Saturday, February 4, 2017

16 Didn't Come Easy as Wiz Edge Lakers

Ray Rogers AKA USS Blogger

The Washington Wizards recorded their 16th straight home victory last night with a 116 – 108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Entering Thursday night’s contest the overwhelming notion was that the Wizards would win handily over a young Lakers ball club searching for an identity. As a matter of fact, there was very little focus on the Lakers at least on the part of fans and media with everyone pondering whether Washington can climb up to the #2 seed in the eastern conference and/or challenge for a trip to the NBA finals.
Once the game began, it also seemed evident that the Wizards themselves were overlooking these Lakers which entailed a 1st quarter where the Wizards shot just 41% on 12/29 shooting, resulting in a mere 31 – 29 advantage. However, arguably the second hottest team in basketball (behind Golden State) built a 19 point second quarter advantage and at halftime led 58 – 44. It was at this time where many believed this game was over and throughout the third quarter the Wizards maintained their lead, entering the final period up 11.
Then it happened. The Lakers began to make a run and a miracle occurred as the Verizon Center was transformed into Staples Center. It occurred just as quickly as Clark Kent turning into "Superman". While apparent from the start that the Lakers faithful came out in droves, the team’s early fourth quarter surge was resuscitating which saw the Lakers erase the Wizards lead to tie the game 91 - 91 with 9:08 remaining.
Lakers fans however were not the only ones to come to life at this time. So did All Star guard John Wall. Wall outscored the Lakers 8 – 2 including two 3 pointers to put the Wizards ahead 99 – 93. Wall, who entered the fourth quarter just 17 points, finished with a game high 33. We haven’t seen a closer this good in DC since maybe…former Nationals pitcher Chad Cordero. And that’s exactly what Wall is developing into, a closer, which former teammate and current Lakers guard Nick Young acknowledged after the game “He’s taking the big shots now in the fourth quarter, he’s taking over games”.

With Wall emerging as a closer the Wizards are expected to continue this hot streak. The rest of the NBA continues to take notice and teams will now be gunning to end this home winning streak. It won’t be easy for Washington, but with more and more games taking on playoff type intensity, this upcoming stretch can only further the Wizards growth. Next up is the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday February 4th and the team from the “Big Easy” is expected to be anything but easy to defeat.     
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Urban Sports Scene Wizards Lakers Post Game Show

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Make it 14, 'Men in Black' Stay Hot at Home with Win over Celtics


Ray Rogers (@urbansports_Ray)

There was obvious hype entering Tuesday Night’s Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics matchup as result of a post game scrum following their previous meeting on January 11th in Boston. Capping off the drama heading into the much anticipated rematch was the Wizards vow to wear all black on Tuesday which was a promise they kept although if you ask me they weren’t scaring anyone, maybe presenting handsome at best. However, the intent was not to look tough or scary, but to send a message. A message that appeared to include a desire to differentiate this current team from last year’s group that was swept in the regular season by the Celtics. All that was left to do was back up their talk with strong play and most importantly a victory.

Mission accomplished.  

The Wizards quickly established control in a 123 – 108 blowout of the Celtics. The game began with two quick baskets from starting center Marcin Gortat in route to a 33 point first quarter that entailed Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Gortat all scoring 8 points each. Coming out and setting a tone was critical in a game filled with emotion. Postgame, Celtics SG Marcus Smart alluded to the fact that his team allowed the Wizards to become “comfortable” which was critical with the Wizards being winners of 13 straight home games entering Tuesday’s contest.

What was even more impressive in my opinion was the Wizards ability to withstand all of Boston’s comeback efforts. On two occasions in the second quarter the Celtics reduced the Wizards lead to 3 points and in the third quarter cut a 12 point deficit down to six, but each time the Wizards had an answer including John Wall scoring five quick points to push the Wizards lead back to 11 with 1:05 left in the 3rd quarter. The Verizon center was covered in green, but the Celtics’ faithful sat quietly the entire night even during comeback attempts which was in stark contrast to a raucous home crowd. Wizards small forward Kelly Oubre expressed gratitude toward a fan base that is growing with excitement over this steadily improving team.

