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Going out on a high note

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Going out on a high note

It was a trying year," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said following the Heat win. "Anytime you go through a situation where a coach is dismissed, have some trades, a few players on 10-day contracts, and injuries, is hard. You never know how the season is going to transpire."

The Wizards never gave themselves a chance this season after a 2-15 start, which led to the dismissal of coach Flip Saunders. The Wizards also unloaded at one time core players, center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young, at the trade deadline and they brought in Brazilian center Nene from Denver. Veteran forward Andray Blatche missed most of the second half of the season because of conditioning, and the same for Rashard Lewis who had a sore knee.

"No disrespect to any guys we had before, but everything changed," Wizards point guard John Wall said about the mid-season personnel changes. "We were more serious in the locker room, on the court.Everybodyplayed together and just wanted to win."

Wall's play was often sluggish in the first half of the season but he picked it up in the second half and helped the team go 18-31 under Wittman's watch. Wall's overall statistics were down from his rookie campaign but Wittman saw progress in his court leadership.

"He took a huge step and nobody really understands when you get a player if he is ever going tounderstand and pick up being the quarterback on the floor to the point where the coach doesn't have to doeverythingand call every play," Wittman said about Wall. "He needs to have feels for who's hot and who's not. What play to get that guy in a position to score, and John madeleapsand bounds with that this year. That's huge in being a top-caliber point guard."

Wall had 12 assists in the win over Miami and he went five straight games with double- digits in assists to close the season.

Will Wittman be around to coach Wall next season?

The Wizards could get used to this winning thing but unfortunately it will have to wait until next year because the 66-game lockout shortened season is over. They closed out the 2011-12 year with six straight victories, finishing with a 104-70 win over the starters rested Miami Heat Thursday night. Even with the best win-streak since 2007, the Wizards finished the season with a 20-46 record, second worst in the NBA.

"Yes, I likecoachWittman as a coach it would be nice to have him back," Wall said. "Hewantedus to play hard and as a team and once we started doing those things we see the season change around for us and start winning more games."

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Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Sunday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Not good: It just keeps getting worse. The Wizards have been playing a sleepy, uninspired brand of basketball in recent games and on Sunday they met a Blazers team that does just the opposite.

The result was probably predictable. Though the Wizards edged the Blazers last month in Portland, this time they lost a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggested. 

Portland led by as many as 29 points and the Wizards only cut that down late when head coach Scott Brooks emptied his bench. He brought in a host of young guys who were hungry and just happy to be playing like Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant. Hopefully the starters, who have been missing those qualities, were paying attention.

These teams are currently on two entirely different trajectories. The Blazers are trending up, while the Wizards, who have lost two straight, are sliding quickly.

Washington is now 5-11 on the season. That's worse than their mark at this point two years ago when they mounted the famous comeback.

Howard hurt again: Things were already going terribly for the Wizards when they got much worse. Dwight Howard, who was coming off a huge game against the Nets, left in the second quarter after aggravating his strained piriformis muscle injury. 

Howard, of course, missed the first seven games of the year with the injury, which has also been referred to as gluteal soreness. We knew he was still dealing with discomfort when he came back and it has never really gone away.

The injury affects his ability to run and jump. He can't even sit on the bench because of the pain. The fact it's bothering him enough to leave a game is a really bad sign.

Too many fouls: Just like last game, Howard found himself entangled in foul trouble and this time he got started earlier. By the midway point of the first quarter, he had two. By the 5:30 mark of the second quarter, he had three.

At least against the Nets on Friday, Howard was effective when he was on the floor. This time, he couldn't find a rhythm. His time on the court was basically a wash.

These two games show just how easy it is for Howard to rack up fouls and how much it hurts the Wizards when he gets in foul trouble. 

Horrid start: The Wizards have had some lifeless stretches this season, far too often for the talent they have on the roster. The way they began this game was them at their absolute worst.

They just couldn't keep up with the Blazers, who were zipping the ball around the court to find open shooters. Portland built a 20-point lead in the first quarter, 32-12, as they shot 7-for-9 from three. The seventh was a wide open look by C.J. McCollum.

That's C.J. McCollum, as in one of the best shooting guards in basketball. Somehow the Wizards completely lost him and paid for it. Those are the types of plays that are hard to excuse.

Bright spots: If there were any positives to draw from this game, it was the play of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. Neither shot the ball well, but their energy and effort were noticeable on a night when most of their teammates just didn't have it.

They were among the few Wizards players active on defense and closing out on the three-point line. They helped key a 13-0 run to end the first quarter and helped the team show some life in the second half when the game was already out of hand.

Oubre finished with 19 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three blocks. He was +14. Satoransky had 10 points, seven assists and was +22. If Brooks wants some more energy from his team, those two could provide it.

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Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating piriformis injury

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USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating piriformis injury

While down big against the Blazers on Sunday night, matters got even worse for the Washington Wizards as starting center Dwight Howard exited the game after aggravating his piriformis muscle injury.

Howard initially left the game midway through the second quarter due to foul trouble. Soon after, he went to the locker room with a trainer to get treatment. Howard was clearly frustrated as he walked through the tunnel.

Howard, 32, missed the first seven games of the season due to the injury, a strained piriformis muscle. He was sidelined for all of training camp and the preseason.

The piriformis muscle is located just below the back. Howard has battled discomfort while running, jumping and even sitting while dealing with the injury.

Even when he returned, he told reporters the pain had not completely subsided.

Howard left Sunday's game with two points and three rebounds in seven minutes.

More on this story as it develops...

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