The insertion of interim coach Randy Wittman has helped light a match under the slow-starting Washington Wizards. Once listless under former coach Flip Saunders, Washington has played with both energy and passion since Wittman took over for the fired Saunders in late January. At 7-24, the Wizards still reside around the bottom of the NBA but the energy level and intensity has picked up. And Washington would need every ounce of reserve as they headed west to start the week for a five-game road trip. The AFRO recaps the week that was encouraging for the Washington Wizards.

Feb. 12, Wizards 98-Detroit 77—A rare road win didn’t go unnoticed in a rare dominant performance. Center JaVale McGee willed Washington with 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks and John Wall added 15 assists as the Wizards used a 29-18 third quarter to blow the game wide open. Former Georgetown Hoya and now-Detroit center Greg Monroe led all scorers with 27 points.

Feb. 14, Wizards 124 -Portland 109—Easily, Washington’s best performance of the season. The Wizards received 85 points from their backcourt trio of Wall (29 points), Nick Young (35 points) and reserve Jordan Crawford (21 points). Young was spectacular, connecting on seven three pointers as Washington simply shot the lights out. The Wizards shot 60 percent from the field and 52 percent from long range, fueled by Young’s big numbers. Washington held a 12-point lead at halftime and never relinquished it, despite numerous runs by Portland in the second half. Young’s point total was a season high for the shooting guard.

Feb. 15, Wizards 84-Los Angeles Clippers 102—On the follow-up to their huge win the night before, Washington hung tight with the Clippers for three and a half quarters before running out of gas late in the game. The Wizards trailed by just eight points going into the final period before forward Blake Griffin (23 points, 15 rebounds) and the rest of the Clippers held serve at home. Wall paced Washington with 18 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. The Clippers have been christened as one of the most dangerous teams in the typically tough Western Conference so Washington’s showing for the most part was a positive.

Feb. 17, Wizards 100-Utah 114—Perhaps weary from an action-packed week, Washington’s performance against Utah was lackluster to say the least. The Wizards trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and 22 points after the third. Jazz forward/center Al Jefferson abused Washington with 30 points, 26 in the first half. Jefferson was simply unstoppable in the early quarters and his dominance left Washington scrambling all night. With the Wizards forced to double-team Jefferson, the Jazz were able to place four other scorers in double figures, shaking up the Wizard defense. Wall led the team with 24 points and Crawford added 21 off the bench.

Coming along: Rookie forward Jan Vesely has been applauded for his energy and hustle all season long but the lanky swing forward showed a touch of offense in a pair of games this past week. Against Detroit, Vesely recorded 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks before closing the week with 10 points and five rebounds against the Jazz. Vesely’s offensive progression is in dire need of maintenance but his effort has kept him on the court in recent weeks. Offensive rebounds, put-backs and fast breaks have littered Vesely’s stat sheet so far this season and the rookie could be ready to command a larger role on the team going forward.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO