Ravens

Durant's 42 helps send Lakers to 6th straight loss

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Durant's 42 helps send Lakers to 6th straight loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer in the final second of the first half and did a full reverse somersault to celebrate a 16-point lead. The Thunder were running the Lakers out of their own building, and not even Kobe Bryant could stop them.

Oklahoma City is again clearly among the best teams in the Western Conference, and the struggling Lakers may not have enough time left in the season to join them.

Durant scored a season-high 42 points, Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists, and Oklahoma City easily sent the short-handed Lakers to their sixth straight loss, 116-101 on Friday night.

Kevin Martin scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers for the Thunder, who romped to a 27-point lead in the second half. Oklahoma City has won seven of nine, while Los Angeles is on its longest skid since March 2007 while playing without injured stars Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

Oklahoma City (28-8) matched the Clippers for the NBA's best record - and the Thunder made it look easy with a virtuoso game from Durant, who had 38 points midway through the third quarter.

``Coming in here, it's tough to win no matter what,'' Durant insisted after the Thunder coasted down the stretch. ``We did a great job of just playing together at both ends of the floor all night and not taking those guys lightly. They've got two of the best players in the world out, so we just wanted to come out and have a good game.''

They had a bit more than a good game. Durant hit four 3-pointers and his usual array of athletic shots whenever he wanted, while Westbrook finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double while playing less than 35 minutes.

The Thunder only had three scorers in double figures, but that was more than enough.

Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, has little sympathy for the Lakers.

``They're not done. They have a lot more games left, and I'm pretty sure they're going to find a way to get it together,'' Westbrook said. ``Our job is to worry about our team and our organization. It wasn't easy. I just think we did a good job of playing team basketball defensively, and it showed. Kevin took control most of the game.''

The Lakers (15-21) hadn't lost this many consecutive games since the year before they acquired Gasol and embarked on a run to three straight NBA finals. With Cleveland and Milwaukee visiting over the next four days, the Lakers have a chance to get competitive again - but they're facing an uphill climb just to get into playoff contention.

``I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,'' coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``We've got to make a run. We've got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically. From there on, we can't make any more false steps. That's just how it is. We put ourselves in this ditch, and we're the only ones that can get it out, and hopefully we can get some guys back and start our season Sunday.''

Bryant scored 28 points and Antawn Jamison added 19 against Oklahoma City, but Los Angeles looked lost and overmatched in its third straight game without Howard and Gasol.

The Thunder eliminated Bryant and the Lakers from last season's playoffs in five games, and Los Angeles has shown few signs of being able to compete with the defending conference champions this season. Injuries aren't the only problem, but Howard likely is out for at least another week with a shoulder injury, while Gasol still hasn't been cleared to return from his concussion.

``We're just very frustrated and upset about what we're going through right now, and how we're playing,'' Bryant said. ``We're going to have to make some big adjustments if we're going to be successful. We gave up about 120 points tonight, and a lot of them were just layups and easy looks at the rim.''

Steve Nash had seven points and seven assists in a quiet 30 minutes for the Lakers, who announced during the second quarter that backup big man Jordan Hill likely needs season-ending surgery on his left hip. Metta World Peace added 12 points, going 1 for 9 on 3-point attempts.

``We showed some fight, but we just were a little overmatched,'' Nash said. ``They're bigger than us at almost every position. Kevin got hot, and we couldn't contain him in the second quarter. As the game wore on, I just think the difference in depth and quality took over.''

NOTES: Before the game, Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, announced they've called off their divorce proceedings. Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce in December 2011. ... The teams meet again at Staples Center on Jan. 27. Oklahoma City also visits to face the Clippers on Jan. 22. ... Charlize Theron, Adam Sandler, Robin Thicke, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mehmet Oz and Chad Johnson watched the game from courtside.

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson set the tone for Sunday’s game on the Ravens' first drive of the afternoon. 

He rushed just twice, one of which went for a touchdown, but had 57 yards on the game-tying opening drive. 

Jackson finished with 152 yards on the ground — a career high — to carry the Ravens to a 23-17 win over the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“I take advantage, like I said before, and I’m trying to win at the end of the day,” Jackson said after the game. “If I’ve got to run, I’ve got to do it and today that’s what it was. Sometimes I had to pass. Sometimes I had to run.”

