Redskins

Winning LA: Clippers atop NBA; Lakers win 5 in row

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Winning LA: Clippers atop NBA; Lakers win 5 in row

LOS ANGELES (AP) No one's rushing to anoint the Los Angeles Clippers, who at 22-6 own the NBA's best record. They're not exactly impressed with themselves, either - despite a franchise-record 14-game winning streak.

``It is still early in the season and we have a lot to prove to the rest of the league,'' Matt Barnes said after he helped the Clippers' reserves outscore their starters in a 112-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

No less an authority than Kobe Bryant is complimentary.

``They're playing extremely well,'' Bryant said after leading the Lakers to their fifth straight win, 100-94 over the New York Knicks in the first game of a Christmas doubleheader at Staples Center. ``They're coming at you in waves and waves.''

The Clippers have taken advantage of a soft stretch in their schedule to win a franchise-record 14 in a row, although they have earlier wins over some of the league's elite teams such as the Lakers, defending champion Miami, Memphis, and San Antonio twice.

``This is fool's gold,'' cautioned Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who led the starters with 14 points against the Nuggets. ``You don't play for the regular season. Obviously, you want to build something.''

While the Clippers continue to soar, the Lakers are starting to show signs of life in what has been a confounding season.

``We're .500,'' a smiling Dwight Howard said after the Lakers improved to 14-14. ``We did it on Christmas, too. I knew this day would come.''

Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game, and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks.

The Lakers moved to 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home. They returned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.

``It's so early in the season to have turned a corner,'' Bryant said. ``We have everybody in the lineup and we're starting to see how we want to play.''

The Clippers have clearly figured things out.

Jamal Crawford led their reserves with 22 points and Barnes added 20 - one off his season high - as the bench outscored the starters 64-48 in moving one win ahead of second-best Oklahoma City (21-6), which lost to Miami earlier Tuesday.

``They've got the respect of the league and they've got the attention of the league,'' said former Clipper Andre Miller, who had 12 points for Denver. ``It's tough to come in here and get a win when the team is playing that well.''

Kosta Koufos and Jordan Hamilton scored 16 points each and Ty Lawson added 15 points for the Nuggets, who fell to 7-13 on the road, where 22 of their first 32 games are being played.

Crawford's 3-pointer to open the fourth pushed the lead to 20 and kept the Clippers' starters on the bench for the final 12 minutes.

Denver rallied in the third, using a 15-6 spurt to close to 73-63, capped by Andre Iguodala's free throw after Paul received a technical foul.

The Clippers answered with three consecutive 3-pointers, including two by Willie Green from the opposite corners, for an 84-67 lead. The Nuggets ran off seven in a row to get within 10 before the Clippers regrouped with a 9-2 run, capped by Paul's 3-pointer, that kept them ahead 93-76 heading into the fourth.

``They have a confidence right now that's pretty powerful,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Clippers stretched their lead to 67-48 at halftime with 42 points in the second, their highest-scoring quarter this season. The bench got things going with a 14-10 run before Paul replaced a wild Eric Bledsoe. His presence settled down the second unit until Griffin and DeAndre Jordan eventually came back in during a 28-10 run the rest of the period that produced the Clippers' first double-digit lead. Driving dunks by Barnes and Griffin, alley-oop dunks by Griffin and Jordan, and consecutive 3-pointers by Barnes and Paul highlighted the scoring binge.

``When we are at our best our starters have a great first quarter and our bench elevates that,'' Griffin said.

In the opening game at Staples, the Knicks were in control most of the way behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five as the Lakers' defense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lakers ahead by four.

Steve Nash said of World Peace: ``This is what he's been doing all year. He gets his hands on a lot of balls, pounds on the other team's best guy. You can't win without that type of effort.''

Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.

``We missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of little chippers around the basket, shots that we normally make,'' Anthony said. ``There were some plays that we thought should have went our way down the stretch, but for the most part, we fought. I'll take this effort any night. If we continue to play with this effort, we'll win a lot of games.''

With Bryant double-teamed, Nash passed to Gasol, who dunked with 12 seconds to go, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team's struggles and coaching change, home happy. The Lakers avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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