Momentum continues to escape the confusing Washington Wizards. While stretches of play against a gauntlet of power teams inspired the fan base over the last two weeks, missed opportunities in games in which Washington was favored continue to keep the team stuck in neutral.
Mon. Feb. 3: Wizards Eclipse .500 for First Time in Four YearsA Monday night home date with the Portland Trailblazers gave the Wizards a chance to raise the bar against a quality opponent and go over .500 for the first time in four seasons. It also gave John Wall a stage on which to throw darts with Portland's Damian Lillard. Neither chance would be wasted as Washington played one of their best games of the season, downing Portland 100-90.
Wall showcased the all-around game that paved the way to his first All Star game nomination as he recorded 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Reserve forward Kevin Seraphin added 19 points and five rebounds off the bench and Trevor Ariza lit up Portland with four three-pointers, fueling a 20-point night. Washington blew the game open in the third quarter as they turned a one-point lead at the start of the quarter into a 13-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Wed. Feb. 5: Washington Falls Just Short Against SpursA win against the San Antonio Spurs the following Wednesday would have given the Wizards three consecutive wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland and last season’s Finals runner-up, the Spurs. But despite jumping out to a 17-point first half lead against San Antonio, who played without stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, Washington couldn’t contain a resilient Spurs team and a rejuvenated Tim Duncan, who scored a season-high 31 points along with 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals in a hard-fought 125-118 double overtime win in Washington, D.C.
San Antonio held a two-point lead with just under five seconds left in the first overtime, but Wall stole an errant Duncan pass and raced down the court for a tying layup that locked the game at 115-115. But the Wizards simply ran out of gas in the final session. A loss to the Spurs is a bump in the road for some teams in the NBA, but disappointing for the Wizards after building a 17-point lead against a team missing two of its three stars.
Fri. Feb. 7: Wizards Lose to Hot-Shooting Cavs
The Wizards’ frustrations only deepened when the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped their six-game losing streak with a 115-113 defeat of Washington at the Verizon Center. Washington allowed season-high 67 points in the first half to the struggling Cavaliers. A series of consecutive missed shots in the fourth quarter caused Washington to fall behind by double digits and prompted boos to rain down. Wall’s efforts were valiant, as he posted 32 points and 10 assists, but the Wizards failed to outwork their opponents. Cleveland held a 45-34 rebounding advantage and outshot Washington 33-23 in free throw attempts.
Despite back-to-back wins over the Thunder and the Trailblazers, a blown lead against San Antonio and a frustrating loss to the Cavs zapped the momentum that Washington had built. The Spurs’ loss was forgivable, but the stinker against Cleveland at home will make the team re-evaluate their situation going forward.