Washington Wizards keep Warriors Don Nelson from career wins record

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 2010; D05

The Washington Wizards have had several humiliating moments over the course of this dismal season, but they had no desire to also become a footnote in NBA history with the Golden State Warriors in town and Don Nelson needing one more victory to break Lenny Wilkens's record for career coaching wins.

Before the game, Coach Flip Saunders praised Nelson for his influence on the game over 31 years as a coach, but later chuckled as he said, "I don't want him to get the record against me."

Saunders's players obviously shared the same sentiment as they dominated Nelson's undermanned and undersized Warriors from the opening tip and claimed one of their most lopsided victories since the all-star break, 112-94, before 14,721 at Verizon Center. Instead of the Wizards rolling over for Nelson, the Warriors were the generous guests providing career nights for their opponents.

Nick Young scored a season-high 29 points, JaVale McGee came off the bench to have a career-high 25 points and 15 rebounds and Shaun Livingston tied his career high with 21 points.

Andray Blatche added 21 points as the Wizards (24-53) had four players score at least 20 points for the first time since Dec. 26, 2007. They won consecutive games for the first time since the first two games after the all-star break and have also won three of their past four.

"It feels good, I ain't going to lie," Blatche said. "We're playing with energy, effort. We all playing with a meaning now."

The Wizards haven't won three games in a row in two years, and they will face the Magic in Orlando on Wednesday with forward Al Thornton possibly returning after a seven-game absence. Saunders switched to a new offense a few weeks ago, and in the past two games, the Wizards have topped triple digits after failing to reach 100 points in their previous 19 games.

"I think guys are understanding more and more what it takes to win games," he said.

It helped that they were facing a team that is so decimated by injuries that Nelson only had seven healthy players available.

C.J. Watson had a rib injury but dressed because the Warriors had to suit up eight players under NBA rules.

Young scored the first basket of the game, but after Corey Maggette responded with a jumper to tie the game at two, the Wizards scored the next 13 points and never looked back. Nelson will have a chance to get his 1,333rd win on Wednesday in Minnesota.

The Wizards quickly turned the game into a laugher, reaching season highs for points in a first quarter (40) and a half (68). They shot 51.8 percent and scored 52 points in the paint. The Warriors (23-54) used the 6-foot-8 Devean George mostly at center and the Wizards outrebounded them, 52-31.

"It's like a 6-8 and under team," Livingston said. "We did what we were supposed to do."

McGee became the first player to come off the bench and score at least 25 points with 15 rebounds for the franchise since Dan Roundfield had 29 points and 16 rebounds on April 4, 1986.

The 7-foot center had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds before halftime, using his tremendous height advantage to crash the offensive glass and get easy baskets through tip-ins and dunks.

"I was just trying to go up there, get some rebounds and get some putbacks," McGee said.

Livingston made his first nine field goals and matched his career high before the fourth quarter. The last time Livingston scored 21 points was Dec. 17, 2006 -- nearly a month before the horrific left knee injury that derailed his career. Over the past four games, Livingston has become more confident and comfortable with increased minutes and proven to be getting closer to his old self, scoring in double figures in each game. On Tuesday, he had eight assists and no turnovers.

"Some of the plays that I've been making, I made those plays just working out. It's stuff that I felt I could've done a long time ago. It's all about the opportunity and the moment. I've just been preparing until now."

Said Saunders, "The only reason he's not an all-star at this point is because of the injury. Even though he might not be as physically explosive as he used to be, he seems to be getting better and better with that. He's progressed and he's getting more confidence."

Young made a wide-open three-pointer to give the Wizards a 68-40 lead with 37.4 seconds left in the first half. He had 16 points at the break, getting little resistance from some apathetic Warriors. On one possession, Young got the ball on the baseline and had another easy stroll for a two-handed dunk, briefly hanging on the rim to look around for a defender that was nowhere in sight.

And in one of the more quirky stats of the season, the Wizards improved to 8-3 when Young plays at least 30 minutes. "I'm just like a good luck charm for 'em," Young said with a smile after playing a season-high 43 minutes. "I'm just playing, like I got nothing to lose. Got to have fun. Season is almost over."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company