On Tuesday Bradley Beal said the Wizards had their best practice of the year. The following night, Washington managed to hang on and get their first victory of the season, beating Portland 84-82 and making their record a much more “respectable” 1-12. Or as Steve Buckhantz put it, they managed to get that “elusive first win.”
Jordan Crawford led the team in scoring; dropping 19 points off the bench including a three-pointer with just over two minutes left that gave the Wizards the lead. Of course, this is the Wizards we are talking about, so nothing came easy.
While Washington did have some resemblance of an actual NBA team last night, they started the game like the 0-12 abomination we’ve come to know and hate. Poor offensive possessions combined with non-existent first quarter defense put them in an early 11-point hole. In the second quarter the defense finally made it to the floor and the Wizards actually experienced a six point lead, it didn’t last long and at half it was all knotted up at 43.
However, the third quarter was dominated by the Wizards – thanks in large part to the defense of Emeka Okafor, who had 6 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes and a huge block late in the game that kept the score tied at 82. But inevitably the Wizards managed to squander a 15-point lead in the final quarter, ending a 16-0 Trailblazers run and putting them in a one-point deficit at 78-77. But would they really be the Wizards if they didn’t make it close at the end?
There was actually a point in the game where you felt like the Wizards were going to win. It was a feeling that the Washington faithful haven’t felt in a while, and it came during a stretch in the third quarter highlighted by an Okafor steal followed by a quick Kevin Seraphin bucket that gave the Wizards a 59-55 lead. Even more impressive than the play itself was the energy in the Verizon Center and the sound of – dare I say – fans cheering the team instead of the usual groans and sighs.
The bench played well in the team’s first victory, as the Wizards in general seemed more focused and committed on the defensive end. It’s still tough to say exactly what this team’s winning formula is without point guard John Wall in the mix, but they may have come a step closer to discovering that last night – strong team defense with a productive bench. At least that was good enough to handle Portland.
One Wizard who didn’t see any action tonight was Jan Vesely. Vesely occupied the bench for the entire game and it sure didn’t seem like his teammates missed him out there.
Nene played 19 minutes off the bench, scoring 6 points and grabbing 6 rebounds after sitting in Monday’s embarrassment against San Antonio. However, Nene’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet, as the Wizards offensive game seems to run much more efficiently when he’s on the court. There isn’t as much of the “Let’s all chuck up long contested jumpers” style of offense that Randy Wittman’s bunch has been so fond of this season.
Enjoy the victory while you can, Wizards fans. Who knows when the next one will come. Next up, the Wizards travel to New York to play the Knicks on Friday. I haven’t seen the spread yet, but something tells me I like the Knicks to cover.
Written by Jeremy Batka @EastCoastAssn