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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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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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