Isaac Austin shook off the rumors that he was about to get bounced out of the starting lineup. Then he shook off a nagging hip injury to give the Washington Wizards a missing dimension an inside game.
Austin had season-high 20 points and 13 rebounds Thursday night as the Wizards stopped a seven-game losing streak with a 92-81 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
"It's a great step for us," said Austin. "We were in a funk."
The Wizards were attempting to avert their worst start since beginning the 1966-67 season 1-10.
Washington coach Gar Heard had considered removing Austin from the starting lineup. But with backup center Jahidi White unavailable with a sore neck, Austin regained a chance to figure in the offense.
"We've been taking so many jump shots that we haven't been going inside and getting to the line," Heard said. "Tonight, we got the ball inside. Ike wanted me to start the game by going to him and he was ready to go."
Washington outscored Toronto 38-24 in the paint and made 30 of 37 free throws.
"The team's been trying to get the man in the offense early and that's going to open up shots for everyone," Austin said. "I tried to go to the basket more. ... We needed scoring at that position."
Vince Carter led the Raptors, who had won five of six games to take the Central Division lead, with 23 points. He has scored 20 or more point in seven straight games, breaking the franchise record set by Marcus Camby in March 1997.
"It really didn't look like we were in the flow of the game," Carter said. "We didn't execute. We have to be mentally strong. We didn't look very hungry."
Despite a 7-for-27 shooting night, Carter led a fourth-quarter comeback, scoring six points in an 8-0 run that got the Raptors within 83-79 with 1:27 to play.
Toronto, trying to tie a franchise mark with its third consecutive road victory, has seven more November games to break the team record of five opening-month victories.
Dee Brown had 11 points for the Raptors, whose 81 points were a season low.
Heard, who promised to shake up his underachieving starting lineup following a 22-point home loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, made only one change. Rookie Richard Hamilton, the team's third-leading scorer, replaced six-time All-Star Richmond, who was averaging only 8.9 points per game.
Richmond had never come off the bench in his career. Hamilton had eight points.
Smith, another of the Wizards' first five rumored headed to the bench, started and scored all of his points in the first half as Washington led by as many as a dozen in the second period.
The Raptors ignored coach Butch Carter's pleas to engage Washington in an up-tempo game for much of the first half. But Brown hit three of four 3-point attempts and Vince Carter had six of his 16 first-half points over the final 5:21 and Toronto trailed 50-44 at halftime.
"Our first option is to push it, but for some reason it became their pace," Toronto guard Muggsy Bogues said. "We didn't get as many stops as we wanted."
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