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8 – MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2006



Miller wins battle of big Thornton continues to

men against Ming

shine in playoff run

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Brad Miller had one primary thought entering Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets — make Yao Ming work.

Sacramento’s veteran cen- ter outplayed the more herald- ed 7-foot-6 Yao, getting 30 points and 11 rebounds in the Kings’ 86-77 victory that moved them closer to a play- off spot in the Western Conference.

The Kings, who have won three straight and six of seven, reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to three. Currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for sev- enth place, the Kings have four games remaining, three of them at home.

Miller continually made Houston pay for clogging up the middle with Yao. He made 10 of 18 shots, most of them from the perimeter, in helping Sacramento to an early 16-2 lead in a game where Houston never led.

Besides being productive on offense, Miller also kept Yao in check through much of the game, especially during the first half when the Kings led by 14 points.

Yao got off to a slow start, yet still finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Frustrated at times, he also had six turnovers, five fouls, no blocks and one technical.

“You’ve got to tire him out, push him, run him,” Miller said. “You need to make him work at both ends of the court.”

Mike Bibby scored 23 points and had two of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quar- ter to halt Houston’s come- back. Ron Artest had 15 points and Bonzi Wells added 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Although hardly at their best, the Kings had enough to get by struggling Houston. The victory increased Sacramento’s lead to three games over New Orleans and Utah, who are tied for ninth in the Western Conference.

“It’s a ’W.’ I don’t care if it was by one point or 100,” Wells said. “We’re keeping this thing rolling.”

Juwan Howard scored 22 points and Luther Head added 13 for Houston, which has lost four of five.

Clinging to a two-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Kings pro- duced a 9-2 run. Shareef Abdur-Rahim dunked off a fast break to conclude the run, putting Sacramento ahead 76- 67 with 4:26 remaining.

“They are a great team. I don’t think they missed a shot down the stretch,” Houston’s Keith Bogans said. “We had some coverages and miscom- munications coming down the stretch and they capitalized.”

Following a quiet first half in which he was 2-of-6 and scored seven points, Yao became more assertive in the second half.

He scored eight points in the third quarter, when Houston cut the Kings’ lead to 64-59.

Bonds wants wins, not home runs


The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds can live with low batting numbers and no home runs as long as his teammates keep producing.

Bonds drew his sixth and seventh walks of the season,

struck out



out in

and San

Francisco’s 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

He remains stalled at 708 career home runs one week into the season, not yet even coming close to hitting one out of the ballpark.

“It’s all right. I’ll turn it around,” said Bonds, seven

homers shy of passing Babe Ruth’s 714 and 48 away from breaking Hank Aaron’s mark of 755. “I ain’t hitting any- thing.”

Bonds is 2-for-12 for a .167 batting average. On Sunday, his biggest contributions were scoring a run and making a sprinting catch on a high fly by Chipper Jones near foul territory in shallow left.

“I’ll take a 2-for-the-rest- of-the-season as long as we win the World Series,” Bonds said after the game. “I have not swung the bat well in the past and the team has won games. There are times you’re going to be a big part of it and

times you’re not going to be part of it. ... It’s just fun to win. I’ll be fine.”

Bonds “tweaked” his trou- blesome right knee — which had three operations last year

  • during his walk leading off

the second.

“It was a down ball in the dirt,” he said. “I popped my knee. It shot through my whole body. It calmed down through the game.”

Bonds isn’t sure what days he will play in the coming week, when the Giants have home night games against the Houston Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday and a day game Thursday.


The Associated Press

SAN JOSE — In between the scoreboard- watching and frequent goal celebrations dur- ing San Jose’s impressive surge toward the playoffs, the Sharks still find time to marvel at Joe Thornton’s impressive passing.

In fact, Thornton’s skill might be the biggest reason San Jose is making a playoff surge at all.

Captain Patrick Marleau tied the Sharks’ single-season points record, Jonathan Cheechoo scored his 49th goal and San Jose won its fourth straight game down the playoff stretch, beating the weary Dallas Stars 4-1 Sunday night.

Marleau and Cheechoo both got their goals on second-period passes from Thornton as the Sharks moved into a seventh-place tie with Edmonton in the Western Conference standings with 91 points — and San Jose has played two fewer games than the Oilers.

Marleau scored his 84th point on a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the second period, tying Owen Nolan’s franchise record. Cheechoo, who scored 104 seconds earlier on a one- timer from Thornton, already surpassed Nolan’s team record for goals March 25.

“I should have had a couple of goals earli- er with (Thornton),” said Marleau, who also set a franchise record with his 20th power- play goal of the season. “I’m glad he stuck with me and found me the third time.”

Thornton also set a league record for the most points by a player who changed teams during the season. Thornton, acquired in a trade with Boston on Nov. 30, is second in the NHL with 113 points — one more than Bernie Nicholls scored for the Kings and the Rangers in 1989-90.

The Sharks were all smiles as they packed up for a quick trip to Phoenix for a game Monday night — well, all except Cheechoo, who had to speed home to pick up the travel bag he forgot to bring to the arena.

Rookies Steve Bernier and Patrick Rissmiller also scored and Vesa Toskala made 21 saves for the Sharks. They got their fourth victory in the eight-game season series with the Stars, whose frustrations with a tough stretch of their schedule resulted in a series of cheap shots leading to 28 penalty minutes in the first two periods.

“We thought they might be a little weary, especially this time of year, and psychologi- cally they can go up or down,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “You want to jump a team

like that as quickly as you can, and we had a lot of energy.”

After going unbeaten on a three-game road trip, San Jose returned to a sold-out Shark Tank to begin a brutal stretch of five games in seven days. The Stars, who played in Phoenix on Saturday night, know a bit about brutal schedules as well.

“We’re going to run into that during the playoffs,” forward Bill Guerin said. “We’re going to be tired. We’re going to be more beaten up than we are now, so we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to get ourselves ready to go.”

Sergei Zubov scored and Marty Turco made 32 saves while taking two foolish minor penalties for the Stars, who lost for the fourth time in six games. Turco got a rough- ing penalty in the second period and an inter- ference call in the third for checking Marleau to the ice behind his net.

“You put a desperate team on the power play nine times in the first two periods, and you are going to get what you earn,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “The referees were a non-factor tonight. It was all us.”

Mike Modano, the Stars’ leading scorer and a perennial problem for the Sharks, missed his second straight game with a left knee injury. Defenseman Willie Mitchell also missed the game to rest an undisclosed upper-body injury — but with the Pacific Division champions essentially locked into the No. 2 seed, Dallas’ main concern is keep- ing its key players healthy for the postseason.

Zubov got his 13th goal during a 5-on-3 Dallas advantage to cut the Sharks’ lead to 2- 1 in the second period, but San Jose replied when Thornton stole the puck behind Dallas’ net and instantly found Cheechoo.

And then the Stars lost it. After Turco roughed Bernier to set up a 5-on-3 disadvan- tage, Marleau got his career-best 34th goal on a cross-ice pass from Thornton. Steve Ott then snapped, earning 14 minutes in penalties by pummeling Sharks rookie Grant Stevenson for unclear reasons.

Notes: Thornton, the NHL’s second-lead- ing scorer behind the Rangers’ Jaromir Jagr, has assisted on 32 of Cheechoo’s 42 goals since the trade. ... Tippett on Mitchell: He has a bit of a bump, slash or bruise. We’re going to rest him for a couple of days.” ... The Sharks signed two draft picks during the weekend. RW Devin Setoguchi was their first-round pick last summer, and D Dan Spang was a second-round selection in 2002.

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