- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NEW ORLEANS | The Washington Wizards found a way to win, making a miserable March a little more bearable.

Mike Miller scored a season-high 27 points and the Wizards snapped a franchise-record 16-game losing streak with a 96-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

The Wizards avoided an 0-17 March with their first win since beating New Jersey on Feb. 28.

Andray Blatche scored 23 points, and Shaun Livingston added 18 for the short-handed Wizards, who played without four regulars but still led for the last 46 minutes. In addition to Gilbert Arenas, suspended for the season in January, Josh Howard (torn ACL), Randy Foye (wrist injury) and Al Thornton (hip flexor) were out of the lineup.

“People were saying we were not going to get a win in March, and we got one,” Wizards guard Nick Young said. “We got that monkey off our back and we have to keep going.”

David West had 18 points for the Hornets, coming off a home win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Chris Paul added eight points and nine assists.

Washington almost blew a 12-point lead in the last 4:20. After trailing 87-75, the Hornets had two chances to tie in the final 15.3 seconds, but James Posey missed a free throw and West was off target on a 3-point attempt.

Miller’s two free throws sealed the victory with 4.4 seconds left.

“We had a 5-point lead, and I said to myself, ‘Thank you, man, this streak is finally over,’” Blatche said. “We were tuned in and we made the right decisions.”

Washington, which had a fourth-quarter lead at Houston on Tuesday before losing 98-94, was in control of this one almost all the way. The Wizards led by 4 at the half, 70-59 at the end of the third quarter and answered every Hornets run.

“We play hard and we play well, we just don’t have anything to show for it,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “The last couple of games we have been moving the ball well, making good plays and giving ourselves opportunities to win games.”

After New Orleans pulled to 80-75 on a floater by Darren Collison, Miller drilled a 3-pointer, Livingston hit a mid-range jumper and Blatche converted two free throws to give Washington a 87-75 lead with 3:32 left.

Even that advantage was not safe.

The Hornets went on an 11-2 run, closing the gap to 88-86 on a 3-pointer by Marcus Thornton. The Wizards went back up by 6 on baskets from Blatche and James Singleton, but the Hornets forced three consecutive turnovers in the final minute and had a chance to tie when Posey went to the free-throw line with 15.3 seconds left.

He missed the first foul shot, and Livingston’s free throws put Washington ahead 94-91 with 13.6 left.

West missed a contested 3-point attempt on the Hornets’ next possession, setting up Miller for his clinching foul shots.

Until the frantic finish, everything came easily for the Wizards, who scored four consecutive baskets on lay-ups or dunks early in the fourth quarter. Miller went 9 for 14 from the field, Blatche was 8 for 10 and Livingston hit 8 of 10.

“We just couldn’t defend,” Paul said. “Couldn’t stop them early, late, nothing. They ran their same offense the entire game and we just never found a way to stop them.”

NOTES: The Hornets played their first game without former lead assistant Tim Floyd, who was named UTEP coach on Tuesday. Floyd, the head coach for New Orleans in 2003-04, joined the Hornets on Nov. 12 when Byron Scott was fired as coach and replaced by Jeff Bower. … Cedric Jackson, whom the Wizards signed to a 10-day contract earlier Wednesday, did not play. Jackson, a rookie, averaged 16.4 points and 7.4 assists for the Erie Bayhawks in the D-League … New Orleans (35-41), which was eliminated from the playoff picture earlier this week, is guaranteed to have its first non-winning season since 2006-07.

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