Redskins

Clippers win 12th straight to set franchise record

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Clippers win 12th straight to set franchise record

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers weren't ready to celebrate after they set a record for the longest winning streak in the annals of a franchise that has a long and agonizing history of futility.

Chris Paul and company have bigger things in mind after breaking a 38-year-old club mark with their 12th consecutive victory, 97-85 over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

``I think the guys are learning and understanding what it takes to play at a high level consistently,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. ``It's a good thing to have a target on your back, but that also brings a responsibility to play at a high level as often as possible.''

The previous franchise record was set by the Buffalo Braves during the 1974-75 season, when Del Negro was 8. The head coach back then was Jack Ramsay, whose formidable roster included Bob McAdoo, Garfield Heard, Randy Smith, Jim McMillian, Jack Marin and Bob Weiss.

That team won 49 games - still a record for a beleaguered organization that has called three cities home, wasted first-round draft picks on Benoit Benjamin, Terry Dehere, Michael Olowokandi and Darius Miles, and was labeled ``the worst franchise in sports history'' by Sports Illustrated in an April 17, 2000, cover story.

Paul had 24 points and 13 assists, and Blake Griffin added 21 points and 13 rebounds in the record-setting victory for the Clippers, who have had 20 double-digit losing streaks since their 11-game winning streak in Buffalo - including a dozen of 12 or more. They lost their first 16 in 1994-95, their first 17 of the lockout-shortened 1988-89 season, and the final 14 in 1986-87. The club record for consecutive defeats is 19, set in 1981-82 and equaled in 1988-89.

After the win Paul was thinking about Ron Harper, Corey Maggette and other former players who endured all that losing.

``Most of those guys have been here through tougher times,'' Paul said. ``I know Ron Harper really well. He's a good friend of mine, and he's excited for us. We just played against Corey Maggette, and he was excited to see how it is now. So it's been exciting for me in the short amount of time I've been here, especially knowing some of the people who have been with the team for 25 or 30 years and the season-ticket holders. But we can't be satisfied. We've got to keep it going.''

The Clippers' turnaround got started thanks to the arrival of Griffin, the blockbuster trade that brought Paul from the New Orleans Hornets last December, and a bench that is among the deepest in the NBA. The Clippers, who have the league's longest active winning streak, own the NBA's second-best record at 20-6 and trail Oklahoma City by just one game.

``You have to have players. You have to have talent. You have to have guys believing in what you're doing, and finding ways to win and being consistent,'' Del Negro said.

This is the earliest the Clippers' franchise has ever reached the 20-win mark, and only the sixth time they did it with a winning record - including a 20-11 start last season. The previous club record in that department also was set in 1974-75, when the Braves started out 20-8. Just four seasons ago the Clips finished 19-63 under Mike Dunleavy.

``I remember the year I got drafted. The season before that they had only 19 wins. So what we've accomplished so far is great,'' Griffin said. ``But the best thing about it for me is being a part of something that's much bigger than Chris or I. It takes everybody from top to bottom - the GM, the coaching staff, the players, everybody. And from Day 1 since I've been here, everybody's been serious about changing.''

Los Angeles beat Sacramento for the fifth straight time - including all three meetings last season. The Clippers haven't lost to anyone since Nov. 26 at Staples Center, when New Orleans beat them 105-98 and held Griffin to four points and one field goal - both career lows.

Reserve guard Jimmer Fredette had 16 points for Sacramento, which is 1-11 on the road. DeMarcus Cousins was benched for the entire second half by coach Keith Smart, who ordered him to remain in the locker room after he scored nine points in 20 minutes.

Neither went into detail.

``I won't share that right now, but it's just a conduct issue,'' Smart said. ``We're trying to set a standard here, and when guys move below that standard, things are going to take place. We'll just move on to the next game and I'll make some decisions from there.''

Cousins was contrite after the game.

``What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. But I was wrong. I was wrong,'' Cousins said. ``I'm a player that definitely wants to win every night, and I'm an emotional player. That's never going to change. But I shouldn't have responded back. Something was said, and I just should have stayed quiet. Is it a humbling thing? Yeah, I will say that. I mean, I messed up and I apologize to my teammates for responding the way I did and I'll move on from it.''

