The Washington Wizards may not have the title trophies or experience of some of the other big name teams floating around the NBA, but they’re playing like it in what’s growing into a masterful season. Washington (19-6) is off to their best start in franchise history. And, while fans are generally accustomed to some sort of letdown from the hometown Wizards, the team has yet to disappoint this season. The gauntlet for the past week wasn’t overly daunting for Washington and that’s typically where they’ve lost games in the past. But a more mature team with better talent is gathering fans around the District to hop on their bandwagon, and they’re winning games at a 76 percent clip. Not too shabby for one of the best teams in the NBA. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dunks the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 93-84. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Dec. 14: Wizards Rally Back Against Jazz
Energy was hard to find for a Sunday evening home game against the then 6-18 Utah Jazz, but the mark of a good team is winning games that they should. And despite being outscored in the first half, Washington used a huge third quarter to bring a halt to the Jazz 93-84 and defend the Verizon Center from a potentially embarrassing defeat. Bradley Beal led the team in scoring with 22 points and added seven rebounds and backcourt mate John Wall chipped in with 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals and three blocks. Washington placed five players into double figures but even more impressive was their defense. The Wizards held Utah to 38 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent shooting from deep, while the Jazz sabotaged even the easy attempts and shot just 67 percent from the free throw line. Utah’s biggest lead in the first half was seven points, but Washington outscored the visitors 30-16 in the third quarter to seize control of the game.
Dec. 17: Wizards Tame Timberwolves 109-95
The Wizards once again welcomed a bottom dweller into the doors of the Verizon Center on Wednesday when they hosted the then 5-19 Minnesota Timberwolves. And again, an inferior opponent had the Wizards on its heels for most of the game as the home team lead by just five points going into the fourth quarter. Washington, however, used a 13-6 run to stretch their lead out to double digits as they finally tamed the Timberwolves 109-95 in a game that was a lot closer than what the score suggested. Wall’s 17 assists matched a career-high that he set just a week prior, but he also added in 21 points and four rebounds. Reserve swingman Rasual Butler continued his hot streak and scored a team-high 23 points while knocking down 4-of-5 from long range. Seven players scored in double figures for the Wizards as the team shot 50 percent from the field and 58 percent from deep. Minnesota’s Thaddeus Young scored a game-high 29 points and the Wizards simply had no answer for him at times throughout the game. But while Minnesota ran circles around the Wizards in the middle quarters, Washington outscored its opponent in the opening and final quarters by a combined 20 points, giving them the edge.
Dec. 19: Beal Seals the Deal in Heat Defeat
Washington Wizards guard John Wall, center, goes between Miami Heat defenders Chris Andersen (11) and Luol Deng (9) to score in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Miami. Washington won the game 105-103. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
A Friday night road trip to play against the Miami Heat was scheduled to be tough considering it was the third time both teams have seen each other since the season started. Both teams held leads by as many as eight points before a pivotal fourth quarter was decided by a Beal steal from perennial all-star Dwyane Wade, which gave the Wizards a 105-103 win. Wall added 20 points and 10 assists and Nene came off the bench to have his best game of the season, chipping in 20 points and controlling the paint against the shorthanded Heat, who played without Chris Bosh due to a calf injury. Beal, like most guards, had trouble sticking with Wade, who scored 28 points while handing out eight assists. Beal and Wall’s double team on Wade worked perfectly as they forced Wade into a costly turnover with Washington leading 103-100 with close to 10 seconds remaining in the game. Beal recovered the steal and iced the game with consecutive free throws to give Washington their second straight win over last season’s defending Eastern Conference champions.
Next: Washington is coming up with big plays this year and that momentum has them atop the Eastern Conference. The players continue to gain confidence with each win and both the team and its fans are expecting more and more out of them with each game. Washington’s next two games are against the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls. Both games are at home and both contests should provide another measuring stick for just how far the ball club has come since finishing with the No. 3 overall pick in 2013.