Raise your hand if you saw the 1-12 Washington Wizards upsetting the 12-2 Oklahoma City Thunder led by district native Kevin Durant?
If you raised your hand you were either joking or a prophet, but regardless, you were right!
The Wizards were able to hold on for a 105 to 102 victory over the Thunder led by another star-like performance from John Wall, mostly efficient play from Jordan Crawford, timely shooting from Nick Young, great effort, and even good defense on Kevin Durant from none other than Nick Young.
Watching the game on TV couldn’t do the atmosphere justice at the Verizon Center tonight. The beginning of the game was marred by missed jump shots and boos (mostly directed at Andray Blatche) on what looked like what was about to be another long night for the mostly hapless Wizards. However, fast forward, to the fourth quarter as we approached two minutes to go. At this time the Wizards faithful could taste a rare victory. The thousands of fans rose to their feet as the Wizards worked on sealing the deal.
What started with a mob-like atmosphere ended with hugs and a confetti against the league’s best team.
And who was mostly responsible for this victory?
John Wall for the second straight game looked like the dominant point guard he can be. He finished with a stat line of 25 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 13/14 from the free throw line, and a modest three turnovers. When John Wall attacks the rim, he cannot be stopped. John is too fast and too athletically gifted to deal with when he is in his attack mode. The best a defender can hope for is to send him to the line — where he was near perfect tonight.
Another key performer tonight was rookie Jan Vesely. While I still refuse to come off my stance that Ernie Grunfeld needs to be fired, his draft pick of Vesely is turning out pretty well here in the early going. Vesely’s stat line of 6 rebounds and 3 rebounds won’t impress you but his ability to defend against the pick and roll, his ability to run the floor and finish in transition, and his length are all hugely important to a team that has struggled defending in recent years.
Finally, Nick Young performed at a high level after a rather rocky first half. The third quarter was key for Nick, as he began knocking down three points and got the Wizards back into the game after trailing by ten points during the third quarter at one point. He ended up finishing with 24 points and five three pointers, but his defense was just as important. In the fourth quarter Kevin Durant became Nick Young’s responsibility — not Chris Singleton’s like early in the game — and Nick did his best to help slow down the two-time defending scoring champion. Nick said it himself after the game, he’ll tell you how well he defended, “I just locked down one of the best players up in the league, baby. For a quarter, you know?”
The effort, the energy, and the outcome were all terrific tonight as the Wizards finally were able to pull themselves together and win a game — and win against a very good team. However, the key is to bring this time of effort and performance every game.
The Wizards’ next test comes this Friday night in downtown D.C. at the Verizon Center as the Denver Nuggets come to town.
Twitter: @Kevin _Hine and @WizOfAwesKevin