Rally is a state of mind as Rockets secure Game 4 win in Oracle

It’s all such a blur, the man who assembled these Houston Rockets couldn’t remember exactly what sent him out of Oracle Arena on Tuesday night for some air.

“I’m not doing very well right now,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.

“He gave us everything you can have against these guys,” Morey said of Paul, who opted to forgo free agency and a new multiyear contract to play out the final year of the deal alongside James Harden in Houston. “Man, he was so good.”

Marquez (3-5) allowed one run, struck out five and walked two. Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 17th save in 19 chances.

The key for me was my tempo and my aggressiveness, Marquez said. “I was able to stay in the moment. I was trying to be one pitch at a time and I accomplished that pretty well.”

Kemp was thrown out to end the game when he tried to scamper back to first base after taking a step toward second on an infield single. Wolters backed up the play and retrieved a throw that got away. He tossed the ball to first baseman Ian Desmond in time to get Kemp as he made a headfirst dive back to the bag.

Fortunately for us, Matt made what looked like a quick attempt to second, Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Tony realized it and flipped to Desi and Desi was on it with a nice tag.”

Roberts acknowledged Kemp did take a step toward second base and said the play was not reviewable.

Final suspect in New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski’s burglary investigation arrested

The third and final suspect in connection with the burglary of New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski’s home was arrested and detained on Thursday morning after spending more than two months as a fugitive, a spokesperson from the Franklin County (Maine) Detention Center confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.

Gronkowski’s home was burglarized on Feb. 5 while he was at the Super Bowl, and his roommates helped report items stolen. The Foxborough Police Department arrested 31-year-old Anthony Almeida, the first suspect, back in March and were able to recover Gronkowski’s Apple watch, Rolex watch and rare coins from the 1800s.

Almeida was charged with breaking and entering, two counts of receiving stolen property and malicious destruction of property, after his home in Randolph, Mass., was searched.

Eric Tyrell, the 28-year-old second suspect from Foxborough, turned himself in late in March.

Chicago Bears rookie Roquan Smith had his team-issued iPad stolen from his car just a few days ago. He was promptly roasted by a columnist who, for some reason, jumped at the chance to call the first-round picksloppy and unreliable. Imagine if Smith left the keys to the car inside, too.

Lucky for Bortles, the would-be thiefwalked back in the house, for some reason?

MarQueis Gray is a typical journeyman tight end.

He’s a good in-line blocker, and while he won’t wow you with raw statistics, he is a capable pass-catcher as well. In 2016, for instance, he started seven games with the Dolphins and caught 14 passes for 174 yards.

This combination of skills has allowed Gray to last in the NFL for five seasons and counting. He may never be a star, but Gray is talented enough to continue his career as a depth player.

However, he may not be able to do so as a member of the Dolphins. Though Miami parted with Julius Thomas in the offseason, it also added A.J. Derby, Gavin Escobar, rookie second-round pick Mike Gesicki and rookie fourth-round Durham Smythe.

Green Bay will always be in the playoff hunt with Rodgers, but the defense must reach the next level to give him another Super Bowl shot.

Few seem to give the Detroit Tigers’ lineup much attention, as the team is in rebuild mode, but consider this: The team ranks 12th in runs per game (4.78) and 11th in wOBA (.323) and has the majors’ second-highest contact rate (79.0 percent of their at-bats).

The St. Louis Cardinals suffer the misfortune of the short week, with only five games scheduled, a disadvantage in a week when two other teams play eight games and another 11 play as many as seven times. The two home games against White Sox starters James Shields and Lucas Giolito boost Cardinals hitters’ matchups enough to make “known-commodity” hitters (Paul DeJong/Jose Martinez/Yadier Molina/Marcell Ozuna/Tommy Pham) worthwhile plays in shallow mixed, but this is a week to avoid ice-cold players Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong, especially in light of the team facing two left-handed starting pitchers during the weekend series against the Chicago Cubs.

These cornerbacks played well in big games. It’s a clear message to the rest of the defensive backs on the roster — which includes 2017 second-round picks Kevin King and Josh King — that the problem needs fixing. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is bringing in a new scheme, and Green Bay didn’t make a bold move in free agency at the position, other than bringing back veteran cornerback Tramon Williams.

Speaking Friday with Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Querim on ESPN’s First Take, Mahomes said he has big goals for the team this fall. Specifically, Smith asked what Mahomes thought the Chiefs’ chances legitimately should be this fall in his first full season.

Morgan Burnett is gone, too.

Winners and losers of Round 1 That’s good news in April, but the Packers have been down this road enough times. Green Bay selected Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round in 2014 and Damarious Randall in the first round in 2015. This defense has allowed 62 passing TDs the last two seasons – the only team in the league to allow more than 30 TD passes each of the last two seasons. So Gutekunst fixed the problem, but the Packers can’t keep fixing the same problem in the draft, not with Aaron Rodgers turning 35 next season and every other team in the NFC North improving.

