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Blown lead is not costly for Wizards

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

Washington holds Toronto without field goal in OT

After a near meltdown defensively in the fourth quarter, the Wizards clamped down and held the Toronto Raptors without a field goal in overtime to escape with a 111-108 victory at Verizon Center over a team they had lost to by 17 on the road three days earlier.

John Wall (31 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and Trevor Booker (season-high 19 points) combined for three blocks in the extra period after Jerryd Bayless (30 points) and Linas Kleiza (30 points) had pooled efforts for 10 3-pointers to shoot the Raptors (8-18) back from an 18-point deficit.

"It was a redemption game, and we all played in the system," said Nick Young, who finished with a season-high 29 points.

Washington led 79-61 late in the third quarter before Kleiza and Bayless had all six of Toronto's 3-pointers in the final period. Kleiza beat a shot clock that read 0.7 seconds with a bank shot on a catch-and-shoot to tie the score at 98-98 with 1:41 remaining in regulation and gave the Raptors their first lead since 2-0 on a 3 with 57.8 seconds left.

Wall and Jordan Crawford (13 points) each missed free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds of regulation that proved crucial. Amir Johnson's putback dunk made it 105-105, and James Johnson blocked a potential game-winning jumper by Young.

"I don't get nervous," Wall said. "[Late in games] are the best times, man. That's when it's time to shine."

On the Wizards' first possession of the night, Young got baited into an angry shove on Bayless to pick up an offensive foul. It may have been the spark he needed after shooting 12-for-33 in the previous two games, and Young later spun and hit a floater over Bayless as part of 10 points in the first quarter.

Wall also had some fire, slapping the ball away and appearing more than happy to take a delay of game warning after a made basket. Fearlessly driving into the paint, Wall soared up and under with a scoop layup during a 6-0 run that put the Wizards up 20-13 and then finished off the opening quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play for 11 points of his own and a 29-19 lead.

Booker intercepted a Kleiza pass and finished an easy dunk during a 14-4 run that gave the Wizards a 40-23 advantage. Kleiza, a Montrose Christian High alum, still made his presence felt with 14 points in the second quarter. But after leaning into Booker on a touch foul behind the 3-point line, he missed two of three free throw attempts, and the Wizards strolled into halftime ahead 57-42.

Through no fault of his own, Wizards interim coach Randy Witt?man found himself with the same starting lineup Monday against the Toronto Raptors that his predecessor, Flip Saunders, had used Jan. 8 when Washington got its first win of the season.

Searching for ways to get more veterans into his rotation, Witt?man instead had to replace his most experienced starter, Rashard Lewis, with rookie Chris Singleton when Lewis was scratched late with a sore left knee. It was the third time this season that Lewis followed a two-point performance in one game by missing the next one with knee soreness.

"I can't be disappointed," Wittman said. "We got a win. This team needed a win, both mentally, physically. I'm happy for that. Now we'll clean that other stuff up. That's how you grow."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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