Nationals

Williams' inconsistent Tar Heels still rebounding

Williams' inconsistent Tar Heels still rebounding

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Roy Williams always wants his North Carolina teams to run. He knows they can't do that without hitting the glass, snatching down a rebound and kicking the ball out to start the break.

It's why the Hall of Famer has always emphasized rebounding since taking over at UNC a decade ago - and why Williams' Tar Heels have always ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference's best at crashing the boards. It's one thing this year's group has generally done well even as they've struggled at times after losing four NBA first-round draft picks.

``The simple fact of the game is the quality of my shot against the quality of your shot,'' Williams said Friday. ``And if I rebound it more, some of my shots are going to be close shots. They're going to be tip-ins or follow dunks. That's been the whole reason for me since the day I started.''

Since Williams left Kansas to return to his alma mater in 2003, the Tar Heels (11-5, 1-2 ACC) have ranked either first or the second in the league every year in both rebounds per game and rebound margin. In fact, they've led the ACC in both categories in six of Williams' first nine seasons, according to STATS LLC.

Throw in offensive rebounding - the Tar Heels have led the ACC in that for the past four seasons - and North Carolina has led the league in all three categories in each of the past two seasons.

This year's team lacks a true go-to post player such as Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough from Williams' two national-title winners in 2005 and 2009. Nor does it have anyone on the level of Tyler Zeller or John Henson, the frontcourt tandem that helped the Tar Heels to the nation's top rebounding margin last season before becoming first-round picks.

Yet the Tar Heels still lead the league in offensive rebounds (15.7 per game). They're second in total rebounds (43.2) and rebounding margin (plus-6.6) to Maryland, their opponent Saturday.

``If we see one guy in practice not box out, we stop and run every day,'' Williams said, ``because I really do believe it's that important.''

Those rebounding numbers impact everything the Tar Heels do, from their ability to get the ball into transition to whether they're playing with any toughness on the interior. It will certainly be a critical factor against the Terrapins (14-3, 2-2), who rank second nationally in rebounding margin at 11 per game.

Maryland, led by 7-foot-1 center Alex Len, hasn't been outrebounded all season.

The Tar Heels were outrebounded in three of their five losses this season, while they barely took an edge on the glass in the other two.

Compare that to last weekend's win at Florida State. On the same court where they lost by 33 a year earlier, North Carolina took a 41-19 rebounding advantage - including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points in the 77-72 win.

``It's a huge emphasis,'' freshman point guard Marcus Paige said. ``Offensive rebounds are one of the best parts of our offense and obviously we try to control the defensive rebounding as well. ... This year it's more of a collective effort. We don't have (Zeller and Henson) pulling in double-digit rebounds every night, but we have all of our guys committed to try to own the boards.''

In a sign of how different this UNC team is from its predecessors, 6-9 sophomore James Michael McAdoo averages a team-high eight rebounds per game, while the next-best rebounders - 6-7 junior Reggie Bullock and 6-5 sophomore P.J. Hairston - are both guards with size.

The Tar Heels have often rotated freshman big men Brice Johnson and Joel James, and sophomore Desmond Hubert alongside McAdoo in search of consistent help inside, though none of the three are playing more than 14 minutes per game. Williams has even gone small with a four-guard lineup for stretches this year.

For now, Williams doesn't care who's pulling down the rebounds - as long as his Tar Heels are the ones hauling them in.

``We work awfully hard to run after (made shots), too,'' Williams said, ``but there's no question it's easier to run off the missed shots so we have to get some of those rebounds.''

Also Friday, Williams said junior guard Leslie McDonald is doubtful to return after missing the past two games with a right knee injury. Williams said the reserve hasn't been able to fully practice since tweaking the knee - the same one that sidelined him all last year - last week.

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3 things to watch as the Nationals try to even the series with Colorado

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3 things to watch as the Nationals try to even the series with Colorado

Here are three things to watch for as the Nationals try to even the series in Colorado: 

1. Brian Dozier's slow start to 2019 seems to be in the rearview mirror. The second baseman hit his third long-ball in four games Monday night inside Coors Field. 

2. How long will Anthony Rendon be held out of the lineup? The third baseman is nursing his left elbow after being hit by a Jose Urena pitch Saturday in Miami. 

3. One of the MLB's best closers remains unsigned 20+ games into the season. Craig Kimbrel could very well help solve an NL East division-wide problem

Coming Up:

Tuesday, 4/23: Nationals @ Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET, Coors Field

Wednesday, 4/24: Nationals @ Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET, Coors Field

Friday, 4/26: Padres @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park

Download the MyTeams app for even more Nationals content, and check out the latest episode of the Racing Presidents podcast below.

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A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

RALEIGH — By the end of the night the frustration was evident. Three times the Capitals have played at PNC Arena during this Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series and three times they have left the ice stick-smashingly angry. 

Capitals coach Todd Reirden screamed at the officials. Alex Ovechkin earned a game misconduct after a mock wave following a late penalty call. By then the Carolina Hurricanes had already assured there would be one final game in this closer-than-expected series with a 5-2 win. Now both teams face elimination with Game 7 looming Wednesday at Capital One Arena. 

Washington’s anger was understandable. Alex Ovechkin apparently poked home the game-tying goal with 9:26 remaining. But while the Capitals celebrated, referee Kyle Rehman blew his whistle. In his view, Ovechkin had shoved Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek’s pads to force the puck into the net. 

The NHL Situation Room in Toronto upheld that call on the ice after the Capitals tied it. Just 1:24 later, ex-Capitals forward Justin Williams stuck a dagger in the heart of his old team with a deflected goal to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead.

"I don't think anyone expected it to be easy,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They played well all series. We were up 2-0 and we were probably fortunate to be up 2-0 and we've been good on home ice and now we have a Game 7 and it is probably good that we have home ice."

There were other issues on Monday. Dmitry Orlov was whistled for embellishment in the second period that denied Washington a power play. Carolina tied the game 2-2 at 1:56 of the second period when referees – in the Capitals’ view – missed an obvious slash by Sebastian Aho on defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler behind the net. His attempted clear was flubbed and Aho found Teuvo Teravainen alone in front for an easy goal.

None of it matters now. The Capitals didn’t play well enough to win anyway, especially in a ragged second period that ominously looked like the 5-0 Hurricanes win in Game 3. Reirden himself admitted that Carolina earned the breaks it got. Goalie Braden Holtby was especially critical of his team for not building on a dominant 6-0 win at home in Game 5 on Saturday. 

“I don’t know. I thought we played pretty well to come out and we just faded,” Holtby said. “I’m not sure why. At this point it doesn’t matter. It’s over with and it’s down to one game.”

The challenge will be leaving all of that negativity in the PNC Arena locker room. One player walked away and said to no one in particular “No goal….what a call.” The sarcasm dripped. But it can’t follow the Capitals back home to Washington. This group of players has plenty of experience putting bad playoff losses behind them. 

If anything carries over into Game 7, however, they could be in trouble. Those days are thought to be long over after last spring’s Cup. And maybe they are. But the Capitals will have to forget about what happened in Raleigh. They have one last chance. It can't be clouded by what happened here.  

"It's over. Again, right now nothing you can do,” Ovechkin said. “After fight, you can't do anything. It was a good battle. Good for them, they win Game 6, and you know, Game 7 is going to be much interesting. We know how to play that. Pressure on both teams, but it's a good chance for us to beat them at home." 

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