- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2012

On the second night of a back-to-back with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Washington Wizards played much better than they did in the first — they lost by 13 points instead of 31.

That’s where the Wizards are right now, counting improved performances instead of wins, as they drop to 1-11 for the season with a 103-90 loss at Verizon Center on Saturday night.

Center JaVale McGee, determined to redeem himself after his disastrous performance (4-for-13 shooting) one night earlier in Philadelphia, scored 23 points on 11 of 13 from the floor, tied his career high with 18 rebounds and had five blocked shots.

Nick Young also played well, going 11-for-22 to record a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds. But, in typical Young fashion, he had not a single assist.

“If you look at most teams in the NBA when you pick out a game, three players lead a team usually to win,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “Three players had good games. Tonight we had two. A lot of games we haven’t had many.”

The most interesting line of the night belonged to John Wall, who came out in the first half looking tired and listless, turning the ball over seven times. Saunders sat him down for the final couple of minutes, and Wall came out in the second half looking like a different player and turning the ball over only one more time.

Wall finished the game with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists..

“He’s a perfectionist,” Saunders said of Wall. “He gets down on himself, then he starts questioning what he was doing. He had a chance at halftime to kind of regroup and that was a positive. He played a lot better. That was the best half of basketball he’s played with us so far, distributing the ball, scoring, being aggressive.”

Wall placed the team’s loss on his shoulders.

“I feel like I lost the game,” Wall said. “I was just careless and lost the ball, and they got out to runs.”

Wall shouldn’t feel alone. The Wizards front court had a disastrous scoring night, led by Rashard Lewis, who went 1-for-10 and scored two points. Chris Singleton was 0-for-2, and Trevor Booker scored six points on 3-for-10 shooting.

“We’ve been stressing so much making the extra pass,” Saunders said. “I told them it looked like ‘Space Jam,’ when everyone lost all their talents and couldn’t do anything there for a while. But when you haven’t passed the ball very much, then all of a sudden when you try to start doing it, guys aren’t ready, and so we had a lot of unforced turnovers.”

The Wizards lost the turnover battle 18-8, but won the the rebounding battle decisively, 53-37, and had about the same shooting percentage: 43.2 for Washington to 43 for Philadelphia.

“A terrible night, bad night, especially for me,” Lewis said. “I didn’t have no rhythm going, and I felt good last night. I thought we were coming in tonight playing well, but I just could not buy a basket for nothing.”

As for McGee, he attributed his improved performance to having more patience.

“I was just out there trying to help the team win, trying to play the right way,” McGee said. “I’m just trying to be consistent and trying to be a defensive presence for my team.”

Young also said his confidence returned, at least for one night. But being proud of individual performances is part of the Wizards‘ mantra and is one of many problems plaguing this team — it was almost refreshing to hear Young use the plural.

“We got to stay positive — through everything,” Young said. “We have to find something to get your spirits going and stay focused out there. Nobody [is] going to take it easy on us. They [other teams] are going to keep going, keep killing us.”

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