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Schaub has shot to get Texans into AFC title game

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Schaub has shot to get Texans into AFC title game

HOUSTON (AP) Matt Schaub made his first playoff start last week and helped lead the Houston Texans to a win.

But he did make a key mistake, throwing an interception which was returned for a touchdown.

He knows he'll have to be much better if the Texans expect to win at New England in a divisional playoff game on Sunday.

``He's going to have to play at a high level, but we all are,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``You know what I mean? We got a job to do around him.''

Schaub's No. 1 goal this week is to help the offense score touchdowns instead of field goals when it gets in the red zone. Houston got inside the 20-yard line four times last weekend against Cincinnati, and settled for field goals three times after the offense stalled.

``Against this team in their building threes aren't going to cut it,'' Schaub said. ``We've got to get down there and we've got be aggressive and score touchdowns.''

Schaub is a nine-year veteran, but Saturday was his first start in the postseason after he missed Houston's playoff run last year because of an injured foot. He said it meant a lot to him to be with his team for the first time in the playoffs, and of course, getting the win made it even better.

Receiver Andre Johnson believes that having that first game out of the way will help Schaub this week against the Patriots.

``Him just getting his first win probably just got a monkey off his back,'' Johnson said. ``Because that's something that a lot of people talked about. I think with him getting that out of the way, it will make him feel more comfortable going into the game.''

The Texans had their worst game of the season in their first trip to Foxborough, a 42-14 loss to the Patriots last month. But Schaub said that the loss didn't do anything to hurt their confidence.

``We know what type of team we can be when we're playing up to our expectations and our standards and what we demand out of ourselves,'' he said. ``We'll go up there with a lot of confidence to win a road football game.''

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was pleased with Schaub's work against the Bengals, and liked how he dealt with their pass rush, which is among the best in the NFL.

``He managed the game well and then he handled the pressure when it was coming, to get the ball out, when he was hot,'' Dennison said. ``He missed a couple of things. Obviously, his footwork was a little off, it cost us one there. But he's a tough-minded kid and he kept playing. Our guys rally around tough guys and he's done a nice job with that all year - just keep bouncing back. I think with that he leads us very well.''

Schaub threw for 4,008 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the regular season. But he's thrown just one touchdown with four interceptions in the past five games.

Aside from the interception, Schaub was better against the Bengals as he completed 29 of 38 passes for 262 yards. He was helped by improved protection, and wasn't sacked after being taken down 12 times in the previous four games combined.

He knows they'll likely face a completely new look from New England's defense this time around.

``You've got to go in expecting a lot of different things,'' he said. ``You've got to be prepared to handle a lot of different situations and circumstances, things that they can do because they do a lot. Being able to adjust in game will be important.''

Along with taking advantage of opportunities in the red zone, Schaub knows another key to the game will be limiting penalties and turnovers against New England. He had an interception early in the last game against the Patriots that contributed to an early 14-0 deficit.

``The way they play, you can't have penalties and put yourself behind in the down and distance,'' he said. ``You can't give them extra possessions by turning the football over. The way their offense is playing you have to expect them to score points, and (can't) give them extra opportunities with the ball.''

Schaub, who has been criticized for not showing enough emotion at times, was animated when asked if the demeanor of the team changes this time of year.

``There's no tomorrow at this time of the season,'' he said. ``If you want to move on, you've got to bring a sense of attitude and nastiness with you to go out and dominate your opponent on every play.''

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He shot just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking them down from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. The tipoff time has not been announced, but the game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington.

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