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Wizards win six in a row to end season

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer
But still finish with second-worst record

Only one of the top six players in the Wizards' season finale was the same from the lockout delayed season-opener against New Jersey four months before, John Wall. The rest were different.

JaVale McGee had been traded. Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis were shut down. Jordan Crawford was injured. As for sixth man Ronny Turiaf, he finished the year Thursday at Verizon Center on the opposite bench, playing for the visiting Miami Heat.

So the Wizards trotted out rookies Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, second-year center Kevin Seraphin and 10-day contract owner Cartier Martin. They also beat up on the expected NBA title contenders, 104-70 -- albeit without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- padding the franchise's longest winning streak since 2007. It was the Wizards' largest margin of victory since a 137-96 win over Seattle on Nov. 11, 2005.

"I'm proud of those guys," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said before the game. "They've gone through a difficult time."

Despite the victory over the Heat (46-20), the Wizards (20-46) finished the year with the second-worst record in the NBA. The six-game winning streak couldn't prevent Washington from becoming the first team since the 1970-71 San Diego Rockets to win at least six games in a row to end the year and still miss the playoffs.

The slide was immediate in December with Washington squandering a 21-point lead against the Nets. After that game, Blatche complained about his role under then-coach Flip Saunders, who was fired when the Wizards won two of their first 17 games. Wittman moved up from assistant in the interim, but it wasn't until the trade deadline that Washington transformed when Nene arrived while McGee and Nick Young departed.

It was evident in Thursday's finale, where the Brazilian center had 15 points, the same as Seraphin, who reached double figures scoring in his 15th straight start. Wall racked up 12 assists in Washington's second win over Miami in six days, building Wittman's case that he should be retained at season's end, not replaced.

"Let me tell you something, I'm not an idiot," Wittman said. "Anytime you lose a job, you're disappointed. Yeah, I think anybody does not want to lose their job or have to look elsewhere for a job. I can't worry about it."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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