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“Just like all the other ones,” Wall said. “We were right there. We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

Rashard Lewis scored 19 points and Kirk Hinrich had 18 off the bench for Washington, which is 10-8 at home.

The Wizards were playing without starting forward Andray Blatche, out with a sprained right shoulder. Al Thornton started in his place and got off to a quick start thanks in part to Milicic.

Thornton had a jump ball with Milicic near the Wizards basket. Milicic won the tip, but he batted the ball backward, it went right into the basket for two points.

“This is a team we should beat,” Thornton said. “We just didn’t close it out.”

It’s been a difficult start to the rebuilding process for Saunders and the Wizards, who tore things down when they traded enigmatic franchise player Gilbert Arenas to Orlando. Wall is the new face of the team, and the dynamic rookie is giving Washington hope that better days aren’t as far away as they appear right now.

But the promise of tomorrow provided little consolation on Thursday night.

“It’s embarrassing,” Wall said, “that we’re the only team left that hasn’t won on the road.”

Notes: Saunders coached the Timberwolves for nine and a half seasons, a run that ended in 2005. The Wolves appeared to have the nucleus of an up-and-coming young team with Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett, but Marbury forced a trade to New Jersey in 1999 to break that up. At shootaround on Thursday morning, Saunders told reporters he told Marbury, “In 15 years, me, you, KG will all sit down and say, ‘It was the biggest mistake that was ever made.’” … Wayne Ellington played for the first time since Jan. 1 and had 11 points, seven boards and five assists.