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Clippers topple Trail Blazers 96-83

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Clippers topple Trail Blazers 96-83

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin had 23 points and nine assists and the Los Angeles Clippers ended a four-game losing streak with a 96-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

The Clippers have the third-best record in the NBA at 33-13, 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio.

Eric Bledsoe had 10 points, five assists and five rebounds in his seventh start as point guard.

Chris Paul missed his fourth straight game and seventh in the past nine because of a bruised right kneecap. Lamar Odom had eight points, 13 rebounds and six assists.

All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 21 points and 11 rebounds. It was Portland's seventh loss in nine games, and it came in the second part of a home-and-home set with the Clippers.

Portland never led in the second half on Sunday, falling behind 74-59 after a driving layup by Bledsoe with 3:15 left in the third quarter.

Griffin didn't play after going to the bench with 10 seconds left in the third quarter and the Clippers leading 78-62.

But they built the margin to as many as 19 points on a layup by forward Ronny Turiaf with 6:23 remaining.

Griffin powered the Clippers to a 55-50 halftime lead with 15 points, including a fast break dunk off a long pass from DeAndre Jordan just before intermission.

Griffin had an assist on six of their first nine baskets, including Jordan's alley-oop dunk and 3-pointers by Caron Butler and Matt Barnes.

Los Angeles was leading 46-40 when Butler's fadeaway 3-pointer from in front of the Clippers' bench was disallowed because of an offensive foul called against him with 4:31 remaining in the second quarter.

Butler picked up his third foul just 14 seconds later, but remained in the game until he was removed by coach Vinny Del Negro with 3:16 left in the half.

NOTES: The Trail Blazers had 25 assists on their first 26 baskets. ... Bledsoe played 36 minutes without committing a turnover. ... Los Angeles outscored Portland 56-24 in the paint. ... The Clippers head out on a seven-game road trip. ... The Clippers shot 51.2 percent, and are 14-1 when shooting at least 50 percent.

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Isaiah Thomas wants to make it clear that Marcus Smart flops

Isaiah Thomas wants to make it clear that Marcus Smart flops

When you know, you know.

Washington Wizards starting point guard Isaiah Thomas gave his take on former teammate Marcus Smart's reputation for flopping. Spoilers: he flops.

Thomas, who is returning to Boston on Wednesday for the first time as a starter, was teammates with Smart during his run with the Celtics from 2014-17. He didn't hold back from interrupting reporters to make sure everyone knows that Smart flops. (See the entire sequence play out in the video above.)

Despite being familiar with Smart, don't expect Thomas to know everything about how the Celtics will prepare for the Wizards. Thomas pointed out that only two of his former teammates are still with the team.

His history with Boston means a lot to Thomas, but his only focus on Wednesday will be earning the victory.

"The love is genuine between me and the city," Thomas said. "Hopefully we can just win the game. That's the most important." 

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Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson is starting to make people reconsider what they think of him. 

After the Ravens’ 49-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday, the rest of the NFL is starting to take notice about Lamar Jackson’s status in the NFL. Especially considering his spin move through the Bengals defense.

Hall of Fame NFL general manager Bill Polian recently admitted that he was wrong when he said that Jackson should be an NFL wide receiver during his draft process in 2018.

“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports. 

Jackson is currently building an MVP case for himself and is on-pace for over 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards of total offense. 

It’s a nice change of pace for the 22-year-old quarterback in his second year as a pro. Jackson had to face heavy criticism after he left Louisville for a variety of reasons headed into the draft. Even after he took over as the Ravens quarterback, those evaluations persisted. 

“We always knew what he was about,” Ravens center Matt Skura said. “We always knew his ability to make plays and all that stuff. I think it’s just people right now seeing it on a much larger scale and it’s just getting the attention now.”

At this point, however, it’s clear that not only is Jackson a quarterback, he might even be the MVP of the league.

Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, only four are starting and just two have led their teams to a winning record. Jackson leads all of his draft counterparts in total yards and total touchdowns. 

But as anyone in the Ravens’ locker room will say, the accolades don’t concern Jackson — only the record does.

“I think he’s more concerned with winning than anything,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “As individuals, we’ve all got people to prove wrong and things that we used to put a chip on our shoulder. At the end of the day, I know he’s more concerned with winning more than anything.”

Still, it’s noteworthy that it only took Jackson a complete season of starts, through two partial seasons, to begin the backtracking across the NFL landscape.

“If you watch ESPN or you watch TV, it’s going to come up no matter what,” Skura said. “Even on your Instagram feed it’s going to come up. I think for a lot of us, just in one ear and out the other as far as people pumping us up. You’ve kind of got to stay level-headed and ride the rollercoaster, so to say.”

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