Redskins

Kobe leads Lakers past Oklahoma City 105-96

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Kobe leads Lakers past Oklahoma City 105-96

LOS ANGELES (AP) After every plot twist and dramatic turn in the Los Angeles Lakers' soap opera of a season, perhaps their stars' latest identity switches shouldn't be all that shocking.

Kobe Bryant made all the big passes. Steve Nash scored important points down the stretch. Pau Gasol excelled off the bench as the new-look Lakers calmly maintained a fourth-quarter lead on the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bryant had 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, Nash added seven of his 17 points in the final 5 1/2 minutes, and the Lakers held off the NBA-leading Thunder 105-96 Sunday.

Gasol scored 16 points in a reserve role as the Lakers picked up the most impressive victory of their thoroughly unimpressive season, coolly maintaining a small lead down the stretch of their second straight win after a four-game skid.

With Bryant taking on a playmaking role, Nash stepping up his offensive game and Dwight Howard preaching togetherness, the 19-25 Lakers are cautiously optimistic their latest reboot will work - and even the Thunder were impressed.

``We're doing a good job right now of just being real with each other and holding each other accountable,'' said Bryant, who had 14 assists and fell one rebound shy of a triple-double in each of the past two games. ``That makes a huge difference. I'm trying to evolve and find out what we need as a ballclub.''

So is everybody else with the Lakers, who had lost nine of their last 11 against the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, including four of five in the clubs' second-round playoff series last spring and a blowout loss at Staples Center 16 days ago. The Lakers have strung together two solid games at home since a clear-the-air team meeting in Memphis last week.

``We've found something that works, that's for sure, and something we can feel good about,'' said Gasol, who played 36 minutes. ``I think the way we are playing, we can be very successful.''

Kevin Durant scored 35 points and Russell Westbrook had 17 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the road-weary Thunder, who finished their longest trip of the season at 3-3. Durant could sense the Lakers' desperation in their fourth-quarter effort.

``The whole arena felt that way,'' the three-time NBA scoring champion said. ``They needed a win. It was a must-win for them, and they came out and performed well. They were hitting shots, and they were doing a good job of protecting the paint. We missed some good shots as well. As a group, we all have to do our roles better. Every individual has to play their role to a T for us to win games, but we'll be fine.''

Bryant and Westbrook briefly tangled in the third quarter in an exchange that earned a technical foul for Kobe. Both All-Star guards entered the fourth quarter needing just one rebound for a triple-double, but neither got it.

Westbrook missed his first eight shots and 12 of his first 13 before finding a rhythm, but the Lakers didn't wilt down the stretch.

``The thought the execution at the end of the game by our team definitely could have been better,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. ``It's something that we're pretty good at, but a lot of that had to do with their team. They're a physical team, and they were moving us around a little bit towards the end.''

Los Angeles took the lead with 6:15 to play on a jumper by Metta World Peace, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers nursed a small advantage in the final minutes, going up 101-95 on Gasol's driving layup with 1:09 to play.

Bryant then hit a tough 19-foot jumper with 37 seconds left, and Westbrook couldn't answer. Durant didn't have a field goal in the final 6:39, scoring just seven points in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's third loss in 11 games.

Oklahoma City routed the Lakers earlier this month, with Durant scoring 42 points and Westbrook adding 27 while Los Angeles played without Howard and Gasol.

Howard had just eight points and 10 rebounds this time out while fighting foul trouble and missing eight of his 10 free throws. Bryant and Nash led a passionate effort by the Lakers, whose season-long missteps and embarrassments have left them well out of the playoff picture heading into the second half of the season.

``I'm very excited to see our progress,'' Howard said. ``We're going to continue to work, continue to talk to each other. The biggest difference is we're holding each other accountable for everything. We had a great talk in Memphis, and it's carried over.''

NOTES: The clubs conclude their season series in Oklahoma City on March 5. ... Lakers owner Jerry Buss celebrated his 79th birthday. The Basketball Hall of Famer hasn't attended a game this season while dealing with health concerns. ... Derek Fisher, the five-time champion Lakers guard who finished last season with the Thunder, watched from a courtside seat. Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Alessandro Nivola, Horace Grant and baseball stars Matt Kemp, Vernon Wells and Michael Young also sat courtside.

