Mystics can't keep up with Dream

Mystics can't keep up with Dream

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Armintie Price paced five double-figure scorers with 19 points and the Atlanta Dream won their second straight game without Olympic gold medalistAngel McCoughtry, 81-69 over the Washington Mystics on Friday night. Tiffany Hayes and Lindsey Harding each scored 16 points for the Dream (12-11), who climbed above .500 for the first time this season. Atlanta established an early double-digit lead by repeatedly forcing turnovers in the first quarter and shooting 56.8 percent from the field before halftime. McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, sat out for personal reasons, according to Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors. Matee Ajavon scored 20 points and Crystal Langhorne had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Mystics (5-18). Washington has lost four of five since returning from the Olympic break, including two straight. Second in the league in turnovers entering the game, the Mystics, committed 18 -- nine in the first quarter -- which led to 25 Atlanta points. Sancho Lyttle scored 14 points and Catherine Kraayeveld added 10 for the Dream. Atlanta led by 13 points after the first quarter and held its largest lead at 68-40 with 1:40 left in the third quarter on Kraayeveld's 3-pointer. Led by Ajavon, who scored 16 points in the second half, Washington outscored Atlanta 25-13 in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 77-69 inside the final minute but would get no closer. Atlanta claimed consecutive victories for the first time since taking three straight from June 24-29 and established a winning record for the first time in seven attempts this season. The Dream took control in the early minutes, closing the first quarter on a 13-2 run for a 25-12 lead. Both teams shot at least 55 percent from the field, but the Dream had 20 shot attempts compared to the Mystics' seven -- or two less than Washington's turnovers in the quarter. Harding, who played for Washington's last two playoff teams from 2008-09, scored the final four points of the first quarter. Her fadeaway jumper capped the second quarter scoring as Atlanta led 49-33 at halftime. Opening the second half, the Mystics committed turnovers on their first two possessions while the Dream made five straight shots, extending the lead to 61-35. Monique Currie finished with 14 points for the Mystics, who shot 25 percent (9 of 36) after halftime. The meeting was the first of four scheduled between the Eastern Conference foes this season.

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Morning tip: Explaining my official media ballot for NBA All-Star starters

Morning tip: Explaining my official media ballot for NBA All-Star starters

Initially, I was against media voting. Then after seeing the early returns from the popular vote -- Zaza Pachulia being second among frontcourt players in the West and Dwyane Wade being second among guards in the East -- it felt like my duty to dismount my high horse to inject common sense into the process.

It's just one vote, and arguments can be made for other players besides the ones I choose. While Wade's popularity is understandable, why is Derrick Rose ahead of John Wall and close to overtaking Kyle Lowry? 

NBA players and select media, which account 25% each of the total to determine the starters for the Feb. 19 showcase in New Orleans, participated for the first time as the voting closed at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday. 

Fan voting, which has been reduced from 100% to 50% of the equation to determine the starters, also closed at midnight. The starters will be formally announced on Thursday.

NBA coaches will select the reserves which will be announced Jan. 26. That's seven roster spots for each conference. 

My media All-Star ballot for both conferences was submitted several days ago. Unfortunately, only weighing in on the starters is especially difficult in the East. Before calling my vote absurd, consider that Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen voted for himself and Luke Babbitt. It can always be worse. 

[RELATED: Wizards wear 'Never Stop Dreaming' shirts to honor MLK]

East guards

John Wall (Wizards): There’s no other guard in the conference who is in the same zip code. Career-highs in points (22.9), assists (10.2) and steals (2.2) togo with 4.6 rebounds. And now he’s playing better defense has a team with a winning record which put him over the hump in my reasoning. That the bench has underperformed most of thes season which has prevented the Wizards from closing out more games isn't the fault of the star player. Regardless, he has them in the thick of the playoff race.

DeMar DeRozan (Raptors): The best pure scorer in the conference with a shot-making ability that's second to none. He's averaging a career-high in points (28.1) and on the second-best team. The master of the mid-range, he stands alone for now.

East frontcourt

Jimmy Butler (Bulls): With  Dwyane Wade now in Chicago, Butler has played as a small forward and posting career numbers (24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds). Like Wall, his team's lack of early success isn't because he's not exceptional at his job. 

LeBron James (Cavs): Is there any need to get into details beyond the fact that it's LeBron James? Didn't think so. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): Just as many of the others, he's putting up career numbers, 23.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.8 steals on 53.5% shooting playing multiple positions. The only mark against him is his team's record.

