Cooking at home
Unable to win on road, Wizards take comfort on home turf
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.
After missing seven of his first eight attempts, Wizard Nick Young hit his next eight shots en route to a game-high 29 points.