Thursday December 30, 2010 10:52 a.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
Nick Young was jacking three pointers with no conscious and hitting some of them finishing with a game high 25 points on 26 shots. John Wall got his swag back with a sweet no look lob to JaVale McGee for an easy dunk on the pick and roll. Newcomer Rashard Lewis was hitting big shots and role players like Cartier Martin provided big minutes as the Wizards locked down on defense again as they closed out Indiana 104-90. It was a rare Wizards win that left you wanting to see more and wondering maybe -- just maybe -- they aren't as far off as we think they are.
With John Wall close to being 100 percent healthy, with Nick Young evolving as a true offensive weapon and with the veteran additions of Lewis and Josh Howard and the continued flashes of brilliance by JaVale McGee, there could be some hope. It's no coincidence that with the return of Howard and the trade for Lewis, the Wizards defense has vastly improved. Both players are lengthy wing defenders who can lock up opposing team's top shooters. Indiana's top scorer Danny Granger was held to 15 points, 6 below his average as Lewis guarded him most of the game. The Wizards have held 6 of their last 7 opponents to under 100 points.
Assistant Randy Wittman coached the Pacers game in place of Flip Saunders, who was with his ailing mother, and Wittman feels change is in the air.
"Since we made the deal in bringing Rashard here, and Josh getting healthy, John getting healthy, weve taken some great strides," Wittman said. "I dont know what the games are. I dont want to make a number but the last four, five, six games, whatever it is, of playing and competing against some really good teams, with a chance to win and just havent been able to close games."
The 8-22 Wizards closed out Indiana and have undoubtedly improved but it has to be reflected in the win column. Moral victories don't exist in the NBA so if they could just follow up with a win at Indiana Friday afternoon, you might actually start to feel good about where this team is going. Which is?
"I would say our identity is we got to to scrap," Cartier Martin told me. "We have a lot of great players on our team we just have to play together as a team more. We just got to be a scrappy and aggressive team." Martin was great in the Pacers game scoring 11 points on 4-6 shooting, including some clutch three pointers in the second half.
"We are going to continue to get better," Rashard Lewis told me after the Indiana win. "Every game we step on the floor we should improve. We got the 1 pick that's a great point guard and I think as long as we play with energy and effort we should have a chance to win the game."