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SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Tony Parker, along with all of San Antonio, really, spent a restless night worrying about a gimpy right hamstring that hampered him in Game 3 of the NBA Finals and threatened the momentum the Spurs seized with a drubbing of the Miami Heat.
A day later, Parker said he got some good news. Just how good the news is likely won't be known until Game 4 begins on Thursday night.
Parker had an MRI on Wednesday that revealed a Grade 1 strain of his hamstring, the mildest level of strain. He's listed as day to day.
"I was just hoping it was not a tear," Parker said. "The good news is it's not a tear or a defect. So that's the good news. Now I just have to see how I feel tomorrow."
Parker was injured early in the second half of Game 3, which the Spurs won 113-77 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. He was limited to six points and eight assists in 27 minutes and left the game early in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided.
Parker did not participate in the portion of practice on Wednesday that was open to the media, instead watching his teammates go through a light workout while spending much of the time in conversation with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
"We'll see how it goes tomorrow. We'll talk with Pop," Parker said. "I know Pop is always going to prefer to take low risk."
When asked about Parker's outlook, Popovich said, "a lot of it will be what he feels, I think."
Parker's injury somewhat muted the celebration in San Antonio following the Spurs' decisive bounce-back victory that put them two wins shy of the franchise's fifth championship.
While the Spurs' role players have been playing incredibly well in these finals, they know they will need Parker's leadership, guts and unparalleled mastery of the pick-and-roll to bury LeBron James and the Heat. Danny Green, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard have been revelations so far in this series, scoring the same number of points (130) through the first three games that the Heat's vaunted trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have managed.
Neal filled in brilliantly for a slowed-down Parker on Tuesday night, scoring 24 points and hitting six 3-pointers to pick up the slack. The Spurs have two more games at home - on Thursday and then Game 5 on Sunday - to try to close out the Heat and avoid having to head back to Miami.
"A lot of the Miami defense is focusing on me and my teammates are taking advantage of it," Parker said. "They're playing great and hopefully they can keep it going."
Still, it feels like a long way to go, because Parker is the engine that keeps this precision machine humming. He entered his fourth NBA Finals at the height of his powers, asserting himself as the best point guard in the game by carrying the Spurs into the showdown with Miami. After scoring 21 points and dishing out six assists in San Antonio's Game 1 win, Parker was averaging 22.9 points and 7.1 assists this playoffs, the best numbers of his career for a postseason that included more than one series.
He scored 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting in their Game 2 loss and was just 2 for 5 on Tuesday night.
As important as his scoring and distributing have been for the Spurs, the confidence he instills with his steady hand on the throttle may be even bigger. The Spurs aren't big on swagger, but they play with a different demeanor when he's on the court slicing and dicing opposing defenses.
"He does a lot for us," Neal said. "If he's not scoring, he's drawing the defense and being a facilitator. He has a great basketball I.Q. He brings a certain amount of confidence and toughness to our team. We definitely need Tony on the floor."
If Parker has to miss Game 4, it no doubt would inject some life into a Heat team that was dazed and staggered in Game 3. A club that won 66 games in the regular season, including 27 straight at one point, and entered the playoffs as the prohibitive favorite to repeat as champions found itself down by 37 points at one point in the loss.
Without Parker on the floor Thursday night, things would be different.
"He is the head of their snake," Heat guard Mario Chalmers said. "I feel like that. The whole team feels like that."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra brushed aside a question about Parker's availability, clearly more disappointed and concerned about his own team's performance in Game 3 than anything happening with the Spurs.
"If we bring the level of effort and focus that we did last night it doesn't matter who plays," Spoelstra said. "We're hoping he plays. We want both teams to be healthy. We don't want any excuses and they don't want any excuses either."
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- From big 3s to Big Three, the Spurs had it all in the NBA Finals' raucous return to San Antonio.
Danny Green made seven of the Spurs' finals-record 16 3-pointers, Tim Duncan has 12 points and 14 rebounds, and the Spurs clobbered the Miami Heat 113-77 on Tuesday night to take 2-1 lead in the series.
Green scored 27 points and Gary Neal made six 3-pointer while scoring 24 as San Antonio went 16 of 32 from behind the arc.
Duncan bounced back from his worst game ever in the finals, and the Spurs' combination of fresh faces and old reliables in a raucous return to a city that hadn't hosted a finals game since 1997.
