Capitals

Clippers beat Hornets 93-77 for 11th straight win

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Clippers beat Hornets 93-77 for 11th straight win

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin scored 18 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the New Orleans Hornets 93-77 on Wednesday night for their franchise record-tying 11th consecutive victory.

Jamal Crawford added 17 points, DeAndre Jordan scored 12, and Chris Paul had 10 points and 12 assists, surpassing 5,000 in his career for the Clippers, whose 19-6 record is tied with New York for second-best in the NBA.

They tied the franchise record set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Bills.

Robin Lopez scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter and rookie Anthony Davis added 16 for the Hornets. They lost their ninth in a row and 11th in their last 12 games while falling to 2-10 on the road. They were the last team to beat the Clippers on Nov. 26.

Four of the Clippers' five starters took the fourth quarter off, with only Willie Green coming back in after having helped build a 19-point lead to start the final period. But the Hornets couldn't get anything going against the second unit that has played a significant role in the Clippers' current run.

The Hornets staged a brief rally to open the third. Davis scored five in a row in their 12-9 run that drew them within seven. The Clippers took over from there, outscoring New Orleans 18-6 to end the third leading 75-56. They made 8 of 10 free throws, while Paul's fastbreak dunk highlighted the spurt. Griffin grabbed his teammate as Paul swung wildly from the basket.

Paul fed Griffin for a layup late in the second quarter to notch his 5,000th assist, triggering a standing ovation. Griffin got fouled on the play and made the free throw. It came during an 11-0 run that provided the Clippers' largest lead to that point, 46-30. Paul's alley-oop pass to Griffin led to a fastbreak dunk for the Clippers' final basket of the half, with them leading 48-38.

The Hornets kept it close in the opening quarter, when they trailed 22-16 after Lopez scored 14 points. He was scoreless in the second quarter when he picked up his third foul.

NOTES: At 27 years, 228 days, Paul is the third-youngest player in NBA history to reach 5,000 assists, trailing Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. He is the fifth-fastest to reach the milestone, needing 510 games. ... New Orleans hasn't won since Dec. 3 against Milwaukee. ... Hornets G Eric Gordon missed the game against his former team because of a sore right knee. He smiled when Clipper fans chanted his name in the final 2 1/2 minutes. ... Returning home from a four-game trip, the Clippers had a moment of silence for the 27 victims of last week's school shootings in Connecticut.

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A more aggressive Caps team is looking for more offense from the defense

A more aggressive Caps team is looking for more offense from the defense

In the 2017-18 season, the Washington Capitals finished dead last in the NHL in shots on goal. While the modern wave of analytics stressed possession as measured by shot attempts, the Caps bucked that trend and elected to focus more on generating high-quality shots even if it meant shooting less. The result was a lot of frustrated fans, but 3.12 goals per game -- good for 9th in the NHL -- and a Stanley Cup.

Since the 2017-18 season, however, the offensive mindset in Washington has changed and that is evident by how much the defense has been involved in the offense this season.

“When you get more pucks on net, it's more chances you're going to get to score,” Dmitry Orlov said.

That represents a significant mindset change from the team just one year ago.

“It doesn't make a ton of sense for me to take a wrist shot from the blue line if there's not a screen,” Matt Niskanen said in October 2018. “Maybe one out of 300, 400 is going in, especially with my shot. You can shoot to create if there's traffic around and stuff, but just in general, shooting just to shoot isn't a good philosophy I don't think. That kind of gets lost in the analytics crowd. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to just waste it."

But an offensive philosophy that places such a high degree of emphasis on high-danger opportunities limits the offensive role of the defense since defensemen are much less likely to find themselves in those high-danger areas of the ice. Most shots from defensemen are going to be the type Niskanen was referring to.

The team has gradually softened its stance since then which has led to more involvement from the defense and more shots.

In the 2017-18 season, Washington ranked 30th in the NHL with 3,607 shot attempts at 5-on-5. In 2018-19, the team improved to 17th with 3,713 5-on-5 shot attempts. It may be a small sample size just 11 games into the season, but the Caps currently rank 16th in the league in 5-on-5 shot attempts per game (38.3).

One difference is more perimeter shots including from the blue line.

"We're switching more to shooting the puck whenever you have a chance or a lane," Jonas Siegenthaler said. "A couple years ago, you were always looking for the next play or a green shot."

While Niskanen seemed not to be a fan, the defensemen seem to enjoy the opportunity to try to contribute offensively.

"I like that more, personally," Siegenthaler said. "Pretty sure the guys like it too. If the D gets the puck up on the blue line, if he sees the lane he shoots, we have two guys in front of the net. I think the forwards they like that too. It's never a bad play."

