Redskins

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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After seeing Aaron Rodgers go down in 2017, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix knows how to support a backup QB

After seeing Aaron Rodgers go down in 2017, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix knows how to support a backup QB

It's a new team but the same storyline for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2018.

Last year while with the Packers, Clinton-Dix was there as Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against the Vikings in Week 6. 

Now a Redskin, the safety is coming off of a game where he and his teammates watched Alex Smith badly break his leg while facing the Texans.

So, in just more than 13 months, he's seen two franchise faces go down with long-term injuries. That means when he talks about how the 'Skins can succeed with Colt McCoy leading the way, he's speaking from experience as opposed to trying to imagine it.

"You just have to rally behind him," Clinton-Dix said Tuesday, just two days before Washington's showdown in Dallas on Thanksgiving. "Colt is a great quarterback, he's a winning quarterback. I have a lot of confidence in him. The way he approaches the game, I have a lot of confidence in that as well."

The defensive back is just the latest to compliment how McCoy prepares, something he's been doing for years now, just waiting for his next opportunity to come up. Now it's here, and Clinton-Dix wants the defense to make things as easy as possible on the passer.

"Find a way to give more," he said about what he can do to contribute from the other side of things.

Rodgers did eventually return for Green Bay, but by that time, an inexperienced Brett Hundley had slogged through a 3-6 record, and the Packers were too far out of the playoff hunt, even for Rodgers.

This time around, McCoy's veteran presence is something that's easing Clinton-Dix's mind. 

"I'm not worried about Colt," he said. "I'm excited to watch him go out and play."

Clinton-Dix was worried about McCoy at one point, though.

The defender played for Alabama from 2011-2013 but was paying attention to the signal caller when Texas squared up with the Crimson Tide in the 2010 BCS National Championship. That was a contest that McCoy had to leave early on after hurting his shoulder.

That exit affected history, according to Clinton-Dix.

"If it wasn't for him getting hurt back when he was playing against the Alabama boys, I'm pretty sure we would've never won that game."

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Nats could add another catcher beyond Suzuki, but don't expect it to be J.T. Realmuto

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Nats could add another catcher beyond Suzuki, but don't expect it to be J.T. Realmuto

The story of his signing was simple: Mike Rizzo came to Dan Lozano, Kurt Suzuki’s agent, early and with a direct offer. He told Lozano that Suzuki was “their guy” in this offseason’s hunt for a primary catcher. Suzuki, 35, was pleased Rizzo offered a two-year deal instead of one. His former team, the Atlanta Braves, also offered him a contract at the end of the season. Suzuki declined, hopped into free agency, and decided promptly to return to Washington.

Boom. The end. 

“[Rizzo] told my agent from day one that I’m their guy,” Suzuki said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Whether I’m a guy that catches 120 games or 90 games, or whatever they want me to do, I just told them I will be ready to do whatever you want. And he said I am going to play, obviously. I just said, ‘Whatever you need me to do.’ So whether that’s 80, 90, 100, 120, it really doesn’t matter to me.”

The question is what the Nationals will need him to do. Room remains for another veteran catcher since Suzuki will reportedly average $5 million annually on his contract. That long-rumored Nationals target J.T. Realmuto could be that veteran catcher is doubtful. There is little reason to pay Suzuki and then trade a high-end prospect in a deal for Realmuto, since that trade would put Realmuto behind the plate for roughly 130 games. A $5 million backup is an ultra-expensive one, especially for a team shaving pennies. Which is why Suzuki is in line to be the starter throughout the season.

“I think at this point of my career, I got no ego. I’ve never had an ego,” Suzuki said. “It was just the point where [Rizzo] said I’m their guy, whether I’m a guy that’s going to catch 50 games or I’m a guy that’s going to catch 120 games. He made it clear that he is going to bring me in to help the team win. And that’s the bottom line.”

He will help. Nationals catchers were among the worst in the league offensively last season. Matt Wieters was injured much of the year. Pedro Severino showed he had no chance at the plate. Spencer Kieboom hit .333 in September. That run was only good enough to pull his average to .232 and his on-base percentage to .322. Not great.

Suzuki’s offense has improved the last two seasons. His OPS+ was above 100 each year in Atlanta, marking two of the three times that happened in his 12-year career. He was an All-Star the other season he reached triple digits. 

Suzuki is not an analytics buff. He didn’t change his offseason routine that focuses on exercise and clean eating via food supplied by his wife, Renee. So, what gives at the plate?

“Honestly, I have no idea, just being honest,” Suzuki said. “Obviously, I started my career off doing pretty well and then kind of hit a little slump. And then the last two years at age 33 and 34, kind of had like a renaissance I guess. And I really haven’t changed much. I go out there and I don’t really think about launch angle and all these analytical things. I go out there and I just try to do some damage.”

He did mention an interesting idea. Suzuki explained relaxing at the plate is crucial to him. Pitchers throw harder now. Much harder on average than when he arrived in the major leagues in 2007 as a 23-year old playing for Oakland. Which means he is going to let them do the work by supplying velocity. He just wants solid, not Herculean, contact. The plan has worked the last two seasons.

But how Suzuki is defensively will be in question. Baseball Savant provides catcher “pop” times, which measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base, and Suzuki was 93rd out of 108 (Kieboom was 36th, though he played much less).  

All of which hints another veteran catcher could be coming along, the same way the Nationals opened last season with Wieters and Miguel Montero. Suzuki is the start. A coming veteran is a backup. Kieboom and Severino are the emergency plan. Realmuto is a dream lost.

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