The Washington Wizards are gaining recognition around the league and other teams are taking notice. The starting lineup is clicking on all cylinders and the bench just gained some extra ammunition with the return of prized summer free agent Ian Mahinmi from knee therapy. The 6-foot-11-inch big man was originally signed to be an enforcer in the paint through rebounding and altering shots. He missed 48 of the team’s first 49 games but appears set to be a fixture in the roster as the season grinds forward. His return this past week didn’t make splashes in productivity, but his presence was surely noticed. Despite a tough loss earlier in the week, Washington rebounded nicely to close the week out strongly. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Feb. 6: Washington Falls to Cleveland, 140-135, in ‘Game of the Year’

It was called “the game of the year” once it was over, and the atmosphere inside the Verizon Center during Washington’s 140-135 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 6 certainly backed up that statement. In perhaps the best game of the season, the Wizards learned more about themselves in a loss than at any point in the season. Behind 41 points

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Iman Shumpert (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Washington. The Cavaliers won 140-135 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Iman Shumpert (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Washington. The Cavaliers won 140-135 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

from Bradley Beal, six players scored in double-figures, including John Wall, who added 22 points and 12 assists. Washington led 120-117 with 3.4 seconds left in regulation before LeBron James’ fadeaway three-pointer skipped off the glass and tied the game with 0.3 seconds left. James fouled out in the extra session, but Kyrie Irving scored 11 points in overtime and guided the Cavs to a win in the seesaw battle. The game had a playoff feel to it, and the crowd at the Verizon Center represented well despite some lackluster turnouts earlier in the season.

Feb. 8: Wizards Bounce Back in Close Win over Nets, 114-110

It took Washington all but one day to get over the loss to Cleveland as they took to the road to battle the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 8. Despite the absence of Markieff Morris (calf tightness), five Wizards scored in double-figures and three players posted double-doubles as Washington

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) defends Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) in overtime of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in New York. Beal led the Wizards with 31 points as Washington won 114-110. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12) defends Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) in overtime of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in New York. Beal led the Wizards with 31 points as Washington won 114-110. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

eked out a 114-110 overtime win. Beal followed up his 41-point effort in the Cleveland game with 31 points and six rebounds,  Wall added 23 points and 12 assists and Otto Porter Jr. poured in 20 points and 10 rebounds as the trio helped fight off a pesky Nets team. Washington led by as much as 13 points in the first half but couldn’t sustain the lead. The loss was Brooklyn’s 11th straight defeat.

Feb. 10: Washington Outpaces Indiana in 112-107 Victory

The Wizards returned home on Feb. 10 to face the Indiana Pacers and used some late game heroics from Wall to secure a 112-107 win. With Washington leading 103-102 with less than two minutes remaining, Wall found Morris wide open for a three-pointer to give Washington the final cushion. Four Wizards scored in double figures. Wall and Morris scored 26 points, apiece, and added 14 assists and 10 rebounds, respectively. The win was Washington’s 18th out of the last 19 home games and perhaps started a new streak after the early week loss to Cleveland.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3), with teammates Markieff Morris (5), Marcin Gortat, of Poland, back center, and John Wall, right, nearby, eyes the the ball for a rebound while Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3), with teammates Markieff Morris (5), Marcin Gortat, of Poland, back center, and John Wall, right, nearby, eyes the the ball for a rebound while Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington (32-21) sits in first place inside the Southeast Division and is currently third in the Eastern Conference. The return of Mahinmi gives Washington its full complement of players, and their game against Cleveland hinted at a strong chance of a deep playoff run. Washington is in good shape as the NBA All-Star break nears.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO