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Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

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Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Thursday was an ugly, rainy day at Atlanta's practice facility - a perfect setting for the Falcons to be reminded they can make sure they don't play another game outdoors this season.

That's added motivation to avoid a letdown in Saturday night's game at Detroit's Ford Field.

The Falcons (12-2) can secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by beating the Lions. They play their final regular-season game against Tampa Bay next week in the Georgia Dome. The Super Bowl in New Orleans also will be played in a dome.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a big smile taking about how a win at Detroit would mean there would be no chance of a January game in Seattle's rain or Green Bay's snow.

``That's awesome,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We have a lot to play for. It should be fun.''

The Falcons have painful memories of their last road game, a Dec. 9 loss at Carolina that followed a home win over the Saints.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez said players must respond better to last week's impressive 34-0 win over the Giants.

``Our focus going into that game was the best it's been all year,'' Gonzalez said. ``We have to have that type of effort week in and week out for the rest of the season. That's what good teams do in December, it's what they do in the playoffs, and ultimately Super Bowl championship teams. They have great focus throughout the week because that's what helps you win the game.''

This week's schedule left little time to savor the shutout of New York. Because they play on Saturday night, the Falcons started their practice schedule on Tuesday, their normal off day. Thursday's one-hour practice at the team's indoor facility was like the normal Friday workout.

``We've had times like this before,'' receiver Harry Douglas said Thursday. ``We've had a Thursday night game and a Monday night game, and we don't look at it like a distraction. When we had practice on Tuesday, in my mind it was already Wednesday. I got my mind right on Monday.''

Atlanta's two losses have come on the road - at New Orleans on Nov. 11 and the disappointing 30-20 defeat at Carolina on Dec. 9.

Gonzalez said the loss at Carolina should be a lesson as the Falcons prepare to play a 4-10 Detroit team that has lost six straight games.

``You can't just show up and think you're going to beat a team,'' Gonzalez said. ``Maybe we learned that against Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us. It's something that I think we learn from our mistakes and we keep moving forward.''

Weatherspoon said there was no mention of the Carolina game this week.

``No, we didn't go back that far,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We just tried to focus on what we did last week in preparation and we want to kind of imitate that this week. If you practice the right way, you should have a pretty good outing.''

The Falcons would clinch home-field advantage just by splitting their final two regular-season games. They've resisted any suggestion that this isn't a must-win game.

``Don't leave anything to chance,'' said running back Michael Turner. ``We control our own destiny and we want to leave it in our hands.

``I think we learned our lesson from the Carolina game. We are not taking anything for granted. We've still got work to do. We've still got things to get better at. We are going to take this like they are going to give us their best shot. We know that. Everybody tends to play better in prime time.''

NOTES: WR Roddy White (right knee) had limited participation in practice after behind held out on Wednesday. SS William Moore (hamstring) has not practiced all week and could miss his third straight game. Reserve DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring) also was held out. DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), OT Tyson Clabo (thigh) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) had limited participation.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

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2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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