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Thunder hold off Nets 117-111 for 6th straight win

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Thunder hold off Nets 117-111 for 6th straight win

NEW YORK (AP) Kevin Durant scored 32 points, Russell Westbrook had 25 points and nine assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Brooklyn Nets 117-111 on Tuesday night for their sixth straight victory.

Serge Ibaka added 18 points and Thabo Sefolosha 14 for the Thunder, who revved up the NBA's No. 1 offense to surpass 100 points in a 10th straight game for the first time in 15 years. They beat the Nets for the seventh consecutive time, but had to work much harder for this win than they have lately.

Oklahoma City, which had won its last four by 25 points a game, leads the NBA in victory margin, beating teams by 9.8 points per game. But their 16-point lead was sliced to two down the stretch, even as they shot 60.6 percent for the game.

Deron Williams scored a season-high 34 points for the Nets, who had their six-game home winning streak snapped. They played without starting center Brook Lopez (sprained right foot) and reserve forward Reggie Evans (flu), leaving them without their leading scorer and top rebounder.

They still almost pulled it out after the Thunder threatened to run them off the floor in the first half, but lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak.

The Thunder hit 21 of their first 30 shots in an offensive clinic by the team that came in averaging an NBA-best 105.1 points per game, feeling so confident that Durant even tried a dunk that left the Barclays Center crowd gasping.

Andray Blatche had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Lopez's place, Joe Johnson scored 17 points, and Kris Humphries had 12 points and 12 boards for the Nets.

The Nets were on their longest home winning streak since late in 2005-06, but weren't quite sharp in their $1 billion arena, where even the overhead video board had some technical difficulties, resulting in some garbled names in the first half.

The Thunder hit 12 of 18 shots in the first quarter, getting 10 points apiece from Westbrook and Sefolosha, but the Nets stayed right with them behind 12 from Williams and trailed only 31-28 after one.

But the Thunder were just too sharp in the second quarter, and were spectacular even when the ball didn't go in. Durant launched himself for a dunk from at least 6 feet away, his feet way up near the 6-foot-11 Blatche's head for an attempt that would have rivaled anything Blake Griffin or Vince Carter has ever thrown down. He missed, throwing the ball hard off the rim, but Blatche was called for a foul and Durant made the free throws.

Durant hit all five shots in the period, and the Thunder pulled away with a 16-4 run before taking a 61-48 lead to the half.

They were running away with it when they scored six straight points to make it 73-57 with 8:26 remaining in the third, but then completely forgot to guard the 3-point line. The Nets made five in the final 3:49 of the period, getting within two before Durant's basket made it 90-86 heading to the fourth.

The Thunder quickly got it back to double digits but the Nets rallied again as Joe Johnson finally got untracked so Williams didn't have to carry the entire scoring load. His short jumper cut it to two with 2:14 left, but Durant was credited with a basket on a goaltend call against Humphries that stood up after video review. After Williams missed, Sefolosha swooped in to put back a miss to make it 112-106, and Oklahoma City was safe again.

Notes: Oklahoma City wore its alternate third uniforms, which are navy blue with ``Thunder'' written vertically along the right side of the chest. ... The Nets' Avery Johnson was the Eastern Conference coach of the month for November. ... If the Thunder ended the season with their current scoring margin, it would be the NBA's largest since Boston won by 10.3 points per game during its 2007-08 championship season.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series