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Seattle tries to keep playoff momentum vs. Rams

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Seattle tries to keep playoff momentum vs. Rams

SEATTLE (AP) No matter how unlikely, Pete Carroll is grasping at the slim chance his Seattle Seahawks still have of winning the NFC West.

Sure the Seahawks would need a win over St. Louis on Sunday and help from Arizona to make playing at home early in the postseason a reality. But as long as there remains the chance of Seattle getting a home playoff game, and with it a division title, Carroll is going to try and grab it.

``It's been great playing at home during the season, and if this is our last chance at it then we want to make the most of it,'' Carroll said. ``If we can put ourselves in position to come back again, there would be nothing sweeter than that.''

The Seahawks (10-5) close out the regular season hosting improving St. Louis. The Seahawks are already in the postseason thanks to a four-game win streak - the longest of Carroll's tenure - that was capped by a 42-13 thumping of San Francisco last Sunday night. Unless they get a lot of help, the Seahawks will likely be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and will face the NFC East winner - either Washington or Dallas - in the first round of the playoffs.

There remains one hope for Seattle to win the division: beat the improving Rams (7-7-1) and get a shocking upset of San Francisco by Arizona. How unlikely is that scenario? The 49ers are more than two-touchdown favorites at home against the Cardinals and are undefeated the past two seasons coming off a loss.

At the very least, a victory would get Seattle to the 11-win plateau for the third time in franchise history, the most wins for the Seahawks since 2005 when they made their only Super Bowl appearance.

No matter how unlikely the chances of getting the division, that slight possibility is a rallying point for Carroll this week to make sure his team doesn't have a lull after last week's emotional win over the 49ers.

``It feels good to have 10 wins,'' Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. ``We definitely want to have 11.''

Seattle is drastically different from the squad that floundered through a 19-13 loss in St. Louis in Week 4, and no one more so than quarterback Russell Wilson. At that time in late September, the Seahawks were still in the infancy of learning the unique qualities of their new quarterback. That was before Wilson's running became a true threat as a complement to running back Marshawn Lynch.

And it was before Seattle's offense became the efficient machine it's been the past three weeks. The whopping 150 points the Seahawks have scored the last three games stole the attention. But within that points eruption was a stunning run of offensive prowess led by Wilson.

``He's just an athletic guy. He's been playing very well, as a rookie, as a young guy,'' Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said. ``You've got the combo of being a premier quarterback, but the athleticism of some of the best out there as well.''

Whether running with his legs, using his dynamic arm, or a combo of both, the Seattle QB has led the offense to 15 touchdowns and six field goals during its blowout wins of Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco. Those numbers become even more impressive when considering in the first 11 games, Seattle had 23 offensive touchdowns.

``He's grown so much just from the first game,'' Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ``You would even say that in terms of the plays that we have, where to go with the ball, what's the answer, where's the quick throws, and then the things that we change up each week, I think he understands why we do that.''

With the franchise already on an upward swing, the Seahawks got even better news Thursday when cornerback Richard Sherman's four-game suspension for performance enhancing substances was overturned on appeal. Suddenly, the Seahawks went from possibly being without both starting cornerbacks for the season finale - Brandon Browner is missing the final game of his four-game PED suspension - to having Sherman available against the Rams and, more importantly, both available in the playoffs.

``It was just great to get it over with and get the win and just have that burden off your shoulders and move on and try to make this playoff run with my guys,'' Sherman said.

Coach Jeff Fisher has engineered an impressive turnaround in his first season with the Rams, taking the franchise from 2-14 last season to the chance at St. Louis' first winning season in nearly a decade. The Rams have not finished above .500 since 2003, when they went 12-4 and last won the NFC West.

The Rams are the only undefeated team within the division this season, going 4-0-1 with a sweep of Arizona, wins over San Francisco and Seattle and a tie against the 49ers. And they are closing the season with a flourish, winning four of five, with the only loss coming to Minnesota when Adrian Peterson went off for 212 yards rushing.

St. Louis has also won three straight on the road for the first time since the 2003 season.

``Sometimes things are just coincidence. Sometimes you play really well and then one or two plays don't go your way or you don't finish. That's how we were earlier in the season,'' Rams defensive end Chris Long said. ``I think we played well on the road, we played toe to toe with some good football teams, but we just didn't finish. We've done a better job of finishing at times, we've gotten turnovers and we've also jumped out ahead a little bit earlier.''

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Wizards destroy Raptors behind Bradley Beal's breakout effort, move series to 2-1

Wizards destroy Raptors behind Bradley Beal's breakout effort, move series to 2-1

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 122-103 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Wizards show some fight: The Washington Wizards who punch back, who play with an edge and impose their will on opponents physically and mentally, the team that initiates contact and trash-talks their foes into misery, that team finally showed up in the 2018 NBA Playoffs on Friday night and did so at the perfect time. With an 0-2 deficit and following a blowout loss three days before, the Wizards pulled themselves up off the mat and struck the Raptors with a message-sending blow that may have saved their season.

