They’re still under .500 and they’re still nowhere near expectations; but the Washington Wizards just put in a good solid week of NBA basketball. This is what Washington does: they get you excited, and then they let you down. But for now, the Wizards appear to be a team on track for a post-season appearance. The Marcin Gortat trade wasn’t a flashy one but it’s starting to pay solid dividends for the Wizards. Along with a healthy Nene, Washington has two solid scoring big men to go along with two solid guards in John Wall and Brad Beal. And when the quartet is playing efficiently, the Wizards are hard to beat.

Nov. 18—Wizards Overcome Minnesota Timberwolves 104-100

Washington got their week started with a home stand against the surprise Minnesota Timberwolves. Fans at the Verizon Center were getting a little antsy Nov. 18. The Wizards were down double digits and at 2-7 at the time, the season was easily slipping away with every Minnesota basket. The Timberwolves led 63-51 at halftime before Beal’s 17 second half points sparked a 30-18 third quarter that allowed Washington back in the game. Swingman Martell Webster hit a crucial three-pointer with less than a minute left that gave the Wizards the final lead in a 104-100 victory.

Nov. 20—Wizards Stave Off a Late Charge to Beat Cleveland 103-96

After coming back from a deficit in one game, Washington had to hold on to a huge lead the next night in Cleveland to edge the Cavaliers 103-96. Washington led by 27 points in the third quarter before guard Kyrie Irving (28 points) led a 32-18 final quarter charge which eventually fell short. Nene and Beal combined for 50 points but a few clutch plays from Nene in the final period helped stabilize the Wizards in what would’ve been an epic collapse on the road.

Nov. 22—Fourth-Quarter Run Leads to 96-88 Defeat by Raptors

Aside from Wall’s 37 points, there wasn’t anything for the Wizards to write home about in a disappointing 96-88 defeat in Toronto Nov. 22. Washington came out flat and could never get anybody going outside of Wall, who was fantastic. However, Washington nevertheless managed a way to finish the third quarter with a lead (70-66) and take the game into the waning seconds. A strong run by the Raptors pushed Toronto into a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. At that point Washington, again, battled back, using a Wall three pointer to close the deficit to 90-88 with 1:30 remaining. Unfortunately, Wall’s three pointer was Washington’s last field goal as the offense thereafter went cold to end the game.

Nov. 23—Stout Defense, Efficient Offense Lead to 98-89 Win Over Knicks

Apparently some fans weren’t drawn to a Wizards-Knicks showdown as several high-priced seats were empty inside the Verizon Center on a chilly night. But an efficient game from Wall (31 points), strong defense and a 16-point, 17-rebound effort from Gortat gave the fans, who showed up, their money’s worth in a 98-89 victory. Wall led all players in scoring while Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Washington is playing better. They could’ve easily finished the week on a four-game winning streak if they hadn’t run out of gas against Toronto. They’ll open Thanksgiving week with a home game on Nov. 26 with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are still awaiting the return of Kobe Bryant from an Achilles injury.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO