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Coach Swinney: 11th-ranked Tigers remain focused

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Coach Swinney: 11th-ranked Tigers remain focused

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's message to his players all year has been for them to focus on each other. He doesn't expect the 11th-ranked Tigers to change their approach now.

Swinney said Tuesday that Clemson (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has played to a strict standard during its six-game winning streak. The Tigers hope to continue to play with the same discipline and attitude against North Carolina State (6-4, 3-3) Saturday at Death Valley.

``They've learned how to handle success better and they've learned what it takes to be consistent performers,'' Swinney said.

The coach said it would've been easy for the Tigers to lose direction at several points this season, particularly after their 49-37 loss at Florida State. That defeat likely will keep Clemson from playing for a second straight ACC title.

Instead of folding, Swinney said his players learned how to be consistent winners, which will pay off later.

Swinney's been part of past Clemson teams - he was Tigers receivers coach from 2003 until take over the program in 2008 - that would've dwelled on defeat and come up short in later weeks. Instead, Swinney said team leaders got players right back into their regular routines, forgetting about past defeats.

``They've bought into those things and that's what they've focused on,'' Swinney said.

Those results mean Clemson can share the ACC Atlantic Division crown by defeating the Wolfpack this weekend. The Tigers' loss to the Seminoles gives Florida State the spot in the league championship game should it defeat Maryland on Saturday. An upset by the Terps would send Clemson to its third title game in four seasons.

``We're not worried about any of that,'' Clemson center Dalton Freeman said.

There's plenty left for the Tigers to achieve even outside a league crown, Swinney said. They've never won seven ACC games in a season before and last won 10 regular-season games in 1981, their national championship season.

``These are steps forward we're taking,'' Swinney said.

The Tigers have shown steadiness on offense all season, leading the ACC in yards gained at more than 513 and second in league points scored at nearly 43 a game. The defense has tightened up the past month, rising to third in the ACC in points allowed at 22.4 per game.

Clemson had its best defensive showing of the year in last week's 45-10 victory over Maryland, holding the Terps to a season-low 180 yards of offense.

``We're playing pretty good football defensively,'' Swinney said. ``As good as probably anybody in the top 20.''

They'll be tested this week with the ACC's third-best passing team and Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon, who trails just Clemson's Tajh Boyd for most passing yards a game in the league.

It was Glennon and the Wolfpack who accelerated Clemson's late-season spiral with a stunning 37-13 loss last November that dropped the Tigers out of the top 10. It was part of Clemson's 1-3 finish after an 8-0 start - something the players vow not to repeat this season.

``As an offense, we felt like we were somewhat embarrassed by them last season,'' Boyd said. ``It's one of those deals where we just want to get out there and have some fun.''

North Carolina State qualified for a bowl game with last week's 37-6 victory over Wake Forest. The Wolfpack ran for 170 yards, their first game in more than a month surpassing the century mark on the ground.

``We had to run the ball to be a better football team,'' Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said. ``Anytime you can control the time of possession by running the ball, that is a good recipe to win the game.''

Boyd and Tigers' high-flying attack has had lots of fun the first 10 games. They put up 718 yards in a 56-20 victory at Duke and followed that up with three Boyd TD passes in the opening half to take a 35-7 lead last week against Maryland.

It's a standard Swinney said he's worked hard to develop among his players since taking over midway through the 2008 season. Last year's group, which featured 42 freshman on the roster, learned how to win games but still needed to develop a toughness both to deal with adversity and to handle success. That's happened this season, Swinney said, and will serve as a foundation for the future.

``When you don't have that mentality, that's when you get your butt beat,'' Swinney said.

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Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Realistically, the Miami Heat had no business even being in position to win on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

They shot just 39.2 percent from the field, compared to 46.9 percent for the Wizards, and had 19 turnovers. 

The Heat were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost a tough one to the Magic the night before. They were missing a host of rotation players, including two of their regular starters.

Yet, the Heat pulled out a victory to stun the Opening Night crowd at Capital One Arena simply because they out-hustled the Wizards. They out-rebounded the Wizards 55-40, including a 22-7 margin in offensive boards. Those 22 offensive rebounds were tied for the most allowed by the Wizards since 2012.

"Rebounding the ball is really why we lost the game," Wizards guard John Wall said. "That's really where they killed us."

Miami's advantage on the glass allowed them to put up a whopping 16 more shots. That led to 27 second chance points compared to just 10 for Washington.

It was the central theme of the game, so naturally it played a role in how it was decided. After Wall forced a miss by Dwyane Wade on a fadeaway attempt in the closing seconds, Heat big man Kelly Olynyk was right there to catch the ball and scoop it in for two.

That score proved to be the go-ahead points as just 0.2 seconds remained on the clock. All night, the Wizards made plays on defense, only to have the Heat save themselves with second looks.

The Wizards had no better explanation postgame other than Miami simply tried harder.

"They out-hustled us," forward Jeff Green said.