It would be hard not to cheer for a team winning their 14th game in a row at home, but it’s also the way the Wizards are defeating teams with Tuesday’s win punctuated by a monstrous dunk by John Wall over Celtics center Kelly Olynyk. Yes, it’s safe to say that the Wizards had the better Kelly on this night. A season high 123 points scored, five players in double figures led by Beal with 31, and a convincing, gritty win versus what is becoming a hated rival is giving Wizards fans dreams of a deep playoff run. As the Bullet/Wizards’ great song puts it “that’s the reason I’m a Bullets fan”.            
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Urban Sports Scene Post Game video

Sunday, January 15, 2017

John Wall Developing the Clutch Gene

By Waleo

Last night, the Washington Wizards defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (Sixers) 109-93.  The victory put the Wizards over .500 (20-19).  If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the score you would think that the Wizards just ran away with this game but that would be false.  Sixers’ center Jahlil Okafor did whatever he wanted to do in the first quarter, scoring nine points.  Wizards Center Marcin Gortat had issues guarding him throughout the quarter.  It didn’t get any better for most of the second quarter.  The Sixers jumped out to a 45-32 lead with 6:31 minutes left in the second quarter.  The Sixers’ fan base took over the Verizon Center, chanting the phrase “Trust the Process”—which is a saying used for Sixers Center Joel Embiid who didn’t play.  The Wizards looked sluggish and their own fan base had nothing to cheer for.  All of a sudden it happened, Wizards’ point guard John Wall took over and showed his superman game.

After being down 13 with 6:31 minutes left in the second quarter, Wall and Wizards outscored the Sixers 24-11, which included a key bank shot to tie the game (56-56) going into halftime.  Wall scored 11 points in the second quarter after only scoring three in the first quarter.   Now, that’s called showing up when your team needs you.  But that wasn’t it for the “Great Wall of DC”. 

The Wizards now had the momentum.  The “Trust the Process” chants got lower and lower.   At the 11:36 mark of the third quarter, Wall gave the Wizards their first lead (58-56) since the 8:55 mark of the first quarter (9-8).  The Wizards started the third quarter on a 7-0 run going ahead 63-56.  At 4:42, the Wizards took a nine point lead (71-62), then Wall, to use the term the kids say, went H.A.M.

Wall hit a 3 point shot putting the Wizards up 74-62.  Then followed that up with two more threes.  Wall had three straight three-pointers which equaled nine straight points for the Wizards.  In the third quarter, from 4:13 to 2:32, Wall outscored the Sixers 9-3.  “The Great Wall of DC” closed out the Sixers in the third quarter and put the dagger in the hearts of Sixers fans who invaded the Verizon Center.  After the game, in his presser, Sixers head coach Brett Brown acknowledged that Wall took over the 3rd period.  He did! Wall scored 11 points in the quarter, helping the Wizards outscore the Sixers 30-15. John Wall finished the game with 25 points and sat out the entire fourth quarter.

It’s amazing that not too long ago fans and pundits were asking for Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal to be closer for this team.   The word was that Wall doesn’t have the jumper and skillset to close games out.  Well this season John Wall has proven the haters wrong.  What he did last night and throughout this season lets you know that Wall is becoming that dude which no one wants to see when it’s 5-4-3-2-1.  Currently, John Wall averages 6.7 points in fourth quarter which is 11th in the league.  The fourth quarter is your money quarter and Wall has been money.  Now granted, in Sixers game Wall brought the fourth quarter to the third quarter.  His team need their “superstar” to show out and he did.  This team needed him to end the game and he did.  That is a main element of developing that stone cold clutch gene.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Surging Wizards Continue to Climb Standings with Win Over Indiana


Ray Rogers (@UrbanSports_Ray)

Prior to Wednesday night’s home matchup versus the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards last saw this Pacers team in DC on March 5th dating back to last season. In that game, the Wizards played well, built a double digit lead, lost shooting guard Bradley Beal to injury, had no answer for Pacers SF Paul George, saw their lead dwindle and ultimately lost a close game.  Wednesday night’s game at Verizon center was eerily similar in a game where Beal was again lost to injury, Paul George poured in 34 points, and the Wizards led by as many as 13 points and were ahead 85-74 heading into the fourth quarter.  The Wizards saw their lead shrink to 2 points, however this time the Wizards closed the game strong and were victorious 111-105. What made the difference in the outcome of this game? In my opinion it was largely due to the excellent play of small forward Otto Porter Jr.

Porter netted 22 points on sixty percent shooting that comprised of 50% from three-point range including a huge three pointer that put the Wizards up 99 - 94 with 1:40 to play in the fourth quarter. Porter’s play was so significant in large part due to the loss of Beal as well as the Wizards needing someone to step up late in games. As a reminder, it was Beal who missed a three-point shot that would have resulted in a Wizards victory over these Pacers on 12/19 at Indiana which in ways left this team looking for second option for late game scoring behind all star guard John Wall. Wall was sensational as always scoring a game high 36 points  to go along with 11 rebounds and nine assists. As great as this performance was, help was needed and help was received by way of Porter.