Johnny Manziel : Browns should’ve done their ‘homework’ about him

Johnny Manziel appears to be putting some of the blame for his downfall in the NFL on the Browns.

The quarterback appeared Wednesday on The Dan Patrick Show, where he said the Browns should have researched him better before drafting him.

If Cleveland did any of their homework, they would have known I wasn’t a guy who came in every day and watch film, Manziel said. I wasn’t a guy who really knew the X’s and O’s of football.

It’s not the best comment for Manziel to make, since the free agent is trying to get back into NFL teams’ good graces.

During the playoffs, however, when James is part of the transition defense, his teams give up an average of only 1.1 points per possession. For some perspective on how big that difference is, regular-season LeBron’s transition defense puts his team as one of the five worst transition defenses in the league, while playoff LeBron’s transition defense would rank his team as the best transition defense in the league, and by a good margin.

The Cavaliers have never needed playoff LeBron more than they do this season. The Cavs have the 29th-ranked defense in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, which puts their odds of reaching the NBA Finals at 3.9 percent — well behind the Raptors (58 percent), Celtics (21 percent) and Sixers (11 percent). Without a significant switch-flip from LeBron, the Cavs’ defense is simply not good enough. If James is going to extend his personal NBA Finals streak to eight, it will be because playoff LeBron again showed his face.

Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Sunday after he and general manager Mike Maccagnan talked that they decided to rescind the offer made to Suh, according to the New York Daily News.

Our thinking just changed a bit, Johnson told reporters at the owners’ meeting (via ProFootballTalk.com).

Johnson didn’t go into much detail but he did say the move wasn’t in keeping with our long-term plan. The owner added he wasn’t involved when the offer was made to Suh, per SNY.

Yahoo Sports first reported Friday that the Jets emerged as a serious contender to land the 31-year-old even though they weren’t one of the three teams that met with him earlier this week. NFL.com later said the Jets made the biggest offer, adding, Suh would have to take less to go to the other teams … which he may do. Suh never arranged a visit with the Jets.

NFL trade rumors: Giants want two first-round picks for Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s future is becoming more and more unclear.

Despite Giants co-owner John Mara saying the Giants are not shopping Beckham, a new report surfaced that the Giants have asked for at least two first round picks in return for the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, according to ESPN.

Speculation started earlier this week that the Rams contacted the Giants about a potential trade, and it was reported Monday that Beckham would likely hold out if he wasn’t given a new contract extension as he’s entering the fifth and final year of his deal with New York.

And the Nationals needed this one. It let them rest a weary bullpen one day after a 12-inning loss to the New York Mets.

Plus, this was the first time they entered a game with a losing record since August 2015. That’s because after starting this season 4-0, they had dropped five in a row, two to the Braves, then three in a sweep against the Mets.

Backes and David Pastrnak had a goal each for Boston, with Pastrnak cutting it to 3-2 shortly before Reimer was hurt. Tuukka Rask made 22 saves.

We didn’t deserve to win and that’s the reality, Rask said. I think it’s mental, just not being sharp enough at the drop of the puck.

After beating the Bruins for the second time in three games, Florida is headed home despite an impressive 25-8-2 run to end the season, including winning their last five.

It’s disappointing. We were really hoping that we’d get a little help from some other teams and maybe get in, Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck said. I think there’s a lot of teams that didn’t want to play us if we did make it in.

Trailing 3-1 heading into the third, Boston made a furious surge, outshooting Florida 26-6 but only scoring once.

Pastrnak scored a power-play goal at 9:54 of the third. Pastrnak led the Bruins with 35 goals and had a career-high 80 points.

It has been a tough schedule for us but that’s not an excuse, Pastrnak said. The last few weeks have not been our best.

Dadonov put the game away when he scored an insurance goal with 1:49 remaining.

Steelers sign three offensive linemen

The Steelers signed three offensive linemen Monday, with tackles Joseph Cheek and Larson Graham and center Parker Collins all getting one-year deals.

Cheek, who started two seasons at guard at Texas A&M, originally signed with the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016. The Saints waived him before the start of the season, and the Texans signed Cheek to their practice squad. He spent a month there before Houston waived him and Kansas City signed him to its practice squad, where he spent the rest of 2016 and all of 2017.

Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (finger surgery) will be back in Minnesota on Tuesday to meet with team doctors. Molitor said he’s heard Santana wants to see if he can get approval to do more in his rehab.

Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 3.27 ERA) will make his third start of the season in Tuesday’s evening contest. Keuchel gave up two runs — one earned — in five innings his last start against Baltimore.

Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0, 2.51) will make his first start at Target Field as a member of the Twins. Odorizzi, who made three starts at the park with Tampa Bay, gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings at Pittsburgh last week.

