Behind guard John Wall and center Marcin Gortat, the Washington Wizards ended February with an 8-5 record and started off March 1-0. Winners of six straight, the Wizards have found their groove since the All-Star break with Gortat powering the way. The big Polish man has averaged over 15 points and nine rebounds per game over the last seven contests. His play, along with great defensive effort, has Washington riding their longest win streak since the Gilbert Arenas era. The AFRO recaps the week that was in Wizards Weekly–18.
Sun., Feb. 23: Stout Defense Throttles Cleveland in 96-83 Victory
A showdown against Cleveland helped the Wizards kick off their week. The second night of a back-to-back and facing a team that embarrassed them at home in their last meeting gave Washington some subplots going into the night. But Wall and a stout defense held the Cavaliers to just 38 percent shooting from the floor and 11 percent from deep in a 96-83 road win. After allowing 27 points in the opening quarter, the Wizards permitted just 56 points over the next three quarters. Wall led the way with 21 points and nine assists while swingman Trevor Ariza added 15 points and 10 rebounds. The win wasn’t without a loss however as center Nene went down in the third quarter after banging knees with Cleveland center Spencer Hawes. An MRI determined Nene’s injury to be a knee sprain which will cause him to miss the next four to six weeks.
Tues., Feb. 25: Rebounding from Loss of Nene, Wizards Overcome Magic 115-106
Washington returned home a few nights later and flexed some muscle against the Orlando Magic in a 115-106 win. Trying to rebound after the loss of Nene, Washington saw four players score 20 points or more, led by Wall, who added 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Ariza connected on all five of his three-point attempts and Washington shot 60 percent from deep and doubled the Magic in free throw attempts 28-14 as they cruised for most of the night. Maryland native and Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo starred in his return home, scoring 26 points and handing out five assists. Washington scored 61 points in the first half behind an early eruption from Wall. Their defense was equally as impressive in stretches but the Wizards balanced out good defense with solid offense as they held the Magic without a fast break point.
Thurs., Feb. 27: First Win Over Raptors Notched in Triple Overtime Thriller, 134-129
Sports headlines were ready to declare Washington’s 134-129 triple overtime victory in Toronto the “Game of the Year” on Thursday night. But despite a slew of clutch plays made down the stretch by both sides, the Wizards were just pleased to get their first win against the Toronto Raptors this year, who beat them the previous three times this season. Perhaps the “Game of the Year” in Washington’s standards, the contest featured 19 ties and 15 lead changes. Six players scored in double figures for Washington as the road team received 31 points apiece from Wall and Marcin Gortat. The duo executed the pick-and-roll several times throughout the game with great success as the Raptors could never get a handle on the play. Wall’s block on Kyle Lowry in the first overtime preserved a tied game after Wall’s layup tied it up on the series prior. Wall continued to churn in big plays in the extra sessions, keeping up with the tear the point guard has been on since the conclusion of his first All-Star selection.
Sat., March 1: Washington Rolls to 122-103 Win Over Philadelphia
On a night when the Philadelphia 76ers retired Allen Iverson’s jersey, it was Ariza who had the highlights of the night. The Wizards swingman made his first eight three-pointers en route to a career-high 40 points. Wall tied a career-high with 16 assists and Washington rolled 122-103 in front of a rowdy Wells Fargo Center. The atmosphere was electric as the crowd prepared to honor long time All-Star Iverson but Washington exploded in the first quarter and never looked back. Wall and Martell Webster added 17 points as six players scored in double figures.