The Spurs were as good as fans remembered in the old days, shutting down LeBron James until they had built a huge lead late in the third quarter.
James finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but missed 11 of his first 13 shots against the excellent defense of Kawhi Leonard, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Game 4 is Thursday here, where the Heat are 3-22 in the regular season and so far zero wins and one really bad beating in the postseason.
Duncan shot 3 of 13 for nine points, his worst performance ever in his 25 NBA Finals games, in the Heat's 103-84 victory Sunday. Tony Parker wasn't much better, shooting 5 of 14 and committing five turnovers, and Manu Ginobili admitted afterward the veteran trio had to play well for the Spurs to win.
They were fine, but the lesser-knowns were better.
Parker and Ginobili combined for 14 assists, but the bigger story was the guys who had never played on this stage before.
- Neal, who went undrafted after playing for LaSalle and Towson, then playing overseas for three seasons in Italy, Spain and Turkey.
-Green, who had been cut multiple times - including by James' Cavaliers - and now has the shot to stick.
-Leonard, the draft-night trade acquisition from San Diego State who played the NBA's four-time MVP to a stalemate.
Mike Miller made all five 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Heat, who broke open Sunday's game and seized momentum in the series with a 33-5 run in the second half.
The Spurs seized it right back, improving to 18-7 in the finals, the best winning percentage of any team with 20 or more games.
A brief flurry by James had Miami within 15 after three quarters, but Neal, Green and Leonard combined on a 13-0 run to open the fourth, Green's 3-pointer making it 91-63.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Michael Wacha recovered from a wild start to earn his first major league win and Allen Craig hit a three-run homer for the St. Louis Cardinals in a 9-2 victory over the staggering New York Mets on Tuesday night.
Matt Holliday had three hits and the NL Central leaders took full advantage of a crucial error by new Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy, who was shifted over from second after slumping Ike Davis got demoted to the minors Sunday.
David Freese extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games, longest in the National League this season, and Wacha (1-0) even knocked in a run with a groundout for his first RBI.
Omar Quintanilla homered for the Mets, who gave up seven unearned runs and lost for the seventh time in eight games since a season-best five-game winning streak that included a four-game sweep of the Subway Series against the New York Yankees.
Jeremy Hefner (1-6) had a 2-1 lead until St. Louis scored five unearned runs in the fifth inning, capped by Craig's fifth homer. The outburst began when Jon Jay reached on a leadoff grounder to Murphy, who knocked it down on his backhand but rushed a high, off-balance throw to Hefner covering first.
Pete Kozma doubled and Hefner slammed down the rosin bag at the back of the mound after Wacha's grounder to shortstop tied the score. Matt Carpenter walked, Yadier Molina put the Cardinals ahead with an RBI groundout and Holliday reached on an infield single before Craig drove an 0-1 pitch to left-center for a 6-2 advantage.
At his best in clutch situations, Craig came in batting .400 with runners in scoring position - the same average he had last year.
St. Louis, which owns baseball's best record at 42-22, added two in the seventh after Kirk Nieuwenhuis misplayed a deep fly to right for an error. Holliday had an RBI single and reliever Josh Edgin, just recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, walked Jay with the bases loaded to force in another run.
Shane Robinson, who replaced Craig in right field for defense, homered in the ninth off David Aardsma to make it 9-2. Craig made a painful-looking catch in the third when he fell at the base of the wall in front of the 375-foot sign, where his neck and the back of his head snapped back and hit the fence.
Wacha, drafted 19th overall a year ago out of Texas A&M, was making his third major league start after an impressive outing against Kansas City and a shaky one against Arizona.
Pitching on the road for the first time, he gave up a home run to his second batter and walked three in a 37-pitch first inning. Marlon Byrd had a sacrifice fly and the bases were loaded when Nieuwenhuis hit a grounder up the middle that appeared headed for center field and a two-run single that would have given New York a 4-0 lead.
Kozma, however, was positioned perfectly at shortstop and made a nice play to end the inning.
It was the sort of play that often goes unnoticed, but it stopped the Mets in their tracks. The 21-year-old Wacha did not walk another batter and yielded five hits over six solid innings before Randy Choate and Keith Butler finished up.
New York did not manage a hit after Jordany Valdespin's leadoff single in the fifth. With Davis sent down, Valdespin is getting an opportunity to play regularly at second base, his natural position.
