Wizards

Texans look for improvement before playoffs

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Texans look for improvement before playoffs

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South with a 29-17 win over the Colts to help erase the memory of a blowout loss to New England.

Coach Gary Kubiak still sees plenty of room for improvement after Sunday's game and is challenging his team to play better with gaining home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs still within reach.

San Francisco's win over New England on Sunday night left the Texans needing just one win in their last two games to secure home-field advantage.

``It'd be huge for this team because playing at home in this league and having the benefit of your crowd and getting off on cadence and all those types of things, it's a big, big factor in success in this league,'' Kubiak said. ``We worked hard to get to the playoffs. We worked hard to win a division and now we got to continue that same effort to try to find a way to possibly be a one seed in this playoff hunt.''

One of Kubiak's biggest concerns is Houston's inability to finish drives lately. Houston was just one of five on red zone opportunities on Sunday.

The Texans scored their only offensive touchdown on their second drive, and settled for field goals the rest of the way.

``It was disappointing because we could have really put some points on the board,'' Kubiak said. ``You only get so many opportunities in this business and boy, you have to take advantage of them.''

Houston ran for 178 yards on Sunday, led be a season-high 165 yards from Arian Foster. But Foster and the Texans didn't fare very well running the ball in the red zone against the Colts.

Foster managed just 2 yards on a third-and-4 from the Indianapolis 13 to force Houston to kick a field goal on its first drive. Houston had a second-and-10 inside the Indianapolis 20 when Ben Tate lost 4 yards on a run, forcing the team to settle for another field goal two plays later.

Houston's red zone production was also hindered when Matt Schaub was sacked for a loss of 7 yards on second-and-8 in the third quarter.

There has been some criticism of why Houston didn't go to Andre Johnson more in the red zone after he scored its only offensive touchdown early in Sunday's game. Johnson leads the AFC with 1,360 yards receiving.

Kubiak said it often doesn't make sense to force it to Johnson in those situations because the defense is focused on stopping him.

``A lot of that has to do with how much attention is paid to him down there,'' Kubiak said. ``People double him, doing those types of things.''

While Kubiak's main focus is fixing Houston's flaws, he did take time Monday to discuss some areas he isn't fretting about.

He is excited about the development of some of his young players, and believes their development will help the team as it moves closer to the playoffs.

Rookie receiver DeVier Posey, who hadn't caught a pass until last week, had three receptions for 46 yards against the Colts. On defense, rookie Whitney Mercilus has helped Houston deal with numerous injuries to its linebackers. Mercilus has six sacks and has forced two fumbles despite starting just three games.

``I think what's happening right now is some of our young players on our team are giving us a chance to continue to improve,'' Kubiak said. ``We're watching some young guys really contribute to this team ... and it is very encouraging.''

Kubiak also raved about the work of defensive end J.J. Watt, who is tied with San Francisco's Aldon Smith for most sacks in the NFL with 19 1/2.

Watt led the team with 10 tackles, forced a fumble and sacked Andrew Luck three times on Sunday. He needs just three sacks to tie the NFL single-season record of 22 1/2.

``He's been exceptional,'' Kubiak said. ``The game he played yesterday, and you all know how he's played all year, was probably his best this year. Usually a lot of linemen have a specialty, defensive linemen, whether it's rushing the passer, playing the run (but) this kid does everything well.''

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Wizards at Heat Game: TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

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Wizards at Heat Game: TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Thursday’s 119-113 victory over the 76ers was by far the best victory the Wizards have had this season.

Davis Bertans was hot shooting 7-for-10 from three. He even set a career high of 25 points in 27 minutes.  

Miami, on the hand struggled Wednesday night and fell short to Boston 112-93. 

Who will get the victory Friday ngiht? Tune in to find out. 

WIZARDS at HEAT HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards at Heat, Game 21

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

When: Friday, December 6, at 8:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards at Heat will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards at Heat on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS at HEAT TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

7:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Wizards at Heat (LIVE)

10:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

11:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

11:30 PM: Wizards Talk (LIVE)

WIZARDS at HEAT INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: John Wall (OUT, Left Achilles rehab), Ian Mahinmi (OUT, Right Achilles strain), C.J. Miles (OUT, Wrist), Thomas Bryant (OUT, foot), Isaiah Thomas (OUT, Calf)

Heat: Justise Winslow (OUT, Back), Goran Dragic (OUT, Groin), KZ Okpala (OUT, Achilles), Udonis Haslem (OUT, Illness)

WIZARDS at HEAT PLAYERS TO WATCH

Davis Bertans, PF, (13.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.7 app, ): Bertans went off in the first half against the 76ers shooting 6-for-6 from deep to get 22 points going into halftime. Bertans finished Thursday nights game with a season high of 25 points, one rebound, one steal and seven 3 pointers within 37 minutes.

