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With Thomas out, Jaguars turn to Shorts, Blackmon

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With Thomas out, Jaguars turn to Shorts, Blackmon

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The emergence of receiver Cecil Shorts III made it easy for the Jacksonville Jaguars to part ways with Mike Thomas.

The Jaguars traded Thomas to the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, creating more opportunities for Shorts and rookies Justin Blackmon and Kevin Elliott.

``We're going to give a couple of other guys some chances to work in there and hopefully get better execution than we've been getting,'' coach Mike Mularkey said Wednesday. ``There's nothing that he did. It was just a matter of it wasn't the production we were hoping for. He tried. He did everything we asked him to do.''

Getting rid of Thomas was just part of the team's tweaks.

Mularkey said Shorts will continue to start at the X receiver position, meaning Laurent Robinson could wind up as a well-paid slot receiver. Jacksonville also claimed fourth-year receiver Anthony Armstrong off waivers from the Miami Dolphins.

Armstrong played in five games for the Dolphins this season, catching three passes for 12 yards. He has 54 career receptions for 986 yards and five touchdowns.

Armstrong is unlikely to play Sunday against Detroit.

Robinson, meanwhile, practiced Wednesday. But even if he returns against the Lions, he probably won't be in the starting lineup.

That would be interesting since Robinson signed a five-year contract worth $32.5 million in March. The deal includes $14 million guaranteed and pays him $11.1 million in 2012.

But Robinson has missed the last three games and sat out most of another because of concussions.

``This is my third one this season, so I just got to be smart with it,'' said Robinson, whose wife gave birth to their first child last week. ``I've got a long life after football. I've got to be smart. I still want to play, though, so ... hopefully this week I'm going to be over the hump.''

Robinson practiced in full Wednesday, but even if he returns Sunday against Detroit, his role could be diminished because the Jaguars (1-6) want to build the passing offense around Shorts and Blackmon.

Shorts has 20 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns in his second season. Blackmon, the fifth overall pick in April's NFL draft, has 18 catches for 193 yards.

``I think I'm doing all right,'' said Shorts, who caught eight passes for 116 yards last week at Green Bay. ``But I have a lot to work on to get where I'm trying to get. My mindset is to never be satisfied. I don't want to be one of those guys who have a good game and you never hear about them again.''

That was Thomas.

He had one 100-yard game in four seasons even though he led the team in receptions in 2010 and 2011. His big game (8 receptions for 149 yards) was the one in which he caught a 50-yard desperation heave on the final play to beat Houston in 2010. The Jaguars rewarded him with a three-year extension worth $18 million last October.

But Thomas' effort was called into question late last season and again during the offseason, and he never seemed to jell with Mularkey and receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

Thomas also got demoted as the team's punt returner, getting replaced by Micheal Spurlock.

``We were hoping it was going to work,'' Mularkey said. ``Even his return ability, but the production just was not where we wanted it to be.''

The timing of the trade was strange, though, since the Jaguars host the Lions this week.

``There's nothing that he can give away that we don't already change from week to week in the game plan,'' Blackmon said. ``We're not worried about him being a spy or anything like that.''

Mularkey agreed, saying it could be too much insight.

``I'm sure he's going to fill them full of information, but I think it's very hard to take it and do anything with it,'' Mularkey said. ``You tell them everything. Sometimes it's too much - information overload.''

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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 in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series 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 made 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 down shots 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.

The Wizards have now lost seven straight posteason games on the road.

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. Perhaps 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. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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