George and Russell Westbrook each scored 24 points, and Oklahoma City snapped Houston’s 20-game home winning streak with a 108-102 victory.

The Thunder were down one with about seven minutes left before scoring the next 11 points.

I’m not adjusting my Ohtani pitching projections, which were already quite generous: 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 29 percent K rate over an expected 24 starts. It’s his hitting contribution that has taken me by surprise, necessitating an adjustment: I’d now call him capable of a .250-.260 batting average and .210 isolated power, plus anticipate he might come to the plate 325 times, which is enough for him to hit another 13-15 home runs. And that’s a significant advantage for fantasy managers in leagues with daily transactions, since the Angels’ clarity on his role on a day-to-day basis makes it rather easy to maximize his usage from both sides of the ball.

Said Bills coach Sean McDermott, “Whatever position it is. We’ve got a multitude of picks and at the end of the day we’re going to come out of this thing with some good football players.”

Jets don’t have a consensus as to quarterback, yet

Three weeks ago today, the Jets jumped three spots in round one, from No. 6 to No. 3. They presumably are looking for a quarterback. As explained by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets still haven’t settled on which one they want.

The chatter during the league meetings in Orlando was that the Jets want Baker Mayfield. Mehta recently explained that some within the organization have concerns about Mayfield’s height. While other quarterbacks on the short end of the spectrum have thrived from Fran Tarkenton to Doug Flutie to Drew Brees to Russell Wilson success without the ability to see over the scrum of linemen requires, among other things, great anticipation and flawless footwork.

Credit an adjustment to his stance — he minimized a leg kick he exhibited during the early stages of spring training and instead is now utilizing more of a toe-tap in his swing — for Ohtani’s improvement, and while his to-date hitting rates are obviously unsustainable, he looks like an unexpectedly handy contributor with the bat. Chances are, his weaknesses will likely be on pitches on the inner third of the plate, especially breaking balls, where his amount of patience will ultimately determine how streaky a hitter he’ll be. Ohtani’s power, though, sure looks legitimate, and it’s probably unfair to assume he’ll sport a whiff rate of 30-plus percent come season’s end.

The Cowboys used the franchise tag on Lawrence and signed Ealy to a one-year deal.

“We’re excited about Kony,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We spent a lot of time on him coming out in the draft. We visited with him a lot, and we worked him out. He was one of those players we had targeted. At the time, we traded up for DeMarcus Lawrence and that worked out well for us. Kony went to Carolina and had a good career, very impactful in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. We think he’s a good, young player with a lot of potential. We’re going to bring him in here.

“One of the things we try to do with our team is promote competition at every position. That really is the reason for the decisions that we made in the offseason, to create a competitive environment at every position across the position. We feel like that brings out the best in everybody.”

Ealy, 26, has 15 sacks in the regular season in his career. But he has five in five postseason games, including three in the Super Bowl loss to the Broncos to end the 2015 season.

No Rays of sunshine for White Sox in four-game skid

The Chicago White Sox will try to stop a four-game losing streak when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in the second meeting of a three-game series Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Chicago (3-6) has been outscored 21-12 during its early season skid. The White Sox are 0-4 at home this season as wet, cold weather has frustrated hitters and pitchers alike. It is the club’s first 0-4 start at home since 1987.

We’ve had a couple over this homestand actually where we haven’t been able to get that big hit, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said to The Athletic. We’re in the mindset sometimes of a hitter, they start thinking about the hit as opposed to the pitch and just getting something that you can handle.

Fulmer has faced the Rays once in his brief career — a two-inning relief appearance in which he gave up one run. He picked up the win out of the bullpen over Tampa Bay, which is about 80 miles from where he stood out as a prep athlete in Winter Haven, Fla.

For Tampa Bay, left-hander Blake Snell (0-1, 5.00 ERA) will try to bounce back after the New York Yankees roughed him up for five runs in 3 1/3 innings his last time out on April 4. Snell gave up home runs to Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in that game, during which he threw 90 pitches while getting only 10 outs.

Snell, 25, has been far more effective against the White Sox during his two-plus seasons in the majors. The suburban Seattle native is 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA in two career starts against Chicago. He has not allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings, including a 6 2/3-inning effort last year and a rain-shortened 2 2/3-inning outing in 2016.

White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia will look to reboot his bat after going 0-for-5 in the series opener. Garcia entered the day with a three-game hitting streak and five multi-hit performances this season to lead the team.

What was the Heisman Trophy winner’s biggest message? Enjoy the process.

Right now you have a little bit of free time. This is the part where they’re all done with their pro day and so you can’t stress about the draft, Manziel said. I stressed about it too much and I think it made my time a little bit uneasy.