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran, a former Mets star, was rested to give him consecutive days off. The team was off Monday and Beltran traveled home to attend commencement ceremonies for the first graduating class of his Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. "We're happy that he was able to make that happen, and the Cardinals really tried to help out," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was a lot of travel. What he's doing down there is good for the game, good for the community." ... Matheny said RHP Jake Westbrook (elbow inflammation) is scheduled to come off the disabled list and start Friday night in Miami. ... Mets RHP Matt Harvey (5-0, 2.10 ERA) threw his bullpen session and is on target to make his next scheduled start in the series finale Thursday afternoon against RHP Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.34). Harvey left Saturday's start after seven effective innings with tightness in his lower back.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Cleveland Indians two-time All-Star closer Chris Perez and his wife pleaded not guilty Monday to misdemeanor possession charges after marijuana was mailed to their home in their dog's name.
The pleas were sent by fax to suburban Rocky River Municipal Court by their attorneys.
The faxed pleas included a request that a requirement that the couple appear in person for a June 19 arraignment be dropped.
Police said they were tipped off by postal inspectors to suspicious packages mailed to the Perez home and arranged a delivery last Tuesday under surveillance. Police say Melanie Perez accepted two packages.
Authorities say Melanie Perez, whose maiden name is Baum, told the undercover officer delivering the packages that they were intended for her dog, named Brody. The package was addressed to Brody Baum.
According to investigative reports, Perez told drug agents with a search warrant that he had pot for personal use and pointed out two jars. Asked about any drugs or weapons by officers who went to the Perez home, Perez "volunteered to direct the officers to the location of it," an investigative report said.
The 27-year-old Perez and his 29-year-old wife were charged Friday with misdemeanor drug possession involving just over one-third of a pound of marijuana. Perez and his wife were released on personal bond.
Outside legal experts say the charge typically is handled like a traffic ticket and might result in a fine.
Under the drug agreement between Major League Baseball and its players' association, marijuana offenses generally result with the player undergoing a treatment program rather than discipline.
Perez has six saves this season but is on the disabled list with an injured right shoulder.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Tim Tebow finally has a new team.
The New England Patriots announced the signing of the polarizing quarterback with the poor throwing motion on Tuesday, six weeks after he was cut by the New York Jets and just in time for the start of the three-day minicamp that runs through Thursday.
Tebow, 25, is being reunited with Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator who was Denver's head coach when the Broncos traded into the first round to take him with the 25th draft pick in 2010.
There is no guarantee that Tebow will still be with the Patriots when training camp begins next month, but if the Patriots keep him, he would have time to develop as a quarterback since Tom Brady holds that job. Tebow even could be tried at tight end, where the status of Rob Gronkowski is uncertain after he had his fourth operation on his broken left forearm on May 20 and faces back surgery this month.
Tebow's NFL career appeared to be over when the Jets released him on April 29 and no team rushed to sign him. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to bring in the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner who led Florida to two national championships.
After the NFL draft, in which they selected quarterback Geno Smith from West Virginia, the Jets decided to release Tebow just more than a year after a dressed-up, high-profile press conference that welcomed him to the organization.
New York went 6-10 last season, lost its final three games and finished tied for last place in the AFC East with Buffalo. New England, meanwhile, went 12-4, won the division and advanced to the AFC title game.
"I felt like it was a learning opportunity for me. There was a lot that I'll take from it," Tebow said at the end of the season. "There's a lot that I learned, and there are lot of relationships that I've built, so I know that it happened for a reason."
Now, he joins a rival who swept the Jets last season, including an embarrassing 49-19 loss that New York endured at home on Thanksgiving night.
"We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped," Jets coach Rex Ryan said in April. "Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason. We wish him the best moving forward."
The last time Tebow threw a pass in Foxborough, Denver lost in the divisional playoff round to the Patriots 45-10 in the 2011 season. He completed 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and five sacks in that game and gained 13 yards on five rushes.
When he was traded to the Jets with great fanfare in March 2012, there was speculation he might replace Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback. But when Sanchez struggled, he was replaced by Greg McElroy late in the season. Tebow threw only eight passes all year and played primarily as the protector for the Jets' punter.
Tebow's presence on the team and absence from the field fed a media frenzy in New York.
The spotlight will be dimmer in Foxborough where Belichick tightly controls which players can talk to the media and what they can say. When they go beyond those limits, Belichick sometimes forbids them from talking with reporters.
