Mystics fall to surging Sparks

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Mystics fall to surging Sparks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver scored 18 points each as the Los Angeles Sparks snapped a three-game skid with a 96-68 victory over the Washington Mystics on Friday night. Former Mystics star Alana Beard added 16 points for the Sparks (20-9), who swept the two-game season series against Washington. Los Angeles, which has already clinched a playoff berth and remains in second place in the Western Conference, finishes its five-game road trip Sunday against New York. Monique Curry scored 16 points for the Mystics (5-23), who lost their season-high seventh straight. Jasmine Thomas added 15 points for Washington, which was outscored 197-138 in its two losses to Los Angeles. The Sparks outrebounded the Mystics 39-29 and shot 62 percent from the floor (39 of 63) compared to the Mystics' 36 percent (25 of 69). Los Angeles led by 19 in the second quarter before settling for a 54-39 halftime lead. A 15-2 run stretched it to 34-20 early in the second, DeLisha Milton-Jones' corner 3-pointer later pushed it to 45-30, and Toliver hit back-to-back jumpers to make it 51-32. Mystics guard Shannon Bobbitt hit a 38-foot bank shot at the halftime buzzer. It was more of the same in the second half, with the lead growing to 83-56 early in the fourth quarter. Beard, making her first visit to the Verizon Center since signing with the Sparks in the offseason, received a loud ovation from the crowd in pregame introductions. The four-time WNBA All Star, selected by the Mystics in the first round of the 2004 draft, played six seasons in Washington before foot and ankle injuries forced her to miss the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons.

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Braden Holtby returns to Caps after learning experience of the World Cup

Braden Holtby returns to Caps after learning experience of the World Cup

The World Cup of Hockey ended on Thursday, but Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is wasting no time in trying to get back into the rhythm with the Caps. Despite the tournament ending just two days ago in Toronto, Holtby practiced in the morning skate and will start for the Caps in Saturday's preseason game against the New York Islanders.

Holtby can now add World Cup champion to his growing resume as Canada was able to defeat Europe in two games, but he did not play as active a role with the team as had hoped. Despite being the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Holtby found himself relegated to third on the depth chart behind Carey Price and Corey Crawford.

But Holtby turned his time with Team Canada into a learning experience. He worked closely with Crawford and said he learned a lot from the two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"I really appreciate his game," Holtby said Saturday after morning skate. "You don't get to see him very much obviously being out west. He does some things outstandingly well that I can learn from him and try to get better at. Great guy, works really hard and earns what he gets and that was probably the best part of the experience."

Though Holtby said he had expected to take the role of No. 3 and was prepared for to be last on the depth chart heading into the tournament, he also acknowledged it was difficult getting into game shape and then slowing things down when practice began.

"It was tough," Holtby said. "It's almost like starting all over again after the first week of camp there because there wasn't much action as a goalie."

Participating in the World Cup also meant missing part of Caps' training camp. The further Canada went, the more time he would miss. For most players, missing training camp was not an issue as they were playing games in a competitive tournament.

"They were playing so that changes a little bit," Holtby said of the other participants. "Defintely not game shape yet for me."

Not only did Holtby not play a single game at the World Cup, being third on the depth chart also meant less practice time. Still, he said he does not feel behind in his preparations for the season.

"I really haven't missed that much of camp," Holtby said. "We've played two games, it's not a lot. ... You can be in the best shape of your life, but it doesn't make a difference when it comes to the body movements that come with goaltending."

While not concerned, Holtby still realizes the importance of getting game reps which is why he is wasting no time getting into the lineup and he said he wanted to play in Saturday's game.

Said Holtby, "I wanted to get back as soon as I could, get on the ice and make sure I could use all the time I can."

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS RELEASE PROMOTIONAL SCHEDULE INCLUDING STAR WARS DAY

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Redskins vs Browns Preview: 5 things to know as Washington looks to get even

Redskins vs Browns Preview: 5 things to know as Washington looks to get even

The Redskins take on the Browns Sunday at 1 p.m., but full coverage begins on CSN at noon. Can Washington climb back to an even record after a poor start? Weather at FedEx Field calls for overcast skies and the possibility of rain remains after a wet week in the DMV. Here is everything you need to know for the matchup:

  1. Time is now - For three weeks the Redskins have moved the ball well, until they get in the Red Zone. Looking at the numbers, there is little reason for the hiccups inside the 20. Kirk Cousins is the second leading passer in the NFL, and last season the Redskins offense proved they can be a scoring force. Eventually, the red zone levee will break, and odds are this will be the week. Cleveland's defense gave up 30 points to a middling Miami offense last week, and gave up 25 and 29 points in Weeks 1 and 2. 
  2. Don't get confused - Much will be made of Terrelle Pryor's standout effort in a Week 3 loss to Miami. The Cleveland receiver and occasional QB had an impressive day, totalling 200 yards and a touchdown. But Pryor should not be the focus of the Redskins defense. That needs to be locked in on stopping Browns RB Isaiah Crowell, the NFL's second-leading rusher. Crowell is averaging more than 6 yards-per-carry, and Washington's defense has been gashed on the ground this year. The key to beating Cleveland comes in stopping the run. 
  3. More, more, more - Running, that is. Matt Jones got 17 carries against the Giants and ran the Redskins to the game-winning field goal late in the game. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay on Jones late success in New York: "We got a few more opportunities and when they presented themselves in that crunch-time situation I thought he ran his best. A bigger, physical back – I thought that he got better as the game progressed and that’s what you want to see from him." More carries from Jones, especially late in the game, will mean good news for the 'Skins.
  4. 3-headed monster - Coming into the season, the Redskins plan on defense was to have Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith attack quarterbacks off the edge of their defense. That plan came to a crashing halt when Galette blew out his Achilles. Surprisingly, Trent Murphy is succesfully stepping into Galette's role, leading the team with three sacks in three games. While Joe Barry's unit could use more from Smith, Murphy's results are encouraging, and this could be the week all three outside linebackers get going against a rookie QB in Cody Kessler.
  5. Stay special - In last week's win in New York, the Redskins special teams shined. Punt returner Jamison Crowder busted a long return and Tress Way completed a long pass to Quinton Dunbar on a well-timed but gutsy fake punt call. Oh yeah - Dustin Hopkins made all five of his field goal attempts and was named Special Teams Player of the Week and Month. It wasn't all smiles on specials, as the 'Skins had an early fumble on a return and a blocked punt called back late in the game. But if Washington's special teams can continue to deliver big plays, that could be a big boost for the team. And don't forget Rashad Ross will be back returning kicks this week.

Numbers & Notes

  • The Redskins have forced 27 fumbles since the start of the 2015 season, most in the NFL. The Redskins also lead the league with 18 fumble recoveries in that span.
  • Jamison Crowder already has two receiving TDs this year. His next will be a career high, after just two TDs as a rookie.
  • Jordan Reed needs two catches to get to 200 career receptions.
  • If Trent Murphy can force a fumble against Cleveland, he would become the first member of the Redskins to force a fumble in three consecutive games since LaVar Arrington in 2003.

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