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Thomas' shot ends Kings' skid, top Wizards 96-94

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Thomas' shot ends Kings' skid, top Wizards 96-94

WASHINGTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas made a floater with a second to play, capping a seesaw finish as the Sacramento Kings broke a four-game losing streak with a 96-94 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

Thomas dribbled down the clock after the Wizards tied the game on Martell Webster's short jumper with 7.9 seconds to play, then drove down the middle and put the ball in with a soft touch from 9 feet.

Thomas had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists. Francisco Garcia scored 17 points for the Kings in a game that included 16 ties and 11 lead changes.

Emeka Okafor scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and John Wall had 19 points and six assists for the Wizards, whose home winning streak ended at five games. Still, Washington is 6-4 and has been competitive in every game since Wall's return from a knee injury.

The Kings, on the second game of a six-game road trip, had been plagued by turnovers during their losing streak - averaging 21 over their previous three games - but they committed only 11 against the Wizards.

Okafor's 11-foot jumper with 2:26 remaining tied the game at 88, and Thomas made 1 of 2 with 2:14 to go to put the Kings ahead by one and set up a game of back-and-forth leads.

Nene made a nice dish to Wall for a layup to put the Wizards back in front with 2:01 left, but Thomas' falling-down, high-arc floater with 1:10 on the clock restored the Kings' advantage.

Wall missed a layup that would have given the Wizards the lead, but Washington forced a shot clock violation at the other end. However, Nene got caught in no-man's land driving into the paint and committed a turnover, giving the Kings the ball with 25 seconds to go.

Evans broke the series of one-point leads by making a pair of free throws with 19.6 left to put Sacramento ahead 93-90. Wall's layup pulled the Wizards within one with 12.6 to go, and Evans made 1 of 2 free throws with 11.7 remaining to make the score 94-92.

Webster then tied the game, giving the Kings the chance to set up the winning shot for Thomas.

Win or lose, the Wizards have become a fast, versatile and quite entertaining team to watch, with Wall and Bradley Beal running the floor and Okafor and Nene complementing each other inside. Wall's first half highlight was a hesitation-acceleration layup that prompted the sound effects crew to play a siren - as if Wall had been cited for speeding.

Okafor was the go-to guy in the first quarter, with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Garcia was on target in the second, making 4 of 5 3-pointers and scoring 15 points.

The Wizards led 57-53 at halftime, and not even a four-point play by Webster could open up much of a lead.

Notes: Kings F John Salmons played the entire first quarter, then left the game with a stomach virus and did not return. ... The Wizards' last six-game home winning streak came during the 2006-07 season, when they won 10 straight.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

One of the WNBA’s most dominant players is Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces. She’s unforgiving, wears her heart on her chest, and is truly one of a kind.

When the center is playing her finest basketball no one in the league can stop her. Sunday's Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals against the Washington Mystics had Cambage playing at her finest. 

Matching her season-high, Cambage waltzed to 28 points in only 27 minutes of playing time. Several Mystics took their turn at trying to slow her down. Every Mystic had a chance to help at least at double-teaming the Ace's leading scorer. Primarily it was Emma Meesseman and LaToya Sanders that drew the assignment responsibility, but everyone had a role.

It did not matter in Las Vegas. Throughout the whole contest, Cambage rolled over the interior of the Mystics defense. She scored at ease as the tallest player on either roster for the Mystics and the Aces. 

The Australian knew she could not be stopped. Postgame she analyzed why she was able to command the post so well on ESPN2’s broadcast. In the process, she put several Mystics on blast. 

“They got small forwards guarding me. If they can’t handle it, get in the weight room or get out of the post. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my thing inside,” Cambage told Kim Adams.

She’s talking about the 6-4 Meesseman, the 6-3 Sanders. But it doesn't matter whomever the Mystics put on the 6-8 Cambage, there will be a significant matchup advantage for the Aces. 

Not only does she have a clear edge in her height, but she does her build as well. Cambage possesses the ideal structure of a WNBA center. She stands at 216 pounds, 30 pounds more than either of the Mystics primary defenders on her. Sanders’ lanky frame has its advantages in the Mystics run-and-gun offense, but not what you see from a stereotypical center. Meesseman is a better matchup defensively, size-wise but she spots Cambage five inches. 

This is not an oddity though for Washington. There are a minute few in the WNBA that can walk alongside Cambage. As the third-tallest player in the league, only the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittany Griner (6-9) and the New York Liberty’s Han Xu (6-9) position higher.

Despite the clear physical dominance, Cambage is erratic at times. While she wears her emotions, those also tend to get her in trouble with her aggressive play and in dealing with officials. When frustrated, sometimes she struggles to even get a shot on rim.  

This is partly why Cambage’s play was highlighted so much in Game 3. The first two games of the series had Cambage as her own worst enemy. Visibly she was upset with some calls and non-calls by the officials. Timely fouls also limited her flow on the court. 

Neither was the case in Game 3. Fouls went her way. She even got away with a brash elbow to Meesseman’s face why trying to keep the lane clear. The non-call resulted in Mike Thibault losing his cool and getting a technical foul.

It’s also not the first time that Cambage has flailed an elbow to Meesseman. Game 2 saw her earn a technical foul for that same behavior. 

Either way, Cambage is a matchup nightmare against the Mystics. During the regular season, the Mystics – led by Sanders’ defense – kept Cambage to under 15 points in all three of their matchups. In three games in this series, the 28-year-old has 19, 23 and 28 points; progressively getting better in each game. 

Washington still holds a 2-1 lead and is a game away from returning to the WNBA Finals. However, they have to find an answer to slow down the tenacious Cambage. 

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