Having a reliable and most importantly a consistent second scoring option will be critical moving forward as result of Beal being injured with such regularity. With this victory, the Wizards moved ahead of Indiana in the standings and hope to be a mainstay in the top eight of the eastern conference.  The league is taking notice of the Wizards improved play following their eighth win in their last eleven games and when talking with Pacers starting PG Jeff Teague after his team’s loss he acknowledged that these games are vital in terms of seeding and playoff implications.  My brief interview with Teague here:  Jeff Teague

Maintaining a focus on moving up the standings and returning to the post season will need to entail the Wizards striving to continue growing in all phases especially team defense and free throw shooting (27/37 on FT’s tonight). Otto Porter, who was 7/7 from the free throw line and arguably the team’s best defender may be the right guy to lead this surge.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For Kirk Cousins a Payday will be the Perfect Dessert on Thanksgiving

By Ray Rogers (USS Blogger)

Desserts on Thanksgiving typically consist of some form of pie such as sweet potato, pumpkin, apple, and or my personal favorite pecan pie. However, for Washington Redskins starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, a good ole fashion payday will do the trick and not the delicious candy bar; I’m talking “straight cash homie” to quote NFL great Randy Moss.

Coming into the season Kirk Cousins had a list of goals and while I’ve never personally seen this list, it is assumed to have included the following:  

  1. Improve his play on the road 
  2. Win against teams with plus .500 records 
  3. Score a victory in primetime 
  4. Get paid

As things currently stand, all of the aforementioned goals have been achieved with the exception of the big pay check. So the question that arises in my mind is this: What were the franchise’s goals and/or set of expectations for Cousins heading into this season? During a Sirius XM radio interview this summer Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan stated “the position Kirk plays, it’s pricey, but you pay for production. You get paid to win.” In my opinion, Cousins has exceeded expectations, which currently includes over 3,000 yards passing, 98.8 quarterback rating, and only seven interceptions so far this season. It seems that Cousins has one last task to complete to land his big payday and that’s to defeat the hated rival Dallas Cowboys.  Right now, the Cowboys are arguably the best team in professional football.  A Thanksgiving primetime win on the road against the Cowboys will be a team effort.  But if this task is complete, what else will Cousins need to do in order to get paid? Win a playoff game? In that same radio interview McCloughan did reference that Cousins’ possible career legacy would factor into decision making while stating “When his career’s over, it’s going to be, ‘Okay, did you win any division championships? Did you win any Super Bowls? What’s your win-loss record? No one’s gonna think 10 years from now, ‘Okay, well he made $50 million, he made $60 million.’ They’re gonna be like ‘Okay, did he win or not?” 

For this organization however, just the real thought and/or likelihood of consecutive trips to the postseason should be good enough as the franchise looks to cross off their own list of goals. If you ask me, simply a second consecutive winning season is something to be thankful for during this holiday season. And for Kirk Cousins a rewarding payday is what he will be extremely thankful for. 

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Decision 2016 Takes on a Totally Different Meaning for Chris Bosh

By USS Blogger Ray Rogers

When thinking of athletes whose careers have been cut short as result of serious physical or medical conditions, many names come to mind including former Los Angeles Raiders running back Bo Jackson, Portland Trail Blazers Shooting Guard Brandon Roy, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack, and the late great Boston Celtics small forward Reggie Lewis. 

When considering just these four names, Reggie Lewis appears distinctively the most comparable to NBA power forward Chris Bosh. As is the current case with Bosh, Reggie Lewis sought opinions from multiple doctors after learning of a heart problem that caused him to collapse during a 1993 playoff game vs. the Charlotte Hornets. It was reported that Lewis received conflicting diagnosis, but was ultimately told not to engage in any strenuous physical activity. The rest is history as Lewis later on died while reportedly shooting around at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. As former Boston Globe sportswriter Jackie MacMullan put it “his shocking death triggered an unprecedented spasm of grief”. In diverting focus back to Bosh who is battling blood clots, I am in no way implying that the former all star and two time NBA champs’ health is fragile to the degree of imminent risk for death. However, by all indications, a return to the basketball court places him at a serious risk for potential life threatening emergencies such as heart attack and stroke—which are most commonly associated with blood clots. I think it’s also relevant for Bosh to factor in the impact of the recent death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez that greatly affected the whole community in the Miami area.  

Unlike Fernandez, Lewis, Roy, and even Bo Jackson, Bosh is no longer in the prime of his career although his love for the game of basketball appears to remain strong and be the undeniable force behind his ongoing efforts to return. It is understood that prior to money and fame there was the love for the game. And while that shouldn’t necessarily change, maybe this residual love can manifest in a different way such as in coaching or front office work. It essentially boils down to the age old question: “Is it worth it?”  A career that already includes nearly 900 regular season games, over 17,000 points scored in the regular season, 11 all-star appearances, Olympic Gold medals, and two NBA championships leads me to ask, why risk it? 