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Dwayne Haskins has secured the starting job, now he wants to secure more authority

Dwayne Haskins has secured the starting job, now he wants to secure more authority

The Redskins' starting quarterback job now officially belongs to Dwayne Haskins.

Next up? The rookie wants take more ownership of and have more confidence in the offense he's being asked to direct for the next seven games.

In his first midweek turn at the team's podium in Ashburn, Haskins reflected on how he felt more at ease as his first start in Buffalo progressed. That's a comfort level he hopes grows starting with this Sunday's matchup versus the Jets.

"The more reps I got, the more rhythm I got with my eyes and my feet and being able to look at guys in the huddle and tell an All-Pro Brandon Scherff what the play is and have some authority behind it meant a lot for me," Haskins told reporters on Wednesday. "I feel like I'll continue to get better at that."

One thing Haskins has spoken of often, even going back to training camp this past summer, is wanting to play the position more with his instincts as opposed to instincts-after-thinking. It sounds like that process has begun, and with each contest, those instincts will kick in more and more.

That authority Haskins wants to have, though, doesn't just come from on-field performance. It's about how he behaves each day leading up to Sunday and the commitment he displays while preparing.

Those were things that apparently weren't being taken care of early on this year, but he certainly seems more aware of them now, which is quite encouraging.

"Everyone is watching what you're doing, how you handle yourself, how you walk in the building and how you walk into a meeting," he said. "That's all very important for the guys who want you to lead them."

So, the question now becomes how all of these factors — a deeper understanding of the offense, a more mature approach, the security that comes from knowing he's the No. 1 signal caller — influence Haskins' production. Can he show enough flashes from now until the end of the season for the Redskins to believe they can truly build around him?

Terry McLaurin, who's seen what a locked in Haskins can do firsthand, gave a terrific comparison for what that version of the QB looks like. And if No. 7 can get to where No. 17 has witnessed him get to before, then this final stretch of 2019 will be very fun.

"I kind of describe it as an elite shooter," McLaurin explained. "Ray Allen, any type of elite scorer in the NBA you can think of being in a zone. It's like, 'Man, it doesn't matter who's in front of him, what he's seeing, it's just the ball's going in.' I see that a lot out of Dwayne when he gets going, when he's confident."

Haskins, meanwhile, was more straightforward when it came to describing what he wants to get out of this next month and a half.

"I know I can play at a high level," he said, "so I've just got to do it."

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What Lamar Jackson has done in his first 16 game 'season' as starting QB

What Lamar Jackson has done in his first 16 game 'season' as starting QB

Lamar Jackson hasn’t been the Ravens’ starting quarterback for a calendar year, but on Sunday in Cincinnati, he wrapped up his first career “season” as quarterback of the Ravens. 

In his 16th career start, he led the Ravens to a 49-13 win over the winless Bengals and stated his case for MVP with both his arm and his legs, spotlighted by a spin move that left the Bengals’ defense in shambles.

Still just 22-years-old, Jackson hasn’t had as much time as other young quarterbacks to develop in a system. And he’s still an MVP candidate. 

If you put together the two seasons from 2018 and 2019, Jackson’s first NFL “season” is now complete.

Through the first 16 starts of his career, over two seasons, Jackson is on-pace for 3,078 passing yards and 1,258 rushing yards. The NFL record for rushing yards in a season is 1,039 yards, set by Michael Vick in 2006. 

That means that through Jackson’s first 16 starts, he’s on a pace of 4,336 total yards from scrimmage. 

He’s 260-for-413 passing, a completion percentage of 62.9 percent. He’s thrown for 20 touchdowns and has thrown eight interceptions in his starts, too. 

On the ground, he’s rushed for 10 rushing touchdowns and fumbled 14 times. He’s also been sacked 33 times. 

Through his 16 starts, the Ravens have a 13-3 record. The only losses came to the Chiefs in 2018 and the Chiefs and Browns in 2019. 

He and the Ravens lost a playoff game to the Chargers last season, though those numbers aren’t reflected in his regular-season starts. 

Jackson has improved rapidly in his second year and is currently on-pace for nearly 5,000 total yards and nearly 40 combined touchdowns. Even with an adjustment period in 2018, his first NFL “season” has surpassed nearly all expectations for him.

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