Redskins

Knicks overcome Irving's 41, hold off Cavs 103-102

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Knicks overcome Irving's 41, hold off Cavs 103-102

NEW YORK (AP) Raymond Felton scored 25 points, Tyson Chandler had 23, and the New York Knicks overcame Kyrie Irving's career-high 41 points and the absence of Carmelo Anthony to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-102 on Saturday night.

The Knicks won their fourth straight when Anderson Varejao missed the second of two free throws with 1 second left. They improved the NBA's only unbeaten home record to 10-0, their best start since the 1991-92 team won its first 11 at Madison Square Garden.

Anthony, the NBA's No. 2 scorer, missed the game after spraining his left ankle Thursday in the third quarter of a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. But Chandler scored 21 in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Felton and Jason Kidd combined for 15 assists.

It almost wasn't enough thanks to Irving, who had no problems wearing a black protective mask after breaking a bone in his face on a hard fall Friday night against Milwaukee.

Rookie Chris Copeland scored 11 points in his first career start in place of Anthony, who scored 30 points in 22 minutes Thursday before getting hurt when he landed awkwardly after a hard foul by Dwight Howard. The Knicks improved to 2-1 without him, adding this to a surprising rout in Miami on Dec. 6.

Leading by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, the Knicks had their lead cut to 102-101 when Irving made two free throws with 10.1 seconds left. After Steve Novak made one free throw, Irving pushed the ball up and seemingly the whole Knicks team converged on him, leaving Varejao uncovered toward the left sideline. Irving threw him the ball and Varejao dribbled into the lane, where he was fouled with a second left. After making the first, he may have been distracted when the officials took the ball back from him so the Knicks could make a late substitution, and the second shot fell out.

Irving scored 17 points in the final period, the second-year pro surpassing his previous best of 34 points despite saying he arrived less than three hours before the tip and with only about four hours of sleep after getting fitted for the mask.

CJ Miles finished with 17 points for the Cavs, who had three masked men in uniform as they dropped their third straight. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller were already wearing them for previous facial injuries.

J.R Smith scored 13 points and Novak had 13 for the Knicks, who continue their six-game homestand Monday against Houston in Jeremy Lin's return to Madison Square Garden.

Copeland made all three shots in the first quarter, but Thompson was 4 for 4 as the Cavs took a 28-27 lead. The Knicks opened a seven-point lead in the second but the Cavs came back to tie it before Novak's 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining sent New York to halftime with a 48-45 advantage.

The Knicks scored the first seven of the second half, opening a 55-45 lead on Felton's 3-pointer a little more than 2 minutes into the third quarter. Cleveland didn't let them get any further away, getting the deficit down to two late in the period before trailing 78-73 going to the fourth.

NOTES: The Knicks were also without reserve forward Rasheed Wallace because of a sore left foot. ... Longtime Knicks TV and radio announcer John Andariese was honored with the fifth annual Dick McGuire Knickerbocker Legacy award, given by the family of the Hall of Fame player and team employee to a person who ``exudes the qualities of what it means to be a Knickerbocker.'' Andariese retired before the season after more than 35 years of broadcasting the Knicks.

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NFL expert believes Scott Turner will build an offense to cater to the Redskins strengths

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NFL expert believes Scott Turner will build an offense to cater to the Redskins strengths

Most of the time in the NFL, successful offenses consist of schemes built around its player's strengths, rather than the other way around.

For much of the last decade in Washington, there's been a large difference between the offensive player's strengths and the scheme they've run.

But with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner now in charge, Rotoworld's Josh Norris no longer believes that will be the case in Washington.

Norris joined the Redskins Talk podcast in Miami and gave a lengthy example from Turner's first game as offensive coordinator in Carolina as a way of showing how the young coordinator came up with a game plan to fit his team's personnel.

"Curtis Samuel is one of the best receivers with the ball in his hands in the NFL," Norris said. "Yet, [the Panthers] were sending him on these vertical routes where he was creating separation and getting open, and the quarterbacks just couldn't get him the ball. It was awful."

Norris went on to explain that in Turner's first opportunity as offensive coordinator, he called three or four plays designed for Samuel out of the backfield during the Panthers' first two offensive series. 

"He understands where his players win," Norris said of Turner. "If they're not getting the ball enough, [Turner] seems willing to draw up plays each and every week to get his players the ball."

Last year, the Panthers' best wide receiver was second-year veteran D.J. Moore. The Maryland product finished the season in the top-10 in both receiving yards and yards per game, despite having a limited route tree, according to Norris.

With inconsistent quarterback play between Kyle Allen and Will Grier, Turner was able to design plays that catered to what Moore does best: catch intermediate passes across the middle.

"I think D.J. Moore is a very good player. Speaking of another Terp, he's no Stefon Diggs in terms of going out there, running the route tree, creating separation in isolation every single time," Norris said. "Moore right now is kind of a dig, a slant, a crosser, a drag route guy. He's not someone who can run this full, all-encompassing route tree. The Turners understood that, and gave him the ball, fed him the ball 7-10 yards from the line of scrimmage and allowed him to win in after the catch."

