- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The score was tied at 102 with under a minute to play, and somewhere in the back of his mind, John Wall remembered being told that he was a junior in high school the last time the Wizards won three straight games, in April of 2008.

But JaVale McGee pulled down a rebound and threw a long outlet pass to Wall, who raced down the court for an emphatic slam that gave the Wizards the lead at 104-102. The lead would hold up as the Wizards went on to defeat the Detroit Pistons 107-105, and pick up their third straight victory.

The win brings the Wizards to 21-56, while the Pistons fall to 26-51.

“We’ve lost enough tough ones, so we deserve a little bit of luck,” Saunders said. Once again, Saunders expressed pride and pleasure in the play of his rookies.

“Our rookies played with energy and passion that they needed to. They looked like 10-year veteran players the way they were playing in the first half,” Saunders said.

Saunders’ rookie backcourt logged heavy minutes, with Wall playing 46 minutes and Jordan Crawford 41. Wall scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds; Crawford added 17 points.

“We had different guys carry us. Mo [Evans] was great early, got us off to a great start, Dray [Andray Blatche] was solid the whole game, did a good job rebounding for us and John [Wall] made big plays,” Saunders said.

Blatche had 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Evans added 20 points; 14 in the first half.  

“We told our guys that these last two weeks, it’s important to keep our energy, keep on improving, and to be in situations like tonight where they can learn. Earlier in the year, when we fell behind with a minute and a half, we would have panicked,” Saunders said.

John, instead of taking a jump shot, put his head down and got to the basket. He put the pressure on the defense to stop him instead of settling,” Saunders said.

Saunders also gave credit to the Verizon Center crowd.

“Our crowd was really into the game, really cheering. As I told our players, ‘they just want you to play hard’. If you play hard, they’re going to reward you with that [cheers].”

At one point, while diving for a loose ball, Wall ended up diving into the stands and landed near the scorer’s table before jumping back to his feet and getting back on the court. It’s the kind of energy and hustle that Saunders said reminded him of a few notable NBA legends.

“The great ones, they don’t know what time of the season it is. When you look at how Michael [Jordan] played, how Larry Bird and Magic [Johnson], all those guys, they just play because they love the game and they love to compete,” Saunders said, heaping high praise on his rookie point guard.

Even thought the season is almost at an end, Wall said that the team is starting to showing some fight, and proving that they are not going to give up.

“No matter that we don’t have the playoffs ahead of us this year, we’re showing heart and fight and that we’re going to keep this going for next year,” Wall said.

“We just want to tell the fans and the people that are watching that it’s getting better. We’re a young team and we’re adding pieces,” Wall said.

“But we finally understand what our team is about. Everybody is doing their role now, and we’re finding a way to win games.