Washington’s season-long flirtation with the .500 mark continued through the second week of February as the team evened their season record ahead of consecutive losses dropped them two games below .500. The team enters the midseason break at 25-27, a vast improvement over the past few seasons but still enough frustration to have fans waiting for improved play. Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal will represent the team in a series of events related to the National Basketball Association (NBA) All Star Game which should be some nice publicity for the team’s budding backcourt. But once the break is over the team will try to rebound after a tough week cooled off some momentum the Wizards had gathered over their past few games.
Sun., Feb. 9: Wizards Close Home Stand with 93-84 Victory Over Kings
A Sunday home game against the Sacramento Kings concluded a five-game home stand in which the Wizards went 3-2. And their 93-84 victory over the Kings might have been the hardest fought of three games—after wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trailblazers– just before the NBA paused the regular season for All-Star Weekend. Washington blew a 17-point lead and watched fans at the Verizon Center sweat until late in the fourth quarter when the Wizards were finally able to stave off a pesky Kings team. Washington held the visiting Kings to just 35 percent from the field but saw diminutive Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas brightened-up the evening with 30 points and eight assists. The Wizards countered with a balance attack as five players scored in double figures and two others scored eight points apiece. Center Marcin Gortat led the charge with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds.
Tuesday, Feb. 11: Washington Overcome by Late Memphis Surge in 92-89 Loss
Beal decided to flash some of his All Star talent a little early as he lit up the Memphis Grizzlies with 37 points and five three-pointers but it wasn’t enough as visiting Washington ran out of gas down the stretch to fall 92-89. The Wizards shredded a 16-point third quarter deficit to even the game deep in the fourth quarter but Washington blew a few crucial opportunities that could’ve extended a late fourth-quarter two-point lead. Washington was forced to watch Memphis turn a 82-80 Wizards lead into a five-point Grizzlies advantage that they would never relinquish. While Beal was spectacular at times, Washington simply didn’t get enough from Beal’s wing mates as Wall and swingman Trevor Ariza struggled mightily. Wall and Ariza combined to shoot a woeful 2-of-17 from the field while going 1-for-10 from three-point range. The two also combined for six turnovers. Five players scored in double figures for the Grizzlies while Nene backed up Beal’s big night with 17 points.
Wed., Feb. 12: Last-Second Layup Yields Road Loss to Rockets, 113-112
It was a case of deja vu for Washington the following night in Houston as they battled back from another large deficit on the road only to lose in the waning moments as the Rockets James Harden hit a last second layup to give Houston a 113-112 victory. The Wizards erased an 18-point third quarter deficit, largely due to seven made three-pointers from Ariza who went a perfect 7-for-7 in the third quarter en route to a team-record 10 made three-pointers. Ariza bounced back from a poor showing against Memphis to finish the night with 32 points but it wasn’t enough to offset huge nights from Harden (35 points) and Dwight Howard (24 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks). Ariza was deadly from deep but Harden was accurate from the free throw line as he connected on all 16 of his attempts and helped Houston outshoot Washington 47-16 in free throw attempts. Officiating was a post-game topic for the Wizards who saw three starters foul out before a critical foul call with less than five seconds left gave Houston an extra foul shot and the ball back as they trailed 112-110. An Ariza foul sent Harden to the line where he connected before he took the ensuing inbounds pass into the lane for an uncontested layup