Blatche scores career-high 36 as Wizards win

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Andray Blatche(notes) is starting to give Washington Wizards’ fans something to be excited about in a season of turmoil highlighted by the gun-related suspension of Gilbert Arenas(notes) and a couple of high-profile trades.

The 23-year Blatche continued to thrive being the new leader of the Wizards, scoring a career-high 36 points and adding 15 rebounds in an 89-85 comeback victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday night.

Newark native Randy Foye(notes) provided the winning margin with two jumpers in the final 44 seconds but Blatche, who has averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds over his last seven games, almost single-handedly carried Washington in this one.

“I’m so excited about the way things are going for me,” Blatche said. “Things are starting to pan out the way I had planned when I came into the league. It’s like a dream come true for me. I just want to continue to help the organization win games. I was getting a little winded at the end, but Randy stepped up and made the shots at the end.”

Blatche has come a long way. He was suspended for a game in January for complaining about his role in the offense.

Now everything goes through him.

“I don’t think anyone has gone from where he was to going to the level where he is now,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “As he keeps on going, the expectations will be raised and he will have to live up to those expectations.”

There are already some comparisons to Kevin Garnett(notes).

“He’s been getting his points in the system and getting to spots and getting the points out of the spots,” Saunders added. “He’s been nothing but professional.”

With the game tied at 83, Foye was the one who stepped up. He hit a baseline jumper with 44.6 seconds to play and he added another from the same left side with 13.5 seconds left to extend the lead to four points.

“I never get a chance to play well here at home,” Foye said. “I have so many friends and family here to see me and I usually play bad. But tonight, I stayed with it and made the shots. I said to myself that I wasn’t having a good game, but I had to take what the defense gave me.”

Al Thorton added 20 points, and Foye finished with 16 as Washington rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to deny the Nets (6-53) their first winning streak of the season.

Yi Jianlian(notes) had 20 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for New Jersey, but missed two crucial free throws in the final 1:19 and could not get out quick enough to stop Foye on his last two shots.

“What happened is what happened,” Yi said. “I missed the free throws and on the last two defenses the guy hit the shot. That’s the game. Learn from it.”

Devin Harris(notes) had 18 points and 14 assists, however he was just 1 for 8 in the final quarter.

“I had a bunch of wide open layups and jump shots, but in the fourth quarter we couldn’t buy a basket,” Harris said.

Brook Lopez(notes) had 16 points and 10 rebounds for New Jersey.

The Nets rallied from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit behind Terrence Williams(notes), who scored seven of his 11 points in about a 90-second span. The rookie’s monster slam following a rebound by Yi and a long downcourt pass put New Jersey ahead 81-79 with 3:41 to go.

JaVale McGee(notes) tied it with 2:56 left, slamming home a second-chance opportunity.

Blatche gave the Wizards the lead at 83-81 with a jumper with 1:34 to play, and then Yi tied the game, making one of two free throws with attempts at 1:19 and 58.8 seconds.

After a Washington time out, the Wizards seemed to fool New Jersey as Foye dribbled to the left baseline and swished a 15-footer.

After Harris missed in the lane for the Nets, Foye eventually came back down and hit another jumper from close to the same spot.

Jarvis Hayes(notes) and Yi missed in close on the New Jersey’s next possession and Thorton iced the game with his free throws with 4.8 seconds left.

Harris scored a meaningless basket before the final buzzer, the last shot in a half that saw New Jersey hit 11 of 42 from the field, or 26.2 percent.

“I think in the second half they went into a zone and I think that it really hurt us,” said Nets interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, who team stunned Boston on Saturday. “We didn’t execute particularly well against it and I think we got a little bit tired.”

Blatche scored 14 points in the third quarter to help Washington turn a six-point deficit into a 69-68 lead. He opened the fourth quarter with a basket in the low post to ignite a 10-3 spurt that had the Wizards ahead 79-72 when Blatche scored on a rebound with 5:21 to play.

The Nets shot 68 percent from the field in the first quarter and had Harris, Yi and Lopez provided all the points in an 18-4 spurt that gave them a 29-15 lead.

Washington cut the margin to seven points at the end of the quarter and narrowed the margin to six at the half.

NOTES: The Nets played without starting guard Courtney Lee(notes), who sprained his left ankle in Boston. … Blatche matched his career high by scoring in double figures for eight straight games. … Neither team shot well. Washington was 42.2 percent from the field and the Nets 35.2. … The Wizards are 3-0 vs. New Jersey this season and have won four straight at the Izod Center.

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Sunday, Feb 28