Washington Wizards Trevor Booker (right) and John Wall celebrate a basket during the second half of their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors in Washington

Break out the champagne — the Wizards win!


It all came together for one night.

At home, against a tired Toronto team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flip Saunders put in a new starting lineup of guys playing with some grit — Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker start, and Andray Blatche comes off the bench.

It worked — the Washington Wizards picked up their first win of the season, and quite easily at that, 93-78.

This was by far Washington’s best game of the season, particularly on offense. For eight games their offense had been simplistic, with pick-and-rolls or isolations on the strong side and a lot of standing around. But against the Raptors there were weakside cuts occupying defenders, slowing help, all the things you see in a good offense. It gave them room to attack the basket and they did, it was not a jump shot fest. It wasn’t consistent, it certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a vast improvement over past games.

Meanwhile the Wizards defense was more aggressive, although it was certainly helped by a hesitant Raptors offense that did not attack aggressively. DeMar DeRozan has not found his groove for a couple games now. Jose Calderon has been aggressive off the pick and roll the last few games but tonight was pausing, then forcing some ugly passes that led to turnovers (the Raps had 22 on the night). Toronto only had 52 points through three quarters, the Wizards deserve credit for some of that but the Raptors do as well.

The Raptors are not a good team — they start Rasual Butler (1-of-6 shooting). They need Andrea Bargnani to generate the offense, and while he finished with 22 he was not as sharp as he has been in previous games. They are a team that is going to have nights like this.

The Wizards are not a good team either, but they were better for a night. John Wall had more assists than point (9 to 8). Rashard Lewis and Nick Young had 15 points each as the Wizards showed some balance. They had good bench play.

It’s a start. The Wizards have a long way to go, but for a night things were better. That is worth celebrating.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.