Former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist sees the logic in the Patriots' decision to bring Tebow to minicamp.
"If you can find a club that's mature enough to handle it as an organization, then you're going to find the right spot for him," Sundquist said. "What I mean by that is all the media mania and that sort of thing. The club says, `Look, this is the reason we're bringing him on. We feel he can bring X, Y, Z and A, B, C to the table.'
"Explain it to Tim, explain it to the media, explain it to your fan base and explain it to your organization."
The Patriots run a complex offense and Tebow had trouble grasping the strategy in Denver. But the presence of McDaniels could help him.
"If there's one guy in the NFL who's a fan of Tim Tebow or pulling for him, it would be Josh McDaniels," said former Jets and Patriots offensive lineman Damien Woody, now an ESPN analyst.
"I think they'll take their time developing him," Woody said. "The Patriots are one of those teams that like to develop guys, and they'll even trade them if it works in their favor. In the more immediate future, having played in New England, I know one thing they value is versatility. They're going to try to use Tebow in positions where they feel they can maximize his talent."
As an NFL rookie in 2010, Tebow threw just 82 passes in nine games, starting three.
In 2011, he started 11 games and threw for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He led Denver to a wild-card win over Pittsburgh before the divisional loss to New England.
He was traded to New York after that season when Denver signed Peyton Manning. With the Jets, Tebow completed six of eight passes and ran 32 times for 102 yards.
In addition to Brady, the Patriots also have Ryan Mallett at quarterback already, but they released Mike Kafka on Monday.
The 2007 winner of the Heisman as a sophomore at Florida, Tebow has 2,422 passing yards and a 75.3 rating as an NFL quarterback.
New York- The St. Louis Cardinals will continue their nine game road trip with a three game series against the New York Mets. St. Louis will put their major league best 41-22 record on the line Tuesday night as rookie Michael Wacha (0-0) looks for his first major league victory in just his third start. The Mets will counter with righthander Jeremy Hefner (1-5). Wacha gave up 6 earned runs in his last start. The Cardinals will also be looking for their 23rd win away from Busch Stadium which is leading the majors. The Cards and Mets met earlier this year in St. Louis, with the Cardinals winning 3 of 4 games. New York is just 12-19 at Citi Field, but their last 6 wins at home have come in the club's last at-bat.
ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) -- The most popular equipment Merion was not a golf club but a squeegee.
More heavy rain at the U.S. Open flooded a bunker by the 11th green and filled fairways with large puddles and tiny stream. The course was closed for four hours during the first full day of practice, and then shut down for good later in the afternoon.
Brandt Jobe played three holes when he heard a horn to stop play. Jim Herman managed to play one hole. Practice rounds are important because only a dozen or so players have ever seen this 100-year-old course, which has not hosted a U.S. Open in 32 years.
Workers were busy running squeegees across the greens and fairways during the afternoon before another downpour arrived.
"After the rain this morning, it's going to be very sloppy now," Ernie Els said. "You're not going to see a firm U.S. Open this year, I'm sorry. I don't care if they get helicopters flying over the fairways, it's not going to dry up. We're going to have a soft golf course this week - all week."
The forecast was for mostly dry conditions Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a 40 percent chance of rain on Thursday for the opening round.
Merion received more than 3 inches of rain on Friday, and Monday's downpours - three of them - didn't help. The low point on the East course is the 11th hole, and a bunker was filled with water from an overflowing stream.
Course superintendent Matt Shaffer said the base sand was left alone. Workers removed the silt and put about three tons of new sand in the bunker, tamped it down and "we were ready to go."
For now, officials were hopeful.
Shaffer said Merion has had two big rains, and both times 11th green has stayed above water. And while there were tiny streams running through fairways and large pools of water on sections of the greens, the water appeared to drain quickly.
"This golf course is not built on sand, so it's got the heavier soils," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "But it is maybe the best draining golf course I have ever seen. If you walk this course, you know there's hardly any flat lies at Merion."
Merion is 6,996 yards on the scorecard, the shortest U.S. Open course since Shinnecock Hills in 2004. The rough is thicker than usual compared with most recent U.S. Opens, though soft greens are a recipe for low scoring no matter the golf course.
