Wizards 97, Nets 77

Inspired by a nature film that showed them the values of sticking together in the face of adversity, the Wizards gathered together to overwhelm a visiting New Jersey team distracted by trade rumors, snap a three-game slide and register their first win of the new year, 97-77.

Prior to the game, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders cued up a video known as Battle at Kruger in which African water buffalo ban together to turn the tables on some lions who have captured a calf.

The lesson?

“No one should go off on their own,” said Wizards forward Andray Blatche (14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks). “Stay together as a team, and you overcome anything, all challenges. Them bulls [the water buffalo] tore them lions up. They stood together, and that’s how they overcame it.”

JaVale McGee (15 points, seven rebounds, six blocks) was the buffalo’s horns, setting the tone with a pair of blocks on Devin Harris on the game’s opening possession. Rashard Lewis then hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers as Washington opened the game with a 21-3 run.

The Nets (10-26) were more pussycat than predator, especially as reports circulate of them trying to manufacture a deal that will land Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony, and they never got any closer than 13 points after trailing by as many as 20 in the first quarter. Brook Lopez and Jordan Farmar each had 14 points, but Harris and Sasha Vujacic combined to shoot 2 for 21 from the field.

“[The blocks] definitely had the other team looking around when they came to the rim,” said McGee. “It really energized us, especially since our offense and Rashard was on early.”

Lewis was also a force on the boards and had his most complete game of the year, adding a season-high 13 rebounds and six assists to the game-high 16 points he shared with Nick Young, who himself had a career-high five assists. All three of Lewis’s three-pointers came off feeds from John Wall (five points, nine assists), including a pair in transition.

“That’s what it takes to win games like this,” said Lewis. “It’s the little things. You’ve got to get loose balls, give them one shot, you gotta get the rebound and run out. I think we’re a better team when we rebound and play good defense, run out and get John the ball, push it up, try to get easy baskets instead of trying to set up in halfcourt.”

Kirk Hinrich (ten points) similarly opened the final period with his own pair of back-to-back threes to put the game well out of reach and allow the Wizards (9-25) to enjoy themselves for once in the fourth quarter. The victory in front of 16,017 at Verizon Center gave Washington a winning record at home, 9-8, but the next step is ending the futile 0-17 streak on the road at Charlotte on Saturday.

There are signs that young Washington team is embracing the group concept and might finally be ready to turn the corner. The Wizards recently adopted a change in their routine for pregame introductions where instead of each member of the starting five going one-by-one through a high-five line, the players all surround one player at a time and dance together before then throwing him out onto the court.

“It’s something I came up with on the plane,” said Young. “But we all kind of came together and figured it out. It’s starting to work, and I didn’t think they was really going to do it. We coming together as a team, you know.”