Redskins

Wolves hand Suns 5th straight loss, 111-107

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Wolves hand Suns 5th straight loss, 111-107

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Nikola Pekovic had 28 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Love added 23 points and 18 boards to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 111-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

Andrei Kirilenko added 20 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing guard Ricky Rubio because of back spasms.

Luis Scola had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who lost their fifth straight game. They led 102-99 with 3:30 to play, but once again failed to close it out.

Pekovic scored two quick ones underneath but the Suns still had a chance down three with 8.1 seconds left. But Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to seal it.

It was a tough way to lose it for the Suns, who only committed five turnovers in the game. Shannon Brown scored 21 points and Goran Dragic added 16 points and 12 assists for Phoenix.

Rubio's injury left the Wolves with three healthy guards in the game, so they naturally leaned on the big guys up front to do most of the work. They scored 58 points in the paint to negate poor shooting from 3-point range (5 for 18) and at the free throw line (16 for 26).

Alexey Shved had 12 points and 10 assists for the Wolves, including two clutch free throws that gave Minnesota a three-point lead with 55 seconds to play.

The Suns were equally tough at the rim in a game that occasionally resembled pregame layup lines with the ease with which both teams got to the basket.

Dragic played with a sore hip that kept him out of the previous, but he didn't look any worse for wear on Saturday night. He ran the pick-and-roll and jumpstarted the Suns break with impressive efficiency. The Suns didn't turn the ball over until 7:37 was left in the first half.

Love may have only made 8 of 20 shots, but he needed a bounce-back game like this after a curiously lifeless performance in a loss to Houston on Wednesday. He has struggled with his shooting ever since coming back at the end of November from two broken bones in his right hand. He admitted earlier on Saturday that all the clanking had frustrated him to the point that it was trickling down to other parts of his game, including his effort on the defensive end and getting other people involved. Even his home fans were growing a little restless, directing some anger at the franchise player after he publicly criticized the organization a few weeks ago.

Love entered the night shooting a career-worst 35.5 percent from the field and just 22.5 percent on 3-pointers. He came out much more aggressive against the Suns, scoring 13 points and hitting two of his three 3s in the first quarter.

Scola rendered Love's strong start almost inconsequential. The Argentinian had everything going on Saturday, knocking down 18-footers, spinning to the rim on breakaways and dropping soft hook shots over Love for easy buckets.

NOTES: Former Timberwolves F Michael Beasley received a healthy round of boos when he entered the game off the bench for the first time. He finished with two points and missed 7 of 8 shots. ... The Wolves announced a crowd of 19,356, their second straight sellout and third of the season. ... Derrick Williams scored 10 points for the Wolves.

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Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown

Sony Michel

Running back
Georgia

Sony Michel is a solid north-south runner who also can bounce outside and pick up yardage. He shared playing time with Nick Chubb last year and still ran for 1,277 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and scored 16 touchdowns against SEC competition. Michel also showed his bona fides in the passing game, catching 64 career passes and showing that he can handle pass protection. 

Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40-yard dash:4.54

Projected draft round:2

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to draft an upgrade at running back. They would prefer one who can catch passes out of the backfield and gain yardage between the tackles. Sony Michel can do both as well as pop for yardage on the outside. There is a good chance that he will be on the board when the Redskins draft in the second round. Since they don’t have a third-round pick, this may be the last chance to get an upgrade in this draft. 

Film review: vs. Notre Dame, vs. Alabama

—The first thing to say here is that the Bulldogs had a quality run-blocking offensive line. Michel frequently had big holes to run through. For his part, Michel maximized his gains when he had a big opening, hitting it quickly and working north-south. 

—He also can pick up yards through just a small crease, again by hitting it with urgency and gaining momentum to drive for the final few yards. 

—Michel didn’t do a whole lot of pass protection in the plays I watched, but he was solid when he did. On one play against Notre Dame, he put a blitzing defensive back on the ground. Against Alabama, he got in the way of likely first-round pick Da’Ron Payne long enough to allow the quarterback to get off a deep pass. To be sure, he didn’t blow Payne away but his block was effective.

—Besides the O-line, Michel also got quality blocking from his receivers. Again, he took advantage, reading the blocks and maximizing the gain. 

—He also can get it done without much help. On third and 20 against the vaunted Alabama defense, he headed up the middle and quickly went outside when he saw no running room. He headed to the sideline with four Alabama defenders and no blockers in sight. Michel found another gear and accelerated down the sideline to convert the third and long.  

—He later converted a third and 10 on a draw play, quickly getting up to speed and zipping through traffic to move the sticks. 

Potential issues: Although he has decent speed, he’s not the home run threat you might want in a back taken in the second round. And Michel isn’t really a power back either, although he can fight for extra yards. 

Despite his limitations, there is chatter that Michel might be drafted early in the second round or perhaps even late in the first. It’s hard to separate the smoke and speculation from reality as we sit a week before the draft starts. But he’s a talented back and if Derrius Guice goes off the board earlier than most expect, a run on runners could include Michel. 

Bottom line: Saquon Barkley is the obvious top running back and he surely will be gone when the Redskins pick in the first round. After that, the Redskins have plenty of options. They like Guice but 13 may be too high for him and he is likely to be gone when their pick in the second is on the clock. Michel is one of a few possibilities there, a group that also would include Michel’s former teammate Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones of USC and others. Without a peek at the draft board in Ashburn, we will just have to wait and see. 

Redskins draft countdown

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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