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Duke, Ga Tech still alive in ugly ACC Coastal race

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Duke, Ga Tech still alive in ugly ACC Coastal race

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Nobody saw this coming: Either Duke or Georgia Tech could still win the ACC's Coastal Division title.

The Yellow Jackets became afterthoughts following their 2-4 start. And not much is ever expected from a Duke football program that hasn't had a winning season since 1994 - and already has been blown out four times.

But they'll play this weekend in Atlanta in a game that's surprisingly significant in the muddy division race.

``Nobody probably pictured us being in the position we are now,'' Duke defensive end Dezmond Johnson said Tuesday. ``Especially having a chance to play in the championship, I would think there were probably slim to none, people thinking we were going to be able to play this (meaningful) game or even be in (the chase).''

Yet here both teams are, still alive and hoping to face the Atlantic winner on Dec. 1 in Charlotte with an Orange Bowl berth on the line.

Duke (6-4, 3-3) will win the division if it beats both Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3) and fellow Coastal contender Miami. North Carolina also can climb to 5-3 in the league, and while the Tar Heels are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions, they can factor into the standings and tiebreaker scenarios.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets will clinch a share of the title with a victory, but they'll some help to claim a third title-game berth since 2006.

Left for dead after losing four of their first six games - including a humbling 49-28 nonconference loss to Middle Tennessee State - Georgia Tech has thrust itself back into the title conversation by winning three of four, each by at least two touchdowns. That includes a 68-50 win over North Carolina in the highest-scoring game in ACC history.

``With the start we got off to this year, especially in the conference, we dug (ourselves) a huge hole,'' coach Paul Johnson said. ``With all the things that have happened and the balance in the league, especially in our division, we've been able to come back.''

Each of Duke's four losses has come by least 21 points - including back-to-back drubbings from the two Atlantic Division powers. No. 10 Florida State beat the Blue Devils 48-7 before No. 11 Clemson thumped them 56-20.

But during their off week, a couple of unexpected results put them back in control. In addition to Georgia Tech's high-scoring affair, Virginia knocked off Miami 41-40.

``When you have these kinds of opportunities ... you best pay attention to it and take advantage of them, because they don't come across your table all the time,'' coach David Cutcliffe said. ``So it qualifies as a very big game. Handling a big game is an art. That's something that is a work in progress, and I'm anxious to see, as this week progresses, how this team handles this.

``It's fun. It's got to be fun,'' he added. ``If it's not fun to do this, then we all need to rethink what we're doing.''

Both teams want nothing more than to reverse a bit of history.

In each year since 2005, the winner of the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game went on to play in the title game. The Hokies won this year's season-opening matchup in overtime before a free-fall sent them to their worst season since 1992.

For the Blue Devils, it runs a little deeper than that.

All they've had to play for in previous Novembers were moral victories. But this group has already clinched its first bowl berth since '94 - and now, it wants more.

Another victory will wrap up the Blue Devils' first non-losing season since then. Two more will send them someplace they've never been - and, they hope, help them continue to shed their tradition of losing.

``If I'm talking to my cousin or something (and I) tell him I want to play in the ACC championship, and he's like (sarcastically), `Oh, OK,''' cornerback Ross Cockrell said. ``But that's the nature of the beast. We are Duke football. We have not traditionally been a strong football school. ... We understand the recent history of Duke, and we're trying to change that.''

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AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

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USA Today Sports

Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

The Wizards’ 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic Monday night was the tale of two Hoyas.

Washington brought Jeff Green back home this summer to help anchor the second unit with his defensive versatility and scoring spurts. Both aspects were on display in the fourth quarter, as the Wizards finally broke free from the Magic.

Another former Georgetown star, Otto Porter, was nowhere to be found in the fourth. Zero minutes for a third consecutive game for the Wizards’ highest-paid player, thus adding another layer of weird to his season.

The why is a topic. For a team that registered its first winning streak of the season after a 2-9 start, all that matters is finding success. That was the postgame message from Scott Brooks.

There’s no detective work required as to why Green turned into a late-game staple.

After his 19-point outing in Saturday’s win at Miami, the streaky scorer had 10 of his 18 in the final period against Orlando with four 3-pointers. Defensively the 6-foot-9 forward offers Brooks an option the roster lacked last season: a versatile player capable of guarding on the perimeter and, as was the case against Orlando center Nik Vucevic, inside against bigger players.

“We need his all-around play,” Brooks said. “He can guard just about everybody on the floor. … I thought [Jeff] did a pretty good job on the big fellow.”

Green and Markieff Morris handled the interior spots the entire fourth quarter. When the forwards can match up with opposing four’s and five’s on defense, it typically means their scoring presence opens the court for penetrating guards John Wall and Bradley Beal on the other end.

