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Augustus, Lynx shake Fever 83-71, tie WNBA Finals

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Augustus, Lynx shake Fever 83-71, tie WNBA Finals

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) These WNBA Finals are not for the feeble. Seimone Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx toughened up after a rare loss and a soft performance at home in the opener by wearing down the Indiana Fever.

Augustus scored 23 of her 27 points in the second half to help the Lynx surge past the Fever 83-71 on Wednesday night to even the best-of-five series at one game apiece.

``We're going all out. We don't want to look back on this situation and regret anything,'' Augustus said.

Maya Moore pitched in 23 points and the defending champion Lynx forced the Fever into 24 turnovers, 15 after halftime. Tamika Catchings led the way as usual with 27 points and eight rebounds, but the Fever's defense faded after a dominant start that forced the Lynx to miss 11 of their first 14 shots.

They let the Lynx score 29 points in the third quarter and bring an already-loud crowd into the game even more. Catchings offered an alternate theory, though.

``Seimone Augustus went against us. That's what happened,'' she said.

The series now moves to Indiana. Game 3 is on Friday, and Catchings predicted an even more physical match.

``It was pretty rough out there, and we're going to have to adapt to that,'' said Fever coach Lin Dunn, who called this the most physical game she's seen in 42 years. ``We'll go home and we'll be ready.''

The Fever played without shooting guard Katie Douglas for the second straight game, the sprained left ankle she suffered at the end of the Eastern Conference finals still not ready for action. Then in the second quarter of this one, backup Jeanette Pohlen hurt her left knee and was taken to the locker room for further examination. She didn't return, and the lack of depth hurt the Fever down the stretch.

Lynx reserve guard Monica Wright had five steals, and coach Cheryl Reeve said she changed the game with her defensive intensity. Inside, Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin limited Erlana Larkins to three points on 1-for-6 shooting. She had 16 points and 15 rebounds in the opener. Dunn said she was disappointed in the effort.

``We just have to go back to Indy and regroup,'' Larkins said.

The Lynx held a 24-3 edge in second-chance points and 17-2 advantage in offensive rebounds.

But Augustus, named to the All-WNBA first team earlier in the day for the first time in her well-decorated career, was the primary difference maker. She swished a 3-pointer with about 6 minutes left to give the Lynx a 71-57 lead, their biggest to that point after the sluggish beginning. Augustus, who missed six of her eight shots in the first half, flashed a big smile toward her teammates as they retreated on defense.

``She has to have MVP-like performances in order for us to have a chance to be successful, and we saw that tonight,'' Reeve said.

Even Reeve showed some muscle in this one.

After Lindsay Whalen tied the game at 48 with a reverse layup, Moore picked up her third foul on the other end. Whalen's layup was blocked by Briann January when the Lynx got the ball back, and Reeve's game-long lobbying boiled over.

Screaming for a whistle after her miss, Whalen was slapped with a technical foul by official Michael Price, who quickly tacked one on for Reeve. Then the coach really lost it, tearing her suit coat off and trying to escape assistant coach Jim Petersen's long arms as he held her back from further confronting the refs.

``We've got a lot of league people here. It's the WNBA Finals. So we have to be really, really careful in the things that we say. Clearly, I wasn't happy in that moment. I'm not happy about how the game was officiated, period, but that's all I'm going to say about it,'' Reeve said.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, decked out in a black and green Lynx jacket, agreed with Reeve from across the court, dismissively waving his hand in disgust at the officiating crew.

Catchings made both free throws to give the Fever a two-point lead, but the Lynx were fired up after that. Rebekkah Brunson soared for a rebound she tipped to Moore to retain possession. Moore pump faked then dribbled in for a layup that drew a foul and swished the free throw for a 57-55 lead. Augustus added a 3-pointer near the end of the period for good measure.

``I thought as a team we didn't step up to the plate when we needed to when we should've rallied and come closer together. It's like we came apart a little bit, and we can't afford to do that, not with the defending champ,'' Catchings said.

Whalen had the look in her eyes that she wasn't going to let this one slip away, making a pull-up jumper early in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to six and following that with a 3-pointer to put the Lynx up 66-57 with 7:21 left.

``It's the finals, so everyone is going at it aggressively,'' Whalen said. ``It's a lot of fun.''

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.