- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This just in: The Washington Wizards (2-13) still are the worst team in the NBA. But there’s something about beating the defending champion Miami Heat — three times in a row, no less — that helps to lighten the load of a dismal season. 

Still giddy after their 105-101 win Tuesday at Verizon Center, Wednesday’s practice was the most spirited session all season. In fact, coach Randy Wittman ended it early after a Shaun Livingston windmill dunk which brought the house down.

“Every now and then, an old dog pulls some tricks out the bag,” Livingston said. “Every now and then. It was a little something. Back in my young days, I had a little bounce.”

Beating the Heat was the statement the Wizards needed to make to lift them out of the doldrums and help dispel their laughingstock image.

How did they do it? With their new “early offense.”

“It’s early flow basically, it just keeps the ball moving,” A.J. Price said. “Nothing really sticks, which we had become accustomed to doing, which wasn’t really working for us. So the ball’s just constantly moving. It’s early offense, gives us a chance to operate quick without the defense being set.”

Price and Livingston are the point-guard tandem tasked with running the team until John Wall returns from a stress injury to his left knee. Against Miami, Price led the starters with 14 points and four assists; Livingston had six points and four assists.

It’s often an overlooked stat, but a good assist-to-turnover ratio is critical for a team to be successful. On Tuesday, Washington had what good teams strive for — almost 3-to-1. The Wizards recorded a season-high 31 assists to just 12 turnovers.

“Guys are elated, happy,” Wittman said after Wednesday’s practice. “We watched a lot of good things on film, and that’s what’s got to be ingrained in this team. We’re not going to have as good a shooting night every night as we had [Tuesday], but our energy and moving the ball and not holding and dribbling the ball has got to be a staple.”

The Wizards’ next task won’t be easy — a trip to Atlanta on Friday night. The Hawks have beaten the Wizards nine straight times in Atlanta, including a 101-100 overtime decision Nov. 21. The last time the Wizards won at Philips Arena was Jan. 11, 2008.

Washington will have one more day of practice Thursday to keep tweaking its “early offense” attack before taking it for a road test. Wittman hopes that what his players learned, and how effectively it worked against Miami, won’t be just a one-game fluke.

“I showed them a guy dribbling 94 feet and a guy passing it, and it’s not close,” Wittman said. “That’s what we got caught up in, not looking ahead and hitting that guy first on the wing and then playing off that. If we didn’t learn from last night, we’re never going to learn.”

As practice came to a close, the unfamiliar sound of laughter could be heard from the Verizon Center practice court, along with some “oohs and aahs” after seeing Livingston’s dunk. Price jokingly confirmed that it was a true windmill, and not a “chin-mill.” At that point, Wittman felt his players deserved to make it an early day.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen that in a while,” Wittman said of Livingston’s windmill jam, flashing a rare smile. “We shut it down [after that], ended it on a good note.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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