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Giants control NFC East with 29-24 win at Dallas

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Giants control NFC East with 29-24 win at Dallas

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Osi Umenyiora and the New York Giants were feeling awful, believing they had just suffered a monumental collapse.

Upon further review, a replay overturned a Dallas Cowboys touchdown with 10 seconds left and the Giants held on for a 29-24 victory Sunday after blowing a 23-point lead, taking a firm hold on the NFC East lead.

``After going up 23-0 and having them come back like that and win, it was a very bad feeling. But thankfully, it wasn't in bounds,'' Umenyiora said. ``I don't think that's luck. He just didn't make the play.''

Dez Bryant leaped and made an impressive catch between two Giants defenders in the back of the end zone. After being ruled a 37-yard touchdown, officials watched a replay that showed Bryant's fingers hit out of bounds first when he reached down with his right hand to brace his fall.

``Everybody thought it was over,'' said Jason Pierre-Paul, who had his first interception and touchdown for the Giants.

After the overturned touchdown, the Cowboys (3-4) were unable to get in the end zone despite getting off three more plays.

New York (6-2) has won six of seven games since its season-opening loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 5, when the Giants became the first defending Super Bowl champion to lose in the NFL's midweek kickoff game that has become a tradition over the past decade.

But halfway through their schedule, the Giants are the only NFC East team with a winning record. Philadelphia (3-4) and Washington (3-5), the other division teams, both lost Sunday.

``You take that every time halfway through the season,'' Eli Manning said. ``We're happy to be here winning some close games the last two weeks.''

What almost became the largest blown lead for the Giants to lose instead became the 20th time since Manning became their quarterback in 2004 that they came from behind in the fourth quarter to win. They also did so a week earlier with Victor Cruz's 77-yard catch with 1:13 left at Washington.

The Giants improved to 4-0 at Cowboys Stadium since Jerry Jones' football palace opened in 2009 with a New York victory.

On the first day of training camp, Jones told his team's fans to come watch them beat the Giants' rear ends. He was a bit more emphatic using a different word.

``You couldn't draw it up and start a game any worse than we started,'' Jones said. ``I'm very disappointed right now. ... I thought after all that, our defense played well enough, our offense kept going and I thought we were going to get a chance to pull one out.''

The Giants quickly cleared out of Cowboys Stadium to get home with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast.

New York led 23-0 only 2 minutes into the second quarter when Pierre-Paul broke off a block and jumped up to pluck a pass out of the air, returning it 28 yards. It was the third of four interceptions by Tony Romo, and among six Dallas turnovers.

Things were so bad then that Jones was booed when he came on the giant video screen during a pre-taped public service announcement about breast cancer awareness.

``Seriously. I'm sure the fans had the same feeling I did,'' Jones said. ``I was frustrated, mad and knew that we had dug ourselves a hole that was going to take super effort to get out of.''

But Dallas got within 23-10 before halftime, then took the lead with a pair of 1-yard touchdowns in the third quarter.

Romo, who completed 36 of 62 passes for a career-high 437 yards, scored on a fourth-down run after faking a handoff and rolling right. On the next drive, he faked another handoff and was rolling right again when he tossed the ball to tight end John Phillips.

Lawrence Tynes kicked two of his five field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 43-yarder with 10:20 left for a 26-24 lead. He added a 37-yarder with 3 1/2 minutes remaining after Felix Jones' fumble was recovered by Stevie Brown.

Brown picked Romo off for a second time with 1:03 left, but New York failed to get a first down on three running plays while Dallas used all of its timeouts.

The Cowboys got the ball back with 44 seconds left at the 30, and Bryant's apparent score sent the faithful fans who remained into a frenzy until officials changed the call.

``When they took it away, my heart just dropped. I had my mind set that if the ball is thrown to me, I don't care; I'm going to come down with it,'' said Bryant, who had five catches for 110 yards. ``And I came down with it and I thought I was in. It's frustrating.''

Tight end Jason Witten had 18 catches (for 167 yards) to break his own franchise record for a single game and tie for the third-most in NFL history. With Miles Austin catching nine balls for 133 yards, Dallas had three 100-yard receivers for only the second time.

The Cowboys play at undefeated Atlanta next Sunday night.

``Nobody's ever questioned our fight or battle, but you still have to win games,'' Witten said. ``It is the time of the season you have to start putting those wins together.''

NOTES: Cowboys LB Dan Connor, starting in place of injured LB Sean Lee, had a neck strain before halftime. Connor will have an MRI on Monday. ... Giants LB Chase Blackburn sustained a left hamstring injury, and TE Bear Pascoe a sprained ankle. ... Tynes is now the second-leading scorer in Giants history with 535 career points.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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