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Virginia Tech stuns No. 15 Ok St, 81-71

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Virginia Tech stuns No. 15 Ok St, 81-71

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Erick Green scored 28 points and hit eight critical free throws in the final 76 seconds Saturday to help Virginia Tech remain unbeaten and handed No. 10 Oklahoma State its first loss, 81-71.

Robert Brown added 18 points and Jarell Eddie had 15 with 12 rebounds for the Hokies (7-0) and first-year head coach James Johnson. It's their first 7-0 start to a season since 1982-83.

Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart scored 18 each to lead the Cowboys (5-1), who lost to the Hokies for the fourth straight time, all in past three seasons.

The game was close throughout, especially after Tech saw what had been an eight-point led cut to 69-66 on Markel Brown's deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:22 remaining.

Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one for Virginia Tech, but as Oklahoma was setting up its offense, Green stole the ball and was fouled driving toward the basket. He made both, pushing the Hokies' lead to 71-66. Nash made 1 of 2 at the other end, and Green was fouled again with 53.8 seconds left.

He made both again, and finished the game having made 51 of his last 53 from the line.

Green played only nine minutes in the first half after drawing two quick fouls, but scored the Hokies' first 10 points of the second half on a pair of 3-pointers, two free throws and a long fadeaway.

Jarell Eddie's 3-pointer gave Virginia Tech a 49-46 lead with 15 minutes left. Forte scored for Oklahoma State, and Robert Brown put back his own miss. Smart's drive cut the Hokies' lead to 51-50 with 13:17 to go, but the Cowboys didn't score against for 5:05 as the Hokies reeled off seven straight.

The Cowboys used a 9-2 run featuring five points by Smart to close to 60-59, but after the Hokies' Robert Brown and the Cowboys Kamari Murphy traded baskets, Virginia Tech scored seven of the next nine. Eddie scored on a drive, and Brown was credited with a basket when Philip Jurick was called for goaltending. After Nash's driving bank, Marshall Wood was fouled twice and made 3 of 4 free throws.

Markel Brown's 3-pointer from the top of the key for the Cowboys made it 69-66 with 2:22 left.

The Cowboys led 36-32 at a first half in which both teams took turns going on short scoring bursts. The biggest of those was an early 10-0 run by Oklahoma State that gave it a 12-7 lead. The score remained close until 3-pointers by Smart and Phil Forte around an inside basket by Michael Cobbins gave the Cowboys a 34-26 lead. Virginia scored six of the last eight points in the half to get within four at the break.

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Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Three weeks removed from back surgery to take care of his nagging gluteal injury, Dwight Howard rejoined the Washington Wizards for their Tuesday night contest with the Atlanta Hawks inside State Farm Arena. 

"Physically, I'm a lot better than I was before the surgery. The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I'm just happy that that's out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season," Howard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. 

During those nine games, the 33-year-old averaged 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, while shooting over 62% from the floor. 

Howard is no stranger to back surgery. In 2012, the then Orlando Magic center underwent a procedure to repair a herniated disk which ended his season and took him out of Summer Olympics (London) participation. 

The veteran now deals with a slow recovery process before returning to basketball activities. 

Right now, the only I can do for rehab is just walk. Anybody who has had back surgery, they understand that. You know, for the first month and a half, you can't lift weights. You can't run. You can't do anything but basically walk. 

Howard plans to remain in Atlanta for rehab. Three weeks ago, Washington said it would re-evaluate Howard after two or three months. 

"Every day I try to sit down, and you know, spend at least an hour visualizing, you know, getting healthy, but also returning to the court."

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Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 118-110 on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. When the Wizards smashed the Lakers on Sunday night and John Wall dropped 40 points, the team's social media naysayers collectively yawned, 'Let's see them do the same against Atlanta on Tuesday.' Sure enough, those people were right.

Wall and the Wizards did not bring anything close to the same energy against Atlanta that they had vs. L.A. Because the Hawks are terrible, the Wizards were able to hang around until the fourth quarter, but Atlanta pulled away with 36 points in the final frame.

There was plenty not to like about this game from the Wizards' side of things. They shot just 33.3 percent from three (13-for-39) and missed 11 of their 36 free throw attempts.

Wall had one of his worst games. He shot just 33.3 percent from the field and went 3-for-11 from three to the tune of 15 points and six assists. He played only 26 minutes due to foul trouble.

It wasn't as lopsided as their worst defeats this season, but this ranks up there with some of the Wizards' most inexcusable losses of the year so far. Even after making trades to shuffle their bench and team chemistry, the results remain the same. They let a bad team sneak up on them once again.

2. Trevor Ariza made his debut and essentially picked up right where he left off in 2014. He ended up with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals, making a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor. His six steals tied a career-high.

Ariza went 4-for-11 from three with just about all of them on wide-open looks. Ariza was excellent  in his last tenure in D.C. at drifting away from the defense and making them pay from beyond the arc. Wall and Bradley Beal seemed to remember that, as they consistently found him for outside shots. 

The Wizards' overall defensive effort was up-and-down, as they allowed 35 points in the first quarter and 118 for the game. But Ariza was mostly not to blame, as he played smart and measured defense. With the exception of an early play where Kent Bazemore hit an open three, he did a good job closing out on perimeter shots.

The trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. for Ariza may ultimately prove short-sighted, and many fans seem to strongly disagree with the decision. But those are the things we should see over the course of the season that show why Ariza could be an upgrade in the short-term. He will play solid, structured defense with few mistakes or lapses in focus.

3. The fans who paid the price of admission in Atlanta to watch the referees go to work got their money's worth. It was hard to hear Steve Buckhantz with all the whistles.

Seriously, there were so many fouls. The two teams combined for 61 of them. Four Hawks players had four fouls or more and four Wizards players had five or more. That included Markieff Morris, who fouled out in only 17 minutes.

Even clean plays were fouls, like this one. Jeff Green got way up to deny Alex Len, only to have a foul called.

4. Otto Porter Jr. remains out with a right knee contusion, making this the fourth straight game he has missed. He hasn't missed five consecutive games since his rookie year.

With Porter out, head coach Scott Brooks rolled with Jeff Green to start alongside Ariza. Ariza is slated to be in the lineup moving forward, so that pushed out Satoransky, who had made eight straight starts.

Satoransky ended up playing mostly as a backup shooting guard with Sam Dekker at small forward. Chasson Randle, who was recently brought back on a non-guaranteed contract, backed up Wall at point guard. Though that may have had something to do with his defensive matchup on Trae Young, it was surprising.

Ian Mahinmi also got some burn after three straight DNP-CDs. That may have been due to the presence of Len, who is a lot to handle for small-ball fives.

Speaking of big men, Dwight Howard made an appearance on Tuesday. He didn't play, but sat on the bench with the team for the first time since his back surgery.

5. All of those lineup mentions should highlight one notable exclusion. That is Troy Brown Jr., who continues to be on the outside of the rotation looking in. Even with Porter out and Oubre now gone, Brown isn't in the mix.

Brown's inability to get playing time remains a head-scratcher. Yeah, he can't shoot, but he can do so many other things, things that the Wizards need. Whenever he gets spot minutes, he contributes with his passing, rebounding and defense. 

The fact he isn't playing a lot could be expected, as he was drafted outside the lottery by a deep, veteran team. But to not play at all, even when injuries pave the way? That's tough to understand.

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