The Kings, who had their highest-scoring game of the season Wednesday night in a 131-127 home win against Golden State, have dropped six of seven. Tyreke Evans missed his third straight game and eighth in the last 12 because of a sore left knee. He also was sidelined for the Kings' 116-81 loss at Los Angeles on Dec. 1, when the Clippers posted their largest margin of victory since the franchise left Buffalo.

Caron Butler's 3-pointer gave Los Angeles its biggest lead, 58-41, with 10:05 left in the third quarter. The Kings narrowed the gap to 63-57 with a 16-5 run capped by Fredette's 3-pointer with 4:25 left in the quarter, but that was as close as they got.

Paul helped put the game away with a pair of 3-pointers in the final 4 minutes.

NOTES: The teams the Clippers have beaten during this streak have a combined winning percentage of .401 (116-173). The Kings (8-18) are the only team they have faced twice in that stretch. ... The Clippers are at Phoenix on Saturday night, trying to break a franchise-record road winning streak of five - by those same `74-75 Buffalo Braves. ... The Los Angeles Lakers, who share Staples Center with the Clippers, haven't won 12 or more games in a row during one season since 1999-00, when they had streaks of 16 and 19. ... Fredette missed a free throw with 3:48 remaining, ending his streak at 33 in a row.

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The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

Come about four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, the Redskins and their fans will either be feeling quite good with a 1-1 record or the exact opposite of quite good thanks to an 0-2 start.

Washington will of course need Case Keenum to try and come close to replicating what he did in the opener against the Eagles and could really use a vintage Adrian Peterson Performance. 

Beyond them, though, who needs to be on point for the Redskins? These three absolutely qualify.

Ryan Kerrigan

The Burgundy and Gold's defensive line is down two players already and will be relying upon a couple of guys who basically just arrived. They may have trouble generating pressure up the middle thanks to that, meaning Kerrigan better be ready to do so on the edge.

If the home team allows Dak Prescott to stand in the pocket and pat the ball like Carson Wentz did in Week 1, then it'll be another long day for the entire unit. But if Kerrigan, who plays especially well against division foes, can be a constant threat to Prescott, then that'll make a big difference.

In 2018, Kerrigan forced a game-changing fumble at FedEx Field when facing Dallas. Hopefully he can follow that up with another productive outing this year.

Paul Richardson

Richardson had a fine stat line versus the Eagles, but he did have one drive-killing drop and didn't come up with any of the deep catches he's being counted on to create. Terry McLaurin was clearly the star of the receiving corps, while Richardson played more of a supporting role.

Now, perhaps McLaurin will shine again. Even if he does, Jay Gruden would still love for Richardson to also contribute with a splash play or two. Keenum showed he's willing to take chances downfield, so Richardson will need to use his speed and give Keenum a target for those chances.

The Redskins' most obvious path to a win Sunday will be to pound the ball with Peterson and control the clock as best as they can. That said, if Richardson can flip the field and help the offense score quickly instead of trying to string together 10-play drives, that'll make an upset more likely.

Greg Manusky

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, after just one game in the role, is drawing comparisons to Sean McVay. He brings his offense loaded with playmakers to Landover for Week 2, and will be squaring off with Manusky's group. It's on Manusky to match Moore.

Manusky had a tumultuous offseason and the defense's Week 1 showing in Philadelphia didn't do much to improve his standing as defensive coordinator. And as mentioned earlier, he'll be rolling out a D-line that's missing some major talent as well as a secondary that has injury issues as well.

Those won't be viable excuses for another game in which his players can't get off the field on third downs or force any turnovers, though. His defenders simply have to play better, sure, but he's going to have to put them in positions to succeed as well, or else he'll be scrutinized even more. 

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Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Friday afternoon grousing centered on what time the plane arrived. The Nationals’ charter returned to Dulles International Airport around 6 a.m. From there, players and staff scurried to their houses, some being caught in the morning commute.

Yan Gomes made it home in about 27 minutes. He needed to get to sleep. Friday night he would be catching his seventh consecutive game, a grind he had been through other times in his career, but complicated Friday by the late (or early) landing following a pre-dawn departure from Minneapolis.

