The Washington Wizards upped their March winning streak to five games before succumbing on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite the stumble, the Wizards appear to be finding their groove again as the postseason nears. Tough games lie ahead, but they will be a nice chance for Washington to measure where they stand.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dunks the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers forwards LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and Nicolas Batum (88), from France, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 16, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Wizards close their regular season campaign with a slate featuring Golden State, Houston, Memphis, Atlanta, Cleveland and two games against the suddenly tough Indiana Pacers. Pressure is starting to mount for Washington,but they appear ready to shift into playoff gear with all their players healthy. Bradley Beal is beginning to round into form, while John Wall looks springy again after being roughed up in January. The regular season is winding down, but things are ticking again for Washington. The AFRO recaps the week that was.
March 16: Wizards Hold Off Blazers Comeback, 105-97
The Wizards opened their week with an impressive 105-97 home win over the Portland Trailblazers on March 16. Washington appeared ready to use a 60-40 first half to coast to the win, until their lead dwindled to 83-80 in the middle of the final quarter. Washington was able to dodge Portland’s comeback attempt behind Beal’s 23 points and seven rebounds. The streaky guard was 4-for-4 from behind the arc and added four rebounds to the cause. His backcourt partner was even better; Wall added 21 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Washington’s backcourt was the primary reason why the team outscored Portland 25-4 in fast break points.
Washington Wizards forward Nene Hilario (42) pulls down a rebound as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors, center, defends while Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on in the third quarter in an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Salt Lake City. The Wizards won 88-84. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
March 18: Washington Grinds to 88-84 Win over Utah
Washington hit the road on March 18 to visit the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Jazz normally play tough at home, and they forced Washington to grind out an 88-84 victory. Wall was in his finest form again, scoring 24 points while adding six assists and nine rebounds. Wall picked it up after a slow start, scoring 19 points in the second half. On a night in which Beal (4-of-10) couldn’t find his range, Paul Pierce (18 points) took up the slack. Pierce shot 4-of-5 from long range but added in four assists, three rebounds and two steals. The veteran was a key factor down the stretch as Washington fought to hang on against a pesky Jazz team. Wall hit a string of critical jump shots in the final stanza that kept Utah at bay. The win marked the Wizards’ fifth consecutive victory.
March 20: Clippers Coast Over Wizards, 113-99
Washington found tough sledding against the more physical Los Angeles Clippers in a visit to the West Coast on March 20. Los Angeles jumped out to a 35-21 first quarter and glided to a 113-99 victory. Three Clippers scored 23 or more points, and DeAndre Jordan (10 points) hauled in 23 rebounds. Chris Paul led all players with 30 points and 15 assists. Six players scored in double figures for Washington, but none cracked 20 points. Wall paced the team with 19 points and 10 assists, but his team was outscored by 21 points when he was in the lineup. The Clippers drilled 11 three-pointers in the first half, but the Wizards narrowed L.A.’s big lead to a six-point deficit with just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles responded, embarking on a 19-6 run to close the game.
Next: Washington continues their West Coast swing against the Kings in Sacramento on March 22, and then challenges the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco on March 23. The Wizards return to D.C. to host the Indiana Pacers on March 25 and the Charlotte Hornets on March 27.