- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — As promised, Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders mixed up his lineup, playing every combination imaginable. In the end, the results were the same — another loss — as the Wizards fell to the 76ers, 101-94. But the Wizards showed some improvement over Friday night’s contest, and all the lineup changes gave Saunders some valuable information.

“I went with some of our young guys down the stretch to see how’d they react,” Saunders said.

“Overall, I was pleased. We couldn’t throw it in the ocean early, but we hung in there and came back. I thought overall, we were pretty solid defensively most of the night.”

JaVale McGee played well, leading the way with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, with nine rebounds and two blocks, but the defensive stat of the night went to Trevor Booker, who led the team with 11 rebounds.

“I was actually in better shape than I thought I was,” Booker said. “I just tried to bring some energy, and I felt like I did pretty good. We did better than we did Friday, but we still need to all get better on the defensive end,” Booker said. It was Booker’s first game back since suffering a thigh bruise while playing overseas during the lockout.

“I would have liked to see our young guys pull it out in the end, but I think our guys feel good as far as the things we said we had to do to get better today,” Saunders said.

Also getting a good run was backup point guard Shelvin Mack, who played the entire fourth quarter. Mack went 3-of-9 shooting, with seven points and three assists.

“I felt pretty good,” Mack said. “Coach gave me lot of confidence keeping me in the game. I’m just trying to improve and learn from the mistakes we made in the first game.”

A few of the starters still have yet to get into a cohesive rhythm. John Wall, Jordan Crawford and Nick Young all struggled from the floor, with Wall going 5-for-14, Crawford 6-for-21, and Young 3-for-10.

Wall and Crawford both looked just a little out of sync, but Young is playing like someone who missed training camp.

“He’s got to get in a lot better shape,” Saunders said of Young. “There’s no question that when he got tired and his legs went, everything went a little haywire. When he hit that brick wall, it was like he was searching for where there was oxygen somewhere in the arena.”

Young agreed, he did get tired. “The lockout got to me,” Young said. “I need to get in some more conditioning during the week.”

Saunders chalked it up to Wall having some unforced turnovers, and Crawford trying to do too much, but Wall is still upside down on the score sheet when it comes to his assist to turnover ratio.

In Friday night’s loss to the 76ers, Wall had three assists and six turnovers. On Tuesday, he had three assists and four turnovers.

Wall denied he was pressing.

“I’m just playing basketball. I’m just trying to get myself going and get my teammate going,” Wall said.

“Tonight, you saw us compete. We’ve got to take the right shots at the right time, but we gave ourselves a chance to win, but we didn’t make plays down the stretch.”