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Bears' offense predictable in focusing on Marshall

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Bears' offense predictable in focusing on Marshall

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears' offense has been anything but a balanced attack.

The Bears know they'll have to do more than have quarterback Jay Cutler throw to wide receiver Brandon Marshall repeatedly if they're going to best a handful of strong defenses in the second half of the season, starting with Tennessee on Sunday.

Still, they're not necessarily willing to abandon their offensive star.

``We're like the (Minnesota) Timberwolves when Kevin Garnett was playing,'' Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ``All their offensive plays went through him, and in our passing game obviously we're going to go through Brandon.

``So he's going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times.''

When the Bears acquired Marshall in the offseason, they didn't plan to use him as a decoy. He has caught fewer than five passes in only one game, the loss to Green Bay in which he had two receptions for 24 yards.

``When you have a definite `one,' you want to make sure you get your `one' receiver his reps, his plays, his passes, which we are doing,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``But we definitely want to get others involved.''

Cutler and Marshall have been at their best in clutch situations. Marshall leads the NFC in third-down receptions (16) and yardage (675), while Cutler leads the NFL with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 132.0.

However, even with the duo piling up statistics, there hasn't been in a rush to the end zone.

The most important figures are point production. The Bears' offense is averaging 20.1 points per game. That's down from the 21.9 points per game last season in the 10 games when Cutler didn't have Marshall to throw to and Mike Martz was offensive coordinator.

Losing Alshon Jeffery for at least one more game due to a hand fracture has hurt the balance, but Earl Bennett returned two games ago from a hand injury and is starting to work his way back into the offense.

``It's really important,'' Marshall said. ``I think getting Earl back is definitely going to help us and open up some things for all the guys.

``He was the reason things shifted for us on Sunday, making two big first-down catches I think in the fourth quarter really got us going.''

Running back Matt Forte has never had fewer than 51 catches in a season, but has just 18 receptions for 134 yards this year and only 45 yards receiving total over the past four games.

``I think I said earlier, maybe in training camp, I didn't think Matt was going to get the touches that he got last year,'' Cutler said. ``There's not enough balls to go around.

``I think we want to keep him fresher than he was last year toward the end of the year, that's why we put (Michael Bush) in there and with the receivers we have there is a lot of balls to go around there. So Matt is not going to get the receptions he had last year. I think that is just how it is going to be this year.''

The Bears' offense has been at its worst on first down, averaging a league-low 4.19 yards a first-down play.

``It's really hard,'' Tice said. ``We're running the ball good and all of a sudden we run into a second-and-10, -11 -12. And so where do you find the rhythm?''

NOTES: Jeffery missed practice, while TE Matt Spaeth had limited participation with an ankle injury. ... Cutler said the rib injury he sustained Oct. 22 against Detroit is no longer an issue.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. The tipoff time has not been announced, but the game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington.

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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