Green sinking bombs throughout the game helped as well. He finished four of five from deep with two coming in the fourth. The career 33 percent 3-point shooter is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall.

“He's starting to get a little bit of rhythm from the three-point line, and we need that from him,” Brooks said.

Maybe Green isn’t the ideal athletic-4 Wall called for in recent years, but the on-court connection between the power forward and point guard is evident. During the decisive 14-4 run, the two hooked up for an alley-oop lob that's turned into a go-to play for Washington.

With shooters surrounding the duo, Wall dribbles toward the left elbow, taking all eyes with him. Green immediately turns down an open lane and rolls to the rim before rising high to meet the toss.

“We have shooters, we have guys that have to [be] respected,” Green said of the play. “It keeps [defenders] at bay, and with John’s speed, to get downhill at the rim, you have to help (on him).”

Wall passed on offering any keys to the play’s success (“We just tweaked a little bit of the play. I can’t tell you about, but it’s kind of working for us.”), but he praised Green’s performance with ease.

“That’s what we got Jeff for,” Wall said.

The Wizards matched that massive four-year, $106.5 million restricted offer sheet Porter signed with Brooklyn in 2017 for all kinds of reasons. Among them, he’s an instinct-rich player who makes winning plays and ranks among the most accurate 3-point shooters in the league. Those traits haven’t kept Porter on the court late in games recently in part because they haven’t shown in full-throated ways.

The term “benching” is harsh, though the situation is odd. Morris sat out the final periods at Orlando and Miami. Dwight Howard didn’t enter the fourth Monday despite finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Only Porter’s sit streak reached three games.

The small forward played a strong defensive game in Saturday’s win at Miami, but Brooks rode with a group that gained momentum as Washington surged past the Heat.

Porter is 9 of 16 on 3-pointers over the last four games. That’s only one aspect of the game. Brooks is looking for more. Porter took only one shot attempt in the first half Monday, lacked vigor defensively, and scored six points in 21 minutes. Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter's primary backup, played the entire fourth quarter instead despite finishing 0 for 5 from the floor.

"I mean, it's trying to find a blend of guys that are going to compete and going to play hard,” Brooks said of his lineup choices.

Asked specifically about Porter, Brooks said, “It’s just the way it is. Some games Otto is not going to have good games. Tonight isn’t one of them. He’ll bounce back. The guy is a winner. He knows how to play.”

Green and Porter honed their games at Georgetown under coach John Thompson III and turned into top-5 NBA Draft selections. The program is mostly closed off to the outside world, but a strong bond between the players exists regardless of when they played. The two forwards never joined forces until this season. Green knows Porter, enough to tell whether a helpful chat is required. This isn’t one of those times. 

“Otto is a pro, man,” Green told NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t have to say anything to Otto. He’s a team-first guy. He’s a guy who’s going to make sure whenever his name is called he’s going to be ready. He’s not worried about if he’s playing. I’m sure he’d like to be playing. He’s doing whatever it takes it to make sure the team is in a place to win.”

So is Scott Brooks. For now, that includes one former Georgetown star in the fourth quarter. It’s just not the obvious one.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

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USA Today Sports

5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

The Washington Wizards topped the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Like most games the Wizards have played this season, on Monday they started out scorching on offense while defense appeared optional. 

This play was an exception. Bradley Beal, whom you will see plenty more from in this post, got a steal that led to a three for Otto Porter Jr. on the other end:

Though the Wizards won, Porter was held to just six points in 22 minutes of action.

2. Back to Beal. Though that first-half play was nice, he was quiet for much of this game. It wasn't until less than five minutes were remaining in the third quarter that he flipped a switch.

But when he did, there was nothing the Magic could do to stop him. This was one of the plays he made during his third quarter takeover. He used a nifty behind-the-back crossover to set up Dwight Howard for an and-1 bucket:

3. Beal accounted for 10 points in a three-minute stretch, capped off with this steal and dunk:

Beal started the game 3-for-13 from the field, but ended it with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

4. John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) and Jeff Green (18 points, six rebounds) also had big nights. They connected on this alley-oop in the fourth quarter:

Green had 10 points in the fourth quarter and Wall had nine.

5. Wall kept it going late with this fadeaway jumper to force a Magic timeout. The way he toyed with the defense off the dribble was quite impressive:

Speaking of Wall, if you ask Beal, it was the media (and more specifically ESPN's Stephen A. Smith) that set the five-time All-Star off. Wall, Beal says, was playing with some extra motivation with Smith sitting courtside:

Don't question him. Just go with it.

The Wizards have now won two straight games. In a sign that it's still super early and probably not time to freak out about the big picture, the Wizards are now just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth seed in the East.

 

 

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