The Washington Wizards have morphed into a young, competitive bunch in the wake of the trade that shipped former All-Star Gilbert Arenas to Orlando. Of course, flaws still remain as the team stumbles through a season of growing pains, but the squad has flashed some potential.
Their winless road record remains, however, as the Wizards turned in a 2-2 week that saw them drop to a dismal 0-20 on the road this season. But the team netted two wins over top divisional teams, Boston and Utah.
Washington opened up with the week with a surprise 108-101 Martin Luther King Jr. holiday win over the Utah Jazz on Jan. 17. Rookie guard John Wall dished out a career-high 15 assists and forward Andray Blatche turned in his finest all-around performance of the season with 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocks.
The Wizards saw their road losing streak continue in a 100-87 downer against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 19. Blatche led the team with 23 points and Wall led all players with 13 assists. After jumping out to a 27-19 first quarter lead, the Wizards were outscored the rest of the way as the road team shot a miserable 18 percent (2-of-11) from three-point range.
Returning to the Verizon Center, Washington couldn’t keep a hot-shooting Phoenix Suns team from stealing the show, falling 109-91 on Jan. 21. Phoenix connected on more than 45 percent of its three-point attempts, and Suns forward Channing Frye hit on seven of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc. Washington came out flat in the second half, allowing 57 points. Wall dished out 14 assists and guard Nick Young also put in 25 points.
In front of a packed home crowd, Washington rallied for a win against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics. After trailing by as much as 16 points in the first half, the Wizards fought backs to sneak an 85-83 win past the one of the NBA’s top teams.
Washington didn’t hold a lead in the game until two-and-a-half minutes remained in the fourth quarter, completing the rally with a layup from Wall. But the rookie wasn’t done yet. Wall then banked in a three-pointer with less than a minute remaining to give Washington an 84-81 lead and the cushion it needed for the win. The Wizards snapped the Celtics’ five-game winning streak with their defense, said head coach Flip Saunders.
“When we play defense, we give ourselves a chance to play anybody,” Saunders said after the game. “Our defense was great in the second half. We did a better job, we took advantages of some mismatches and I found out that John has a great bank shot from the three-point line.”
Washington improved to 13-29 on the season and hopes to claim their first road win on Jan. 24 when they travel to face the New York Knicks.