Ish Smith, G, Wizards (8 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.9 apg): With IT out Ish Smith stepped up to the plate dishing out a season high of eight assists with 19 points and one rebound in 34 minutes in Thursday nights win over the 76ers. Smith is averaging

Jimmy Butler, G, Wizards (20.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 6.5 apg): Jimmy Butler was on fire in Miami’s 112-93 loss to Celtics on Wednesday. Butler made 12-of-18 from the field and set a season high of 37 points.

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Davis Bertans reinforces status as Wizards' best offseason addition in win over 76ers

Davis Bertans reinforces status as Wizards' best offseason addition in win over 76ers

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 119-113 on Thursday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. The Wizards entered this season with the understanding they probably wouldn't make the playoffs. They wanted to play hard and be a team capable of pulling off upsets on nights their effort and scrappy play caught opponents off guard.

They wanted to have games like they had on Thursday night. For the first time this season, the Wizards jumped all over a very good team and held on for a victory.

The Wizards took out the Sixers 119-113 for what is so far their signature win of the season. Philly is one of the best teams in the East at 15-7 and it was mostly healthy, unlike the Wizards.

Washington snapped a three-game skid as it now flies to Miami for battle with the Heat, who may be the surprise team of the NBA so far this season with a 15-6 record.

2. Though it's not showing in the standings, the Wizards did a nice job in the offseason in flipping their roster and creating long-term financial flexibility. Their most impressive move may have been trading for Davis Bertans.

Bertans was essentially stolen from the San Antonio Spurs for Aaron White, who was likely to never play for the Wizards. And all Bertans has done is thrive in an expanded role with the green light to shoot as often as he wants.

Bertans was lights-out on Thursday with 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He set a career high with seven threes, going 7-for-13 from the perimeter. Bertans had 20 points and was 6-for-6 from three in the first half, tying his previous career high for makes.

As I've mentioned before, Bertans is going to be a commodity come the trade deadline and that is going to force a tough decision for the Wizards, whether to trade him or keep him and try to work out an extension in the offseason. If they are offered a first-round pick, it will be hard to pass up.

But there is an argument either way to hold on to him because he is such a good shooter. Just imagine how well he would fit with John Wall.

3. Rookie Rui Hachimura also had a huge game in what was his first career meeting with the Sixers. He popped off for 15 points in the second quarter and ended up with 27 points and six boards.

Hachimura did all of this while dealing with Al Horford and Joel Embiid down low and guarding those guys on the other end. He also spent some time checking Tobias Harris, so there was a lot on his plate.

Hachimura got many of his points with his bread-and-butter midrange game. He made one three and found trouble getting around Embiid at the rim. 

Hachimura took what the defense gave him and it worked. There were several occasions where defenders just let him take long twos and he made them.

Head coach Scott Brooks was just talking pregame about why the Wizards are okay with him living in the midrange, if that's what he is most comfortable with at this point. Good timing with those comments.

Hachimura, by the way, is averaging 22 points over his last four games while shooting 54.4 percent from the field (37-for-68).

4. The Wizards shared some good news on the injury front before the game as both of their backup centers returned. Moe Wagner, who was nursing a left ankle injury, came back after missing two games. And Ian Mahinmi made his season debut after missing two-plus months with an Achilles strain.

Wagner was put in the starting lineup due to Thomas Bryant's absence and, though he did not have his usual scoring numbers, he did what he could to bother Embiid and give the Wizards energy. Wagner finished with five points and 11 rebounds.

Mahinmi played surprisingly well, all things considered. He had some bad moments, some due to rust. Be he did a solid job guarding Embiid, which is no easy task. The Wizards also helped him out with double teams.

The best part of Mahinmi's night, though, was right when he checked in. He has developed a reputation for getting in foul trouble and, sure enough, he got one on his very first play.

5. Though the Wizards got two players back from injury on Thursday, they also lost two. Jordan McRae will be out a few weeks after having a second surgery on his right ring finger. And, in a bigger surprise, starting point guard Isaiah Thomas was a late scratch with a left calf strain.

The Thomas one is a newly disclosed injury and at this point it's unclear if he will miss any more time. But it was enough for him to sit after he had played in 17 straight.

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