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Giants frustrated but hopeful after 9-7 mark

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Giants frustrated but hopeful after 9-7 mark

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There is an obvious reason why the New York Giants went from a Super Bowl champion to a frustrated team that missed the playoffs.

It's consistency. Tom Coughlin's team lacked it in 2012 despite finishing with the same 9-7 record as a year ago when a late rush took them to their second title in five seasons.

This year there was no late rush. Just two bad games against Atlanta and Baltimore that cost the Giants control of their playoff destiny and ultimately left them cleaning out their lockers on Monday despite a season-ending 42-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was a far cry from a year ago when the Giants cleaned out their lockers and then boarded buses for a trip down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City.

``Emotionally it's not an easy day under any circumstances,'' said the 66-year-old Coughlin, who clearly is looking forward to returning next season. ``To not be in the playoffs is not what we expected when the season began.''

It certainly wasn't what the Giants expected after opening the first half of the year with a 6-2 record.

However, the second half was much different. New York started it by blowing a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead against Pittsburgh. They were embarrassed by Cincinnati the following week and later threw in consecutive no-show efforts in a 34-0 loss to Atlanta and a 33-14 debacle in Baltimore.

The team had two very different personalities.

When they played like a Super Bowl contender, the Giants were awesome. They beat San Francisco 26-3 and had wins over Green Bay 38-10, New Orleans 52-27 and Philadelphia 42-7 in the second half, too.

``The bar is set very high here,'' general manager Jerry Reese said. ``We didn't get the job done. I wish I had something clever to give you guys but that's the soup and nuts. We didn't get the job done.''

The Giants have some work to do in the offseason. They have almost two dozen restricted or unrestricted free agents, including several starters on both sides of the ball - tackle Will Beatty, guard Kevin Boothe, tight end Martellus Bennett, receiver Victor Cruz (restricted), linebacker Chase Blackburn, safety Stevie Brown (restricted), safety Kenny Phillips and kicker Lawrence Tynes.

Players said the front office doesn't need to tweak too much, especially with quarterback Eli Manning coming back. He is the lynchpin of an offense that scored 429 points, the second most in franchise history. The offensive line kept Manning clean much of the year and paved the way for Ahmad Bradshaw to have his second 1,000-yard rushing season. Cruz had another big year with 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns

The defense seemingly needs more help after finishing near the bottom of the league in the regular season. The pass rush that carried New York last season wasn't there all the time and the run defense was pathetic at times, allowing an average of 129.1 yards.

There are several players who could be on the bubble. Offensive tackle David Diehl could become a salary cap casualty and there is no guarantee that Bradshaw will be back after rookie David Wilson played so well late. New York also has to hope that receiver Hakeem Nicks finally gets over the foot and knee problems that limited him all season, taking away one of Manning's favorite targets.

``Anytime we don't win the Super Bowl it's a disappointing year, so this is a disappointing year,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said. ``So was the year before the Super Bowl. The thing I understand about the game is you play to win Super Bowls. You don't play the game to get playoffs berths. Yes, we would love to be in the playoffs, don't get me wrong but that's not the end goal. I would rather not make the playoffs than make the Super Bowl final and lose it.''

Tuck, who said he had a bad year, insists the Giants aren't in the same boat as teams that won two games this past season.

``We still have a quality football team, a team that I feel very confident that if we would have gotten in the playoffs, we would have made a run,'' he said. ``It's funny. We got on a run late year and played well those last six games. It seems to me, playing well against a division foe (the Eagles) yesterday, we started a little too late. Hopefully that will be something we can build on in this offseason.''

Manning looked upon the season as a wasted opportunity.

``We had a three-game lead at one point in the division, and down the stretch, we couldn't hold onto it,'' he said. ``It was up to us. We had to win. We had to play our best football, and we couldn't do it. There's no one to blame, or no one to look at except ourselves. That's disappointing.''

And that sums up the season.

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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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