The success of Turner and the Redskins offense in 2020 will largely depend on the jump quarterback Dwayne Haskins makes from his rookie season to Year 2. The Redskins offense a year ago was not designed to suit Haskins' strengths. Washington was one of the most run-heavy teams in 2019, although the ground game brought them little success.

When the Redskins drafted Haskins, he was a raw product. Then-head coach Jay Gruden did not plan to play the rookie much in 2019. The Redskins planned to win in 2019 with their running game and defense — something they did well in 2018 before Alex Smith got hurt — but both units failed to live up to expectations.

Haskins was inserted into the lineup as the starter in Week 9 and seemed to improve each week. But it took a while for the Redskins to sway away from the offensive philosophy they started this season with to change into one that could get the most out of their rookie passer. Haskins only started to look like a competent, potential franchise QB in the final two games he played.

Like the Redskins, Turner underwent a lot of change last season in Carolina. One of the things that impressed Norris the most was his ability to alter his system.

"There's nothing more impressive to me, with Norv and Scott being around for so long, but willing to adapt and change," Norris said. 

During Turner's introductory conference call with reporters earlier this month, he emphasized the versatility of his system as one of his greatest strengths.

“If you look at the offense and the system that we have been a part of, talking about my dad and going back to him – the different places that we've been our offense has looked a little different," Turner said on Jan. 15. "It is still the same system, but we have versatility within our system where we're going to really fit and play to our player's strengths. So right now, as a coaching staff we're really trying to get to know these guys."

Turner also spoke highly of Haskins and seemed to have a solid plan of action to run a successful offense.

"Dwayne, you obviously see the big, strong guy who can stand in the pocket and really push the ball down the field," Turner said. "We're going to want to use a lot of play-action pass and then something also he's done a good job of in his past and in college too is just being able to get the ball out quickly and kind of distribute the football to the playmakers and let them make the plays for him."

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How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

If a college offered a How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, Mike Rizzo would be an apt choice to lead the course.

Rizzo has been a top executive with the Nationals since 2009, when he assumed the role of general manager. He's overseen Washington's rise from NL East fodder to NL East contender to, of course, now World Series winners. 

The process was arduous, but Rizzo was steadfast in his approach through it all and was committed to sticking to his values and his roster. He was the perfect leader to help elevate the Nats to the top of baseball, and he's also the perfect person to give advice to Ron Rivera and the Redskins as they try to make the same climb in football.

So, the Redskins Talk podcast searched for that kind of advice on Wednesday when Rizzo sat down with them in Miami at Super Bowl LIV.

Rizzo, who's actually already fond of Rivera since Rivera played for Rizzo's beloved Bears, looked back on the early days of his rebuild with the Nationals, stressing the importance of having a vision.

"It's very difficult. It's more difficult towards the fan base," Rizzo explained. "With them, we were honest and up front and kind of mapped out what our blueprint was for how we were going to develop this thing... From that day on we had a blueprint and a plan of how to do this. When I took over as GM in 2009, we started implementing the plan."

It seems as if Rivera is being allowed to begin his tenure in a similar way. The two-time Coach of the Year is the key component in what Dan Snyder has called a "coach-centric" structure, and so far, Rivera has brought in plenty of new figures at all levels of the organization. He'll likely do the same when free agency and the draft come and go.

That's just the beginning, obviously, which Rizzo discussed. It's rare for a franchise to flip its fortunes in a flash, especially when they're in bad as shape as the Curly Ws once were or the Burgundy and Gold currently is. But growth should happen, and that growth will hopefully lead to an eventual explosion.

"We saw small increments of improvement," Rizzo told Redskins Talk. "We went from 59 wins to 69 wins. From 69 wins to 80 wins. And then we went on our big runs."

Rivera is taking over a group that just went 3-13, and while there's plenty of optimism for what he can do, the progress may initially be slow. Six victories in 2020, for example, won't result in a playoff berth but would represent quite a jump. Yet even with what could be an uninspiring record in Rivera's debut season, there may be some vital developing going on.

"It happens most powerfully in places that nobody sees," Rizzo said. "It's down at the grassroots."

In the end, Rizzo has emerged from the Nationals' ascension understanding that making a team into a legitimate force is insanely difficult. However, the task becomes more doable if there's patience and unity between the people calling the shots. 

Essentially, in that hypothetical How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, the following quote from Rizzo would be the principle takeaway.

"Sometimes you have hiccups and take steps sideways or even take steps backwards," he said. "Ownership better be on board, you better have their support, they better have the blueprint in front of them and believe in the dream. And you better have the personnel in the front office and the decision-makers to make sometimes scary decisions. You can't be afraid to make big decisions and bold decisions to accomplish big things."

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