Inability to win on the road? Got it. Losing by a total of 100 points in the last five road games? Noted. But if the Wizards were going to get a chance to get off the road game schneid, tonight’s game in Charlotte represented the best opportunity.
After beating the injury-depleted Bobcats in a barely watchable game on Wednesday night 92 to 75, the Wiz Kids traveled to the Queen City of Charlotte for the second game of a back-to-back.
The game opened with a 6-0 run for the Bobcats. Rookie Kemba Walker was in command and making shots in the early going, but soon after the Wizards got a run started and got on a 16-5 run of their own, Charlotte was forced to call a timeout as they trailed 16 to 11. The rest of the first quarter was a back-and-forth of jabs from each team, and it ended on Kemba Walker following up a missed shot and putting it back in at the buzzer to end the quarter tied up at 26. For the Wizards, they were led by 7 points from Nick Young and a 6 point, 4 assist effort from John Wall.
Remember last night when Chase Budinger began playing like an All-Star in the second quarter? Well it happened again tonight, this time with little known center Byron Mullens. He finished the half with 17 points (just 4 off from his career high), leading Steve Buckhantz to say, “they’re making him look like Wilt Chamberlain.” However, Mullens’ second half was far less spectacular.
The second quarter also featured a heated exchange between Randy Wittman and Andray Blatche. Seven Day Dray gave Wittman a glare after another one of his uninspired offensive possessions, Wittman yelled back, and at the next timeout Blatche was sat down and glued to the bench for the remainder of the game. Michael Lee reported the team was saying he was injured with a strained calf. I think they misspelled relationship, it isn’t spelled c-a-l-f.
Overall, the second quarter was highly productive with Jordan Crawford adding 6 assists in the first half and a John Wall to JaVale McGee to Jan Vesely slam. Yes, JaVale McGee passed the ball, that’s not a typo. Capping the first half was a Rashard Lewis buzzer beating three pointer to stretch the lead to ten at intermission, as the Wizards led 58 to 48.
At the 9:41 mark of the third quarter Nick Young was called for a push-off. Immediately following, he was pulled and Jordan Crawford was inserted in his place. As Nick was pulled you could see Randy Wittman in his face talking to him about what he did wrong. I’m assuming it was because it was early in the shot clock and Nick decided to come down the court and shoot a fading 20-footer. But that’s just a guess…
While Byron Mullens cooled off in the second half, Kemba Walker only heated up for the Bobcats. He posted his first career triple-double and most of his damage was done in the third quarter. Spearheaded by Walker, the Bobcats were able to cut the Wizards lead down to five. Kemba Walker was a huge reason for it, but Washington lacked a half-court offense (again), allowing the Bobcats to hang around.
Once again, the fourth quarter lacked a single Andray Blatche sighting. There was yet another JaVale McGee outlet pass that found its way to an opposing player. Missed free throws were also a killer, but not for the Wizards — the Bobcats shot 17 of 29 from the line tonight. Even with the abysmal effort from the charity stripe, Charlotte managed to tie the game up at 88 with 7:44 remaining. The Wizards came right back down and Trevor “Cook Book” Booker added a bucket on a nice up-and-under move to re-take the lead, but a minute later Washington lost the lead midway through the final quarter.
Down the stretch Nick Young began to play his hero ball, dribbling the ball around until he got his shot on the perimeter. Tonight he was able to make some of those shots, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
But the Wizards never gave up the lead in the final minutes. The Bobcats drew close with a Kemba Walker three, but that’s all they would get. The Wizards even got a little bit of luck and blessing from the basketball gods tonight — who apparently have a sense of humor. With under a minute to go, JaVale McGee took a shot from about three feet and on replay it was clearly not going in, but lo and behold, Bobcats’ center Byron Mullens goal tended it and McGee got the two points.
Up by three, the Wizards held on defense with six seconds to go as the Bobcats were unable to get up a good shot. However, JaVale McGee got the rebound and was sent to the line — where he missed both attempts, giving Charlotte one last chance. After using their foul to give, the Wizards were able to get to the victory as Matt Caroll’s last second three point attempt fell short.
Beating an already bad team without three starters isn’t something to beat your chest about, but it’s a win and in professional sports those are hard to come by. The concerns are apparent. Charlotte had averaged 78 points per game over the last three games and scored 99 tonight, Kemba Walker recorded a trouble-double, and Byron Mullens had a career game. I get all that, but this game was vital. The Wiz needed this win.
These Wizards are trying to learn how to win, and in a close hard fought game on the road they were able to do that.
You can’t sprint if you don’t learn how to walk first. Tonight was another step forward in the learning process.
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