My advice to Chris Bosh is to reflect on the past, which includes his accomplishments and achievements. Focus on the present which should largely revolve around family and consider the possibilities of the future. It would be tragic to watch yet another athlete, potentially suffer as result of a stubbornness that often drives these competitors beyond their physical capabilities, ala Muhammad Ali. In my opinion, Chris Bosh will go out on his terms no matter if he is medically cleared to return or not. With this mindset, “Decision 2016” will be the decision to retire. 

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Completing a Giant Task

By Waleo

On Sunday, September 25, 2016, the Washington Redskins did what many people thought couldn’t be done.  They defeated the then undefeated New York Giants 29-27 in New York.  Many people, like me, couldn’t think of a possible scenario for the Redskins to win.  You could throw out statements like: if the defense stepped up, if quarterback Kirk Cousins plays with heart, and or if special teams steps up.  The Redskins got a little of everything. 

Defense stepping up
In the first half of the game, the Redskins defense struggled—giving up 21 points.   You could see the fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry post all over social media.   They couldn’t stop Giants running backs Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa, both combined for 97 yards with two touchdowns in the first half.   Also, Giants rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard was embarrassing nickel cornerback Dashaun Phillips, especially on a 23 yard TD reception in the 1st quarter to make it 14-3 Giants.  Even with all that the defense made plays.  For instance, early in the 2nd quarter, defensive end Chris Baker popped and sacked Eli Manning for a big loss that gave the Redskins some momentum.  The sack helped lead to a Giants’ punt.  At that time the Redskins were down 14-6 and the Giants were moving and looking to end this game early.  One of the biggest plays came from safety/cornerback Will Blackmon.  The Giants were up 21-16 and looking to score towards the end of 1st half.   Blackmon strips Vereen, leading to a Redskins fumble recovery.  This ended the Giants drive and kept the Redskins in striking range.     

The Redskins defense stepped up in the second half.  They held the Giants offense to six points.   The Redskins were up 26-24 late in the 4th quarter and the Giants were driving for a potential score.  Cornerback Quinton Dunbar made a nice one handed interception in the red-zone to keep the Redskins up 26-24.  Dunbar got the chance to play because of an injury to cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was hurt early in the 1st quarter (high ankle sprain).   The Redskins offense went 0 for 4 in the red zone and the defense couldn’t afford to give up touchdowns, which they did not.  They created turnovers, gave up fields goals and ended drives.   No play was as big in this game as was the play by rookie hybrid linebacker Su’a Cravens.   With a 1:06 left in the game and the Redskins offense failing to close this game out, Redskins defense had to step up.  Manning threw a pass intended for Vereen and Cravens lounged across for the game ending interception to seal the deal.  This was Cravens first interception of his career.  Cravens may have saved the Redskins season with a superhero effort on that play.  The defense though maligned, made winning plays.  They deserve a lot of credit for the victory. 

Special Teams
For many years the Redskins special teams has been the downfall of the team.  Yesterday, it may have been the best unit for Redskins.  After Chris Baker’s big sack, as mentioned previously, the Giants decided to punt the ball to wide receiver and punt returner Jamison Crowder.  Big mistake!  Crowder nearly returned it to the house.  He was stopped at the Giants’ 37 yard-line for a return of 52 yards.  That play led to a Redskins’ field goal—cutting the Giants to 14-9.   Later on in the game there was gusty key play.  The Redskins were down 24-23 with 3:15 left in the 3rd quarter and were set to punt.  The team did the unexpected in that situation and had punter Tress Way throw a 31 yard pass to Quinton Dunbar to put the Redskins in good scoring position.  That fake punt was a great call by Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and his staff.  The Redskins ended up kicking a field goal on that drive, putting them up 26-24.  Although the team would rather have touchdowns compared field goals, field goal kicker Dustin Hopkins kicks were essential.  Hopkins went 5 for 5 kicking field goals including a 37 yard go ahead field goal with 1:55 left in game (29-27).  Hopkins was clutch and arguably the MVP of the game.  Well it’s between him and Su’a Cravens.

Kirk Cousins

Cousins had an effective game.  He could improve on his accuracy at times but he did enough for his team to win.  Cousins went 21-35, threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44 yard TD pass to Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the 2nd quarter to get the Redskins back in the game.  The quarterback didn’t do anything major to hurt the team.   He played within himself and led the team to seven scoring drives.  This was an improvement compared to the two prior games where he turned the ball over and missed many open receivers.  The point that Cousins can’t beat a good team shouldn’t be used for now.  The Giants were 2-0 and looked like favorites to take the NFC East.  Cousins is a big part of them being 2-1.  You that?!

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