Congressional was softened significantly by rain, and Rory McIlroy shattered the scoring record at 16-under 268 for an eight-shot win. As for the week, it rained so much at Bethpage Black in 2002 that the tournament barely finished 72 holes on Monday, with Lucas Glover winning.
Els mentioned the firm fairways because that's what can make Merion tricky. Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy were among those who came to Merion early, and they all spoke about the experience necessary to find the right angle off the tee to keep the ball in the fairway. Geoff Ogilvy played Sunday for the first time and mentioned the best driver would fare well - but not necessarily the straightest driver.
With soft fairways, it becomes more of a target.
"Obviously with it being a little soft, it becomes a little more simple than what it was," Scott said. "The ball is just going to stop where it lands."
Davis said the USGA would try to move the hole locations to some of the higher spots on the greens to avoid standing water if it rains on Thursday. As for the fairways, even with standing water, the U.S. Open could be played as long as players could move the ball to a dry spot that didn't add significant distance to their shots.
The next two days could be crucial.
"We just need a little bit of sunshine," Shaffer said.
CHICAGO (AP) -- When it comes to power plays in the Stanley Cup finals, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins might just prefer to keep going with everyone on the ice.
The last two teams in the NHL playoffs have been lousy with the man advantage and terrific at killing penalties during the postseason.
When the Blackhawks are forced to play a man down, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger are so persistent it almost resembles an even-strength situation. And the Bruins have hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tuukka Rask, who is swallowing everything at the net these days.
Heading into Game 1 on Wednesday night, goals on special teams have been so scarce for these teams that a couple for either side could tip the series in one direction.
"The special teams are kind of key, if you want to (have) success," Frolik said after Chicago held an optional practice on Monday. "We try to talk about it all the time about that and make sure we're on the same page. It's especially going to be key right now. We've got to make we are ready for the challenge."
So far, so good on that front for the Bruins and Blackhawks.
With Frolik and Kruger tying up the action on top of the zone, Chicago has allowed just three goals in 58 power-play opportunities for an astounding 94.8 percent kill rate. Los Angeles got two of them in the Western Conference finals, but one was a meaningless goal by Tyler Toffoli at the very end of the Blackhawks' 4-2 victory in Game 2.
The 92.5 percent finish for the 2000 New Jersey Devils is the best playoff rate for a Stanley Cup champion in the last 25 years, according to STATS.
"I think they do a good job of fronting shots," Boston coach Claude Julien said of Chicago's penalty killers. "You really have to work hard to get the shots through. That's what they are, they're very patient; they're very aggressive when you do lose, I guess, control of the puck and if they feel they can get on you, they'll get on you quick. They've done a good job that way."
Pittsburgh had converted an NHL-best 28.3 percent of its power-play chances heading into the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, but the high-powered Penguins went 0 for 15 with the man advantage during the Bruins' impressive four-game sweep.
One of the lasting images from Boston's postseason run came with Pittsburgh on the power play in the second period of Game 3. Bruins forward Gregory Campbell broke his right leg when he dove to block Evgeni Malkin's hard shot, then limped around for more than 30 seconds until Boston cleared the zone and he was able to get off the ice.
Campbell's gutsy display served as inspiration for the Bruins, and they went on to finish off the Penguins with a 1-0 victory on Friday. But Campbell will miss the remainder of the playoffs, presenting a challenge for the series against Chicago.
"It just means some other guys have to step in and do the job," Julien said. "(Campbell) is an elite penalty killer for us. Like anything else, when you lose a player like that it certainly hurts your team. But at the same time, there's also guys that come up and step up and do a great job just like our young Ds did when our three Ds were hurt."
When it comes to scoring on Boston, whether it's even strength or on the power play, the last line of defense may be the most difficult one to solve. Rask has been terrific throughout the playoffs, making an NHL-best 497 saves.
Led by the 26-year-old Finn, Boston has yielded seven goals in 52 power-play opportunities for an 86.5 percent kill rate in the postseason.
"We're facing a goalie that in the last round was as good as any of the goalies we've seen over a segment of two years in the playoffs," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
While the penalty killing has been great for both sides, the power play for the Blackhawks and Bruins has been, well, powerless. Each team has seven goals with the man advantage in the playoffs. Boston had an NHL-worst 18 power-play goals during the regular season, compared to 25 for Chicago.
Quenneville and Julien have faced a running stream of questions about the lack of production, and that's likely to continue in this series - especially with the PK units on each side.