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Smith gives positive report on injured players

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Smith gives positive report on injured players

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Cornerback Dunta Robinson is in the NFL's mandated concussion protocol, and defensive end John Abraham is nursing a sore left ankle.

Another concern for the Atlanta Falcons is that strong safety William Moore has been sidelined by a strained hamstring since late last month.

Even so, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith expects his team to be nearly at full strength for the playoffs.

Smith says early reports on Abraham and Robinson, both injured in the season finale against Tampa Bay, are positive.

And Smith believes Moore could be ready to return and practice this week.

``I can tell you this,'' Smith said Monday, ``with both of the players that left the game yesterday, I fully anticipate they will be ready to go on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.''

Having two weeks to practice will allow the Falcons to spend Wednesday through Sunday working on fundamentals and timing. When they return to the field next week, the coaching staff will install a game plan for either No. 4 seed Washington, No. 5 seed Seattle or sixth-seeded Minnesota.

The staff will spend Wednesday and Thursday setting game-plan contingencies on Seattle and Minnesota. Because the coaches are already familiar Washington following Atlanta's Week 5 road win, they will wait until Friday to work on the Redskins.

Smith was disappointed with the team's sloppy performance Sunday. Losing 22-17 at home to Tampa Bay showed some of the weaknesses that have been problems this year even though the Falcons tied for the league's best record at 13-3 and earned the NFC's top playoff seed.

Inconsistencies running the ball, defending the run, rushing the passer, protecting quarterback Matt Ryan and creating turnovers have hurt Atlanta this year. Sunday's defeat looked similar to those home games that the Falcons narrowly won against struggling opponents Carolina, Oakland and Arizona.

Atlanta managed just 65 yards rushing while the Buccaneers gained 144. Ryan was sacked twice, hit six times and harassed into escaping the pocket several times.

The offense converted just 3 of 14 third downs. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was picked off once, by cornerback Asante Samuel, after throwing four interceptions in each of his last two games.

It's no wonder the Bucs snapped a five-game skid.

``You get what you earn in this league, and yesterday we didn't earn the win,'' Smith said. ``But you've got to consider it was the final week of the regular season. And I think we've got to be proud of what we've accomplished in the regular season. As I told the guys yesterday, the new season starts and everybody is 0-0.''

Injury-wise, if Smith's prediction comes true, the Falcons will have dodged a major problem by getting Abraham, Robinson and Moore back in time for the playoffs.

Since losing former Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes for the season in Week 1, Atlanta made it through the regular season without a long-term injury to a starter. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed three games and Samuel played just one series in Weeks 14-15, but both returned without missing a proverbial beat.

``It's good to have a week off to get our guys back healthy,'' tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ``Believe it or not, it's an advantage. It's good for us to be at home. We are extremely tough to beat at home. I know the dome will be rocking in our first playoff game. We just have to make sure we match and exceed our opponent's intensity that we've had all season that has got us to this point to be a No. 1 seed.''

Whether the few thousand empty seats and resulting flat atmosphere affected the team is hard to say. But in having their 11-game home winning streak ended, the Falcons were playing essentially a meaningless game with no chance of improving their playoff seed and Tampa Bay already eliminated from the postseason.

``We have a lot of pride about ourselves, so we want to win,'' Samuel said. ``We lost, and it really hurt. We really thought we were going to pull it off, but we have bigger fish to fry.''

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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 113-112 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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