I have a confession to make to the gracious readers of WizofAwes. I did not watch the first half of this basketball game (I wisely spent my time watching a ridiculous game involving Georgetown and a team called Florida Gulf Coast University. In the future I will refer to this period as ‘In Memoriam: Nithin’s 2013 NCAA Bracket’). I truly expected the narrative to go like so many other road contests for the Washington Wizards. “Wizards careless with the ball and errant from the field. Lose big in Los Angeles”. If there was a wager I could have put on that being the headline in Saturday’s Washington Post, I would’ve done so. In fact, I was so sure of the result that I had already convinced myself that catching the second half would be enough to write a standard recap about missed opportunities, careless play, and of course, a poor coaching performance. A gloating text from a friend and a tweet from my cousin confirmed these suspicions (both insufferable Lakers fans). I quickly checked the score and noticed we were down 16 after the first quarter and finished the half with the same deficit. I resigned myself to a spot on the couch to watch what surely would be a Kobe Bryant expose and an opportunity for every member of ESPN’s payroll to poke fun at the ‘hapless’ Wizards (never mind that they’re 20-15 in their last 35 games and have become a competitive foe on any night. Researching is clearly not part of the job description). But as the 3rd quarter progressed, the tide was starting to change. And it was clear that this Wizards team was not going to go away and would not be arrogantly dismissed by a team and a city that has bigger aspirations. This Wizards team fought like crazy; and turned it all around.
I haven’t been more proud of a Wizards performance since the heralded Gilbert Arenas era. I sit here typing away, just beaming from ear to ear. Everything about tonight’s performance screams of a personality, a swagger, and an identity that this squad has not shown since the mid-2000’s. And as always is the case when we succeed, everything started with John Wall. Wall showed tonight that he absolutely can be a max player (I apologize for throwing that in. But in this day and age, what else comes up when mentioning #2?). No, there hasn’t been consistency from him since he came into the league, but these are the games that make you wonder that if his heart, mind, and body are all in tune, what are the possibilities? Wall set a career high with 16 assists, came through with 22 points and made the right play over and over again in the 2nd half. We all know he’s been one of the premiere players over the last couple weeks and if he has any intention of making this a regularity; he’ll earn every dollar of the contract he’ll sign this summer. Trevor Ariza was absolutely phenomenal as well, scorching his former team to the tune of 7 3-pointers (career high himself) and 25 points. And even Kevin Seraphin got into the fun, helping the brigade in containing Dwight Howard after he posted a big first half. Overall, Washington’s reversal of the momentum got the Lakers out of rhythm, helped close the gap, and ultimately put them over the top.
I am really trying to recap this game objectively and insightfully, but the fan in me has no choice but to come out and enjoy it. It’s been a long and trying season (seasons*) with peaks and valleys happening as regularly in DC as on Wall Street (no pun intended. Ok pun intended – sue me). But a win like this, against a team like this, can make it all just a little bit better. The Wizards are clearly not headed for the postseason, so this game proved that type of playoff atmosphere that they are eventually working towards. In my mind there’s no question that this squad, when healthy, can be one of the top teams in the East. Each game left on the schedule this season is a chance to prove that point further. There’s also no question that until the Wizards actually accomplish a feat like that, it’ll all just be about predictions and potential (with losses to the Bobcats and the Cavaliers sprinkled in). I know I’m tired of the ‘what-if’ and I imagine the team is too. But at least for tonight, the criticism can be put on ice. Supporters in the DMV can enjoy this victory and be excited about what’s next. And In hindsight for myself, maybe it’s ok that I didn’t watch the first 24 minutes. The 2nd half was one of those performances that I get excited about too.
See below for a couple key points that stood out to me during tonight’s game:
•I mentioned Kevin Seraphin above, but I also have to give due to Nene, Jason Collins, and Trevor Booker for a group effort on the Lakers superstar big men. Howard got his numbers, but the Wizards’ big men held Pau Gasol to 2/10 shooting, disrupted the Lakers offense down low and held on to several key rebounds in the game’s waning moments.
•I read an article recently that mentioned given injuries and the lockout, John Wall had recently played his 165th game of his career. That translates to the start of his 3rd full season, which is when most budding stars really make that leap. Maybe it’s a stretch to give him that kind of pass, but what we’ve seen from Wall in the last couple weeks has turned the Wizards from an average team to a potentially dangerous one.
•My last bullet point of the night goes to the one and only Kobe Bean Bryant. I haven’t been more amazed watching a basketball talent on a night in, night out basis than the Mamba. He replicates His Airness in nearly every facet (falling just a tad short) but is as great of a sequel as any NBA fan could’ve hoped for. I hope his retirement is still a few years away, but I’ll be truly sorry when that day comes.