Capitals

Hill's clutch shot pushes Pacers past Lakers 79-77

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Hill's clutch shot pushes Pacers past Lakers 79-77

LOS ANGELES (AP) George Hill's high-arching shot over Dwight Howard went in with 0.1 seconds left, and the Indiana Pacers withstood Kobe Bryant's 40-point performance and the Lakers' last-minute rally for a 79-77 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Hill scored 19 points and hit that enormous clutch shot for the Pacers, who won their third straight road game over the Lakers after losing 11 consecutive regular-season games since Staples Center opened in 1999.

The Pacers' sturdy defense stifled the Lakers' up-tempo offense for most of the night, turning the game into an ugly grind before the thrilling finish.

Bryant hit a tying 3-pointer with 24.5 seconds left and produced the 114th 40-point game of his career despite playing with an apparent case of the flu for the Lakers, who dropped to 2-3 under new coach Mike D'Antoni.

David West scored 16 points and Paul George had 12 in the opener of Indiana's four-game road trip.

The Lakers flirted with the lowest-scoring game and worst shooting percentage in franchise history before scoring eight straight points in the waning minutes, tying it at 74 on Howard's dunk with 1:56 to play. After West made one free throw, Howard and Metta World Peace combined to miss four straight free throws, dropping Los Angeles' performance at the line to 23 for 43.

After Hill made a running shot, Bryant hit a 3-pointer in front of the Lakers' bench to tie it.

The Pacers wound down the clock for Hill, who beat Pau Gasol off the dribble and arched his shot over the leaping Howard, who blocked four shots and scored 17 points despite 3-of-12 shooting at the free throw line.

Before outscoring the rest of his team combined, Bryant missed the Lakers' morning shootaround when he fell ill. He spent the day in bed, drinking fluids and listening to Bob Marley, before giving another high-scoring performance, albeit with 10 turnovers and 12-for-28 shooting.

The Lakers returned from a three-game trip for a three-game homestand, their final multigame stretch at home before Christmas. After playing six games in a nine-day stretch earlier this month, the Lakers are clearly running near empty - and they had little to give in the first half against Indiana.

The Pacers jumped to an early lead and hung on to it despite falling into a 1-for-23 shooting slump in the first half, playing more than 12 minutes with just one field goal. The Lakers couldn't take advantage, missing 14 of their 18 shots in the second quarter and repeatedly failing to move the ball at D'Antoni's preferred pace.

Bryant made five of his first six shots, emulating his many strong performances with the flu, but fell into a 1-for-10 slump before getting rolling again late in the third quarter while Los Angeles made a 13-2 run. Bryant had nine turnovers in the first three quarters, but also had 29 points - more than his teammates' combined 28.

NOTES: The Pacers stay in California to face Sacramento and Golden State before stopping in Chicago on the way home from their trip. ... The Lakers handed out bobblehead dolls in the likeness of the late Chick Hearn, their beloved broadcaster who would have turned 96 on Tuesday. ... Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Kaley Cuoco, Gene Simmons, Shannon Tweed and Tenacious D band members Jack Black and Kyle Gass watched from courtside.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.