Hanrahan: Wizards step up the D

Hanrahan: Wizards step up the D
March 20, 2011, 9:07 pm
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Sunday March 20, 2011 6:30 p.m.

By Frank Hanrahan
CSNwashington.com

The Wizards have made it a bad habit lately of getting down by double digits to opponents in the first half of home games and never being able to dig out and come back. That changed against New Jersey on Sunday. After spotting the Nets a 17-point second quarter lead, the Wizards locked down on defense in the second half, and that was THE reason they came back to win 98-92 and snap a 6 game losing streak. It matched the largest comeback win of the season for Washington.

After a listless first 24 minutes of action, that saw the Wizards play Ole' defense and trailing 56-43 at the break, Washington came and out much sharper defensively in the second half. The Wizards held the Nets to just 12 points and went into the final period up 71-68.

I told our guys at halftime that it was just a matter of playing hard," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought that we were outstanding defensively in the second half."

In the late going, defense was once again the key for the Wizards. Ahead 92-90 with under two minutes to play, guard John Wall got his fourth steal of the afternoon and then went down and hit a huge jumper to put the Wizards up four. On the ensuing Nets' possession, the Wizards forced another Nets turnover, as Yi Jianlian stole the ball from New Jersey point guard Jordan Farmar and that pretty much was the ball game.

The Wizards forced 18 New Jersey turnovers, scoring 32 points off of them. It was certainly a case of defense leading to offense.

"They were getting too many easy baskets in the first half," Wall said. "We played the pick and roll a lot better in the second."

Besides the four steals, Wall led the way with 26 points and 8 assists for the now 17-51 Wizards who start a 5 game road trip at Portland Tuesday night.