Wizards

No. 12 Clemson preps for game vs. No. 13 Gamecocks

201211171902685593792-p2.jpeg

No. 12 Clemson preps for game vs. No. 13 Gamecocks

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson's offense hasn't been shut down often in coordinator Chad Morris' two seasons. The Tigers' 34-13 loss last year to rival South Carolina was one of those times.

Clemson managed 153 yards, by far the fewest in Morris' 25 games. Quarterback Tajh Boyd was 11 of 29 for 83 yards and Sammy Watkins dropped a sure touchdown pass early on that Morris believes might've swung momentum Clemson's way. Instead, the Tigers struggled to muster any offense against a South Carolina's defense that was ranked third in the nation.

``There wasn't a whole lot of pretty out of it, I'll tell you that,'' Morris said Monday.

Still, Morris said he won't dwell on last year's struggles when No. 12 Clemson (10-1) faces the 13th-ranked Gamecocks (9-2) at Death Valley on Saturday night. The Tigers are seeking to stop South Carolina's three-game win streak in the series.

Clemson is on an offensive roll unmatched in school history.

The Tigers lead the Atlantic Coast Conference and is sixth nationally at 535 yards a game. Boyd leads the league in total offense and is second in passing. Last week Clemson piled up 754 yards in a 62-48 win over North Carolina State - two yards shy of the program's all-time record set against Wake Forest in its national championship season of 1981.

For plenty of Clemson fans, those achievements won't mean anything without taking down the Gamecocks.

South Carolina's defense a year ago featured a pair of first-round NFL selections in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive end Melvin Ingram. The Gamecocks are also led by a new coordinator in Lorenzo Ward, who was promoted by Steve Spurrier after longtime coordinator Ellis Johnson left last December to become head coach at Southern Miss.

Morris said South Carolina's secondary plays more man defense as the Gamecocks try and keep the pressure on up front with a defensive line led by sophomore star Jadeveon Clowney.

It'll be up to Clemson's improving offensive line to give Boyd a chance to complete passes to Tigers' dynamic WRs Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins.

``I've heard the name Clowney for a long time,'' Tigers right tackle Gifford Timothy said.

Morris has heard it a lot as well, especially from Tiger fans worried the Gamecocks defensive end will cause havoc in the backfield. Morris said he'll stick to the plan he's followed all season long, preparing his players to perform at their peak each game while blocking out the outside distractions.

``We've got to be who we are. You can't do something and be somebody that you're not,'' Morris said. ``If you do, you've got a problem.''

The Tigers were clicking last Saturday against the Wolfpack. Boyd passed for 426 yards, ran for 103 yards, and accounted for eight touchdowns - five passing, three rushing - against North Carolina State. Boyd was named the ACC's offensive back of the week Monday.

Center Dalton Freeman, starting his 47th straight game, was the league's offensive lineman of the week.

Despite surpassing 700 yards for the second time in the past three games, Morris believed his team could've done better offensively. The line was slow on its footwork early, while Hopkins and Watkins did not have strong games, Morris said.

``That's something I'm going to challenge those guys on this week,'' he said.

The stakes are high for both teams. A Clemson victory would mean the team's first 11-win season since going 12-0 in 1981. The Tigers also have a chance at an at-large BCS bid, something that would disappear with a loss.

South Carolina is seeking its second-straight 10-win season, a first in program history.

``It's a huge game, maybe one of the biggest games since I've been here of our rivalry series,'' Spurrier said.

Morris doesn't want his players worried about what happened last year. It's a different group with a different focus and demeanor. ``It's very unfair to compare this year to last year's team,'' he said.

Boyd has improved his game, becoming a stellar runner this season instead of a year ago when he stood in the pocket ``like a concrete deer'' against South Carolina, Morris said.

The quarterback sounds ready, too, weary of losing to South Carolina.

``I think it's a must-win situation for us. It is one of those deals where it has to happen,'' Boyd said.

Quick Links

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.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN

Quick Links

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.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WITH PLAYOFF BEAL BACK, IT IS OFFICIALLY A SERIES

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

WIZARDS DOMINATED GAME 3 BECAUSE EVERYONE ATE... LITERALLY