A legitmate argument can be made for Kyrie Irving or Isaiah Thomas over Wall as the starter. The double-doubles, however, convinced me to go with Wall. My first draft had Wall and Thomas but there's no justification for leaving out DeRozan. Plus, I didn't think two point guards was the right call just because the conference is deep at the position. No other guards are in double digits with double-doubles. They may average a few more points than Wall, but to average what he does and still make others around him better by setting them up is harder in my opinion. Thomas is a fourth-quarter closer. Kyle Lowry is having a better season than last when he was a starter. Both are All-Stars no matter how you cut it. Irving is on the best team and he's going to get in on that alone (he's also the popular vote leader), but the Cavs don't win when he plays and LeBron James sits (winless this season when that happens). I hold that against him and would put every point guard under serious consideration above him for that reason alone. He gets too much credit for hitting the big shot in the Finals Game 7 last year or in the first meeting with Golden State this season. He needs James to be this effective. Not vice versa. I'm in the minority with this line of thinking because Irving's talent is undeniable, but that's my thinking.

If I could pick reserves, mine would be Thomas, Lowry, Irving, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Paul George and Joel Embiid.

[RELATED: Wall sees new national TV game as good sign for Wizards]

West guards

Russell Westbrook (Thunder): Averaging a triple-double at the midway point with career-highs of 30.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.5 assists. He has 20 triple-doubles for the season.

James Harden (Rockets): His numbers are still there, and he's a hair shy of averaging a triple-double, too. His team is elite, and 28.4 points, a league-high 11.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds are impossible to overlook.

 

West frontcourt

Kevin Durant (Warriors): Best player on the team with the best record. His numbers haven't dipped much in his first year there, 26 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and a career-low 2.3 turnovers. He's shooting a career-high 53.7% and almost 40% from three.

Anthony Davis (Pelicans): His career-highs of 29.3 points and 12.3 rebounds have turned around the season for team just a few games out of the eighth playoff spot, The Pelicans opened the season 0-8.

Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): The 24.6 points are his career-high, and his team's best defender is shooting better than 40% from three again for the team with the NBA's second-best record.

There wasn't nearly as much grief involved in voting for the starters as all of the above in the West are clear-cut more deserving. This is the one season where Mike Conley should be rewarded after not making the team because of the numbers game at point guard. He's excelling on a winning team, averaging 20 points and shooting 40% from three. Could've easily gone with Eric Gordon instead given how integral he is to the Rockets' success, but Conley has paid his dues and is an underrated two-way player.

My reserves (if I had a vote): Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Conley, Gordon Hayward, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol.

[RELATED: Michael Jenkins vents about underappreciation of John Wall]

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Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 17, 100 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL free agency starts 52
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of potential first-round draft picks for the Redskins

We’re at a nice, round 100 days until the NFL draft starts. The deadline for underclassmen to declare has passed and the first of the postseason all-star events, the East-West Shrine game, is starting up this week. It’s time to look at some possibilities for the Redskins’ first-round draft pick, which is No. 17 overall.

We’re still not sure of what defensive scheme the Redskins will run this year but it’s likely that they could fit Stanford DE Solomon Thomas into it. He’s not the classic edge rusher type but he is big (6-2, 275), violent and he can collapse the pocket.

—Michigan S Jabrill Peppers is a top-five pick according to one NFC executive but it’s a little early to put him up that high. He’s a versatile defender and he has drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, and Tyrann Mathieu. If he’s there at 17 the Redskins might find it hard to resist pulling the trigger.

There has been very early buzz about the Redskins having some interest in Michigan State DL Malik McDowell. He can play end in a 3-4 front or tackle in a 4-3 and provide disruption and pass rush from either spot. The 6-6, 276-lb. McDowell was a top-five prospect on many early boards but he stock has slipped to the point where he could be available for the Redskins.

The upgrade the Redskins are looking for at inside linebacker could be Florida ILB Jarrad Davis. He’s tough, tenacious, smart, and instinctive. The most important part of the combine for him won’t be his 40 time or bench press, it will be the medicals. He has missed some games with assorted injures including a torn meniscus in 2014.

Another flexible linebacker who could help inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3 is Vanderbilt LG Zach Cunningham. At 6-3, 230 he plays very well in space and he shows a great ability to take on blockers. He needs work on tackling and pass rushing techniques but he has the tools to be an impact defender very quickly.

Although a defender would be a popular and logical pick here, the Redskins could go off script. After the 2015 draft, it was reported that Scot McCloughan might have taken Todd Gurley if he had been able to trade back from No. 5 overall to a little later in the first round. So I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of him going with an offensive skill player such as Florida State RB Dalvin Cook if he’s on the board and McCloughan has him rated as the best available player.

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