The past week was a challenging one for the Washington Wizards. Games against the best the Western Conference has to offer would have usually resulted in automatic losing streaks for the hometown team. Not anymore. Washington went 2-1 on a short week against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, an outcome any National Basketball Association (NBA) team would proudly boast about if they had to confront a murderer’s row of the league’s power teams. The AFRO examines how Washington remained at .500 in an impressive week.
Tues. Jan 28 – Wall, Beal Outgun Curry, Thompson in Shootout, 88-85
A Tuesday night road affair with the Golden State Warriors is challenging for any team. The deadeye shooting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has compiled quite a record as a duo over the past few years. However, the Wizards backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal has been pretty effective as well since Beal came into the Association as a rookie last year. That trend continued as Washington edged the Warriors 88-85 in a competitive test. Beal (20 points, seven rebounds) hit four three-pointers while Wall (15 points, eight rebounds) drilled three of his own and the D.C. duo outshot their Golden State counterparts pair as Washington avenged a near 20-point blowout by the same Warriors team a few weeks earlier. Thompson and Curry combined to shoot just 13-of-40 from the field as the pair helped to bury their own Golden State team effort behind a barrage of misses. Both teams exhibited some sloppy play throughout as it appeared that both teams were doing their best to give the other team the game. But Beal settled in after a two-point first half to score 18 of his final points in the last two quarters.
Wed. Jan. 29 – Wizards Fall Short against Clippers 110-103
Despite weary legs on the second part of a back-to-back game schedule, Washington fought hard against a solid Clippers team, who were playing without All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Washington battled back from an early double-digit deficit but eventually ran out of gas in a 110-103 defeat. Blake Griffin (29 points) and Jamal Crawford (21 points) formed a solid duo despite Washington putting five players into double figures. The win gave the Clippers an 11-3 record without Paul and gave Washington another blown opportunity to go over .500, their seventh of the year. The Wizards were down by as much as 16 points but cut the Clippers’ lead to one at the top of the fourth quarter but Los Angeles kicked it into another gear and finished off the Wizards for good. Beal (20 points) and Wall (19 points) led the team in scoring.
Sat. Feb. 1 – Wall’s 17 Points, 15 Assists Lead Wiz Past KD, Thunder 96-81
A home date with the Oklahoma City Thunders matched the Wizards with the top team in the Western Conference and a night out with the league’s top scorer and hometown hero Kevin Durant. The Suitland, Md. native arrived averaging more than 31 points per game and his Thunder squad came in riding a 10-game winning streak but both feats were slowed as Washington held the NBA’s top scorer to an uncanny off night and toppled the Thunder 96-81 in impressive fashion. Washington opened an early double-digit lead behind fast defense and the fast legs of Wall (17 points, 15 assists and six steals). Trevor Ariza (18 points, six rebounds and 3-of-7 from deep) more than held his own against Durant while leading the team in scoring. Durant led the game in scoring with 26 points but shot 8-of-21 and missed all six of his three-point attempts. Nene added 17 points and Gortat hauled in 14 rebounds as Washington improved their record to break even again at 23-23.
The Wizards have often frozen up this season when surpassing .500 has been on the line, but with four consecutive home games over the next seven days, Washington has its best chance of the season to come out of a stretch with a winning record. Washington next hosts the Portland Trailblazers on Feb. 3.