Gomes figures he was asleep by 6:45 a.m., roughly 15-20 minutes after he walked through the door of his home. He woke up around 12:30 p.m. Then, he took the step so many do after first arising: the coffee was brewed, prompting midday to act as morning. Next was arriving at the park, where food and hydration were the priorities. Gomes, 32, needed to prepare his body for baseball’s hardest position and his brain for Max Scherzer’s outing.

“I don’t think people realize how much adrenaline we’re using [Friday],” Gomes said. “Just try to get through today. But the main thing is nobody is feeling bad for us we had a late night. Everyone’s kind of doing that. Scheduling this year has been kind of weird.”

Gomes crouching behind the plate again Friday was running him into an uncommon level of usage during his eight-year career -- and a level of work which is going to continue. Gomes, even when the primary catcher in Cleveland, caught seven or more games in a row (and never more than eight) six times. He had not handled such a stretch since 2016. Only once did such a streak occur in September, and that happened in 2014, Gomes’ second full season in the league.

“I’ve done scheduling like this before where I’ve had to catch night and day games a lot of times,” Gomes said. “I think when you get a certain age, you just have to pay more attention with the pregame stuff, postgame stuff. Body doesn’t recover as well. It’s one of those things where got to sack up and use some caffeine to get you through the day [Friday]. Drink as much as you can, as much as you can tolerate. Everyone’s tired. You just got to make sure you’re loose and ready to go so injuries don’t happen.”

Saturday he received a break. Rookie Raudy Read caught Austin Voth. However, the respite will be temporary.

Kurt Suzuki still has not thrown a baseball since injuring his right elbow Sept. 6. Inflammation continues to be an issue. He swung a bat in the batting cage Friday. Saturday, Suzuki pulled on his catching gear and went to the bullpen to practice blocking balls with bullpen coach Henry Blanco. Sprints followed. Throwing did not.

“Said he felt OK,” Davey Martinez said. “If he continues to do that, try to get him to hit on the field by early next week and we'll go from there. We miss him. We hope we can get him back soon. He's doing everything he can to try to get ready and play again as soon as possible.”

Read and Tres Barrera -- both rookies -- now comprise the backup catchers. The good news for Gomes is his prior experience as the full-time catcher and that he split time much of this season. Suzuki and Gomes were running close to a clean workload split before Suzuki’s injury. Gomes caught 71 games, Suzuki 68. So, he’s done this before and received rest earlier this season to position him well to do it again.

And, a hard decision was going to come in the postseason for Martinez. Suzuki’s offense is a clear plus over Gomes. However, his ability to throw out baserunners is almost non-existent this season, when Suzuki has thrown out five of 50 base-stealers. The 10 percent caught stealing rate is the lowest of his career and well below the 23 percent average during his 13 seasons in the major leagues. Those numbers are also influenced by pitchers, situations and official scorer rulings. However, Suzuki’s 10 percent is a stunningly low number and directly reflective of his struggles.

Martinez previously said an MRI of Suzuki’s elbow showed no structural damage. Inflammation remains the issue. Resolution of the inflammation remains tricky.

“Listening to the medical staff and listening to him, the biggest thing is getting the inflammation out of his elbow,” Martinez said. “Then we'll see how far we can push him to get him ready. But a lot is going to be determined on him, what he feels and how he feels.”

Washington’s system is without a top-tier catching prospect. Read is considered more of a hitter. He could well become a first baseman in the future. Barrera played this season at Double-A Harrisburg. He was a sixth-round pick in 2016. A preseason list of the organization’s top 30 prospects placed Barrera 18th despite turning 25 years old on Sunday.

The complication of limited options popped up Saturday. Washington put two runners with one out. Read was due up. The situation was primed for Suzuki to pinch-hit, then take over as catcher, if he was able. Or even giving Gomes a chance -- if he hadn’t caught for seven consecutive days. Read hit for himself and grounded into a double play.

The final month’s workload rests with Gomes. Of the 15 remaining games, he will likely catch up to 14 if Suzuki remains injured. There is one built-in off-day. A split day-night doubleheader against Philadelphia will require Read to make another appearance. Otherwise, it’s time to sleep, eat, stay hydrated and ride it out.

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