They finally did it.
For the first time in about a half a decade, the Washington Wizards are an above .500 basketball team. After pulling off an upset over the Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wizards’ string of western conference opponents continued tonight with the surging Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers, like virtually every top western conference team, don’t have very many holes in their game. We all knew it would take a ton of effort and hustle for the Wizards to get the win, and it often times looked like their chances were going to slip away. LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a barrage of shots in the second quarter, where the score was basically even, and the Wizards could’ve folded. Virtually every shot Aldridge took went it. He simply couldn’t miss, and instead of collapsing under pressure, John Wall stepped up and led the Wizards on a 9-0 run to close out the second quarter.
The Wizards played their best all around game tonight, but their defensive intensity was off the charts. They usually show up against marquee opponents, but the Blazers just couldn’t get it going against John Wall and Co. , especially once they started double-teaming Aldridge away from the basket. Besides John Wall’s contributions on both sides of the floor, the Wizards got some unexpected help from Kevin Seraphin, who played a terrific game off the bench. Trevor Booker was out tonight due to personal reasons, and Seraphin couldn’t have played any better in his absence. Scoring 19 points on 7-10 shooting in just 23 minutes of action, Seraphin dominated in the post, mixing it up with his patented hook-shot and a few fading jumpers. Robin Lopez is a good defensive big man, but Seraphin managed to out work him offensively and it really helped the Wizards regain momentum when they needed to make the final push. Marcin Gortat was very good on the boards tonight, grabbing 11 rebounds, but Randy Wittman decided to let Seraphin close the game since he was in a flow offensively.
Trevor Ariza also stepped up tonight, scoring 20 points on 7-11 shooting, including 4 made 3-point shots. I’ve changed my opinion about Ariza multiple times this season, but games like tonight constantly remind me how important Ariza is to this Wizards team. Not only does he defend the best wing player on the opposing team on a nightly basis, but his ability to stretch floor as well as pass the ball has helped the Wizards grow offensively throughout the course of the season.
Everyone contributed to the win, but John Wall’s spectacular effort certainly stood out the most. Wall pressured the ball better than he has the entire season tonight, coming up with 3 steals, but he ran Washington’s offense as efficiently than he has any game prior to tonight. Wall kept his dribble alive in the paint, creating shots for Gortat, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin, allowing the Wizards to gain rhythm. He found Ariza and Beal open on the perimeter multiple times, and once the Blazers pressured him, he knocked down key jump shots that helped the Wizards get over .500 tonight. He scored 20 points on nearly 50% shooting from the field. Absolutely terrific effort from Wall tonight.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Wizards are finally an above “average” team. For the first time in the ‘John Wall Era’, the Wizards are sporting a record above .500. Even though it took 8 tries, the Wizards will look to grow from their success against western conference teams, and tonight’s win over the Blazers will be no different.
They’ll be back at it on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Excitement is in the air and it’s all about Wizards basketball.