Cook­ing at home

Un­able to win on road, Wizards take com­fort on home turf

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL LEE leem@wash­post.com

Led by Nick Young and An­dray Blatche, the Wizards im­prove to 11-8 with a 98-95 win over Toronto.

No mat­ter how poorly they have played on the road, the Washington Wizards have usu­ally found a way to block it out and per­form well once they are sur­rounded by the com­forts of home.

At Ver­i­zon Cen­ter, the Wizards can blow leads with ease, with the knowl­edge that they’ll get an­other. The com­po­sure they lack on the road sud­denly ar­rives with their home crowds push­ing them along — no mat­ter how large or small the crowds have been this sea­son.

The Wizards once again took ad­van­tage of a fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment on Satur­day night to de­feat the Toronto Rap­tors, 98-95, be­fore an an­nounced crowd of 14,652. Nick Young scored a game-high 29 points, in­clud­ing 18 in the third pe­riod, as the Wizards (11-27) im­proved to 11-8 at home.

An­dray Blatche re­turned af­ter missing the pre­vi­ous game, a loss in Min­nesota, with a sprained right shoul­der and fin­ished with 17 points and a game-high 13 re­bounds. Rashard Lewis made three three-point­ers and fin­ished with 13 points. JaVale McGee had a dou­ble-dou­ble with 10 points and 11 re­bounds, but added six blocked shots — one more than the Rap­tors. Yi Jian­lian came off the bench to score 10 points, in­clud­ing an ex­cit­ing coast-to-coast dunk in the fourth quar­ter. John Wall added eight points and nine as­sists.

The last time Young was at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter, he scored a ca­reer-high 43 points, laid his jersey on the floor and took a bow. But Young strug­gled might­ily at the start of Satur­day's game, missing seven of his first eight shots. He has been deal­ing with a sore left knee and missed prac­tice the day be­fore, but he re­bounded to hit his next eight shots, ac­knowl­edg­ing that he had re­gained his rhythm in the third quar­ter, nod­ding his head as the crowd ap­proved. Young has 18 points in the third quar­ter of his past two games.

The Wizards are the only team in the NBA at least 10 games be­low .500 over­all with a win­ning record at home. They have won three straight games at home for the sec­ond time this sea­son. The last streak started with a 15-point win over onNov. 16 over Toronto, which had been the best per­for­mance of the sea­son at that point. The Wizards were trounced, 127-108, when the teams met again two weeks later in Toronto. An­drea Bargnani led the Rap­tors (13-27) on Satur­day with 25 points and Jose Calderon had 21 points and 15 as­sists.

Young was ablaze at the start of the third quar­ter, as he made his first six shots and scored the first 13 points, giv­ing the Wizards a 60-56 lead when he made a three-pointer. He fi­nally missed a shot and Wall ended Young’s string of con­sec­u­tive points with a pullup jumper. But Young made an­other three-pointer and added two more free throws in the pe­riod. Rashard Lewis pushed the Wizards’ lead to 75-65 with a three-pointer.

Yi made a layup to give the Wizards a 77-67 lead at the start of the fourth pe­riod, but it quickly evap­o­rated, as Bargnani made back-to-back three­p­oint­ers to bring the Rap­tors within two points. Yi helped calm things down briefly, as he stole the ball, then drib­bled the length of the court for a twohanded dunk that gave the Wizards a 79-75 lead.

The Rap­tors tied the game at 79 when rookie Ed Davis com­pleted a three-point play. The Wizards ap­peared to take con­trol of the game from there, with Blatche bury­ing a base­line fade­way jumper to give them a 92-86 lead with 2 min­utes 16 sec­onds re­main­ing. But the Rap­tors came back with a Davis layup and run­ner in the lane by Calderon to get within 92-90.

Wall missed a short jumper but the ball skid­ded to Young, who saved it and had a pass knocked away. Young fin­ished off the Rap­tors from the foul line.

Be­fore the game, Blatche said he had no prob­lem ro­tat­ing his arm, and it didn’t take long for him to show that he def­i­nitely could lift it for re­bounds. Blatche was es­pe­cially ac­tive on one pos­ses­sion in the sec­ond pe­riod, when he stole the ball from Amir John­son and raced down the floor. He missed the layup, but grabbed the re­bound and kicked out the pass to Kirk Hin­rich. Hin­rich missed the three-pointer, but Blatche tipped in the miss.

He ran down the floor and gri­maced briefly, but hit a base­line jumper on the next pos­ses­sion to give the Wizards a 35-34 lead. He had 10 points and seven re­bounds in the first half.

Al Thorn­ton pro­vided a lift off the bench in the first half, scor­ing nine points on 4-of-4 shoot­ing. He had a nice bounce pass to Blatche for a layup, and came soar­ing down the lane to re­bound a Lewis miss for a two-handed dunk that gave them a 47-42 lead at the break.

JONATHAN NEWTON/THE WASHINGTON POST

Af­ter missing seven of his first eight at­tempts, Wizard Nick Young hit his next eight shots en route to a game-high 29 points.

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