Early week games against the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls provided the Wizards with a few lessons and plenty of homework. The Wizards, however, remained in good shape atop the NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture along with a slew of other powerful teams including Toronto, Atlanta and Chicago.
Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) knocks the ball away from Washington Wizards forward Nene (42), from Brazil, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 21. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Dec. 21: Wizards Burned by Suns, 104-92
The Wizards couldn’t get into rhythm late in a home game against the Suns on Dec. 21. After struggling to a 50-50 halftime tie, the Suns’ backcourt tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic pushed the Phoenix lead to 13 points and ultimately outlasted Washington, 104-92. TheSuns duo combined for 17 points in the third quarter and helped give Phoenix its biggest lead of the night after Dragic’s three-pointer made it 77-64 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter. Washington spent the rest of the game trying to play catch up, but Phoenix simply kept its foot on the gas. Bradley Beal’s free throw at 3:36 cut the lead to 93-87, but that would be as close as Washington came. Rasual Butler paced the Wizards with 17 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, left, combines with forward Paul Pierce, right, to defend Chicago Bulls guard Aaron Brooks. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Dec. 23: Rose Leads Bulls over Wizards, 99-91
A Dec. 23 showdown in D.C. against the surging Chicago Bulls was a test game against another playoff hopeful. However, the results showed just how much farther Washington has to go, as they dropped a 99-91 heartbreaker in a wild affair. Derrick Rose was healthy and in the Bulls lineup of face off against John Wall, creating a matchup of former top No. 1 draft picks. Chicago led 86-75 with just under six minutes left before Wall powered a ferocious comeback, scoring 10 straight points as the Wizards finally took a 87-86 lead with 3:44 remaining. Wall’s highlights included a few speedy layups and a mid-range jumper to close out the run. But then Rose took over, scoring eight straight points of his own and helping the Bulls tame a rabid Verizon Center crowd. Rose scored a game-high 25 points, while Walls led the Wizards with 18 points, nine assists and two steals. It was the first meeting between the two former protégées of NCAA coach John Calipari since January 2012.
Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) drives through New York Knicks guard Jose Calderon (3) and New York Knicks center Samuel Dalembert (11). (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Dec. 25: Wall Gifts Wizards with Win over Knicks, 102-91
After dropping two straight contests, a Christmas Day game to square off the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden was definitely needed. The woeful Knicks proved incapable of containing Wall (24 points, 11 assists, six rebounds) and Washington simply ran away from their opponents en route to a 102-91 victory. Washington controlled the game, with the only sparks coming when Wall and Knicks reserve Quincy Acy engaged in a shoving match late in the second half. The tussle was the only thing the home crowd could get excited about, as Washington was dominant from the start and entered halftime with a 60-44 lead. Five Wizards scored in double figures, while Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 34 points for the Knicks.
Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) dunks the ball. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Dec 27: Wizards Continue Roll in Rout of Celtics
Washington improved its record to 21-8 with a dominant 101-88 win over the Boston Celtics on Dec. 27. Celtics forward Jeff Green led allscorers with 23 points, but Boston couldn’t stop Washington’s balanced offensive attack as five different Wizards players scored double digits. Wizards point guard John Wall had a modest performance, delivering just 12 points with seven assists, but former Celtics forward Paul Pierce picked up the slack with 17 points against his old team. Backup forward Kris Humphries led Washington with 18 points off the bench; reserve forwards Otto Porter and Kevin Seraphin scored 12 points and 10 points, respectively.
Next: Washington will next face the Rockets in Houston on Dec. 29, followed by a matchup with the Mavericks in Dallas on Dec. 30. The Wizards then travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder on Jan. 2, before heading to San Antonio to challenge the defending champion Spurs on Jan. 3.