Lakers: Dwight Howard set for preseason debut

Lakers: Dwight Howard set for preseason debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) Dwight Howard is set to make his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason game against Sacramento on Sunday night.

Coach Mike Brown says Howard is in the Lakers' starting lineup with no restrictions on his playing time. Howard finally will hit the Staples Center court in his gold No. 12 jersey just more than six months after the six-time All-Star center had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Howard didn't play in the first five preseason games for the Lakers (0-5), who acquired him from Orlando in August through a four-team trade that sent All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. The Lakers have been cautious, but Howard was in full practices with his new teammates during almost every session of training camp.

``I thought he could have played ... from the beginning of training camp, because he's been participating in everything for a while,'' Brown said. ``But it's not completely my call on injury issues. ... He looks good in practice. You'd think he'll look good out on the floor.''

Howard had refused to commit to any timetable for his return since his first day with the Lakers, saying he wanted to make sure he was fully conditioned for the grind of an NBA season before stepping back on the court. The talkative center also refused to speculate on the percentage of his recovery from surgery, even while his teammates could see no limitations in his practice work.

Last week, Howard acknowledged he might feel some nerves when he finally joined Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the Lakers' home court with the jerseys of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hanging in the rafters.

He prepared for Sunday's game quietly in the Lakers' locker room, listening to music on his headphones while putting on his uniform. Howard has inherited Bynum's locker near the door to the training room - and he also has Bynum's habit of wearing his headphones only half-covering his ears, allowing his teammates to hear his tunes.

When asked if he expected to be nervous, Howard replied: ``I don't know. We'll see when I get out there.''

Brown says he'll play his starters more extensively in the Lakers' final three preseason games to build chemistry for the regular season, using them together at the start of most quarters and finishing the game with his top five. Howard will start alongside Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in Los Angeles' frontcourt, allowing Gasol to move out of the middle of Los Angeles' defense.

``We're going to finish the game with our starters, and we did game-plan a couple of things for Sacramento,'' Brown said. ``So I'm excited to see if the guys can execute a couple of things.''

Backup forward Jordan Hill was held out of the lineup for the Lakers, although he has returned to practice after herniating a disc in his back earlier in training camp.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers


Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.


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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final


George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.