If I were to sit back and really enjoy it and enjoy the time with my family because you know the day after you get drafted and you fly to your team, you get two days off and then you go straight back to rookie OTA’s and then you’re straight into regular OTA’s, straight into a couple week break and then you’re straight into the season. And that season in the NFL was a grind and so just for them I wish them all the best.

Mason Rudolph waiting to prove critics wrong in NFL Draft and beyond

The consensus opinion ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft is that Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is the fifth- or sixth-best quarterback in the class.

The Cowboys quarterback told Jim Rome in January he thinks he’s the best quarterback in the class after completing 65 percent of his passes for a nation-leading 4,904 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2017. But most mock drafts and projections have Rudolph — generally considered a late first-round to second-round pick — behind Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson.

Rudolph said he started private training the week after Oklahoma State’s 30-21 victory over Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl, but was set back by a mid-foot sprain that left him in a walking boot for three weeks. That prevented him from working out at the Senior Bowl (he attended interviews and meetings) and limited him at the Combine (he abstained from agility drills). By the time teams attended his pro day last week in Stillwater, however, he was back to 100 percent.

It was there Rudolph was seen having an extended conversation with Steelers brass, including head coach Mike Tomlin. Rudolph has also reportedly been targeted by Denver and Arizona, and continues to have meaningful conversations with several teams — though he has been asked not to reveal which franchises have shown interest.

In those conversations, the topics have ranged from how Oklahoma State’s offense translates to the NFL to Rudolph’s strengths, weaknesses and role in the Cowboys’ offense.

Without Andre Roberson, who is a known Harden-stopper (or as much of one as can exist on this planet), George has taken the primary assignment but went to the bench shortly after Harden’s 3 for a quick rest. Russell Westbrook took over the assignment, likely to just spell George until he could return. But Westbrook, who infuriates some with his tantalizing but very inconsistent defensive ability, cranked it up. And when George checked back in after about a minute, Westbrook told him not to switch back. The reigning MVP was taking the expected MVP.

“When the game is on the line, I knew what needed to be done,” Westbrook said. “I told Paul and Corey [Brewer] to take somebody else. I got him.”

He fought over every screen, jumped passing lanes and frustrated Harden. It sparked a 9-0 run for the Thunder to go up eight midway through the fourth, which included a Westbrook 3, a Westbrook layup and a Westbrook steal and pass to George for two free throws.

Westbrook shows relentless defense vs. HardenRussell Westbrook knocks the ball out of bounds and then steals it from James Harden in the 4th quarter.

Donnie Jones wants to keep playing

The Eagles released Donnie Jones from the reserve/retired list earlier Wednesday, and Ian Rapoport reports it came at the punter’s request. Jones wants to continue his career.

Pelicans: They improved to 26-25 vs the West. … They won the season series 3-1. … New Orleans hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2007-08.

Clippers: C Boban Marjanovic scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth. … Starting guards Austin Rivers (right elbow soreness) and Lou Williams (sprained right ankle) sat out, but are likely to return for Wednesday’s season finale.

Since shaving his beard last week, Mirotic has played like a new man. He came in averaging 28 points and shooting 56 percent from the field, compared to 14.6 points and 28 percent shooting with the beard he’d had since 2013. “You look like you’re 18 now, so you’re getting some calls,” Gentry told Mirotic.

Rookie C.J. Williams was signed to a multi-year contract after being a two-way player this season. The 28-year-old guard has appeared in 37 games for the Clippers — he started Monday — and 16 games for their NBA G League affiliate in Ontario. The North Carolina State graduate played in France, Greece and Italy and the G League before signing with the Clippers last fall. “I actually cried for about an hour,” said Williams, who surprised his visiting parents with the news. “You think of all the things you’ve done to get to this point.” Coach Doc Rivers said Williams is “a great, great person to have in your locker room. He came in and proved he’s an NBA player.”

“I mean, listen, throughout a long season if you’re able to accomplish feats no matter what’s going on, you should always try to appreciate it, try to take time,” James said. “I’ve been one, I’ve kind of like been a hypocrite [with] that because I’m always moving and trying to figure how we can be better the next day or whatever the case [might] be. So, it’s always hard for me to be like, ‘OK, another division crown.’ Even after all that’s gone on with our team and our ballclub this year, but it’s a pretty cool thing.”

The Cavs’ struggles this season are well chronicled — starting with trading away franchise stalwart Kyrie Irving in the offseason for an injured Isaiah Thomas; to Thomas, as well as Jae Crowder, struggling to fit in; to persistent injuries suffered by just about everybody on the roster not named James, including major injuries to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson; to dealing away six players at the trade deadline and incorporating four new ones; to JR Smith being suspended for throwing a bowl of soup at an assistant coach; to Kyle Korver mourning the loss of his younger brother; to head coach Tyronn Lue needing to take a leave of absence to address serious chest pains and other ailments.