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In first place, 6-2 Giants won't rest on success

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In first place, 6-2 Giants won't rest on success

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Tom Coughlin isn't ready to relax now that the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants have reached the midpoint of the season with a 6-2 record and a 2½-game lead in the NFC East.

The truth is the Giants have a lot to worry about. Forget their current four-game winning streak. If anyone doesn't believe that, all they have to do is watch Sunday's 29-24 win over the Cowboys in Dallas.

It was a typical game for the Giants.

Instead of rallying for a win, they squandered an early 23-point lead and survived a Tony Romo-led comeback by the length of a Dez Bryant finger, the one that landed out of bounds with 10 seconds to play to nullify a potential game-winning touchdown.

It was that close, which is the story this season.

While the Giants were impressive in beating Carolina and San Francisco, they rallied from 14-point deficits against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, needed a 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with 73 seconds to go to edge Washington and escaped Dallas by the skin on Bryant's hand.

If that isn't convincing enough, let's remember last season. New York went 6-2 in the first half and then opened the second half with losses to San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Green Bay. The team needed a six-game winning streak at the end of the season to win their second Super Bowl in five seasons.

Coughlin knows things aren't going to get any easier with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia on tap down the stretch.

"It's a huge plus to be where we are," Coughlin said. "We've battled back from being 0-2 in the division to being 2-2 in the division. We know how difficult this league is. We know how difficult these games are that we play and our divisional opponents play week in, week out. It's not easy to win in this league. There is tremendous parity.

"We have to keep going. We have a really tough opponent (Steelers) coming in this week. It just gives you another something to improve on."

The problems are obvious. The offense is settling for too many field goals - five against Dallas - and the running game has been inconsistent. The defense has given up a few too many big plays and has not generated a consistent pass rush.

Safety Stevie Brown, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery Sunday, said the players realize they aren't hitting on all cylinders.

"We've got to keep working," Brown said. "We've got to stick with the fundamentals that have got us to 6-2 and we've got to just keep coming out every game with the hunger that we still have something to prove and that we're trying to get better every single week.

"If we continue to do that, we should be fine."

Coughlin was a little upset when asked about last year's losing streak, a run that was marked by three tough losses to very good teams.

"There is nobody looking at this as anything other than what it is," he said. "We're very happy to be 6-2. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of work to do to beat a team (Pittsburgh) that we want to beat. While it is nice to put that number up there at this point in time, what is significant is how we continue to grow and grow."

The only other issue Coughlin had with the game was the final 10 seconds after a review overturned Bryant's catch, which had been ruled a touchdown on the field. The Cowboys managed to get off three more plays and Coughlin wondered aloud how that could have happened.

"The longest 10 seconds I have ever been around," Coughlin said. "Three plays in 10 seconds, two of which went to the end zone. It seems a little much to me and we'll have to see if we can get some kind of response from the league."

Coughlin does not believe that he could get and execute three plays in 10 seconds.

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NOTES: Coughlin had no further information on the hamstring injury suffered by middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, the hamstring injury sustained by linebacker Keith Rivers or the ankle injury suffered by tight end Bear Pascoe. .... Coughlin gave his players off Monday so they could make preparations at home to handle Hurricane Sandy. The coach is adjusting the team's schedule for this week, treating Sunday's game against the Steelers like a Monday night game. That means they will have to worker a little harder the rest of the week. ... Brown on waiting for the hurricane: "It's not fun. I'll tell you that. I'm from the Midwest. We don't have hurricanes, so this is all new to me. I have friends in the city and one of them is from Miami and she was like, 'This is nothing, Stevie. Don't even worry.' I'm just like I don't know. This isn't what I like."

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS

WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!