WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Wizards rarely win, and when they do, it's a big deal - even if they blow an 18-point lead in the process.
For the first three quarters, the Wizards dominated the Toronto Raptors, and in the fourth they nearly lost the game. In overtime, Washington held Toronto without a field goal and won 111-108 Monday night.
It was just the fifth win in 25 games for the Wizards, and for most of the game, it looked like an easy win.
Washington led 79-61 with 3:02 to play in the third quarter, and then Jerryd Bayless got hot - scoring 16 fourth quarter points to force overtime.
In the extra five minutes, Toronto missed all eight of its shots. Washington made just one of six and still outscored the Raptors 6-3.
``A win is a win - and we will take it,' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said, stretching out each word to punctuate his relief.
Dwane Casey, who was once replaced by Wittman as the Minnesota Timberwolves' coach, was none too pleased with his team's loss - even if they did nearly engineer an unlikely comeback.
``That was a bad exhibition of basketball,' Casey observed. ``We had an unprofessional start.'
The Raptors trailed by 10 after the first quarter, 29-19, and by 57-42 at halftime.
Casey ripped his team at halftime, and they responded by falling even further behind before cutting the deficit to 82-72 after three.
``You have to go off on them at halftime to get them to play. It shouldn't have to ever get to that, and that's why I was disappointed, even with the second-half comeback,' Casey said.
The uneven performance came a day after one of Toronto's better games - a six-point loss in Miami on Sunday.
In the fourth quarter, the Raptors outscored the Wizards by 33-23, and it was 105-all after regulation.
Nick Young's two free throws with 1:06 to play gave Washington a 109-106 lead. The Raptors' Amir Johnson hit two free throws with 27.2 seconds left to make it 109-108.
Trevor Booker hit the first of two free throws with 6.7 seconds left. Young rebounded Booker's miss, was fouled and hit the second of two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to make it 111-108. Linas Kleiza's 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
John Wall led Washington with 31 points and in a 16-second sequence in overtime, he blocked two of Amir Johnson's shots and Booker blocked another.
Young had a season-high 29, Booker a season-high 19.
Bayless and Kleiza both had a season-high 30 points for Toronto.
While Casey was displeased, Wittman wasn't - even with Washington's narrow escape.
``I'm not disappointed - not for this team. If this is another team, and we're 20-5, we should be. We're taking steps here. I'm not disappointed. I can't be disappointed. We got a win. This team needed a win - both mentally and physically,' Wittman said. ``These young kids have to learn to play in the fourth quarter when it becomes hectic.'
Wall, who likened the 2 hour, 52 minute game to a playoff contest, wasn't unnerved by the fourth quarter.
``I don't get nervous. Those are the best times. Those are the times to shine,' Wall said.
Kleiza tied the score at 98 with a jumper as the shot clock hit ran out with 1:41 to play. Booker hit two free throws with 1:30 left for a 100-98 lead. Kleiza hit a 3-pointer to give the Raptors a 101-100 lead with 57.5 seconds to play.
Wall answered with a layup, Bayless hit two free throws, and Wall scored on a runner and was fouled with 25.2 seconds to play. He missed the free throw, but Washington maintained possession. Jordan Crawford hit one of two free throws with 17.3 seconds to play for a 105-103 Wizards lead. Johnson's dunk with 10.2 seconds left tied it at 105.
The Wizards lost their previous four games and improved to 5-20. Of Washington's five wins, two each have come against Charlotte and Toronto - who have a record of 11-39 - and one against Oklahoma City - which has the league's best record. The Wizards lost their previous two games by 43 points.
Washington had been outrebounded 114-69 in its last two games. Toronto set a franchise record with 61 points against the Wizards last Friday night. Washington held its own on the boards, outrebounded by just one.
NOTES: Wizards F Rashard Lewis was a late scratch with a sore left knee. It's the third time he's missed a game with the injury. Wittman said he was unsure if he'd play on Wednesday against New York. ... The Raptors played their 17th road game - tied for the most in the NBA. They begin a seven-game homestand - tied for the longest in franchise history on Wednesday against Milwaukee. Toronto's next road game won't be until Feb. 28 in Houston. ... Washington C Ronny Turiaf is getting his broken left wrist examined this week. Turiaf was injured on Jan. 1.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved