WASHINGTON (AP)—The Washington Wizards won a game for the first time in nearly nine months, and did it with a reshaping of their front line.
Coach Flip Saunders decided to bench forwards Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis. He started rookie Chris Singleton and second-year player Trevor Booker in their place, and the revamped team beat the Toronto Raptors 93-78 on Tuesday night for its first victory after eight losses this season.
Saunders said he had decided on Monday to change his lineup, but Blatche hurt his right shoulder and felt a twinge in his knee during practice. He wasn’t sure Blatche would play until shortly before the game. Lewis, who missed Sunday’s game with a sore right knee, entered the game along with Blatche with three minutes to go in the first half.
Lewis and Nick Young led Washington with 15 points.
“Oh, man. It felt real good. It was like a playoff game,” Young said. “I felt like jumping in the stands.”
On Sunday, the Wizards scored their fewest points in nearly three years in 93-72 loss to Minnesota, and the fans booed them harshly. After they fell behind in the first quarter, the fans hooted again.
“We got tired of being booed,” Young said.
After the boos, Blatche and Lewis came in, and Washington, which trailed 20-17 after the first quarter, outscored Toronto 29-14 in the second to lead by 12 at the half. Toronto briefly cut the lead to eight midway through the third quarter, but the Wizards opened up a 27-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Saunders said he talked before the game with owner Ted Leonsis, who counseled patience.
“Don’t listen to anything you hear,” Leonsis told him. “We know what we’ve planned and what we’ve done, and how we’re going about doing it, and at times it’s going to look bad.”
The first eight games were horrible—the worst start in franchise history. Four of the losses were by 18 points or more.
Blatche had nine points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes.
“When we’re playing like that, I don’t have no problem doing that role,” Blatche said. “We didn’t just win. We actually played well.”
“We had a good, solid performance from a lot of players,” Saunders said.
Wall tied his season high with nine assists, but missed nine of 12 shots. In his last two games, Wall is 6 for 21 from the field.
Toronto, which was playing its second of three games in three nights, was led by Andrea Bargnani with 22 points.
“Our disposition wasn’t good coming out of the locker room to begin the game,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We knew they were a hungry team, they were a wounded team. They were going to come out scratching and fighting and I didn’t think we matched their fight.”
The Raptors, who scored just 62 points against Philadelphia on Saturday, threatened that mark again. After scoring 20 points in the first quarter, Toronto scored just 14 points in the second quarter and 18 in the third. The Raptors missed their first 14 3-point attempts and committed a season-high 23 turnovers.
“You start turning the ball over and you can’t recover from that and you can’t get set up in your defense,” Casey said.
NOTES: Washington avoided becoming the sixth team since the 2002-03 season to lose its first nine games, according to STATS LLC. New Jersey lost a record 18 games to begin the 2009-10 season. … Raptors F Jerryd Bayless missed his seventh consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. … Blatche made his first 3-pointer of the season. … Toronto, which beat Minnesota on Monday night, returns home to host Sacramento on Wednesday. The Wizards play two sets of three games in as many nights—from March 24-26 and April 4-6. … Washington allowed its fewest points since Dec. 20, 2010.
Other popular content on the Y! network:
• Video: Fans crash Mavericks’ bench during NBA game
• After three tough seasons, Tom Crean living hoops dream at Indiana
• Michael Silver: Fired Hue Jackson says Raiders owner made decision
• Y! News: Vizio’s new TV models nearly 6 feet across