- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kevin Seraphin wasn’t nervous. In a disciplinary move by Wizards coach Randy Wittman, Seraphin got the start over JaVale McGee when the Wizards faced the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

The last time Seraphin had to guard the NBA’s best center, Dwight Howard, Seraphin said he liked the challenge. On that night, Feb. 1 in Orlando, Seraphin finished with 12 points and seven assists in a 109-103 loss. On Wednesday, it was of little consequence to the Magic who started the game or why.

Orlando jumped out to an early lead and appeared to take Wizards lightly, until a third-quarter run put them back in the game. But it was the Magic who pulled away in the fourth quarter to come away with a 102-95 win.

Seraphin, along with Jordan Crawford, were the beneficiaries of Wittman’s message to McGee and Nick Young, which he sent the previous night in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks by benching them to start the second half. Trevor Booker was also benched but got out of the coach’s doghouse by scoring 16 points in the final two quarters. 

“It’s just their energy level. It’s a tough group,” Wittman said of his new starters. “I just mixed and matched and tried to find the right combinations to get something going, and we did. I thought the start of the third quarter was kind of what we preached at halftime, and we were shooting the ball better.”

Booker started the game against the Magic, while McGee and Young looked sullen and distracted when the starting lineups were introduced. Both perked up once their pseudo punishment had ended, and they both were on the court before the first quarter concluded.

“I got to get them [Young and McGee] to play at their level. Thats what I’m trying to do,” Wittman said. “I had to reward those guys that dang near pulled off the game for us last night, and that’s kind of what I was doing. I talked to the two guys [Young and McGee] today. I let them know, ‘Hey, I got to get you guys playing back the way I know you can.’ How long that will take I don’t know.”

McGee redeemed himself in the first half, scoring nine points and adding five rebounds, finishing with six rebounds total, but played sparingly in the second half and finished with only 16 minutes. Seraphin, while not much of an offensive threat with just four points, played pretty solid defense on Howard, who finished with 14 points on 4 of 9 from the floor.

“I would like to have a chance to be on the floor, but I wasn’t, so I had to make what was given to me,” McGee said. “I can’t say I do [understand Wittman’s message], but I’m sure I’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

Asked what Wittman said to him, McGee responded, “That’s between me and him.”

Wittman liked the energy he got from his new collection of starters and started them again in the second half. They came through with a huge third-quarter run to take the lead for the first time, turning what looked to be a blowout into a competitive contest.

John Wall put on a stellar performance, leading all scorers with 33 points on 13 of 25 from the floor. The point guard also had four assists, three rebounds and just one turnover. Crawford added 18 points on 7 of 18 from the field.

“I just felt in rhythm and made some tough shots and made some easier shots,” Wall said. “I’m just upset we came up with a tough loss again. If we come back and play 48 minutes like we do when we down and get back into the games, we could be a lot different team.

“We might have the lead and can win those games, but when you use so much energy to come back against a veteran team like this, you can’t make any key mistakes at the end.”

Young sat out the third quarter and played sparingly in the fourth before leaving the game after tweaking his knee. The guard managed just five points on 2 of 6 shooting in 19 minutes.

The Wizards shot 41.1 percent to the Magic’s 45.3 and were out-rebounded 48-36, while the Magic continued their prowess from the 3-point line, connecting on 15 of 36. Orlando forward Ryan Anderson had a team-high 23 points (four 3-pointers) and 15 rebounds.

But the smaller, more veteran Wizards lineup that included Maurice Evans and Roger Mason Jr. managed to turn the ball over just 11 times in the loss, which drops the Wizards to 7-28.

“I think over the last two games, we’ve been in search of veteran players and certain players who have been in the mix,” Evans said. “I think we have a newfound sense of urgency to try and salvage the season anyway we can.”

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