The Wizards typically don’t practice after back-to-back games, but Coach Flip Saunders decided to have a short practice on Tuesday in Orlando with the team still in need of its first win.
Saunders was pleased with the effort his team the night before in Boston, where the Wizards lost, 100-92, and had to go the final 46 minutes, 46 seconds after he received two technical fouls and got ejected for arguing a non-call on Rashard Lewis.
“Our guys were competitive,” said Saunders, who watched the finish from the visiting coaching office at TD Garden. “Our biggest thing is, we’re still not making shots. When we relax, start making shots and get comfortable, we’re going to be more effective. But we’re going out, we’re competing, and we did a much better job defensively, rebounded better. No question, we’re making progress.”
After the loss in Boston, several players credited Saunders’s ejection as the catalyst for their improved performance.
“I feel like it inspired us,” JaVale McGee said after scoring 17 points with 14 rebounds against the Celtics. “It actually made us play harder.”
Saunders was incensed when Lewis appeared to get hit on the elbow as he missed a jumper, then had Celtics center Greg Stiemsma fall on top of him without receiving a foul call. Saunders complained to referee Eli Roe and received a technical as Ray Allen drilled a three-pointer on the other end.
Saunders got more upset, ran onto the court to chase down Roe, then grabbed his left arm, seeking an explanation for the non-call and the technical. Andray Blatche ran in to restrain Saunders, who picked up another technical foul, leading to an automatic ejection.
“The whole situation with Flip getting ejected early kind of hyped everybody up,” said Blatche, who scored a season-high 28 points in the loss. “That actually played a part in the game. All the players wanted to play hard. That’s what rose our intensity up. I just tried to have my coach’s back. In the heat of the moment, anything can open. Of course, I’m behind my coach 100 percent.”
Saunders continued to stomp on the court and complain the lead official Greg Willard, before he eventually headed to the locker room. As he left the court, reserve Jordan Crawford got up from his seat and patted Saunders on the backside.
“One thing, as I told players, you’re pretty much a family, as a team. So anytime you’re in that situation, you see someone that’s not being treated fairly by someone, you have to back them,” Saunders said. “As a coach, I’m going to back my players.
“I’m not saying I need to get thrown out of every game in order to do that,” Saunders said. “But especially when your team is getting beat and you haven’t won yet, you’re trying to get your first win. It’s easy to say, we’ll just kind of take it. Every possession is important. Just because it’s the first or second play of the game, it doesn’t mean you have to let things slide every way.”