LOS ANGELES, Calif. . - The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping theyve put all the bad habits behind them with the playoffs on the horizon. And with a healthy LaMarcus Aldridge providing his usual numbers, they are confident that they can make some noise in the post-season — with or without home-court advantage. Damian Lillard scored 34 points, Aldridge had 31 points and 15 rebounds, and the Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 124-112 Tuesday night. "We had a rough stretch, but now weve kind of picked it back up and were going in the right direction at the perfect time," Lillard said. "Now that were close to the post-season, we want to have that rhythm going into the playoffs — because thats what we play the regular season for." The Blazers fourth straight win, coupled with Houstons loss at Brooklyn, moved Portland within 1 1/2 games of the Rockets for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Rockets have three games in hand. The Blazers have six games left on their schedule, five of them at home. One more win will give them their 12th 50-win season in the franchises 44-year history. But the last four times the team won 50 or more games, they didnt make it past the first round of the post-season. "We dont have a lot of control over that. Right now, its about winning every game and gearing up for the playoffs," coach Terry Stotts said. "Its that mindset thats the most important thing. Whatever happens with the seedings and all that — I mean, we havent even clinched a playoff spot yet." Nick Young, the fifth and last player off the Los Angeles bench, made his first eight shots and finished 15 for 26 with a season-high 40 points. But it wasnt enough to prevent the Lakers 10th defeat in 14 games. They slipped to 25-49 — the most losses by the club since finishing 33-49 in 1993-94. The franchise hasnt lost 50 games in a season since 1974-75 (30-52). "I didnt know I made my first eight shots," Young said. "I just got into a zone. I got into a rhythm kind of fast." Youngs point total was the highest off the bench by any player in the league this season, surpassing the 37 Jamal Crawford had for the Clippers on Jan. 25 at Toronto. Youngs high-point game in the NBA was 43, for the Washington Wizards against Sacramento on Jan. 11, 2011. "Nick Young had a lot of easy shots in the first half," Aldridge said. "Hes a great scorer, so hes going to score. But we did a better job in the second half of making his shots harder." Aldridge, playing his fourth game after missing the previous seven because of a bruised lower back, hit a 13-footer to cap an 18-9 run that extended Portlands two-point halftime margin to 81-70 at the midway mark of the third quarter. Young kept the Lakers within striking distance with his 3-point shooting, draining one with 10:47 left in the game to pull them within 93-86. But Lillard responded with a pair of 3-pointers 28 seconds apart to extend Portlands margin to 13 points, and Los Angeles got no closer than nine the rest of the way. "Coming in, we felt this could be a trap game against a team thats not in the playoff race. But we knew coming in that they were a dangerous team," Lillard said. The Lakers were bolstered by the return of Xavier Henry and two-time MVP Steve Nash, who played in only his 13th game of the season and came off the bench for just the third time in his 18-year career. Nash, who turned 40 on Feb. 7, had 10 points and 10 assists in 22 minutes. The eight-time All-Star has been plagued most of the season by nerve root irritation following his comeback from a broken left leg, which led to issues with his back, hip and hamstrings. NOTES: Lillard became the first player in Trail Blazers history to make 200 3-pointers in a season when he connected with 8:07 left in the first quarter. Wesley Matthews is close behind him with 186. ... The Lakers played before their eighth non-sellout crowd. Before this season, they had sold out every home game since Dec. 6, 2006. ... Portland C Meyers Leonard was ejected after his flagrant 2 foul on Kendall Marshall with 39.9 seconds to play. ... Portland C Robin Lopez had 10 points and 10 rebounds on his 26th birthday. . - Vince Wilfork has played only two career games in Kansas City. . The first baseman hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Mets to a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The long hours Laurent Duvernay-Tardif spends at practice will seem like a vacation of sorts. The playbook will seem like a comic book. Success would be sweet, failure merely a disappointment. The moment he heard his name called in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Saturday, the Montreal native went from being a medical student at McGill University spending 60 hours a week in neonatal intensive care units to an aspiring offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs. You see, in a draft full of intriguing stories, Doc Larry is especially unique. After all, how many 23-year-olds are late to their advisers house to watch the draft because they were helping to deliver twins by emergency C-section? And how many NFL hopefuls have spent their spring working at childrens hospitals, first in the emergency room and later in the NICU, often handling babies that fit comfortably in his massive hands? How many players who heard their names called over the three days of the draft have just one more year of medical school before they can call themselves a doctor? Duvernay-Tardif plans to fit that in during summers, when he is able to take a break from football. But for now, his focus has shifted entirely to the Chiefs. He planned to be in Kansas City this week for rookie orientation, with a three-day rookie minicamp starting May 24. "Thing is that a year ago, my dream was to play in the CFL," said Duvernay-Tardif, who played so well at the East-West Shrine Game that several teams — including the Chiefs — took notice. "At that point, I was like, Oh, damn! I think the NFL is the place for me to play," he said. "Everything went well after that. I was training in the States. I had two visits and hosted my own Pro Day in Montreal and a few teams showed up. Everything went really well for me." Lets be clear about one thing: Theres a good chance that Duvernay-Tardif is a better doctor than he is a football player at this point. The competition in the Canadian Innteruniversity Sport system — which has produced 10 draft picks total — is not exactly the same as the Southeastern Conference. . McGill is not Alabama, having produced one other draft choice — a long-snapper taken by Jacksonville in 2001. Some of the rules of the Canadian game are also a bit different. Then throw in the fact that Doc Larry will be going against players bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, and chances are hell be in for a rude baptism when he finally straps on a Chiefs helmet. "Competition (in Canada) is really a step backward," said Pat Sperduto, the teams area scout, "(but) football is blocking and tackling. Nothing changes there. Its still the same there. You just watch him, you realize that this kid has physical talent." For one thing, he has prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds. He also has what Sperduto called a "nasty" streak on the field, which is a bit hard to reconcile with the affable med student who has been spending his time working with sick children. "The potential that he has ahead of him is really good," general manager John Dorsey said. "Now hes going to have to learn, but what he demonstrated at the East-West Game, he actually played at a very high level. He did very well. When you have a player like that — hes got so much more room to grow." The Chiefs lost three players who started along the offensive line on the first day of free agency, and while Kansas City made a few moves to counter the departures, there is still a pressing need for offensive line depth. Duvernay-Tardif could provide some of it. "I think when you play football, you have to play 100 per cent," Duvernay-Tardif said. "When I went to the Shrine game, I said, Lets compete until you hear the whistle, and thats what Im going to do at training camp. And hopefully Im going to be able to compete for a spot." And if things dont work out? He certainly has a fallback plan. ' ' '
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Jan 04, 2020
all the bad habits b
all the bad habits b