"Rebounds come down to whoever wants it the most and tonight they wanted it more than we did," forward Otto Porter Jr. said.

It sounds simple, and perhaps it was indeed that easy to explain. But there were other factors at play, some in their control and some not.

For one, the Wizards were missing their best rebounder, Dwight Howard, who sat out with a strained piriformis muscle. Even at 32, Howard remains one of the best rebounders in basketball and would have made a significant difference. 

It would have been nice to have him, a 280-pound giant in the paint to match up with Hassan Whiteside, one of the most physically imposing centers in the league.

With Howard out of the mix, the Wizards turned to Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith, but they each stumbled into early foul trouble. Head coach Scott Brooks had no other option than to go small with guys like Green and Markieff Morris at the five-spot.

Brooks wants to employ that strategy more often anyways, but not by necessity. And sure enough, it was Green and Morris on the floor when Olynyk broke loose for the final deciding play.

"The last rebound, we definitely need to put most of the ownership on me and Jeff because we were the biggest guys," Morris said. "I think that might have been the easiest layup of the game right there."

"I was surprised I was open," Olynyk admitted afterwards. "It kinda just popped open and I was kinda just standing right there."

Though many factors were at play, the Wizards' struggles rebounding the ball came down to the simple fundamentals of boxing out their opponent. As they learned last year, it's tough to be consistent when you can't take care of the little things that separate wins and losses. 

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After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

Kelly Olynyk has done it once again to the Washington Wizards. 

The Miami Heat center ripped the heart of the Wizards just when it looked like it was going to be a new chapter for the team.

After leading a team to victory over the Wizards once again, he is starting to become one of the biggest sports villains in Washington D.C.

Olynyk hit a go-ahead layup with 0.2. second left to sink the Wizards in their 2018 season opener. Dwyane Wade had the first chance to win it for the Heat. He missed, but Olynyk was there for the rebound and uncontested layup.

For those that need a reminder this is not the first time Olynyk has torched the Wizards. 

Back in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Olynyk, then the Boston Celtics backup center, went off for 26 points, 14 coming in a tense fourth quarter. The loss ended the Wizards chance to get to the Conference Finals that year. If would have been the first time they reach that mark in the John Wall-era of the franchise.

Olynyk was also guilty of getting under the skin of Kelly Oubre Jr. The Wizards forward was sent to the floor following a big screen set by Olynyk. Oubre sprang to his feet and shoved Olynyk, leading to a minor scuffle. Oubre was ejected from the game and suspended for the following game.

With a reputation like that, Olynyk is starting to etch his name down on the wrong side of D.C. sports lore.

Who does Olynyk join among the ranks of most disliked athletes inside the D.M.V.? Here's our list:

Sidney Crosby

To the vast majority of Washington, D.C. sports fans, no one will ever be a bigger villain than Sidney Crosby. His rivalry with Alex Ovechkin is a major part of this, but being on the winning side more often than the Washington Capitals plays just as big a part. Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Capitals in three different Eastern Conference Semifinal series before Washington finally broke through last season.

Also it's Crosby. His incessant whinning and cockiness are overwhelming. 

Jaroslav Halak

At the time he was just an average goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, but by the end of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jaroslav Halak was public enemy No. 1 in the nation's capital.

Against a Capitals team that won the Presidents Trophy, Halak stood on his head as the No. 8 seed Canadiens faced elimination with the Caps up 3-1 in the series. He had 37 saves in Game 5, an incredible 53 saves in Game 6, and clinched the series with 41 saves in Game 7. He allowed just three goals in those three games, and sent the Capitals packing earlier than expected.

Had it not been for Halak, the first Washington Capitals championship might have happened well before June 2018.

Jerry Jones

He owns the Dallas Cowboys. Need we say more? 

Jonathan Papelbon

For years Jonathan Papelbon was on the Philadelphia Phillies. That alone would be enough to be on the bad side of D.C. sports fans.

Then he came to Washington, as a member of the Nationals, and tried to choke-out Bryce Harper

An insider job? We think so. 

Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth drew a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins. He ended up playing less than two seasons. 

He was so bad that NFL.com has listed him as one of the worst free agents signings in league history.

There are two things Albert Haynesworth is remembered for in Washington, D.C.
1: Taking a lot of money from the Redskins
2: This video 

Pete Kozma

Only on this list because some believe that Pete Kozma is the sole reason the Washington Nationals did not win a championship in 2012.

Aside from a three-run home run and then the game-winning runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, there has not been another chapter in the Kozma vs. Washington D.C. rivalry.

The real villain in all of this should be the Nats' pitcher, Drew Storen. He had a two-run lead before coming into the ninth in a winner-take-all Game 5. He gave the Cardinals four runs.

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So now that I've gone and despressed your day away, re-living terrible D.C. sports nightmares, just know that Olynyk is squarely on this list and just re-affirmed that with his latest buzzer-beater. 

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