The confidence of the Washington Wizards has never been higher and the talent has never been better. The new-look Wizards (16-6) are enjoying a franchise-best start this season thanks to a roster boasting a pair of young stud guards surrounded by high-IQ veterans.
That combination has produced the best home start (11-2) in franchise history and launched the team into the top three of the Eastern Conference. The Wizards enjoyed another successful stretch as they shook off a disappointing road loss to the rebuilding Boston Celtics to close the week on a three-game winning streak. John Wall and Marcin Gortat are one of the best point guard/center duos in the league, and Washington is profiting in a big way. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
Dec. 7: Wizards Drop Opener of Two Against Celtics, 101-93
Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) takes a shot against Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington sleepwalked through the opening quarters of a Dec. 8 road game in Boston, falling into a 17-point halftime deficit they couldn’t overcome on their way to a 101-93 defeat. Boston guard Rajon Rondo had a triple-double, five Celtics scored in double figures and Boston snapped Washington’s four-game winning streak in Paul Pierce’s faceoff against the team for whom he played 15 seasons. The Wizards got their act together in the second half as Wall narrowly missed out in a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds. Wall also added three steals and three blocks. Reserve swingman Rasual Butler came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 22 points. Washington trailed by 77-62 at the start of the final quarter but cut the lead to 92-91 after Butler’s sixth three-pointer with 2:49 remaining. The Wizards appeared on the brink of stealing the game until a clutch three-pointer from Avery Bradley rebuilt Boston’s lead.
Dec. 8: Wizards Claim Revenge in Wild Double-OT Contest, 133-132
Washington eyed revenge the following night at the Verizon Center in the back-end of a home-and-home against the Celtics, storming out to a 20-point lead before holding on for a 133-132 double overtime victory in a wild night in D.C. The Wizards had their biggest lead of the night after Wall’s basket made it 88-65 with less than three minutes in the third quarter, but Boston stormed back and took a brief one-point lead after Evan Turner’s three-pointer with just over three minutes left in the game. Turner’s final three of the quarter tied the game at 110-110 to force overtime. Wall handed out a career-high 17 assists to go along with 26 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Pierce’s 28 points lead the Wizards, and Gortat’s 21 points and 12 rebounds helped control the paint.
Dec. 10: Late Run Boosts Wizards over Magic, 91-89
Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots between Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and Blake Griffin (32) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 104-96. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A Dec. 10 road tilt against the lowly Orlando Magic served as a reminder of just how tough divisional games can be. Already the third meeting between the two teams since the season kicked off in late October, Washington used a 7-0 run to close the game and edge the Magic 91-89, capped by Beal’s last second shot with less than a second on the clock. After trailing 89-84 with 55 seconds remaining, the Wizards tied the game at 89-89 before Andre Miller positioned himself for an inbound pass with .08 left in regulation. Beal slipped his defender before finding a wide-open path to the lane, and Miller lofted his pass perfectly into the hands of Beal who simply had to drop the ball in the basket. Washington’s bench erupted from the sideline and Washington improved its season series against Orlando to 3-0. Wall piloted the team with 21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, while the Magic placed five players into double figures.
Dec. 12: Wizards Survive Clippers’ Challenge, 104-96
A home showdown with the streaking Los Angeles Clippers provided the backdrop for a critical Friday night battle. The Clippers arrived in D.C. on a nine-game winning streak, and despite Wall having the best season of his career, fellow point guard Chris Paul, still receives acknowledgement as the best lead guard in the Association. With an opportunity to show up Paul, Wall took full advantage, recording his seventh straight game with 11 assists or more as Washington cruised past L.A. 104-96. The Wizards led 57-42 at halftime and countered every punch the Clippers threw in a desperate second half. Wall’s 10 points and 11 assists were key, but Beal scored a game-high 29 points while connecting on four-of-seven from long range. Washington’s entire starting five scored in double figures and played at such a pace that Clippers coach Doc Rivers frustratedly pulled his own starters from the game with more than two minutes left and the contest still within reach. With the win, the Wizards secured their best home start in franchise history.