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Seattle on cusp of playoffs, not talking about it

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Seattle on cusp of playoffs, not talking about it

RENTON, Wash. (AP) It's not hard to get Pete Carroll talking. Getting him to speak about the postseason is another matter.

All the Seattle coach wants to focus on is the importance of beating San Francisco on Sunday night. The byproduct of getting a victory over the 49ers would be the Seahawks getting to 10 wins for the first time since 2007, earning at least a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs, and keeping alive the slim hopes of winning the NFC West.

There is a lot of good that could come Seattle's way with a victory. But you won't find Carroll or his players speaking much about what lies ahead.

``You don't bring up the playoffs until the playoffs get here,'' Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. ``You're still in the regular season and we're playing trying to win the rest of these games and see where the chips fall.''

If Seattle (9-5) can get a victory over the 49ers on Sunday or in the season finale against St. Louis, it would be its second playoff appearance in Carroll's three seasons. Yet this one would be far more deserved.

When the Seahawks won the NFC West in 2010, they became the first division champion with a losing record at 7-9. It took a victory over St. Louis in the finale that season for the Seahawks to win the division on a tiebreaker, but Seattle at least justified its spot in the playoffs by upsetting then-Super Bowl champion New Orleans in the wild-card round.

But that playoff trips was at the infancy of Seattle's roster remodel that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been constructing. It was a mix of new faces and what the duo inherited that won the division in 2010.

This group that's pushing for a playoff spot has all been molded under the watch of Seattle's decision-making duo.

``I think we're playing so much better in so many areas. We're taking care of the ball the way we want to, and we're getting after the football well now that we're in the latter part of the season,'' Carroll said. ``We're running the football with consistency and we're keeping the scores down defensively, and the kicking game is solid. These are all of the elements that make us team with not many holes right now.''

While that 2010 team made the postseason, they were still flawed. The offense still had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, but his long-term future with the team was in doubt. The defense still relied on experienced veterans that were not getting any younger.

Seattle had yet to find its unique, long cornerbacks in Sherman and Brandon Browner that make the rest of its defense work. They hadn't given fifth-round pick Kam Chancellor an opportunity to be a starting safety. Golden Tate was inconsistent at wide receiver and the Seahawks had not found a plan that worked to best use running back Marshawn Lynch.

Those problems are now solved as is the biggest question, the quarterback. Russell Wilson has been the best quarterback by passer rating in the NFL since Seattle's Week 7 loss at San Francisco. Lynch is second in the NFL in yards rushing behind only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and the Seahawks have the second-best scoring defense in the league.

``It all begins with the quarterback. Russell is playing an extremely high level right now and it's just the maturity and growth that we've all come to grow with him in this offense as a whole and rally behind the things that he does well,'' Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. ``At the beginning of the season we were kind of searching for that and now that we're putting it together you've been able to see it the past two games with us putting up 50 points.''

Carroll said the way Seattle is now playing is what he hoped would happen when he arrived in the winter of 2010. The growth Seattle has shown over the last two seasons is similar to how he saw USC improve between his first season with the Trojans and the second year that ended with a victory in the Orange Bowl and proved to be the foundation for their major success.

``I think in most of the critical areas we're just cleaning things up, and you can see that our young guys are growing,'' Carroll said. ``They're understanding what's expected, and I think the most important thing is to see consistency. They get it and they come back and do it again, and do it again. Those are really good indicators that we are going in the right direction.''

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS