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Washington's 4-0 Pac-12 start all because of D

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Washington's 4-0 Pac-12 start all because of D

SEATTLE (AP) Even in the past when they were pretty good defensively, the Washington Huskies' fast-paced athleticism on the offensive end always got the attention.

It's easy for defense to get overshadowed when future NBA players like Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Quincy Pondexter, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas and Terrence Ross are cycling through your program.

But the reason Washington has turned around a stumbling start this season and won 10 of its last 12 games is because of the effort and improvement being made on the defensive end. After Wednesday night's 64-54 win over Colorado, the Huskies improved to 4-0 in the Pac-12 and are allowing just 56 points per game in conference play.

Granted it's still early and the Huskies have yet to see any of the ranked Pac-12 squads - Arizona, Oregon and UCLA - but coach Lorenzo Romar has his team on pace to be the finest defensive squad in his tenure.

``It's both our attitude and us figuring things out,'' Washington guard Abdul Gaddy said. ``We take pride in our defense, we don't like when people score on us. We're really starting to jell, which is the main thing.''

Romar has preached defense since coming to Washington and it has often been a struggle. Yet this group has figured out the principles needed to be successful at that end.

For the season, the Huskies are giving up 64.9 points per game, which would be the lowest in Romar's tenure by nearly five points. Teams are shooting just 41 percent and only 37 percent in Washington's four conference games thus far. The Huskies have held seven of their last nine opponents under 40 percent shooting. They've accomplished that in each of their first four conference games, only the second time under Romar that the Huskies have held four straight opponents under the 40 percent mark.

Now in his 11th season, Romar has never had a team that has allowed less than 66 points per game in Pac-12 play or lower than 42 percent shooting. Even in their best seasons, when Washington reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament - 2005, 2006 and 2010 - the Huskies still allowed around 70 points per game.

It might be a little ugly as compared to Washington teams of the past, but Romar doesn't mind.

``You can color it any way you want to color it,'' Romar said. ``I just know that when you go out and you play two games in a row and you have single-digit turnovers, you hold four teams to under 40 percent from the field, you outrebound three out of the four, you're beginning to do things right.''

The defensive improvement this year has many layers and much of it starts at the other end of the floor. Washington made the transition in the offseason to using a high-post offense as its primary set. It was very choppy at the beginning of the season, to where Romar reverted to the motion offense for stretches, but has become more efficient of late. The net result of running an offense that requires more passing, more precision, is that the Huskies are putting up fewer shots and running more of the clock.

Washington is attempting seven fewer shots per game compared to last season. In turn, games are played at a slower pace and they are defending for fewer possessions.

Additionally, the Huskies have figured out how to use their length to cause defensive headaches. The Huskies will never be mistaken for a team filled with towering bodies, but guards C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, respectively, with long arms and the ability to make passing lanes shrink.

Then there is 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye in the back. N'Diaye has improved his lateral speed and become very good at coming from the opposite side of the lane to alter shots. N'Diaye has 10 blocks in the last four games and he's stayed away from foul trouble.

``We always knew we could play good defense, and we came into the season saying that that is what we needed to do,'' Wilcox said. ``It just took some time to get through our heads that that is what we needed to do and we're starting to learn that, and get better game by game.''

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Capitals at Kings: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals at Kings: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals head to Los Angeles to take on the Kings on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 32-19-7, while the Kings are scraping along the bottom of the Pacific Division with a record of 23-29-6. The Caps also beat the Kings (quite recently) 6-4 on Feb. 11.

The Kings are hoping to break out of their season slump and put an end to their four-game losing streak against the Capitals during Monday evening’s 10:30 p.m. ET game.

Here is everything you need to know about Monday’s late-night matchup, which will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.


CAPITALS at KINGS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings, Game 60 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Monday, Feb. 18, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals at King game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Kings on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at KINGS TV SCHEDULE

9:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
10:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:30 PM: Capitals at Kings

CAPITALS at KINGS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
Lars Eller -- lower body as of Feb. 1

Kings: 
Alec Martinez -- upper body as of Feb. 15
Sean Walker -- face as of Feb. 15
Jonny Brodzinski -- shoulder as of Sept. 20

CAPITALS at KINGS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Capitals (15 goals, 39 assists, 54 points): Last time the Caps faced the Kings (which was only one week ago), Kuznetsov contributed two goals and two assists to the Caps’ 6-4 victory. His timely goal finished out the game, essentially securing the Caps’ victory, NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Reagan reported. In the two games that have happened since, Kuznetsov has given the Caps one assist and one point. 

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (39 goals, 27 assists, 66 points): Ovi is just shy of 40-goals and played a key role in the Caps’ latest game against the Kings. He led the team with eight shots on net, and the team captain gave the Caps the first point of the game.

CAPITALS vs. KINGS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 111
All-Time Series Record: Kings lead 60-38-13
Last Meeting: Caps win 6-4 (2/11/19)

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In first race after losing his son, Joe Gibbs Racing sweeps Daytona

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In first race after losing his son, Joe Gibbs Racing sweeps Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for the second time in four years, leading a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The victory Sunday honored J.D. Gibbs, who died last month after battling a degenerative neurological disease. J.D. Gibbs co-founded the race team with his father and discovered Hamlin.

Hamlin drives the No. 11-- J.D. Gibbs' number when he played football -- and his name is on the Toyota. Hamlin said when he arrived at Daytona International Speedway that both the 500 and this season were dedicated to J.D. Gibbs.

Kyle Busch finished second and Erik Jones was third as the Gibbs drivers held off Ford driver and reigning NASCAR champion Joey Logano's frantic push in overtime.

The race was stopped twice for nearly 40 minutes for a flurry of late accidents -- there were five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation -- and only 14 cars finished on the lead lap.

Logano was fourth, followed by Michael McDowell. Ty Dillon was sixth in the highest-finishing Chevrolet.

Hamlin last year suffered through his first winless season in the Cup Series and made a crew chief change during the offseason. When he won the 500 in 2016 it was his debut race with crew chief Mike Wheeler, and this victory came in his first race with Chris Gabehart.

 

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