Nationals

Lakers beat Knicks 100-94 to get to .500

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Lakers beat Knicks 100-94 to get to .500

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping the Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday and extend the Lakers' winning streak to five games while lifting them to .500.

Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.

The Lakers improved to 14-14 - 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni - and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.

The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five.

Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.

Gasol dunked with 12 seconds to go, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team's struggles and coaching change, home happy. The Lakers avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.

Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Bryant had eight of the Lakers' first 10 points to open the fourth during a run that provided their first lead since the opening quarter in a game matching the two teams that have played the most on Christmas Day.

They took the lead for good on Bryant's basket with 7:38 remaining. Anthony and Tyson Chandler were in foul trouble in the fourth, with Chandler fouling out late.

The Knicks opened the third on a 15-5 run, with Anthony setting up on the perimeter and hitting two 3-pointers as part of his 10 points that stretched their lead to 61-53. His jumper provided the Knicks' largest lead of the game, 69-60.

Bryant and Nash ignited the quiet atmosphere by leading a 17-9 run that drew the Lakers to 78-77 going into the fourth. They combined to score 15 points, although Bryant missed two free throws to end the third that would have given the Lakers their first lead since early in the game. The Knicks' earlier roll dissolved in missed shots and a technical on Chandler for arguing a call.

World Peace scored 16 points in the second quarter, including eight in a row, when the Lakers played catch-up most of the way. His 3-pointer gave the Lakers their first lead of the period with 1:10 remaining. Smith tied it up with a free throw before Nash's jumper sent the Lakers into halftime leading 51-49.

Bryant scored the Lakers' final nine points of the first quarter to give them a 25-23 lead. D'Antoni's plan of having Darius Morris guard Anthony didn't last long after he scored five of the Knicks' first seven points.

NOTES: Bryant surpassed Oscar Robertson as the league's all-time Christmas Day scorer with 383 points. Robertson had 377. ... Knicks F/C Amare Stoudemire shot some before the game. He's been out all season after left knee surgery. ... ... Knicks C Marcus Camby had four points and four rebounds in 8 minutes. He's been sidelined by a sore left foot and barely played this season. ... Asked about Bryant as an MVP candidate, D'Antoni said, ``You can't put anybody MVP if you're below .500.'' ... In their only other Christmas Day meeting in 1963, the Lakers beat the Knicks 134-126 behind 47 points by Jerry West and 27 from Elgin Baylor. ... Several Lakers had unopened gift bags in their lockers with the tag, ``From Kobe Merry Xmas 2012.'' ... The Lakers were all in white, while the Knicks were all in orange down to their socks in a color similar to Syracuse. ... Howard spent time before the game explaining to his teammates a snake chant he wanted them to do during Bryant's pre-game introduction, in honor of his ``Mamba'' nickname. ... Among the celebs holidaying at Staples Center were Rihanna and Chris Brown, Adam Levine, Samuel L. Jackson, George Lopez and Richard Lewis. Vanessa Bryant and her two young daughters sat courtside opposite the Lakers bench.

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Nationals coy about how starting pitching will lineup in World Series

Nationals coy about how starting pitching will lineup in World Series

WASHINGTON -- Mike Rizzo declined to say specifically Friday how the Nationals’ World Series rotation would line up. 

“Davey [Martinez] and I haven’t met officially yet,” Rizzo said. “I don’t think the pitching plans will come as any shock to anybody.”

Washington’s sweep of St. Louis in the National League Championship Series presents options. Everyone is rested. And, they needed it.

Despite the sweep, Stephen Strasburg is second in pitches thrown in the postseason, Max Scherzer fourth, Patrick Corbin sixth and Aníbal Sánchez 11th. Houston’s Justin Verlander is No. 1 following his Friday start in New York. Astros starter Gerrit Cole is third.

“You guys can figure it out,” Martinez said to reporters of the pending rotation. “You’ve been here all year. 

“For me, it’s making sure these guys are ready and healthy. These guys have pitched a lot. I want to make sure -- it’s not just about Game 1, it’s about Games 4, 5, 6, 7. We’ve got to make sure we prepare ourselves for seven games and that we do our due diligence on each one.”

The flat, and most likely, scenario is Washington simply decides to throw Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Stephen Strasburg in Game 2. Scherzer would be back in Game 5, if necessary, on full rest. Strasburg would return for Game 6 on an extra day of rest. They could also flip to give Scherzer the extra day. 

