- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

Washington Wizards guard John Wall had his best game of the season — 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting and perhaps best of all: eight assists to one turnover. Wall’s progress is a good sign, but the end result for the Wizards was the same as the first three, as they lost 94-86 to the Boston Celtics on Sunday night at Verizon Center.

Washington will have little time to watch film, learn and regroup since it will face the Celtics again Monday night on the road. The Wizards’ best hope is that one of the league’s oldest teams will take longer to recover, giving them a small advantage based on youth and the ability to recover a little quicker in what will be their first back-to-back of the season.

“We could have hung our heads early, but we didn’t,” said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “We did some positive things, things that we’ve got to build on. They’re definitely a veteran team. If you make mistakes, they’ll make you pay defensively. If you don’t execute offensively, they have the ability to rotate.”

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo posted a triple-double with 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, while Celtics forward Kevin Garnett led all scorers with 24.

“Garnett’s probably the best defender, still, in the game,” Saunders said. “But to be honest, our thing right now is we’re just not shooting the ball very well. Shooting makes up for a multitude of mistakes. When you shoot the ball, you can set up your half-court defense, and you’re not in transition all the time.

“For most the first half, we’re shooting 26, 25 percent. That just puts so much pressure not only on your defense, but on the guys coming in the game.”

The Wizards made their usual third-quarter run, bringing the score to within seven as their young legs gave them a bit of hope for a comeback. But Boston was able to close out the game, something the Wizards have yet to learn how to do.

“He does the little things,” Wall said of Rondo. “He does a great job of finding [his teammates]. It was great playing against him; there’s stuff you can learn.

“That’s a team that doesn’t fold under pressure. They did a great job of executing. You can chip down as much as possible, but they [were] making tough shots.”

But again, the Wizards’ poor shooting put them in an early hole, and that’s one of the things they’ll have to improve on. They have gone down by double digits in the first half of all of their games.

“We have to come out a little harder,” said Roger Mason Jr. “The first quarter has really hurt us, so it’s something we’re trying to correct. We need to out it all together. We still have a lot of work to do. There are some things that are encouraging, but we need to get that first win.”

Nick Young put it more succinctly.

“No excuses,” Young said. “We’re just going to keep fighting until we get that first victory.”

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

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