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Zack Cozart singled home two runs,
There is nothing less appealing about the NBA than its predictability. Walter Brown Celtics Jersey . At the start of any season, anyone with the slightest basketball IQ can identify roughly half-a-dozen teams that have a true chance of winning a championship. That team that no one saw coming raising the Larry OBrien Trophy at the end of the season? Well, it never happens. And while there are always surprises from year-to-year, teams that rocket up the standings over the course of a season or two without a major overhaul are rare. Its a sport where it can be a very long and hard road going from being really bad to being very good, especially if youre a team that isnt lucky enough to land a superstar, one of those players who can turn a teams fortunes almost with his presence alone. All of which makes the Toronto Raptors turnaround over the course of a little more than 12 months that much more amazing. Two seasons ago this week, the Raptors were 4-15 after 19 games. A year ago, they were 7-12. Right now, they are 15-4, best record in the Eastern Conference. Things like that just dont happen in the NBA, where success follows the obvious movement of talent around the league. The NBA is the easiest league to determine who will be good and who will be bad at the start of a season. And at the start of last season, there was no shortage of those predicting the Toronto Raptors would be very bad, and for quite a while. It would be years by the time they next made the playoffs, and by then, there would be hardly anyone from this roster still on it. Maybe Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors would have to tank a season or two or three and hope to land one of those generational talents around whom they could build for better times. None of that happened. And yet here are the Raptors, having defied almost every rule of the universe when it comes to how the NBA works, suddenly being recognized as one of the better teams in the NBA, the best Toronto team ever, and an apparent legitimate contender to represent the East in an NBA Final next spring. Think about all the counterintuitive qualities of this team: - It went from bad to good without anyone seeing it coming - It did so over the course of essentially one season - It has no superstar player Some may be ready to suggest Kyle Lowry has become an NBA superstar, although even that notion itself is counterintuitive since NBA players rarely blossom into superstars in their late 20s. The whole thing is part genius, part accident, part chemistry and part smarts. It took luck and timing and a special group of players who dont see themselves as too good to be playing in Toronto. But somehow its worked and we continue to be treated to the kind of phenomenon that is ever so rarely witnessed in the NBA. Dennis Johnson Celtics Jersey . After seven wins in a row, they have to do it one more time to get into the playoffs. Gordon Hayward Jersey . You can catch all of the action LIVE on TSN2 at 6pm et/3pm pt. The Heat reached that mark Saturday night when they ruined the Philadelphia 76ers home opener. . THE MICHAEL JORDAN FLU GAME First this famous basketball moment.  The story goes like this. “Game 5, known as "The Flu Game", was one of Michael Jordans most memorable. CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Held to three hits in the opener of a doubleheader, the Padres had a season-high three homers to gain a split and keep their momentum going. Rene Rivera hit the first of San Diegos three homers, and Tyson Ross allowed three hits in seven innings Thursday night, leading the Padres to a 6-1 victory and a day-night split with the Cincinnati Reds. Johnny Cueto pitched a three-hitter for his second shutout in the opener, a 5-0 victory. San Diego did a turnabout in the second game, holding Cincinnati to three hits while getting nine of their own. "The guys came out determined in the second game to put some at-bats together," Padres manager Bud Black said. The Padres won their first series on the road this season, taking two of three. They have won five of their last six games, their best stretch of the season. Ross (5-3) walked five batters -- including three in the first inning -- and struck out eight including Joey Votto three times. Once he settled in after the first inning, the Reds got only one more runner to second base. "In the first inning, the sinker was pretty good," Rivera said. "It was nasty. It was a little down in the strike zone. We told Tyson to keep it closer to the strike zone." Rivera hit a two-run homer off left-hander Jeff Francis (0-1), who was called up to make his Reds debut. Francis gave up three runs in five innings. Everth Cabrera and Yonder Alonso hit solo shots off the bullpen, their first homers of the season. Alonso, who went to San Diego as part of the trade for starter Mat Latos in 2011, also had an RBI single in his former ballpark. "I played here a lot of years," Alonso said. "Obviously its a special place. I know a lot of those guys. Its fun, like playing back in the old days. I was reminiscing with a couple of those guys." In the opener, Cueto extended his season-opening streak of domination against a team that has been shut out more tthan any other in the majors -- seven times. Jaylen Brown Celtics Jersey. San Diego came into the doubleheader last in the NL in batting average (.222) and runs (118). Cueto struck out eight, walked two and threw 116 pitches. Cueto is the first Red to go at least seven innings in each of his first nine starts since Bucky Walters in 1944. Asked if hes the best pitcher in the majors now, Cueto didnt equivocate. "I would say yes because the numbers talk and my numbers are going to talk for me," Cueto said, with assistant trainer Tomas Vera interpreting. Brandon Phillips homered off Ian Kennedy (2-5) and Zack Cozart singled home two runs, part of a three-hit game for the shortstop. The Reds got runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth, and Phillips connected for his third homer. In his last 11 games, Phillips is 14 for 39 with seven doubles, two homers and five multihit games. Cozart snapped an 0-for-15 streak with runners in scoring position when he singled home two runs in the sixth. Kennedy gave up a season-high five runs and 11 hits in six innings. San Diegos Seth Smith singled in the opener, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games. He sat out the second game. Cincinnatis Todd Frazier singled in both games, extending his career-best streak to 14 games. NOTES: The Padres acquired OF Jake Goebbert in a deal that sent utility player Kyle Blanks to Oakland. The Padres will also get another player to be determined or cash in the deal. Goebbert batted .257 with six homers and 25 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento this season. He was assigned to Triple-A El Paso. Blanks played in five games with the Padres this season, going 2 for 10. ... The Reds optioned right-handed reliever Nick Christiani to Louisville before the first game, then added him as their extra player for the second game. Reliever Kevin Quackenbush was San Diegos extra player. Christiani didnt get into the game, but Quackenbush pitched the ninth. ' ' '

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