But the main tweak to the offense this season is the emphasis on the defensemen to pinch in the offensive zone. Basically the defensemen are encouraged to move up deeper into the zone and join the attack if they have an opening to do so.

"Our style of defense is taking time and space, be hard on people," Michal Kempny said. "You can now short in on the short side, like pinching. It's kind of a little change instead of least season, but I think we are getting more and more comfortable every game and just keep it up."

This change led to Kempny, a player who previously had scored only 11 goals in his NHL career, scoring a goal in his first game after returning from injury. It also is a factor in John Carlson’s offensive surge to start the season. Even a player like Siegenthaler can often be found deep in the zone joining the attack.

"The whole system is more aggressive," Siegenthaler said. "I think somehow it kind of translates to the D-men. You're always moving so you're not afraid to join the rush or go up to the play with the forwards."

"It's a little bit of our aggressive mindset that you've heard me discuss from the beginning of the year," head coach Todd Reirden said at practice Saturday. "As opposed to major, major systematic adjustments, a lot of it's been our mindset. Yeah, there's been some tweaks and some different things there, but it's something that we're able to do this year. ... I think we've kept pucks alive a lot more in the offensive zone and our D are in a spot where they're able to help with keeping those pucks alive."

This philosophy is not without risk. Whenever a defenseman moves up it can leave the team more vulnerable to a quick breakout or counter attack. The players have to be in constant communication so the forwards know when someone has to move back to the blue line in order to compensate for a defenseman moving up.

"We have to have a forward back to cover for them," Reirden said. "I think our forwards have done a really good job of, when our D have been active, of covering for them. It's not perfect yet, but it's something that we're working on. We've obviously given up a couple goals along the way through the learning process of trying to be a little bit more aggressive in that way, but I think the benefits for me outweigh the negatives right now."

The Caps’ began to shift their philosophy last season with more shots on goal. This year, they incorporated a larger offensive role for the defense, one that meshes well with the team’s more aggressive mindset.

Just 11 games into the season, it seems to be working.

Washington ranks third in the league with 3.73 goals per game while Carlson leads the entire NHL with 20 points.

"We're really playing on our toes more, we're using our skating to be more of a factor keeping pucks alive in the offensive zone," Reirden said, "And then whenever we're able to convert on them, that's always a bonus."

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Redskins at Vikings Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Redskins at Vikings Week 8: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has had Thursday's date circled on his calendar for a long time.

Cousins will face the Redskins for the first time on Thursday since leaving the franchise that drafted him. In 2018, the Redskins allowed him to walk in free agency after two straight seasons playing under the franchise tag.

It's no secret that Washington has struggled to find stability at the quarterback position since Cousins left town. Since his departure, the Redskins have started five different signal-callers (played six) in 23 games, and have a cumulative record of 8-15. 

While the Cousins storyline will grab many headlines, Redskins quarterback Case Keenum may feel that he has something to prove, too. Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 2017, but Minnesota signed Cousins the following offseason, allowing Keenum to walk. He signed with the Broncos, and was traded to Washington earlier this year after one season with Denver. 

Thursday marks Keenum's return to Minnesota. The last pass he threw in U.S. Bank Stadium miraculously landed in the arms of Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, connecting on a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game.

Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has also been looking forward to Thursday's clash. It's not his first time back in Minnesota, as he returned in 2017 when playing with the Saints, but he's eager to play against the franchise he spent a decade with and became one of the best running backs in NFL history. 

The all-time series is tied 13-13, but the Vikings have won three of the last four contests between the two. Here's everything you need to know.

REDSKINS at VIKINGS WEEK 8

Who: Washington Redskins (1-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

What: Game 8 of the 2019 NFL regular season

When: Thursday, October 24, 8:20 p.m.

Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV Channel: FOX, NFL Network

Live Stream: NFL.com/watch and pregame and postgame coverage streaming on NBCSportsWashington.com

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Spread: Vikings, -16

Over/Under: 42.0

Weather: 42 degrees, partly cloud (U.S. Bank Stadium is indoors)

REDSKINS at VIKINGS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 p.m.: Redskins 100

6:30 p.m.: Redskins Nation

7:00 p.m.: Redskins Kickoff Live

11:30 p.m.: Redskins Postgame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

REDSKINS 2019 SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Redskins at Eagles (L, 32-27)

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cowboys at Redskins, (L, 31-21)

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Bears at Redskins, (L, 32-27)

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Redskins at Giants, (L, 24-3)

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Patriots at Redskins, (L, 33-7)

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Redskins at Dolphins, (W, 17-16)

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 49ers at Redskins, (L, 9-0)

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Redskins at Vikings, 8:20 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Redskins at Bills, 1 p.m.

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Jets at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Lions at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Redskins at Packers, 1 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Giants at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.

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