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Fisher, Rams dealing with 5-game winless stretch

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Fisher, Rams dealing with 5-game winless stretch

ST. LOUIS (AP) A five-game winless stretch has the rebuilding St. Louis Rams stuck on three wins.

Coach Jeff Fisher reminded one of the NFL's youngest rosters on Monday that with more consistency, and perhaps a turnover or two, the tide will turn.

Also, how easily momentum can swing in a game.

``They didn't like it, don't like it, but they saw where their opportunities were and they understand how this thing slipped away,'' Fisher said. ``And they're determined not to let it happen again.''

Fisher was critical of some officiating calls in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the New York Jets, notably a holding penalty that nullified rookie Chris Givens' 98-yard kickoff return near the end of the half that would have given the Rams a 14-13 lead.

He added that rookie Rodney McLeod, whose technique was fine except for a prolonged tug of the jersey, could have given officials no reason to target him.

``You know, there's three holdings on their first kickoff that aren't called and all of them were more egregious than the one that was called,'' Fisher said. ``I'll just leave it at that.''

Fisher said the Jets' Chaz Schilens did a good job of acting on the play.

``When the arms go up, sometimes that's all it takes,'' the coach said. ``But we're not good enough to even put ourselves in position to where they think it's a hold.''

Fisher said he probably should have given the ball more to Steven Jackson, who averaged 6.2 yards on 13 carries for St. Louis (3-6-1).

He didn't think quarterback Sam Bradford wasn't guilty of hanging onto the ball too long while perhaps intimidated a bit by an early interception.

``They did a good job affecting coverage and taking away checkdowns. He was just trying to make plays,'' Fisher said. ``There was a couple times where he probably could have pulled it down and run a little bit and got the first down.

``He knows someone's chasing him, he doesn't know who.''

Bradford was 6 for 8 for 60 yards on the Rams' opening 13-play, 86-yard drive capped by Brandon Gibson's 1-yard scoring catch. He was 8 for 10 for 79 yards before getting picked off by Eric Smith on a short sideline pattern, and 15 for 34 for 91 yards the rest of the way.

``It was just a late throw,'' Bradford said. ``I know better than that. You can't come across the field. I tried to force it.''

Jackson shared time with backup Daryl Richardson much of the first half of the season, part of the time while recovering from a groin injury.

Fisher has said this time of the season is when they'll lean on the 235-pound bruiser who's seeking his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season, so it was puzzling to see Richardson in the game for more than a play or two at a time.

``I think in retrospect, we probably should have fed `Jack' a little more,'' Fisher said. ``I talked to him today about it. He ran over some people, some good players.

``We're going to have to commit to that.''

A few turnovers, or just one, would help the Rams dictate terms. According to STATS LLC, they're just the second team since 1950 to go five games without a takeaway.

``You get a bounce here and there, but right now they're not bouncing our way,'' safety Quintin Mikell said. ``It's crazy, because that could be the difference in the game.''

The Rams had appeared to be poised for a surge after outplaying powerful San Francisco the previous week. Because of crucial mistakes, they settled for a tie.

``I don't believe in the whole `step forward, step back' stuff,'' middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ``We definitely viewed this as a game that we thought we could get, and it's disappointing to lose one at home.

``I'm not going to lie about it. We have to figure out how to win games like these.''

The second half was all Jets. They put up 27 unanswered points before the Rams got a late score on Gibson's second TD grab, and not counting a kneel-down on the final play their last 21 snaps were all in St. Louis territory.

The Rams had six snaps in Jets territory the first possession and two more in the second quarter, but none in the third.

``Field position was tough, especially in the third quarter,'' Fisher said. ``Field position played a big part in the game.''

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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