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Cowboys expecting more dynamic plays from RG3

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Cowboys expecting more dynamic plays from RG3

IRVING, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys get another shot at Robert Griffin III after he put them through their worst quarter of the season in a loss on Thanksgiving.

They aren't talking all tough about how it will be different this time around for Washington's dynamic rookie quarterback in a Sunday night game that will decide the NFC East champion.

Dallas might not even be surprised if the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor goes 8 of 8 for 178 yards with three entirely different types of touchdown throws. That's what he did in the second quarter last month to give Washington a 28-3 lead in a 38-31 victory.

``No, I don't say he can't do that again because he can,'' Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. ``He can create so many plays and get himself out of trouble a lot, which in turn helps him make a lot of the plays where you look and say, `Man, how did that happen.'''

Griffin's first big NFL play in Texas was a perfect deep throw to Aldrick Robinson for a 68-yard touchdown. He threw a ball behind Pierre Garcon - but just beyond the reach of Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter - on a 59-yard score. A sideline throw that only Santana Moss could catch in the final seconds of the half finished the first 28-point quarter for the Redskins (9-6) in 13 years.

When the Cowboys (8-7) pulled within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, Griffin had three first-down throws on a time-consuming drive to a field goal that essentially sealed the win.

``Obviously you see the guy out there making plays and you don't like that,'' Spears said. ``A lot of that was stuff that we didn't do very well either. At any rate, it's more from how is he going to try to attack us and hurt us this second time.''

Spears says Griffin makes it easy to forget about another rookie, running back Alfred Morris. He leads first-year backs with 1,413 yards, and his 113-yard game against the Cowboys was the first of three straight during a six-game winning streak that vaulted Washington from an also-ran to sole possession of the division lead.

Morris scored the other touchdown in the big second quarter and set up Griffin's final TD toss with a first-down run to the Dallas 6.

``RG3, everybody's enamored,'' Spears said. ``It's not like he's back there alone. He can hand the ball off to a guy that can make plays.''

Still, Griffin wasn't named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday night because he was handing off. And that's not what the Cowboys took away from the Thanksgiving game.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones was still talking about Griffin's game at Cowboys Stadium when asked last weekend about the Sunday night showdown. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't need to see Griffin live to believe he could pick through the Dallas defense the way he did.

``We thought he was pretty darn good in college, and we thought he was pretty darn good in the early part of the season,'' Garrett said. ``We had a tremendous amount of respect for what they were doing on offense going into our ballgame when we played them on Thanksgiving.''

With so much talk about Griffin's mobility - he's just 30 yards shy of the top 10 in the league in rushing - it's easy to overlook his 20 passing touchdowns against just five interceptions. Those are rare numbers for a rookie, but he did the same thing at Baylor for three years.

``I don't think people pay attention to how well the guy throws the ball,'' Spears said. ``He could play in a system where it was a five-step drop and he didn't have to run. He throws the ball that well.''

The Cowboys did pressure Griffin in the Thanksgiving loss, even though it didn't really look like it with his 132.6 rating on 20-of-28 passing for 311 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.

Spears and Anthony Spencer, who had two of the four sacks of Griffin, will be chasing again with a defense even more compromised than it was a month ago. The Cowboys are missing five starters, and linebacker DeMarcus Ware is trying to play through hamstring, elbow and shoulder problems.

``It's no secret we've got a lot to defend on our end of the ball,'' Spears said. ``With that being said, we feel like we left some plays out there the first game and we have to do a better job of playing and keying around the football this time around.''

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He made just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking down shots from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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

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.

The Wizards have now lost seven straight posteason games on the road.

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. Perhaps 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.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

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. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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