Wizards

Kubiak look ahead to big test in Chicago

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Kubiak look ahead to big test in Chicago

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans are still perfect against the AFC. They get another chance this weekend to prove they can play with the best teams in the NFC, too.

Houston (7-1) remained unbeaten against conference opponents with a 21-9 victory over Buffalo and now faces Chicago (7-1) at Soldier Field on Sunday night. In their only game against an NFC team this season, the Texans were embarrassed at home by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

The Bears' opportunistic defense leads the league with 28 takeaways, but hanging onto the ball is one of the Texans' strong suits. Houston has coughed up a league-low six turnovers and none in the last two games.

``It's kind of a strength against a strength,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said, ``and hopefully we can hold up our end of the bargain.''

Chicago's defense is also generating pressure, with 25 sacks and nine in the last two games. The Texans have protected Matt Schaub well all season, giving up just 10 sacks, third-fewest in the league.

Green Bay sacked Schaub three times on Oct. 14, and Houston's offensive line looked shaky for a half coming out of the bye week, too. Schaub was sacked twice and the Texans were called for six penalties in the first half on Sunday, most of them flags for holding or false starts up front.

``We used our hands way too much,'' Kubiak said, ``just some things that you do every day and work on. You could see getting back into the rhythm of the game. We did it much better in the second half.''

Kubiak said one of his team's best traits is the ability to quickly correct mistakes in practice. And he knows the margin of error will be much smaller on the road against the Bears, who've won six in a row.

``We talk about things we didn't do good, things that if we do this in Chicago it's going to get us beat,'' he said. ``I think good teams are hard on themselves when they win. It's so easy to not be, but the good teams do that. Our guys are very good about that, very mature.''

The Texans' offensive game plan for Sunday seems obvious - a heavy dose of Arian Foster to neutralize Julius Peppers and the Bears' pass rush. Foster fought off an illness to rush for 111 yards against Buffalo, his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He leads the league with 192 carries and has helped Houston melt away time in the fourth quarter of several victories.

Houston ranks eighth in rushing offense (138 yards per game), but perhaps more importantly, leads the NFL in average time of possession (35 minutes, 12 seconds). The Texans have had more possession time in every game this season and had the ball for eight more minutes than the Bills did on Sunday.

Yards on the ground will be tough to come by against the Bears, who hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season until Chris Johnson broke an 80-yard run at the end of Sunday's 51-20 rout of Tennessee. The Bears are allowing only 88 yards rushing per game, sixth in the league.

``They are very well-built in what they do and they've been together for a long time,'' Kubiak said of Chicago's defense. ``A lot of players have played a lot of football together. What they're doing speaks for itself. I could go on and on, but we have a serious task ahead of us.''

So far, opposing defenses have tried to reduce Foster's receptions and Kubiak has adjusted by turning more to his tight ends. Foster has only 12 catches this season after making 53 last year; tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham have a total of 47 and caught both of Schaub's touchdown passes on Sunday.

The increased opportunities for others have helped ease Foster's workload.

``Our tight ends are much more involved this year,'' Kubiak said. ``I think that we're really catching a lot of balls from that standpoint and yet we're running the ball more than we've ever run it. If anything, I'm trying to get him (Foster) some of his breaks because of all those carries from that standpoint.''

Kubiak is still uncertain whether backup running back Ben Tate will play after missing Sunday's game with a sore hamstring. Kubiak is hoping that Tate will be practicing again on Wednesday or Thursday.

Nose tackle Shaun Cody left Sunday's game with a rib injury and will undergo an MRI exam, Kubiak said.

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Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 in Game 4 of their first round playoff series on Sunday night.

Here's analysis of what went down...

Brand New Series: After going down 0-2, most may have written the Wizards off knowing the near-insurmountable odds of coming back not only from that deficit but as an eight-seed going up against the best team in the Eastern Conference. It would have been understandable to doubt these Wizards who have for so much of this season allowed teams to bully them to an uncharacteristic degree.

With another win in Game 4, however, the Wizards have recalibrated this series.. Not only did the Wizards even things up, they ensured at least one more home game where they have now won eight straight in the postseason.

Controversial Foul Out: The Wizards were dealt a tough blow with 4:58 left as Bradley Beal picked up his sixth foul and was bounced from the game. 

Not only was Beal dominating with a team-high 31 points, but the sixth foul was very questionable. He made contact with DeMar DeRozan inadvertently and it is tough to see how he could have avoided it.

Here is the play:

That should simply not be called in that moment. It was a crucial development and both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were understandably furious. If the Wizards had lost, that would have been a major reason why. There is no excuse for referees to impact a game like that.

Sluggish Start: Outside of John Wall (27 points, 14 assists, six rebounds) and Beal, who had 12 points and 11 points in the first half, the rest of the Wizards' team was slow-moving early on. The team shot just 34 percent in the first half, 16-for-47, and 1-for-7 from three. They even missed their free throws, going 7-for-13 in the first two quarters.

The Raptors did a good job putting pressure on the, but only Wall and Beal were able to break through. Otto Porter, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, had one point in the first half. Markieff Morris (six points, five rebounds) had four points at the break.

Even Mike Scott, who has had a huge series, went scoreless in the first half. That was partly due to him getting in early foul trouble.

The Raptors were particularly good at stopping the Wizards in transition. Despite committing 11 turnovers in the first half, they won the fastbreak point advantage 17-4. That was a big point of emphasis coming out of Game 3 according to head coach Dwane Casey and his players followed the lead.

Big Third Quarter: The Wizards' offense was not held down for long as they came out of the gate on fire in the second half. Beal and Porter led the charge.

Porter erupted for 10 points in the frame. Beal got hot from three and scored 12. The only thing that stopped Beal was foul trouble, as he picked up his fourth personal with just under five minutes left in the quarter and later left with six.

The third quarter shooting numbers overall were impressive. The Wizards shot 15-for-23 (65.2%) from the field and 5-for-6 (83.3%) from three. That'll do.

The Wizards outscored the Raptors 40-29 in the third. It was their biggest postseason quarter since last year's Game 4 against the Celtics. That was when they went on an absured 26-0 run.

Hella Free Throws: Many people blamed the refs for the Wizards' loss in Game 1, though the numbers didn't back up that claim. If Wizards fans wanted to gripe about Game 4, they had a better case for a while in this one.

It was kind of ridiculous, especially early on. The Raptors shot 30 free throws in the game compared to 31 for the Wizards, so it evened out.  But Toronto shot 16 free throws in the first quarter alone and 12 of them were attempted by DeRozan. He is one of the best in the business at drawing fouls, but that a bit extreme.

DeRozan, in fact, finished the first quarter with nine points and all of them were at the free throw line. He was 0-for-5 from field goal range. 

When DeRozan is getting to the line, he can control games and early on that was the case in this one. He set a new playoff career high with 18 attempts and made 14 of them.

The refs called the game much tighter than they did previously in this series. Perhaps that was a response to the chippiness in Game 3.

Up Next: The series moves on to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

WASHINGTON -- Things were not looking good for the Washington Wizards to start Game 4. Honestly, there were some flashes back to the team’s performance in the first two games of the series against the Toronto Raptors.

That all quickly changed when John Wall did what he does best: drive to the basket.

Not only did Wall drive to the basket, he went and put Raptors' center Jonas Valanciunas on a poster.

Valanciunas is a 7-foot Lithuanian.

We get it John, it’s your city and we’re all your residents.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

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WIZARDS DOMINATED GAME 3 BECAUSE EVERYONE ATE... LITERALLY