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Rams' streak comes despite offensive struggles

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Rams' streak comes despite offensive struggles

ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Rams find themselves with an opportunity to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003 and an outside shot of making the playoffs.

If they accomplish either, Sam Bradford and the offense won't be the main reason for the success. The Rams offense is 29th in scoring and the third-year quarterback is ranked 22nd.

There's plenty of blame to go around, from lack of execution to failures on third downs.

``There's a lot of things,'' offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. ``A couple of weeks ago, we had a bunch of drops. He'd obviously like to have a few throws back during the course of last game. Last game was probably a game where he got a minus grade for some of his throws last week that normally doesn't happen. You can't really put your finger on just one thing.''

The inefficiencies have forced the defense and special teams to carry the load for the Rams, especially in the three-game winning streak they take into their game against Minnesota on Sunday. St. Louis has scored just four offensive touchdowns during the stretch and only scored more than 20 points four times this season. That includes a 31-17 victory at Arizona in which the defense scored two touchdowns.

Coach Jeff Fisher said getting more out of his offense is important, but it becomes even more so when facing Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

With an NFL-leading 1,600 yards, Peterson needs to average 134 yards over the last three games to become the seventh player to reach 2,000 yards in one season. The Rams could use some long drives to keep Peterson off the field.

``Obviously we're doing everything we possibly can to try to get the ball into the end zone,'' Fisher said. ``We've played some very good defenses as of late, it's just one of those things. You hope you follow the course of our turnovers to where we went six weeks without a turnover then, all of a sudden, they came in bunches. We're hoping that perhaps touchdowns will come in bunches here soon.''

Bradford zeroed in on the Rams' inability to extend drives. St. Louis is fourth-worst in the NFL in converting on third downs. In a 15-12 victory at Buffalo in their last game, the Rams went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions. They had four plays in the other drive.

Only once in the second half did they fail to get a first down on a possession, aside from kneeling on the final play of the game.

``It's something that we seem to look at every week,'' Bradford said. ``I think to convert on third down it takes 11 guys doing their job. There's just a lot of times that we don't have all 11 guys on the same page, and that's what we're working to get.''

Buffalo slowed the Rams' running attack in the first half and that changing the approach he wanted to take. But, both players and coaches repeatedly said that the Rams are doing a fine job hurting themselves on offense.

``Again, it comes down to execution. We're not going to change our approach,'' he said. ``We need to tighten some things up. That's kind of been the message this week is to tighten things up from a fundamental standpoint, a technique standpoint.''

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Isaiah Thomas: NBA should have canceled games after Kobe Bryant's death

Isaiah Thomas: NBA should have canceled games after Kobe Bryant's death

The news of Kobe Bryant's death shook the sports world to its core, and while there were NBA games scheduled throughout Sunday, some felt the league should have canceled the games in light of the tragic news. 

Isaiah Thomas was one of them. 

"It's hard to even talk about it," Thomas said. "The NBA should have just canceled all the games because that put a dent in everybody's life that he's touched."

Thomas looked up to Bryant, admired him from afar and found his love for the game of basketball because of Bryant's greatness. Spending 20 years as a Laker, Bryant won five championships, an MVP and two Finals MVP awards to go along with 15 All-NBA selections and 18 trips to the All-Star game. 

For Thomas, his relationship with Bryant started to grow when he broke out as an All-Star in Boston. When Thomas suffered the tragic loss of his sister, they grew closer. After his hip injury that cost Thomas over a year of his career, Bryant supported him throughout. 

"I started basketball because of Kobe Bryant," he said. "2017, I lose my sister, 2019 I lose one of my best friends in Nipsey Hussle, and then to lose a mentor of mine, like, that's bigger than basketball, that [expletive] hurts.

"He was one of the people that was there for me and in my corner," he said. "And then I got injured, he was one of those guys that was there for me the whole time, helping me through mentally."

The NBA had a difficult decision to make on whether or not to cancel games since there were two games already in progress.

But before, during and after the game, everyone's thoughts were with Bryant and his family and not on a basketball game. Because as Thomas said, it's bigger than basketball. 

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Wizards lose emotional game to Hawks in wake of Kobe Bryant's death

Wizards lose emotional game to Hawks in wake of Kobe Bryant's death

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 152-133 on Sunday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. For some reason that may or may not be explained at a later date, the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks played a basketball game on Sunday just hours after the shocking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

Maybe the NBA found it fitting to honor his legacy by allowing basketball, his lifelong love, to proceed as normal. Maybe there were just too many moving pieces for commissioner Adam Silver and the league to coordinate in postponing or cancelling the eight total games that were scheduled on Sunday.

But it just felt really strange to watch two teams play a game that not only seemed inconsequential in light of the day's events, but will likely have no bearing on the playoff picture once the season is over. And it was clear to all those watching Sunday's games how difficult it was for players to operate as if everything was normal.

It was already a tragic day and games like the one the Wizards played added an awkward element that seemed unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. The result of the game, a Wizards' loss, seems meaningless.

2. Though a lot of the players probably would have preferred to not play, they ultimately did and both teams paid tribute to Bryant before and during the game.

There was a moment of silence at the arena as players and coaches held back tears. Then, once the game started, the Hawks held the ball for an eight-second violation and then the Wizards did the same for a 24-second shot clock violation.

It is amazing, really, how amazing it is that rulebook coincidence exists. Two clock violations in the NBA happen to be the jersey numbers he wore as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

3. Trae Young went further than that by wearing a No. 8 jersey to begin the game. He then switched to his usual, No. 11 uniform once the game began.

Young then proceeded to light up the Wizards for 45 points and 14 assists. He had 21 and 10 by halftime.

Young had previously had a very tough time against the Wizards. Through five career games against Washington, he was averaging just 13.4 points while shooting 30.8 percent from the field, both his lowest numbers against any team.

This time, though, Young finally broke through. At least for now, that monkey is off his back.

4. One Wizards player who was tasked with guarding Young was Isaac Bonga, but it didn't last long as Bonga left the game in the second quarter with a fractured tooth. He did not return.

Bonga was hurt on a collision with Young at midcourt when both were going for a loose ball. Bonga dove for the ball and was on his chest on the floor when Young collided with the back of his head, which caused Bonga's face to slam downward.

Unless there are concussion symptoms, this doesn't seem like the type of injury that will keep Bonga out long. It was, however, likely pretty painful.

In addition to Bonga, Jordan McRae also exited with an injury. He re-aggravated his right ankle in the second half and did not return.

5. It would have been really interesting to see Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura play in this game. He is still roughly a week or two away from returning from a groin injury and could only watch as two players who were drafted in the same class and play the same position had impressive games against the Wizards.

De'Andre Hunter, the fourth overall pick out of the University of Virginia, had 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting. And Cam Reddish, who was picked 10th overall and right behind Hachimura out of Duke University, added 13 points.

Hachimura, 21, has so far been better than both of them, but both Hunter and Reddish seem to have turned a corner lately. In this particular game, they were solid and helped Atlanta pull away for the victory.

It may take years before we know which teams got which draft picks right. But as of now it looks like all three have potential to be very good NBA players.

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