Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) dunks past New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) . (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
Several hiccups in Washington’s five-game road swing last week caused them to fall to 1-3 before they faced the final game of the tour in New Orleans on Jan. 5. With a rematch looming against the Chicago Bulls, who dominated the Wizards in their last meeting just a few weeks ago, Washington needed a sudden spark if they wanted to close the week on a strong note.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference has been mostly devoid of headlines this season, but the Cleveland Cavaliers recently acquired a couple of veteran players in a three-team trade, while the conference-leading Toronto Raptors welcomed star DeMar DeRozan back from injury. Things could be heating up for Washington inside the conference, but they kept their cool this week. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
Jan. 5: Defense Key in Win over New Orleans, 92-85
The Wizards dropped three straight during their Western road swing before pulling into New Orleans on Jan. 5 to face the steady Pelicans. However, John Wall’s game-high 12 assists enabled five Wizards to score in double figures, and Washington locked down on defense to claim a 92-85 win. The Wizards led comfortably most of the way, only trailing in the first five minutes of the game. New Orleans cut the Washington lead to 81-77 with just over five minutes left, but that would be as far as they would get, as Wall’s hesitation jump shot pushed the lead to 89-79 with less than two minutes remaining. Washington, one of the league’s best three-point shooting teams, won despite shooting just two-of-10 from long range; Paul Pierce was the only Wizard to connect from beyond the arc.
Washington Wizards forward Nene (42), from Brazil, shoots in front of New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4), in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jan. 7: Nene Leads Wizards in Rout Knicks, 101-91
Without the services of Carmelo Anthony, and fresh off a trade that sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers, the New York Knicks limped into the Verizon Center to face the Wizards on Jan. 7. Despite stretching out an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter,Washington still had to hold on for the 101-91 win after the Knicks cut their lead to just five points at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Nene scored 20 points and added six rebounds as Washington again put five players into double figures. Wall added 18 points and eight assists, and the team rebounded from their shooting struggles against the Pelicans to connect on 50 percent of their three-point attempts against the Knicks.
Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat, right, from Poland, shoots over Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13). (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jan. 9: Wizards Claim Revenge in 102-86 Rout of Bulls
The game of the week for Washington came Jan. 9 in an ESPN showcase with the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards’ second home showdown with the talented Bulls since Christmas. The outcome was vastly different this time around, as both Nene (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (21 points, 13 rebounds) scored double figures, controlled the paint and allowed Wall (16 points, 12 assists) to run free on the break as Washington routed Chicago 102-86. Washington built a 30-13 lead in a pivotal first quarter and never looked back. Six different Wizards scored in the opening quarter, and Paul Pierce nailed two three-pointers to fuel a sizzling start for the home team.