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Crawford leads Clippers to 10th straight win

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Crawford leads Clippers to 10th straight win

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers are learning to adapt.

Playing their fourth road game in seven nights, they could have easily been overrun by the often overlooked Detroit Pistons.

Not this club.

Jamal Crawford scored 15 points and Chris Paul added 14 to lead the weary Clippers to their 10th straight win, 88-76 over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

``We didn't shoot very well, and we didn't do a lot of things we wanted to do,'' said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. ``We just had a lot of guys make plays down the stretch and we get to go home with another win. Early in the season, we probably lose that game, but now we've gotten to the point where we can win ugly.''

No Clippers player scored more than 15 points, but they had five players score in double figures.

``This was a tough one, because we've been playing every other night and we're ready to go home,'' said Detroit native Willie Green. ``This was a great test for us, and we passed it.''

Blake Griffin also had 15 points for Los Angeles and Paul had seven assists. Griffin had two breakaway dunks in the last 30 seconds, one on a pass banked off the backboard by Matt Barnes.

``When I saw that it was just the two of us, I told him to keep coming,'' Barnes joked. ``I figured a lot more people wanted to see Blake dunk than wanted to see me lay one in.''

Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 16 and Tayshaun Prince added 15. Detroit, which committed 17 turnovers, lost its fifth straight.

``We did enough defensive things to win the game, but when you are going against a team that strips and steals the ball and is very aggressive, everything has to be sharp,'' said Pistons coach Lawrence Frank. ``We have to be more precise, and in the last six minutes, you know it is going to be harder against a team like that, but we have to be able to do it.''

Both teams struggled in the first half, with the Clippers taking a 42-40 lead into the intermission despite shooting just 39 percent. Detroit hit 42.5 percent of its shots, but managed only one free throw and two offensive rebounds. The Clippers tried for the last shot of the half, but Prince stole the ball and two quick passes gave Greg Monroe a wide-open layup at the buzzer.

Los Angeles got things in gear in the third quarter, quickly taking a 12-point advantage, but Griffin went to the bench with four fouls and Detroit was able to work its way back into the game.

The Pistons were within 63-60 at quarter's end behind 13 points from Prince, but couldn't keep up the pressure.

``We played a good first half, but once we turned it over a couple times in the third, we let them get out and do their thing,'' Prince said. ``We didn't execute in the second half, and that's when you need it the most.''

Detroit committed three turnovers in a period of four possessions and Jason Maxiell missed a pair of free throws on the fourth, allowing Los Angeles to take an 11-point advantage with 6:45 to play. Brandon Knight also missed a technical-foul free throw in the stretch.

``We weren't hitting a lot of shots, but we trusted our defense to make plays,'' Barnes said. ``That was the way we finally won the game.''

The Pistons kept up the pressure, pulling down four offensive rebounds on one possession in the last 90 seconds, but couldn't hit enough shots to make a serious rally.

``They turned on that playoff mentality, stepped up their defense and kind of shut us down,'' said rookie Andre Drummond. ``The fourth quarter has been an issue all year. We aren't closing games out.''

NOTES: Former Pistons All-Stars Chauncey Billups (foot) and Grant Hill (knee) were both inactive for the Clippers, while Rodney Stuckey (back spasms) missed the game for Detroit. Billups, the MVP of Detroit's championship win in 2004, received a loud ``Chaun-Cey!'' chant from the crowd during a fourth-quarter timeout. ... Several members of the University of Michigan football team attended the game, including team captains Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs. Robinson, who hasn't thrown a pass since late October due to an elbow injury, tossed a Nerf football to the Pistons mascot during a timeout.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.