The Washington Times - December 18, 2009, 10:38PM

     OAKLAND — Nine hours after blasting his team for poor shot selection and failing to take advantage of the freedom he has given his players, Flip Saunders if feeling positive.

     Caron Butler said that Saunders still believes 45 wins is a realistic goal for this Wizards team, and tonight Saunders explained why. The Wizards may be on their second six-game losing streak of the season and owners of a 7-16 record, but Saunders — who had a lengthy, but what appeared to be light-hearted chat with Ernie Grunfeld off to the side of the court here at Oracle Arena before addressing the media — believes that the Wizards aren’t that far away from turning things around.


     “You look at the six games we’ve had, you win six of those game and all of a sudden everybody’s saying, ‘Hey, they’ve turned the corner, they’re playing unbelievable, they’ve won eight of the last 10 games!’” Flip said. “So it’s like I tell them and I tell myself, I don’t coach if the shot goes in or not, I coach if it’s a good shot or if it’s not a good shot.”

     “We’re playing a lot better than we were four weeks ago, as far as a team. We’re still coming up dry, we’re still not making the key plays, but I think those are going to come in time,” Saunders continued before explaining that he doesn’t believe the league perception is that the Wizards are an easy date.

     “When you play and you’re losing, a team says “Hey guys, we’ve got those guys.’ I don’t think anyone’s saying ‘Hey, we want Washington tonight.’” Saunders said. “And so I think we’re going to turn it around. You’re never as good as you are when you’re winning, and you’re never as bad as when you’re losing.”

     Well, lets see how good this Wizards team is against a 7-18 Golden State Warriors squad that has all of its big men injured and is going small and will look to run and gun against the Wizards.

     The Warriors will start Manta Ellis, Stephen Curry, Chris Hunter, Anthony Morrow and Corey Maggette. The Wizards will start Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Steveson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood.

     You would think the Wizards could take advantage of the Warriors’ lack of size, but Saunders said they could run into trouble with their big men having to guard smaller, quicker players.

     “They’ve got all their big guys are injured, so [Don Nelson] right now is at his best. He loves this where he can play five guards or all perimeter players. We’re really going to have to watch our matchups now than in the past or we can’t get into the situation where we have too many cross-match or too many big guys trying to guard their little guys. We have problems as is containing the ball, and they do that as good as anybody in the league,” Saunders said. “They’ll spread the floor, try to beat you off dribble penetration and create open shots. We’re going to try to attack them, but our low block scorers are Antawn, Andray. Brendan can get some, and we’ll probably throw the ball down to him early to see what he’s got. But he’s not a guy that you can throw the ball to eight straight times and think he’ll come up with something every time. But a lot of this game depends on who you can guard. Bigs have to guard smalls and then you need to take advantage on the other end as far as offensive rebounds or by scoring in the post, otherwise it negates your size.”

     The starters were just announced and Stephen Curry just welcomed the fans to the game at center court with mic in hand. So let’s get at it.