Here’s a wrinkle to consider: throw Aníbal Sánchez in one of the first two games. Why? 

Sánchez has been potent in the postseason. He has a 0.71 ERA in two starts. He’s struck out 14 and allowed five hits. Nothing about his ERA is a fib.

If he starts Game 1 or 2 in Houston, let’s say Game 1 for this what-if exercise, Scherzer is bumped to Games 2 and 6 -- with an extra day of rest. Strasburg opens Game 3 at home, then is in line to pitch Game 7 on the road on regular rest. Otherwise, the Nationals will have to massage the pitching later in the series to put their two best pitchers in the most important game.

Think of the argument this way: if the goal is a road split to start, what are the chances a Sánchez-Scherzer pairing could accomplish that? Based on the postseason so far -- and Sánchez’s 2.57 career postseason ERA -- it’s a reasonable consideration.

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5 prospects Ravens fans should be watching in Penn State vs. Michigan

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5 prospects Ravens fans should be watching in Penn State vs. Michigan

The Whiteout is one of the greatest atmospheres in all of sports. It will be on display Saturday as Penn State hosts Michigan (7:30 p.m., ABC). That alone is enough reason to Saturday's game, but for any Redskins fans out there who need more convincing, there are plenty of players playing who could be joining former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in Baltimore.

Hare the players Ravens fans should be watching.

DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Gross-Matos has been climbing the draft boards after a breakout sophomore season in which he blew apart opposing lines with a whopping 54 tackles, 20 for a loss and eight sacks. He has really good size at 6-foot-5 which comes with some big arms which he uses to initiate contact and work blockers. He has more penetration skills than a lot of edge rushers and sometimes comes from the interior at Penn State.  He is not the kind of lineman who needs to get a good jump and get around a block, he can go around you or through you.

See where Gross-Matos is projected to go in the latest NFL Mock Draft.

CB Lavert Hill, Michigan

With two interceptions this season already, Hill is a top cover-corner for Michigan. Most draft experts have him as a nickel corner in the NFL. That's because his best skill is covering receivers man-to-man. Line him up in the slot and have him cover a speedy slot receiver and he can shut it down. At 5-foot-11, he is definitely undersized for an NFL defensive back, but the talent is there.

Watching Hill lineup against Penn State's KJ Hamler will be one of the matchups to watch on Saturday.

OLB Cam Brown, Penn State

In terms of side-to-side vision, Brown is one of the best linebackers in college football. He recorded 63 tackles last season with two sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes broken up. The knock on him, however, is that he can be easily blocked. He needs to bulk up a bit and work at shedding blocks to be really effective at the NFL level.

G Michael Onwenu, Michigan

In terms of size and strength, Onwenu's got it. In terms of quickness and athleticism, there are a few question marks. Then again, Onwenu is a guard, not a tackle, so perhaps you can get away with a project at that position with questions about his shape. His power alone makes him an NFL player.

OLB Josh Uche, Michigan

Uche is a hybrid edge rusher/linebacker, but he definitely looks like he would be more of an edge rusher in the NFL. This guy's main job on the field and perhaps in life is to pressure the quarterback. He had only 15 tackles last year, but seven of them were sacks. This is definitely  a later-round project though. He had 1.5 sacks heading into last week's matchup with Illinois. He inflated his totals a bit with three sacks in that games so take his final numbers with a grain of salt and ask just where those sacks are coming from.

 

G Steven Gonzalez, Penn State

Gonzalez sounded like he was committed to entering the draft in 2018, but he elected instead to return to Penn State for a fifth season. He's an interior lineman, most likely a guard, which is an area the Ravens need depth in. 

Athleticism is a bit of a question. Gonzalez is good on the run at the first block, but you shouldn't really expect him to go to the second level. He is going to occupy his first block, but he is not going to plow his way to a second. He just doesn't have the speed or athleticism to do it.

Other potential NFL prospects to watch:

WR Tarik Black, Michigan
G Ben Bredeson, Michigan
RB Chris Evans, Michigan
P Blake Gillikin, Penn State
WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State
CB Lavert Hill, Michigan
S Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
WR Juwan Johnson, Penn State
S Josh Metellus, Michigan
K Quinn Nordin, Michigan
QB Shea Patterson, Michigan
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
CB John Reid, Penn State
OLB Josh Uche, Michigan
DT Robert Windsor, Penn State

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