He did throw for 236 yards and completed 21 of 33 passes, too. But the story was his legs, which kept the Bengals off-balance all day.

“Lamar was able to get out and run because of the way they were playing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing kind of spill defense. They really didn’t want us to run the ball up inside with our running backs, and that opened up some other things."

Jackson now has 460 rushing yards on the season and is on pace for over 1,200. He’s also on pace for just over 4,000 passing yards.

His dual-threat ability has flummoxed nearly every team the Ravens have played this season. Jackson has had over 300 scrimmage yards in all but one (last week in against the Steelers) of the Ravens' games. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing for a defense,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You have a play covered, and he’s an elite athlete. We’ve played a couple of good athletes. He’s one of the rarest I’ve seen in person. Just one little crease and he’s got 30 yards on you.”

Cincinnati sold out to stop the interior run, and Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore running attack burned the Bengals on the outside. 

Jackson’s elusiveness was never more evident than on the Ravens' last full drive of the game. The Ravens received the ball with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter and a 20-10 lead. They didn’t give the ball back to the Bengals until there was just over three minutes to play.

“I catch myself on the sideline stretching because, you know, they’ll be holding the ball for a minute and we’ve got to stay warm,” Matthew Judon said. “He picks us up in crucial times and keeps getting first downs. It’s hard, man. You can’t cover everybody and keep a spy on him [at] all times.”

The nine minute, 46 second drive, highlighted by a 16-yard Jackson scramble on 3rd and 14, put away any realistic chance the Bengals had of pulling off an upset.

It capped off a historic day for Jackson and his place in the NFL record books. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 150 yards and register at least 200 yards passing in a regular season game.

The Bengals sold out to stop interior rushes and mostly took away big passing plays from the Ravens. Jackson just made the Bengals pick their poison when it came to choosing what to stop. 

And Jackson made Cincinnati realized that whatever it chose was still poison.

“He was cutting it back, throwing outside and running around,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “He was just having fun on us, and that’s what you never want to have done.”

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From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

Terry McLaurin's first touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday wasn't just the result of one well-executed play.

Instead, it combined intelligent film study, superb route running and excellent speed, three of the qualities that McLaurin has shown off all season long as he's establishing himself as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and one of the best picks in the 2019 Draft.

Earlier in the week, the 24-year-old saw Amari Cooper run a similar route versus Miami — one that starts off looking like a crosser before a change of direction turns it into a dash to the corner — and he took note of how the defender tried to undercut it. So, he know if he sold the crosser well, he'd break free once he planted his foot in the ground.

It's one step to put in that work, though. It's a whole other step to actually carry it out on the field. But that's what McLaurin did in Week 6, and it ended up as one absolutely tremendous highlight in an overall impressive afternoon.

No. 17 would go on to find the end zone a second time in the contest, as well as secure an important, long catch late that got the Redskins off of their own goal line. After the win, the team's first in six tries as well as the first of McLaurin's pro career, he was asked if he's surprised by how effective he's been.

"Not really," he said. "I want to be a guy you can come to on third down, the clutch situations, press man. I want to develop into that."

While at the postgame podium, Bill Callahan described the way McLaurin gets open as a "work of art." Case Keenum was just as complimentary.

"He's friendly on the eyes as a QB," Keenum told reporters. "Just the body language he gives in and out of breaks, I know where he's going to be at all times."

In five contests for the Burgundy and Gold, the wideout has 23 catches for 408 yards. He's averaging 17.7 yards a grab and has nabbed five scores. He's beating guys deep, he's beating guys over the middle and he's beating the guys in contested situations.

Yet the trait everyone keeps coming back to, from coaches to teammates to analysts, fans, is his route running. Callahan comparing it to art wasn't a stretch, and Keenum calling him "friendly on the eyes" is deserved. It's top-notch already. 

It's something McLaurin takes a ton of pride in, too.

"I think that's what separates good receivers from great receivers," he said. 

Now, the Redskins' Week 6 victory over the Dolphins was far from flawless. In fact, if it weren't for a dropped ball on a two-point conversion attempt, it very well could've been another loss. 

But while fans of the franchise may not take much comfort in the final score, they should find time to appreciate what McLaurin is doing. 

He's not just an emerging star in the organization, he's an emerging star in the entire sport, and covering his rookie campaign has been a treat so far. Well, for everyone covering him except opposing defenders, of course.

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