They blasted Toronto in a convincing win that looked a whole lot like the proverbial switch had been flipped. Their best players played to their capabilities on both ends of the floor and there was nothing the Raptors, as good as they are, could do about it. The net result is a 2-1 series and some newfound belief that an upset is possible.

It was just one game and anyone who has watched this team all season knows there are two very different versions of the Wizards. They aren't in the clear until they are actually in the clear.

But it would be hard to not to find encouragement in exactly how the Wizards won this game. They forced the Raptors into 19 turnovers and held their bench to 32 points, many of which came late when the game was decided. Washington shot 55.3 percent against one of the NBA's best defenses.

Bradley Beal (28 points) finally looked like himself. John Wall (28 points) was dominant and pumping up the crowd. Marcin Gortat (16 points), who almost lost his starting job, stepped up with several timely buckets. Mike Scott (12 points, 4-for-4 FG) played well for the third straight game.

Everything clicked and now we have ourselves a series.

Beal woke up: The fabled monster of the spring known as Playoff Beal showed up on Friday and announced his presence early. After the worst performance of his playoff career in Game 2, Beal broke out in a big way with a colossal first half of 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

Beal scored just nine points in Game 2, but surpassed that in about 10 minutes in Game 3. By halftime, he had more threes (four) than he did in his first two games this series combined.

Very quickly in the first quarter Beal looked different. His first bucket came on a turnaround fadeaway off the glass. From there his confidence grew as three-point shots fell one after another, whether he was guarded or not.

Beal finished with 28 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. in between Games 2 and 3, head coach Scott Brooks held a meeting with Beal and John Wall, hoping to find Beal more opportunities. There may or may not have been an apology issued on Brooks' part.

Whatever the nature of the discussion, it seemed to work. Wall and Brooks told Beal to be more aggressive and that's exactly what happened. Beal looked much more like the guy who averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors during the regular season and was largely dominant vs. this very same team and without Wall to help out.

Wall needs some attention, too. He looked like the best player on the court for much of the game and accrued a ridiculous line of 28 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block, of the chasedown variety of course.

Oubre lit a spark: Beal did most of the heavy lifting early, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. also deserves credit for the first half surge by the Wizards. He was all sorts of active on both ends of the floor. In one sequence he blocked a shot, dunked it on the other end, took a charge and then dunked once more. 

Each time, Oubre let out one of his signature screams to the crowd. He was making plays and infusing energy into the team. That's the stuff Brooks wants to see from Oubre. Many people, including Oubre, obsess over his three-point shooting but defense and hustle plays are really the name of the game for him.

Oubre ended up with 12 points, four rebounds and shot 5-for-9 from the field.

Playoff basketball: The tone may have been set early by Markieff Morris. After two games where the Wizards didn't show much fight, Morris literally almost got in one. 

After hitting the deck on a collision with OG Anunoby, Morris got up and shoved both him and Serge Ibaka. Double technicals were assessed and one could argue Morris lost his cool on the play. The counter to that would be the Wizards needed to show some fire and Morris was sending a message. Given he wasn't kicked out of the game, it wasn't too costly.

Here is the whole sequence:

That's the playoff version of Morris we remember and it may have rubbed off on his teammates. In the third quarter, more animosity broke out after Jonas Valanciunas was called for an offensive foul on Marcin Gortat. Beal went after the ball and that started a big argument between the teams, highlighted by Wall and Ibaka needing to be separated by Wizards bodyguard Dave Best. 

The arena was playing Tupac's 'Ambitionz az a Ridah' as it all went down, invoking memories of the 'Death Row D.C.' days of last season. Wall is, of course, Tupac according to the Morris-conceived metaphor.

The end result was technicals for Beal, Wall and Ibaka. That, and the realization that this series is now a lot more fun.

Up next: Game 4 is on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage starting at 5 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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It took three minutes for the Wizards and Raptors to get into a Game 3 altercation

It took three minutes for the Wizards and Raptors to get into a Game 3 altercation

WASHINGTON —  It didn't take long for playoff basketball to escalate in the nation’s capital.

Less than three minutes to be exact.

On only the fifth possession of Game 3 between the Wizards and Raptors at Capital One Arena, Wizards forward Markieff Morris and Raptors forward OG Anunoby got tangled up and let their emotions out.

From the initial look it appeared that Morris just got tripped up in setting a screen, but if you look more closely, Anunoby appeared to pull down Morris from the back.

Even though a foul was called, Morris made sure that Anunoby knew his displeasure and even threw an extra shove at Serge Ibaka.

Both Morris and Anunoby received a technical foul after the altercation.

Once again the Wizards getting physical in a playoff series. 

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

THE DRAKE-WIZARDS TRASH TALK WON'T STOP

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3