, the coach added.

"It's a great field," Troy said. "It's probably the best 400 freestyle relay field ever."

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Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

Celtics-Pistons preview: C's need to defend their top-four spot in East

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- On Friday night, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan absolutely torched the Boston Celtics. The game before that, it was Chicago’s Jimmy Butler giving the Celtics major fits with a barrage of baskets. 

Both were All-Star starters this year, the kind of lofty status that helps explain how the Celtics were so defensively-challenged in their efforts in limiting them.

Detroit doesn’t have a bona fide high-scoring perimeter star like those other teams, but don’t think for a minute that tonight’s game will be a breeze for the Celtics. Boston (37-21) comes in having lost two in a row to Chicago and Toronto, respectively. The Raptors loss was especially painful because it assured the Raptors would get the higher seed in the playoffs if these two teams finished with an identical record. 

Boston hopes to secure an edge over the Pistons tonight with a victory that will give them the season series, three games to one. While it may seem a bit early to get too caught up in tie-breakers and their importance, the last thing Boston wants is to finish the regular season tied with one or more teams, and wind up with the lower seed because they lost the head-to-head series. 

“You hear people say every game counts; it’s true,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We need to win as many games as we can because you never know which game could be the difference between having home court or not.”

If Boston continues to find ways to win and finish with a tie-free, top-four finish in the East, they will begin the playoffs at the TD Garden for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Meanwhile the Pistons are currently eighth in the East and, like the Celtics, they too opted to stand pat at the trade deadline. And like Boston, they are looking for growth from within as they try to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. 

“We’re not real happy with how we’ve played up to this point overall,” said Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations and head coach. “But we still have a young group. As much as you would like the progress to be steadily uphill, it’s not always. That doesn’t mean you lose faith in your guys. At the end of the day, we ended up standing pat, which is pretty much what we expected to do.”

One of Boston’s biggest concerns coming into the game will be rebounding. It was among the many factors contributing to Boston’s loss on Friday. But as much as execution at both ends of the floor will be a factor, effort will be just as vital if not more, to the success of the Celtics in the playoffs. There were plenty of reasons as to why Boston lost on Friday night, with effort being near the top of the list. 

“They played harder than us,” said Celtics forward Jae Crowder. 

And that was surprising when you consider what was at stake – a chance to push their lead over Toronto to five games with a couple dozen to go.

Rookie forward Jaylen Brown has heard all the reasons and explanations as to why the Celtics have hit a mini-hiccup following back-to-back losses. And he has also heard how Boston blew a golden opportunity to beat Toronto with Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry still out. 

“We didn’t have one of our key guys, either,” said Brown, referring to Avery Bradley still being out with a foot injury. So it’s basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t’ matter who is on the floor. You have to do your job; we just have to do our job.”