Nationals

Griffin, Crawford lead Clippers over Bulls 101-80

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Griffin, Crawford lead Clippers over Bulls 101-80

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin scored 12 of his 26 points in the final six minutes and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Los Angeles Clippers rout the Chicago Bulls 101-80 on Saturday night for their fifth straight victory.

Reserve Jamal Crawford scored 17 of his 22 points in the second quarter for the Clippers, who lead the Pacific Division with a 7-2 mark. It's their best record after nine games since 2005-06, when they won nine of their first 11, finished 47-35 and came within one victory of the Western Conference finals.

Five of the Clippers' six wins have come against teams that were in the playoffs last season, including the Lakers, Spurs and world champion Miami Heat on Wednesday. Both of their losses came against clubs which failed to make the postseason - Golden State and Cleveland.

The Clippers' reserves outscored the starters 35-18 in the first half and 53-48 for the game. Crawford, who signed with Los Angeles as a free agent in July after spending last season with Portland, leads the Clippers with 20.7 points per game and has scored 20 or more in six of his first nine contests.

The Bulls, who blew an 18-point lead in their previous game on Wednesday at Phoenix before beating the Suns 112-106 in overtime, got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer on the second leg of their annual circus road trip. Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton each had 14 points.

Joakim Noah, who has been urged by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to take more shots, was 0 for 6 from the field and finished with four points in 30 minutes. It was the 6-foot-11 center's worst shooting effort in 339 NBA regular-season games, including six occasions when he was 0 for 4.

Crawford led Los Angeles to a 53-40 halftime lead with 17 points, including three free throws with 1:31 left in the second quarter after Kirk Hinrich fouled him on a fadeaway 3-point attempt near the Clippers' bench.

Los Angeles opened the second half with a 7-0 run and extended its lead to 71-48 on Griffin's 21-footer with 5:04 left in the third quarter. The Bulls narrowed the gap to 87-74 with two baskets off offensive rebounds and a 3-pointer by Marco Belinelli with 6:14 left in the game.

But Griffin put the Clippers back in control with two free throws, a fast-break layup and another layup - all in a 58-second span. For good measure, the two-time All-Star connected three straight times on perimeter jumpers from 18 feet and out during a 70-second stretch to make it 99-80 with 2:07 to play.

The Bulls missed 12 of their first 15 shots, committed six turnovers in the first 7 1/2 minutes and fell behind by 15 on Matt Barnes' 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:49 left in the half.

Chris Paul finished with 10 assists and eight points for the Clippers

NOTES: The Clippers came in with an average of 40.9 points from their bench. ... Crawford was traded to the Bulls on draft day in June 2000 by Cleveland in exchange for Chris Mihm and cash. The 13-year veteran spent his first four NBA seasons in Chicago and went through two coaching transitions, playing for Tim Floyd, Bill Cartwright and Scott Skiles - but never making the playoffs during that stretch. The Clippers are his sixth pro team. ... The Clippers' victory put Vinny Del Negro one game over .500 in the regular season for the first time since he took over as head coach at the start of the 2010-11 campaign. He is 79-78 with Los Angeles, after guiding Chicago to back-to-back .500 seasons and two playoff berths. The Bulls are 117-40 since firing Del Negro and replacing him with Thibodeau.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

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More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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