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09-29-2018, 10:46 PM,
#1
FRESH LOOK
Already owning one of the strongest defensive lines in the league Michael Frolik Jersey , the Minnesota Vikings have made another addition to their front four this summer.

He even was a former first-round draft pick.

Anthony Barr has established his place as the strong side linebacker, an integral part of coach Mike Zimmer’s pressure-driven scheme. This switch is not by any means complete or permanent, considering the value Barr has given the Vikings while rarely missing a snap in the middle of the defense with former college teammate Eric Kendricks. With Brian Robison capably spelling Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter at the defensive end spots, there’s not a glaring need for one.

Sliding Barr and his athleticism and speed to the front, though, provides yet another way Zimmer and the Vikings can attack an offense.

”Definitely, it could be a change-up for us,” Barr said. ”Hopefully I can get a couple more opportunities to do that, and we’ll see where it goes. It’s something I’m going to continue to work on and get better at. I’m excited for it.”

The Vikings have used passing-situation packages this offseason that include cornerback Terence Newman at safety while making Harrison Smith a hybrid linebacker. Put Barr at defensive end, and Everson Griffen can move inside. Or Barr could simply line up as a fifth down lineman. Either way, that’s the potential for quite the fierce pass rush.

”We are just trying to utilize our guys the best way we can,” Zimmer said. ”If a guy has a skill set of being possibly a pass rusher, then we’re going to look at him and see if he can be a pass rusher. If a guy’s a great inside cover guy, then we’re going to try and look at him there.”

Barr has taken plenty of turns with the defensive linemen during individual drills in training camp so far, evidence that this is more than just a token experiment.

”It’s a conscious effort in getting him into rush situations where he knows what to do,” Zimmer said. ”I really don’t have any concerns when he’s rushing on a back Matt Murray Jersey , but sometimes when he gets on a bigger stronger guy and gets in certain positions, he has to know what to do.”

Barr was the first player the Vikings drafted after hiring Zimmer in 2014, the ninth overall selection out of UCLA who spent only two years with the Bruins on defense after beginning his college career as a running back. With 10 sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and one interception over four seasons, Barr has left himself plenty of room to improve on such modest statistics. There are many more ways to contribute than those basic measurements, of course, but Zimmer’s matter-of-fact assessment in 2016 that Barr ”has a tendency to coast a little bit” still hovers over his trajectory.

Across the NFL, Barr is known mostly for his hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the sixth game of the year that led to a broken collarbone and set the NFC North rivals on opposite courses in 2017. Interestingly, referee Pete Morelli told reporters at Minnesota’s practice facility on Thursday that the league’s stricter rules about targeting defenseless players would now make that play a 15-yard penalty.

Barr is the only core player left on an expiring contract, with extensions recently signed by wide receiver Stefon Diggs, defensive end Danielle Hunter and Kendricks. Barr’s salary for 2018 is a little more than $12.3 million, and he hinted at disappointment when spring practices began without a new deal. He didn’t address the subject in his first remarks to reporters at training camp.

”My focus is here at camp, getting better with the team, and we’ll let that figure itself out,” he said.

If this defensive end thing works well Anders Lee Jersey , Barr’s price will only go higher.

”I’ll never talk business out in the open or in public,” general manager Rick Spielman said. ”I’ll just tell you he fits everything that we want as a Minnesota Viking.”



Nikola Mirotic watched his third 3-pointer of the first half swish through the hoop, turned to acknowledge the raucous, roaring crowd and raised his first triumphantly as he trotted back up court.

Portland had a hard enough time dealing with Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis and the New Orleans backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo in Games 1 and 2. Pile on the finest playoff performance of Mirotic’s four NBA seasons, and the rout was on in Game 3.

Mirotic scored a career playoff-best 30 points to go with eight rebounds, three steals and a block, and the Pelicans pushed Portland to the brink of elimination with a 119-102 victory on Thursday night.

”I never thought I’d score 30 or something like that,” Mirotic said. ”I’m just trying to play simple. If I have a shot, take a shot, so I need to give credit to my teammates. … It’s just about the team. It’s about winning.”

To illustrate how hard New Orleans has been to defend in the series, Portland coach Terry Stotts made a point of noting that Mirotic was the third different Pelicans player to score 30 in a game. Davis had 35 in Game 1 and Holiday 33 in Game 2.

”New Orleans played extremely well,” Stotts said. ”We arguably had one of our worst games of the year, so it was a bad combination.”

Davis had 28 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks for New Orleans, which can advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with one more victory. Game 4 is Saturday.

The 6-foot-10 Mirotic Vladimir Tarasenko Jersey , acquired in a midseason trade after DeMarcus Cousins‘ season-ending Achilles tear, made 12 of 15 shots, scoring on everything from quick-release 3-pointers to cutting dunks and fast-break layups.

”I knew I was capable to have games like this, but I never want to force any shots and always want to play simple, play for my teammates the same way they play for me,” Mirotic said. ”I just want to show them they were right to bring me here.”

Damian Lillard scored 20 for Portland, but missed nine of an unusually low 14 shots. He averaged about 19 shots per game this season, but said the Pelicans were defending him relentlessly.

”They’re making me give the ball up,” Lillard said. ”This is a different coverage than I’ve seen at any point in my career. … It’s two or three layers of defense. It’s tough to play against, man.”

CJ McCollum scored 22 and Al-Farouq Aminu added 21, but Portland trailed by double digits for most of the first half and all of the second.

The Blazers had no answer for a Pelicans offense orchestrated once again to prolific effect by Rondo, who had 16 points and 11 assists – giving him 37 assists in the series. Holiday added 16 points for New Orleans, which shot 53 percent (46 of 87).

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Starting F Evan Turner was scratched because of his toe injury sustained during Game 2 on Tuesday night. Maurice Harkless started in his place, scoring five points in 26 minutes. … The Blazers committed 24 turnovers, leading to 29 Pelicans points. … Finished 9 of 31 from 3-point range.

Pelicans: Cousins was on the bench, attending his first game in New Orleans since his injury on Jan. 26. When he was shown cheering on his teammates on the main scoreboard Carey Price Jersey , fans erupted into chants of ”Boogie! Boogie!” … The Pelicans shot 11 of 27 from 3-point range and 16 of 19 on free throws. … Scored 62 points in the paint and 32 on fast breaks.

SETTING THE TONE

The Pelicans wore alternate red uniforms and every fan was given a matching T-shirt, turning the entire packed seating area into a sea of red.

The volume was high early with the crowd revved up for the first playoff game in New Orleans since 2015.

The Blazers did nothing to silence the place, shooting about 35 percent and committing six turnovers in the opening quarter.

New Orleans raced to an 18-point lead in the period, aided by Mirotic hitting five of his first seven shots for 14 early points.

Mirotic scored 21 by halftime, which already represented a playoff career high.

Davis joined the fray with his typical array of alley-oop dunks, one of which he caught with his back to the basket and threw down with a two-handed reverse jam.

Rondo ran New Orleans’ offense with a tempo that gave Portland fits, and even when he was forced to settle for a deep 3 late in the shot clock, it went down, pushing the Pelicans’ lead to 20 in the first half.

Portland never got closer than 13 after that and trailed by as many as 33 in the fourth quarter.

FRESH LOOK

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he’s not sure Mirotic’s decision to shave his beard had anything to do with his recent surge in production, but said the Pelicans are choosing to believe it does. He then added, ”Tell Niko, no 5 o’clock shadows, OK?”

UP NEXT

The series remains in New Orleans for Game 4 on Saturday night, when the Pelicans have an opportunity to complete the first playoff series sweep in franchise history.



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