- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2011

It was clear from the opening tip that the lottery-bound Wizards had something to play for — pride — while the playoff-bound Hawks did not. The Wizards dominated Saturday night’s contest at Verizon Center from start to finish on their way to a 115-83 win.

The Wizards, with just two games left to play this season, took the attitude that they might as well expend their energy now, and use a few late season wins to find some on-court chemistry in preparation for next season. The Hawks by contrast, seemed to be saving their energy for the playoffs, as they brought very little with them to Washington.

The Wizards played efficient defense, kept their turnovers low (10), and dominated the Hawks on the glass, 48-33. The Hawks turned the ball over 20 times, shot less than 50 percent, and scored a dismal 11 points in the final quarter.

With a full five minutes of garbage time at the end, Saunders stuck with his bench lineup of Othyus Jeffers, Larry Owens, Mustafa Shakur, Kevin Seraphin and Yi Jianlian. Owens and Jeffers may not see the D-League again.

“We executed the game plan. Coach [Saunders] got into us a little bit from the Boston game, and made sure we came to play from the first five minutes,” Jeffers said.

Jeffers had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Owens added 10 points. Both players were strong defensively, dove for loose balls, and gave sustained effort and energy every moment they were on the court.

“We played well from beginning to end,” Saunders said.

“Very rarely do you see four games in five nights, four different cities and you come out with that kind of energy, but our guys had great energy. [They were] hungry,” Saunders said.

Unlike last season, where the Wizards seemed to limp to the finish line, the team is finishing up strong this year.

“There was never any wavering as far as the demands on the players and what we [the coaching staff] expected of them. We were not going to use injuries as an excuse for not going out and competing and trying to win games,” Saunders said.

“We also had so many young players that we kept on winning with those guys and developing those guys that they really started getting it. With more minutes and more development, we really started reaping the benefits,” Saunders said.

Andray Blatche continued his strong play with 23 points and seven rebounds; Wall added 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Crawford had a rare off night with only six points and eight assists, but continued to display superior skills as a passer and ball handler whenever he took over for Wall at point guard.

“I’m all about winning, that’s my mentality,” Crawford said.

Wall also appreciated the contribution from the bench players.

“They gave us a spark in the first and second quarter, and we just came in and had to keep it up. We are glad we have great guys coming off the bench and can contribute right away,” Wall said.

“We’re just trying to finish off as strong as we can.”

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